Sea Kayak Essentials DVD
Sea Kayak Essentials DVD
Sea Kayak Essentials DVD: Introduction These notes aim to enhance the viewing experience of our Sea Kayak Essentials DVD. Video is a wonderful medium to convey information about complicated, dynamic skills such as sea kayaking; at its best, it should be uncluttered and simple, with a minimum of potentially confusing verbal comment and explanation. With this in mind, we have aimed throughout the DVD to combine the presentation of clear, well-filmed demonstrations and a concise verbal analysis of the key skills.
The written word is often a more effective way of explaining concepts and principles.
So, in an effort to cover all the bases, we’ve provided in this format a summary of useful technical information to support each DVD chapter. The notes are best combined with the DVD itself - watch a chapter, read the technical notes, watch again... The Wide World of Sea Kayaking... We recognise that there as almost as many approaches to sea kayaking as there are sea kayakers. From sit-ons to inflatables, skin-on-frame to carbon/kevlar, the enormous range of wide, narrow, hard-chine, soft-chine, racing hull, fish-form, swede-form, fast, slow, beamy, tippy, flat-water touring, no-holds-barred racing and rough water craft encompasses almost every paddler’s preferred aquatic vehicle.
And that’s before we consider paddles! Greenland sticks, wings, hybrids, low-angle, high-angle - the range of propulsion methods is extensive...
The skills presented in Sea Kayak Essentials DVD are a reflection of my personal paddling and coaching experience, my background in the sport and my own preferences. Thus, the equipment used falls into the the following broad categories: Equipment The kayaks used in this DVD are principally what is often termed a British style of sea kayak design. In simple terms they have moderate ‘V’ hulls, soft chines and are designed primarily to be used with retractable skegs. In practice, these design characteristics give predictable and versatile kayaks suited to all types of open-water paddling in all types of conditions.
This kayak design has found favour in many countries of the world, with a wide range of manufacturers producing different designs that nevertheless adhere to the fundamental principles of creating boat shapes to perform well in challenging sea conditions.
The kayaks principally seen in this DVD are the Valley Nordkapp LV and Valley Avocet. There are also demonstrations featuring the SKUK Romany and Wilderness Systems Tempest. The Tempest is mainly seen in flat-water demonstration sequences in the DVD. It is a wider kayak than the other models, with greater initial stability but less rough water performance. The paddles used in Sea Kayak Essentials DVD are mid-sized blades designed for a high-angle style of forward paddling on the sea. In the DVD we use Werner Shunas, 210cm and 215 cm. While many of the skills presented in the DVD are relevant to sea kayakers in all boat types, we also recognise that specific equipment often requires specific techniques.
There are many other learning resources that cater for these paddlers’ particular demands. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Safety Sea kayaking is an assumed-risk sport, with inherent risks and hazards that can only be managed, never eliminated. The safest way to develop new kayak skills is in the company of an experienced and qualified coach. The authors of this DVD accept no responsibility for accidents or injuries sustained while practising or performing any of the skills presented in Sea Kayak Essentials. Enjoy the DVD and enjoy your sea kayaking! DVD Chapters Introduction 5 Essentials Fundamentals Core Skills: Balancing Core Skills: Turning Core Skills: Forward Paddling Boat Awareness Use of the Skeg Turning in Wind and Waves Open Water Forward Paddling Moving Water Skills Surf Launching and Landing Rock Hopping Tide Race Skills Surfing Skills Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
The 5 Essentials In this DVD we often analyse the skills demonstrated in terms of their key components - which we have identified as 5 “essential” elements that affect affect the performance of any sea kayaking skill or sequence of movements. These are: Boat Speed Boat Angle Boat Trim Body Position Stroke Linking The 5 Essentials are inter-related, of course: if we change one element within a skill we often change other elements, either as a consequence or in order to effect the original change. When learning a new skill or developing an existing technique, it’s often useful to focus on individual elements, to appreciate how that element affects performance and/or to develop a better appreciation of the underlying foundations of a skill.
