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Design & Illustration

Basics

(The material can also be ordered as an A5 booklet or, for clubs and the like, as a lecture )

The first page is about paddling technique and safety, on choosing the paddle, to adjust the seat and footrest and spray deck, pdf:s and paddle mitts. Finally, there is a short section of getting in and out of kayaks.

Legend

On technique and safety

Acquiring a kayak is about like buying a piano: anyone can bang on the keys and make sounds, but making music requires precision, motor skills, feeling and insight.

It is not difficult to make the kayak move forward, backward turn or even climb into the kayak from the water.

Advanced paddling techniques like high braces and eskimo rolls are not especially difficult to learn, but in order for these to be useful and enjoyable they all need to be incorporated into a balanced working unit.

Paddling consists of many elements: strokes, turns, braces, safety techniques, etc. each of which must be learned separately. Once they become second nature it is time to consider more elusive nuances like transferring power to the paddle blades, optimising the paddle's path hydrodynamically, engaging more muscles, blade entry and exit with minimum loss of efficiency, utilizing the core muscles for turning, bracing and rolling, and how to achieve maximum results with minimum risk for injury.

The next step is incorporating everything into a single balanced harmonic skill, where every paddling technique seamlessly combines power, control and support, each skill flowing from one to the other as an extension of paddling, all in response to the conditions and surroundings.

Many novice paddlers want to learn the "tricks" right away, seeing the eskimo roll as "the crown jewel". However, unless they fit the situation, these tricks are nothing more than peacock feathers. From a safety point of view an assisted re-entry may be a better starting point.

Beginning paddlers on Greenland normally begin by learning high and low braces. Then they learn to roll, and finally to paddle. Here we begin with paddling, and then all too often learn nothing more.

What you should know ...

Naturally, one needs to know how to make the kayak do what you want, when you want and how you want according to the circumstances in which you choose to paddle or those that could arise during a trip. If you feel uncertain in a crosswind or choppy seas, that is a message from your subconscious that something needs practicing. Paddling strokes are the unifying link between the paddle and the kayak hull. Know your paddle strokes so well that you can adapt them to conditions, kayak, weather, wind and waves.

Straight-forward-paddling

Straight-forward-paddling is easy to learn yet difficult to master, and simultaneously the most used paddling stroke. Perfecting a straight-forward-paddling stroke is a life long pursuit. Work on turning the upper body, relaxing the hands and engaging as many muscles as possible. Experiment with seat position, paddle use, rhythm, stroke length, etc. Practice seamlessly and instantaneously changing the relation between pull, turn and support in the strokes. Everyone should have a good relaxed long distance techniqe that lasts the entire day and a powerful, rapid sprint technique to catch a wave or for sudden emergencies.

Turning

In order to handle all situations you need to know how to use a sweep stroke, use the paddle as a stern rudder, and carve with a low brace. Preferably also edging and carving with a high brace. You need also know how quickly the kayak responds to the different turning methods, and in which conditions they best perform.

Lateral Movement

You need to be able to move sideways by drawing and by sculling, preferably both. Practice moving the kayak sideways, diagonally both forward and backward, left and right. How long does it take you to move the kayak 3 meters to a friend who needs help?

Braces

Bracing is important, both in demanding conditions or emergency situations and for increasing self confidence. They simplify experimentation with paddling techniques and reduce the risks of unwelcome swimming trips. Beginners need to learn a reliable low brace and quickly expand their repertoar to include high braces (to both sides). The ability to list 90 degrees, remain on a high brace and then upright the kayak means the risk for a total capsize is minimal.

Edging and leaning

Learn to lean and edge your kayak. Edging means leaning the kayak but keeping your body vertical. This is useful for holding a heading, turning, preventing the kayak from turning in crosswinds and in many other practical situations such as swift currents or moving water. If you cannot edge your kayak, perhaps you will not be able to handle it when a wave does it for you. Leaning means that your upper body leans. One "hangs" with a high brace, enabling quick turns for avoiding an obstacle, for example.

Eskimo roll

Learning to roll is not difficult. On the contrary, rolling is a lot of fun. A well executed roll is an important safety technique to know at sea, and could mean not having to leave the kayak upon capsizing - and that you do not need assistance from your friends in the form of an assisted re-entry or to empty your kayak, which is risky when the sea is rough. One positive side effect is that the practice required to learn the eskimo roll means you will become better an handling the kayak, greatly reducing the risk of capsizing.

A little about the equipment

Paddles

Paddles vary in length and blade size. When starting out, you have to rely on good advice, or trial-and-error, until you eventually find your ideal paddle.  Primarily it is the your arm length and strength that counts. In a short paddle and/or a small blade, the stroke frequency may be too high, and you run out of breath long before you have taken advantage of your muscle power. With a long shaft and large blades, you work up lactic acid without reaching working temperature.

With feathered paddles, the consensus now is to control the paddle shaft with your right hand, letting it rotate in the left (some years ago you could chose between left or right hand controlled paddles). Feathering was normally 90°s, but is now often 45-60°. Even unfeathered paddles have become common, not only Greenland paddles, but standard as well as wing paddles. Those may be less stressful for the wrists, when held low, but may also be heavy on the wind if the blades are wide.

