Reversing principles?

Kayak touringWith the fundamental principles of forward paddling now a well established foundation in our paddlesport coaching I’ve found myself increasingly thinking about how we apply them to other techniques. Taking the sweep stroke as an example, the fundamental principles can be seen to apply in a similar way as for forward paddling: we maintain our active posture and good connectivity with the canoe or kayak, we trunk rotate, winding up the body and planting our paddle, in this case as horizontally as possible, to fix the blade in the water and then we unwind, using our big muscle groups to effect the power transfer through our knees and/or feet, pushing the bow of the boat away from the paddle. Of course, as with any turning stroke, we add in turning our heads to look for future water and to help put our boat on edge and use all the kinaesthetic feedback we receive to determine how much power and edge to use and when to ease them off.


Encouraging my students to focus on the fundamental principles has led to some impressive efficiency gains in their sweep strokes and particularly in the short sweeps we use to initiate turns. It also leads to some interesting debates. Most students agree that it is the foot or knee closest to the paddle that effects the greater part of the power transfer when applying a forward sweep; but what about in a reverse sweep? If you’ve not considered the question before, give it some thought next time you’re out on the water. Even better, ask your students to think about it and hear what answers you have coming back…


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