Combined with a Boat-Body-Blade approach to observation, the 5 Essentials also provide a focus to enhance the viewing and understanding of the skills presented in this DVD, along with a framework for practical exercises afloat. This 5 Essentials chapter is relevant to all other chapters in the DVD and links directly with the Fundamentals and Boat Awareness chapters. Here we explore the 5 Essentials in more detail: Boat Speed This concept is easy to understand on flat water: the effort we put into each paddle stroke produces “boat speed” as the kayak slides through the water. In an open water environment, with the combined or cancelling effects of wind, tidal stream, surface drift, swell, surf waves and wind Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
and waves, it can become less clear just how much “boat speed” we have at any given moment. If we can develop an appreciation of our “boat speed” in the many situations we encounter as sea kayakers, we can use this knowledge to paddle more accurately, efficiently and dynamically. A few key principles make a useful starting point: 1. Most stationary sea kayaks will tend sit across the wind - if the wind is the most important element acting on the boat, and in the absence of complicating factors such as eddy lines and breaking waves.
2. Most moving sea kayaks will tend to turn - or remain pointing - into the wind, bearing in mind the additional considerations described above.
3. A stationary kayak will tend to be more maneuverable than one that is moving through the water. A forward paddling action, and sense of balance in the kayak, that allows a smooth transition through a number of paddling speeds will contribute to our paddling efficiency. For example: accelerating to cross an eddy line or catch a wave; increasing or decreasing speed when turning into/away from the wind.Boat Angle We often consider a sea kayak’s “angle” in relation to the wind direction:
- A narrow angle paddling into/away from the wind; a broad angle paddling across the wind.
- Approaching an eddy line on the sea, we also focus on “boat angle”: ninety degrees (across the flow), zero degrees (directly into, or away from, the flow); 45 degrees, and everything in between.
- Different boat “angles” when paddling into, or with, surf waves exert a considerable effect on the outcome of a specific move.
On open water, the angle of a sea kayak to the swell as it passes underneath the kayak also influences the boat’s movement through the water.
Choosing the correct angle in relation to any combination of these elements can also improve our accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Boat Trim By this term we specifically mean here both the kayak’s trim laterally (edging and balancing) and the kayak’s trim longitudinally (bow to stern). Both are important and contribute to the hull shape - or “footprint” - that we present to the water; clearly, though, we can much more dynamically alter our kayak’s lateral trim through edging and leaning. Forward and backward weight shifts, however, can make small changes to the kayak’s longitudinal trim, as can good timing in open water conditions, choosing moments when our position on a wave unweights the bow or stern of the kayak.
Consider the following principles: 1.
A sea kayak with a flat hull on the water is more directionally stable (straighter running) than a sea kayak hull presented at an angle when edging. Typically, the shallow V of many hulls grips the water better than the flatter sections presented when edging. Also, the longer waterline length and bow/stern keel line reduces the kayak’s maneuverability.An edged sea kayak is less directionally stable (more maneuverable) than a sea kayak hull flat on the water. Typically, one flatter section of the hull’s shallow V presented to the water allows the kayak to turn more easily. Also, the slightly reduced waterline length and reduced grip of the keel line contribute to the boat’s maneuverability.
2. A sea kayak with moderate amount of edge (sitting on a flatter section of the shallow V hull) will lose only a small amount of boat speed compared to flat hull. 3. A sea kayak with a radical amount of edge (edged beyond the flat section of the hull) will have much slower boat speed than a lesser degree of edging or a flat boat; it will also be much more maneuverable. Body Position This principle refers to all aspects of our dynamic posture: head position, body rotation, fore/aft weight shift, edging/leaning, connectivity within the kayak and tension/relaxation of active/passive muscle groups.
Some sea kayaking situations are simple, such as forward paddling in light conditions, notwithstanding the relatively complex actions required to forward paddle effectively! Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
However, sea kayaking more often presents complex challenges involving dynamic boat movements and wide range of environmental factors such as wind and waves. Good body position is essential for accurate, efficient paddling, for example: 1. Head Position: a sea kayak turning rapidly on a wave or across an eddy line creates dynamic changes in boat speed and boat angle. By anticipating the kayak’s movement, good head position allows us to “lead” the kayak around the turn, improving balance and efficiency. 2. Body Rotation: If we can “lead” with the head, we can also “lead” with the upper body by rotating into the turn, or pointing towards our next target.
This also “opens up” the upper body for stronger, more effective paddle strokes and encourages better, more consistent edging. 3. Upright Posture: this dynamic position, sitting upright and slightly forward with the pelvis tilted forwards, maintains a strong, flexible back position, encourages weight shifts to trim the kayak effectively in rougher water and allows the upper and lower body to work independently. Effective body position as described above also allows the lower body to function effectively. the feet can drive against the foot pegs, transferring energy from the blade through the body and into the boat; the upper body can rotate from a low point around the hips; and the legs can either relax below the deck of the kayak, or engage and “grip” the kayak as the situation demands.