Is the paddle blades angled, it is now common that you keep it tight with her right hand and let the shaft rotate in the left hand. The angle used to be 90 °, but is now often less (45-60 °). Fully ovinklade paddles are also available - they are gentle on the wrists but can be heavy into the wind unless the leaves are also small and narrow.

Hold the paddle symmetric - hands equidistant from both the blades. The distance between the hands should be approximately shoulder width plus one hand-width.

The paddle is held always in the same way, i e the blade concave side is always facing backwards, regardless if you paddle forward, backward or turn.

More about choosing paddles

Seat and footrest

good posture In kayaks with large cockpit opening, usually both seat and footrest need to be adjusted. Try them out so that you sit comfortably with legs slightly bent. Do you get your knees too high balance will become poorer while the pressure on his legs increase the risk of aches. With footrest too far away from you, you can not use your leg muscles and the risk of leg cramps.

Kayaks with small cockpit opening usually have a fixed. Adjust the footrest so you can sit comfortably, powering your strokes with knees against the underdeck and feet (toes) on the the footrest, but still room to straighten your legs completely

Most paddlers will improve the comfort of their kayaks with sleeping pad - a piece on the seat, maybe a piece under the heels and, if the kayak has a good lumbar support, one or two pieces at the aft coaming, so it does not chafe if you lean backwards for a roll or a brace.

Spraydeck

Many beginners are reluctant to  use a spraydeck, for the fear of not getting out quickly in a wet exit. But without it you get wet and cold and waves may splash into the cockpit, making the kayak difficult to control. Therefore, start using spraydeck cover early on. At sea, on large lakes and in running water, the spraydeck is necessary to protect against surges and waves.

Practice releasing the spraydeck camly and in a controlled manner, when hanging under the kayak. Normally you have a safety strap on the front of the spraydeck. Pull this forward-up to release the spraydeck. Run your hands under the hem to release the spraydeck all around. Should the strap for some reason be unreachable or missing, you can pull at the side of the deck, where the tension is less, and get your hand under the hem.

Pfd

Make it a habit to always have a pfd – preferrably a custom-made paddling pfd that is cut so that it does not chafe when you move the torso and arms during the paddling. A kayaking pfd is just buoyancy aid when swimming - unlike life rescue vests that can keep an unconscious person floating right side up  in the water.

The pfd must provide adequate buoyancy without restricting the paddling. It is to be fastened - either with crotch strap and waist strap - so it will not slip up under your chin if you fall into the water. It is therefore important that the size is right.

Some pfd:s have one or more pockets, which is fine for small items you want to access without opening the spraydeck - sunglasses, sunscreen, or candy, for those who have such inclinations. Instructor type pf pfd:s often have built-in towing system.

More about choosing a life jacket.

Gloves and mitts

It is easy to keep warm when you paddle, but when the temperature drops below 10 degrees most paddlers need paddle mitts. For euro- och wingpaddles, pogies are a good choice –  attached to the paddle shaft with Velcro, and holding the paddle as usual inside the gloves. They are made mostly of nylon, which is quite adequate in most situations. Neopren is a better choice for temps below zero. One option might be to line nylon gloves with a cut piece sleeping pad. A pair of simple neoprene gloves might come in hande when you're not holding the paddle – to attach the spraydeck, pump out, help someone who capsized etc.

For greenland paddles a pair of five- och threefinger neoprene gloves is a better choice, since you will need to slide your hands along the paddle. One advantage is that you can keep the gloves on when handling the kayak at launching, working the spraydeck or pfd – which is when your hands are the most exposed.

See also my review of a few different paddling gloves (mostly for greenland paddle).

To get in and out of the kayak

Step in from a float or a rock

Keep one hand in float and the other at the center front of the rim edge.
Put one foot on the center line far into the cockpit.
Put the other directly behind the first.
Sit on the seat without dropping the bridge.

The small cockpit you sit instead on the aft deck of the paddle as a support (the paddle behind the cockpit and hands on the handle and the rail). Allow the blade to rest in the water - you support it against a stone floor or bridge is a risk that you break your paddle.
Sliding into the cockpit with straight legs.

Exit at a float or rock

Support the one hand on the float.
Bend your front leg and put your foot as close to the seat you can.
Grab the rim edge in front of or behind the cockpit and lift you up.

With the small cockpit, hold the paddle behind the cockpit with the blade horizontally in the water (preferrably a couple of inches below the surface so you have support in both directions).
Keep your hands on the handle and on the side and slide up to sit on the rear deck.

Step in from shallow water

Stand astride the kayak in shallow water.
Sit down on the seat.
Lift up your legs and keep your kayak with the bow into the wind by using your paddle.

With a small cockpit, use the paddle for support as you slide into the cockpit with straight legs.

Exit in shallow water

Lift your feet over the side until you can stand up astride the kayak.

With a small cockpit use the paddle for support.

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Comments

Superb info för mig som nybörjare! Tusen tack!

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