Effective body position therefore encourages good balance, economy of effort, power and accuracy. It underpins all our sea kayaking activities.
Stroke Linking Effective use of the previous four essentials will also greatly assist the effective use of the paddle. In dynamic sea kayaking situations, rapid boat movements will demand the efficient linking of different paddle strokes to achieve the desired move, or combination of moves. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
The following key principles will underpin all effective stroke linking. 1. Active Blade: this refers to the blade immersed in the water, against which pressure is applied to propel, turn, steer and brace the kayak.
The “active hand”, the one nearest to the active blade, controls that blade throughout the stroke. The “non-active hand” should remain relaxed to avoid compromising the accuracy of the paddle stroke. 2. Light Grip: in any situation a light grip, just firm enough to control the movement of the active blade, will bring many advantages. These include: reduced risk of injury; improved body rotation and effective use of muscle groups; improved feedback from the active blade; more accurate movements and better paddling!
3. Clean Entry: a clean blade entry, with minimum turbulence, will also bring advantages: a better grip in the water, especially if combined with a full immersion of the active blade; more effective power transfer, with less loss of energy; more accurate, precise moves. 4. Clean Exit: all the above benefits! 5. Blade Angle: many moves, especially steering and turning strokes, require a changing blade angle to deflect water flow, generate blade pressure and influence the kayak’s movement. A sea kayak’s relatively high boat speed and relatively low maneuverability require the subtle use of minimum blade angle to get the job done.
Less is more! Start with zero blade angle (in relation to the kayak’s movement at that moment) and gently increase angle until the desired effect is achieved (with minimum turbulence).
Many sea kayakers use the sheltered waters of a launch bay to spend a few minutes warming up before getting on with the main aim of the day: to play or travel on the open sea. However, time spent in calm conditions, linking stokes together in ways demonstrated in this DVD, can build and develop improved blade awareness that will enhance performance in more challenging conditions. The outcomes in terms of boat movement are sometimes not that obvious; in fact, we can practise stroke linking without any boat movement at all, slicing the active blade smoothly into new positions. This focus, exclusively on blade awareness, allows us to quickly develop this fundamental skill that will in turn develop all other areas of performance.
Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Fundamentals The kayaking fundamentals of posture, connectivity, feel and power transfer are presented in this chapter but should be considered when watching all sections of the DVD. As the name implies, these fundamentals underpin all elements of our paddling performance. Active Posture The way we sit in a sea kayak is the key component of effective paddling skills. Good posture allows us to move dynamically and proactively, remain balanced in a 3-dimensional environment, link strokes efficiently and channel the power from the blades’ contact with the water, through the body and into the boat.
An active posture requires us to sit upright and slightly forward, as tall as we can comfortably be in the kayak with the pelvis tilted forward. This allows us to engage the muscles of the body’s core as we need them. This balanced, neutral body position also encourages a full and free upper body rotation, separation of the upper and lower body and improved feedback from the working muscle groups. In sea kayaking terms, this also means finding a comfortable position in the kayak in which to spend several hours or days - or seasons! Good posture is closely linked to finding a suitable kayak, outfitting it if necessary, developing sufficient strength and flexibility in the major muscle groups to maintain an active posture and being relaxed enough in the sea conditions encountered to attend to the other fundamentals described below.
When sea kayaking it’s a good idea to periodically check the key elements of your posture: are you sitting upright? Forward? Back? How tall are you in the kayak? The position of your pelvis? How freely are you rotating? Which muscle groups are tense? Which relaxed? Are your arms extended? How high is your forward paddling angle? Loose grip? Tight? Building awareness of your paddling posture will make it far easier to develop and improve it. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Connectivity The section of the DVD that deals with connectivity suggests a compromise between “too close” and “too loose” a fit.
White water kayakers used to fitting themselves snugly into their boats will be surprised by the room to be found inside a typical sea kayak cockpit. Rather than bringing the foot pegs close and packing the cockpit area with foam, it’s far better to find a fit that’s loose enough to stay relaxed and comfortable for several hours at a time, while still controlling the movement of the kayak. In practice, as the chapter highlights, this means finding a foot peg position and seating position that effectively transfers the power from the blades through the body into the boat. The legs will ideally be relaxed enough to allow a free upper body rotation, just under the cockpit or thigh braces.
In rougher water or if edging the kayak, the legs should still be able to make positive contact with the kayak without adversely affecting our active posture. As loose as possible, with a positive grip whenever we need it - that’s the secret! The ideal solution will need to consider a paddler’s body shape, size, fitness, flexibility and balance, the dimensions of the chosen sea kayak, the conditions encountered and the comfort level of a paddler in the conditions encountered. As with posture, experimenting with different “levels” of connectivity in different conditions will raise awareness and understanding of this important fundamental.
Connectivity is closely linked to active posture: we change one variable and the other is affected. Remember to consider the interlinked nature of these two fundamentals when experimenting afloat. Balance exercises, as demonstrated in the Core Skills section of the DVD, can help to improve both posture and connectivity in dynamic sea kayaking environments. The greater our sense of balance in the sea kayak, the more relaxed we can remain, with better corresponding feedback from the kayak. This leads to less fatigue, more miles for less effort, fewer braces... We’ll also be more easily able to find the optimum level of connectivity to maximise our paddling performance...
Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Feel Feel can be considered in two key ways: the feel or feedback that we get from boat and paddle; and the feel or feedback that we get from the environment (wind and waves) as the kayak moves through its fluid medium. Feel and feedback from the kayak is addressed in the active posture and and connectivity section of this DVD, along with the core skills sections. Developing feel from the paddle is an immensely satisfying process once we commit to it and appreciate its benefits.
It can be practised as a series of flat water exercises in a sheltered bay, simply slicing the active blade into new positions in the water, developing stroke linking combinations, experimenting with blade angles and trying new ways to move the kayak through the water.
Feel can also be developed by focusing on clean entry and exit points of each paddle stroke, for example while forward paddling: a focus on minimum splash or turbulence as the blade is dropped in and clipped out helps to increase feel for the paddle. While gliding through the water, a flat blade skimming the surface of the water can be encouraged to dive and climb with tiny changes in blade angle. There are countless opportunities to develop feel while enjoying the paddling day! Feel for the movement of the kayak through its environment requires us to become attuned to its natural tendencies, the way changes in boat speed, angle and trim affect its movement.
It’s all about recognising these tendencies and learning to work with, rather than against them. The Boat Awareness DVD chapter and all the applied skills sections expand on this principle. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Power Transfer This principle is all about channelling the energy of an cleanly locked paddle blade in the water, through the body’s active posture and, via suitable connectivity, into the movement of the kayak. It represents the effective combination of all the fundamentals into a fluid, effective performance. Power transfer harnesses effective forward paddling skills and turning techniques plus the entire range of other maneuvering skills to make each paddle stroke count most effectively. Many of the skills presented in this DVD demonstrate this principle of effective power transfer; it’s important to also remember that the dynamic environment we sea kayak often brings us into contact with natural forces that transfer their own power to the kayak’s movement.
Understanding when to pause between strokes, to “let the kayak run” is an important step in any paddler’s development. There are many demonstrations in the DVD that capture this principle. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Core Skills: Balancing This chapter deals with the practice of changing the kayak’s hull shape in the water, adjusting its trim. It’s one of the 5 Essentials and a vital component of effective paddling in more challenging conditions. It’s also a skill that many sea kayakers can improve and develop to enhance their performance. Boat Trim Exercises Review the principles presented in the 5 Essentials technical notes and, when watching the skills presented in this chapter, consider the following: Many paddlers are familiar with the 1-5 exercise of changing boat trim: a 1 is a flat kayak, a 5 is a padder’s personal maximum edge (before capsizing!) while numbers 2, 3 and 4 represent amounts of edge in between.
Most paddlers are aware of their “comfort zone” - a 3 - with the kayak positively edged while retaining a good sense of balance. This feeling is the key to effective edging skills.
Building on the exercise described above, the edging/balancing skills presented in the DVD focus on the ability to change the kayak’s shape in the water while continuing to link paddle strokes and move into body positions in anticipation of the kayak’s next move. A progressive approach to this skill, as demonstrated in the DVD, is as follows: Practise edging - stationary boat, flat water - to change the kayak’s trim in the water, while retaining the freedom to move the active blade into different positions. As soon as an increased amount of edge requires you to use the blade for support, this represents the limit of your comfort zone, and the moment when your blade is needed to maintain balance.
In practical situations, for example turning the kayak, an ability to balance effectively in this way improves other components of the 5 Essentials such as boat speed and stroke linking.
Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
It’s rare that sea kayaking requires a balanced stationary boat on flat water, so the logical progression is to develop edging skills on the move. This can usefully be practised as part of a turn, focusing on retaining balance as the kayak glides through the water. It’s also possible to practise edging in a straight line - downwind, with the skeg down, the boat will track for some distance without turning - allowing the development of a commitment to an edged kayak.
It then makes sense to take the same skills into windy/rougher conditions, to develop the same ability to change the boat’s hull shape while making a range of paddle strokes. This dynamic balance over a moving object is fundamental to effective sea kayaking skills. Rough Water Skills In addition to the exercises described above, there are two other useful techniques to develop in rougher conditions: lower/upper body separation and neutral edging: 1. Lower/upper body separation is vital to allow the kayak to move freely while the upper body moves into dynamic positions and makes effective paddle strokes.
An upright body, sitting slightly forward, is an important starting point - if the upper body moves into a position behind the hips, this drastically reduces the flexibility of the hips and causes the upper body to follow the movement of the kayak. In rough conditions, this can be disastrous. The demonstrations given in the DVD emphasise this active body position. It’s also important to be able to relax enough to allow the kayak to move freely under the body - check out the advice given in the Fundamentals: Connectivity section of the DVD and practise actively relaxing the legs inside the kayak to conserve energy and allow a freer movement.
Experiment with extremes of tension and relaxation in all the working muscle groups to develop better awareness of this element. 2. Neutral edging: the DVD demonstrates this in two ways. First, in windy/rough conditions, demonstrations are given of moving the upper body around the edge of the cockpit while keeping the kayak relatively flat. Closely linked to the first principle, this exercise encourages a flexible upper body while the sea kayak simply follows the surface of the water as green waves pass under the hull. Also, and especially in the surfing skills chapters, there are many occasions Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
when a relatively flat kayak is needed as a broken wave hits the side of the kayak. By actively controlling the lateral trim of the kayak with leg pressure as the wave moves the kayak sideways, we are free to adopt different body positions and make a range of paddle strokes, according to the situation. This “neutral edging” is a key component of effective rough water paddling. Edging vs Leaning Many paddlers consider edging a “good” skill, and leaning “bad”. The truth is a little more complex - so let’s focus on one simple aim. The fundamental goal is to change the shape of the boat’s hull in the water while retaining the flexibility to move the upper body into new positions and to perform a range of different paddle strokes.
In short, to be in balance. There are a number of factors affecting edging skills in sea kayaking situations - sea conditions are an important element, as explored above. Boat choice and body size is also important: two people of different body sizes and body weights, paddling the same model of sea kayak, will be able to move their body’s centres of mass away from the kayak’s centre of balance by differing amounts to reach the point where balance is affected. The smaller paddler can afford to “lean” more, the larger paddler will need to “edge” more. As long as both paddlers can still paddle freely, as described above, both techniques are equally effective.
The same paddler performing the same skill in two different sea kayaks, one lower volume and one higher volume, will have the same experience: more edging vs more leaning. Just remember: it’s all OK as long as you stay in balance! Flat water, stationary exercises are great for developing core balancing skills, but most sea kayak moves take place in a dynamic, moving environment. When the kayak has turning momentum, the forces generated allow us to lean further into the turn while staying in balance. This principle is demonstrated in the chapters dealing with turning skills, moving water, surf and tide race paddling.
Core Skills: Turning This DVD chapter, combined with Turning in Wind and Waves, addresses the challenge that all sea kayakers face: to effectively turn a 16-18ft sea kayak in a variety of conditions - quickly, accurately, consistently. One key component of effective turning skills is the changing of the kayak’s hull shape in the water to achieve greater maneuverability and faster, more economical turns. Stationary Spins When stationary in the water, in calm conditions, the effort required turn a sea kayak through 360 degrees is directly related to its waterline length (the the amount of sea kayak in contact with the surface of the water).
Kayaks of the same overall length may have different waterline lengths, due to different amounts of rocker (the “banana” shape of a kayak when viewed from the side: a racing kayak will typically have less rocker than a kayak designed for rough water performance). The hull shape will also affect a kayak’s willingness to turn: many sea kayaks have a “shallow V” hull in cross section, which tends to grip the water and resist turning. These types of kayaks also have flatter sections to their hull, either side of the “V”, which, when presented to the surface of the water, allow the kayak to turn more easily.
The kayaks used in Sea Kayak Essentials DVD are all of this design and are commonly viewed as excellent craft for rough water performance. To increase the sea kayak’s maneuverability we can use edging skills to change the boat’s hull shape in the water. This effects two changes: first, the kayak’s waterline length reduces, lowering the kayak’s resistance to turning; second, edging the kayak releases the shallow V of the hull and allows the kayak to spin more easily on a flatter section of the hull.
The key, of course, is to be able to edge effectively without losing the ability to use effective posture and paddle strokes to create the leverage needed to turn the kayak. The DVD’s Core Skills: Edging chapter covers these essential skills. When practising edging skills as part of a turning technique, it’s important to ensure that edging does not take place at the expense of effective paddle strokes. Edging makes the kayak more maneuverable: paddle strokes turn the sea kayak. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
When spinning a sea kayak on the spot, in calm conditions, the sea kayak will be equally maneuverable when edging into, or away from, the direction of the spin.
Most paddlers find it more comfortable to edge on the same side as the paddle stroke; thus, it effective to change the edge each time the paddle is placed on a different side of the kayak. Demonstrations in this chapter clearly display this principle. Turning on the Move On the move, the rules change a little: as before, the kayak increases its maneuverability through edging; the boat’s movement through the water encourages it to turn in one direction rather than another. In calm conditions, the kayak will tend to turn gradually towards its “high side”, producing an “outside edge turn”, even without any additional input from the paddle strokes.
To understand this principle, consider the kayak hull from a fish’s perspective! Viewed from below, the kayak presents a symmetrical shape in the water, with the widest point near the middle of the kayak (according to its design) and the narrowest points at the ends. Each side of the kayak (where it meets the water) extends gently - and symmetrically - out from the end to the wide point, then tapers gently back in. The symmetrical shape encourages the kayak to run in a straight line. When we edge the kayak, the rules change: one side of the kayak ( the “low” side), where it meets the water, retains this curved shape, while the other side (the “high” side) presents a much straighter line from bow to stern where it meets the water.
As the kayak runs through the water, it tends to follow the curved (“low”) shape of the kayak, creating an “outside edge” turn. Remember that wind and waves will alter and complicate this effect - the DVD chapters on Boat Awareness and Turning in Wind and Waves explore these effects more closely. The Core Skills: Turning chapter presents a range of turning skills that can be used in a variety of situations. Both outside edge and inside edge turns are introduced: their applications are clearly demonstrated in the rest of the DVD.
Core Skills: Forward Paddling Effective forward paddling is a challenging skill to develop, can take a lifetime to master, and often polarizes opinion among paddlers! In the DVD we present a high-angle style that effectively propels the kayak through the water in all conditions - with the paddles seen in the DVD. Many paddlers in many conditions use a lower-angle style - for fitness, fatigue or balance reasons. The skills presented in this chapter still work with such an approach.
There is, however, a loss of efficiency for the following principal reasons: 1. A lower angle generally produces a paddle track that diverts from the kayak - this track, especially if continued behind the hips, creates a turning effect that is balanced by the next paddle stroke. The cancelling effect represents a loss of energy that would otherwise drive the kayak forward through the water.
2. A lower angle also involves a less efficient sequence of muscular activity - there is inevitably less upper body rotation and a greater reliance upon the arms as a source of power. Many paddlers find the lower angle more comfortable because of a lack of strength in the muscle groups that are needed to hold the paddle in a higher angle position. Practising a higher-angle style, while initially uncomfortable for some paddlers, develops these muscle groups and leads to greater power and efficiency. Try it!
Effective forward paddling on the sea depends upon a padder’s ability to move the kayak at different speeds over distances.
Consider the following examples: 1. An all-day cruising pace in light condition 2. A three-mile tidal crossing at a faster pace 3. A half-mile race into the bay to beat an approaching squall 4. A 50-metre sprint across the top of a tide race Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
All these examples require different boat speeds, yet employ similar, if not identical, techniques, to achieve their goals. There are many skills demonstrated in Sea Kayak Essentials DVD that require different boat speeds to complete a move effectively. A key principle, in addition to the skills and exercises demonstrated in the chapter, is the relaxation of the non-working muscle groups. Two examples emphasise this coaching point: 1. Connectivity with the the kayak - for effective power transfer, paddlers need a correctlypositioned footrest to drive against and a correctly-positioned seat for the upper body to rotate above.
Connection with the the thigh braces/cockpit is helpful for for many paddlers’ sense of balance, but a “too close” fit does not encourage greater body rotation and transmission of power. A seating position, connected to the kayak via feet and seat, but only loosely linked to the boat with the upper legs, is the optimum set-up for maximum forward paddling efficiency. A tighter grip may promote a better sense of balance, but a too-exaggerated “frogs-leg” position also reduces upper body rotation and limits the efficiency of the forward paddling action. 2. Connectivity with the paddle - we need to strive for as relaxed a grip on the paddle as possible, ideally with the paddle shaft resting in the crook of thumb/first finger of a completely relaxed top hand and as gentle a grip (with thumb and first two fingers) as conditions allow with the active hand.
This allows an active relaxation of the the top hand with each paddle stroke, reduces the likelihood of wrist injury and, crucially, encourages a straighter arm/more extended reach at the moment the active blade enters the water. Repeated thousands of times over the course of a day, the small advantage of this extended reach pays dividends in distance covered and energy saved.
Throughout the DVD we have used right-handed paddles with a feather varying between 15 and 45 degrees. Having experimented over the years with a variety angles - including left-handed and zero-feather - I believe that it is helpful to paddle with the least amount of feather that we can comfortably maintain. This will vary from paddler to paddler - but with a relaxed paddle grip, as described above, there is no need to change fundamental technique (up to about 60 degree feather). Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
The key is a relaxed hand position that allows the arms to extend and relax during the forward paddling cycle.
This in turn allows the shoulders and upper body to relax, rotate freely and to engage the working muscle groups effectively. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Boat Awareness As explained in the introduction to these Sea Kayak Essentials technical notes, there are many different boat designs on the market, some with markedly different handling characteristics. The kayaks we have selected for the production of this DVD are a particular class often known as “British” design - popular, seaworthy and widely used throughout the world. Nevertheless, many subtle differences exist between designs within this class, providing different paddling experiences. It is impossible, in the confines of one DVD, to accommodate all these subtleties - this chapter aims to provide paddlers with a series of simple exercises that attune them to the way their chosen kayak moves through the water in different situations.
When should you try these Boat Awareness exercises? All the time! Your kayak, while generally obeying the principles explored in the DVD, will behave slightly differently in different circumstances - especially in terms of your sense of balance and its speed of response when turning, accelerating, stopping, gliding... 1. If paddling a new kayak for the first time, these boat awareness exercises will help you to appreciate the differences between it and your more familiar craft. 2. If paddling your usual sea kayak with more equipment loaded than usual, try out some of these exercises to get a better sense of how the kayak’s handling characteristics have altered.
3. If returning to the sport after a paddling break (each spring, for example), time spent exploring the kayak’s responses will act as a useful physical warm up and renewal of rusty skills. 4. If paddling in rougher conditions than usual, a structured practice session in the lumpy stuff - with safe water directly downwind - will help you to gauge how you and the kayak respond in unfamiliar situations.
5. In fact, every time you go afloat these exercise can act as a helpful warm up before the main business of the the paddling day. Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
The long term usefulness of these Boat Awareness exercises is to help to develop economy and efficiency into our sea kayaking: working with, rather than against, the kayak’s natural tendency, appreciating when to “glide” and save energy and when to apply input via the paddles; when to increase and when to reduce boat speed; the effects of different amounts of edging in different situations; and the impact of wind and waves on the kayak.
In developing effective turning skills, this section should be combined with the DVD chapters on Core Skills and Turning in Wind and waves.
Use of the Skeg This DVD chapter aims to unravel the mysteries of skeg use - it introduces key principles and suggests positions for effective skeg use in varying conditions. It’s impossible to precisely answer the question “How much skeg do I need” as different boat designs, sea conditions, course headings and other factors will affect the answer - however, the principles introduced here are sound, technically correct and make good starting points for further experimentation.
The sea kayaks used in Sea Kayak Essentials DVD all seek to strike a compromise between straight line performance and maneuverability. In windy weather, the kayak’s heading in relation to the wind also affects its straight line performance. As explored in the 5 Essentials, Boat Awareness and Turning Skills DVD chapters, most sea kayaks respond in relatively predictable ways: When stationary most sea kayaks, loaded correctly with neutral trim, tend to sit across the wind. On the move, these sea kayaks tend to turn upwind in most conditions. Thus, when paddling into the wind, most sea kayaks are relatively “well behaved” - apart from the effort required to paddle into the wind, they tend to follow an accurate course quite easily.
When paddling directly downwind in light conditions, it’s almost as easy to maintain an accurate course.
The challenge begins when paddling a sea kayak at other angles to the wind. Across the wind, the kayak’s natural tendency to turn upwind can cause frustrations. Without a skeg, it becomes necessary to modify paddle strokes and boat trim, working harder and/or edging the kayak on the upwind side of the kayak. Use of the skeg in this situation tends to “lock” the stern of the kayak in the water and reduce or eliminate the turning effect. The ideal solution is to have just the right amount of skeg to allow a straight line course with a flat kayak and even Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
pressure on the paddle blades. This can be hard to achieve! Experimentation with subtly different skeg positions will produce an effective result: changes in wind strength, wave size and course often require a small change in skeg position. Downwind, the amount of skeg needed will depend upon wind strength, wave size, whether paddling directly or diagonally downwind - and boat speed. If paddling cautiously downwind, boat speed tends to be lower and so the waves that catch up and wash past the kayak tend to have a larger effect on the stern of the kayak, causing to turn the kayak towards a crosswind course.
This situation generally requires a larger amount of skeg to solve.
If paddling more aggressively downwind, the extra boat speed means that we will surf more waves and any waves that do pass under the kayak will have a lower relative speed - and less turning effect on the kayak. Thus, we can use less - or no - skeg to maintain a straight line course. This also allows us to use the kayak’s greater maneuverability to make small course changes while surfing waves. Finally, remember that all models of sea kayaks respond at different speeds to the same principles, some have better-designed skeg systems than others, and that the dynamic sea environment of wind and waves make it a constant challenge to find the exactly right skeg position.
Good luck and enjoy the ride!
Turning in Wind and Waves This chapter combines the techniques introduced in the DVD chapters Core Skills: Turning, Balancing and Forward Paddling and also builds on principles introduced in 5 Essentials and Boat Awareness. It’s important to remember that there are several turning techniques commonly used in sea kayaks (as introduced in core skills) and that all of them can be used in wind and waves. The appropriateness of a specific technique will depend not only on the direction of course change (upwind, downwind, crosswind) but also on the wind strength, sea state, speed of turn required and - crucially - the confidence level and ability of the sea kayaker.
One technique may be suitable for one paddler, another for another...
The skills demonstrated in this chapter are progressive, offering safe and effective turning techniques for the paddler with developing skills as well as the experienced performer. The key is to practise and develop all the core turning skills, develop confidence in them in more challenging conditions and work towards a situation where each turn can be made choosing from a selection of options. As an example, one skill demonstrated in this chapter is the 90 degree turn from a downwind heading to a crosswind course. In windy weather many paddlers will switch to an inside edge turn, with the stability advantage of edging into the wind as the kayak turns.
The drawback is that the kayak loses speed through the turn. With more developed edging and rough water skills, an outside edge turn allows the paddler to maintain boat speed through the turn, the new challenge being to remain in balance - edging downwind - as the kayak turns. In different situations each turn may be the preferred option, according to the intended outcome. The key is to be able to perform each turn with confidence!
Boat Speed One key element of this chapter is boat speed; in windy weather many sea kayakers paddle with “one speed” and thus miss out on the advantages of economy and efficiency that changing speed can provide. Save all that energy for the next surf! Reviewing the principles introduced in the Boat Awareness DVD chapter provides many answers to the problems of turning in windy weather. Again, many sea kayakers will be reluctant at first to edge dynamically in windy weather, so changing boat speed can provide some solutions.
Remember that a stationary kayak will tend to sit across the wind, while a moving kayak (skeg up) will tend to turn upwind.
From a crosswind course, increasing boat speed from a stationary or slow-moving position will encourage the kayak to turn in the desired direction. Timing the paddle strokes to coincide with moments when the kayak is most maneuverable - at the crests of waves - will further increase the speed of the turn and save energy. From an upwind heading, the kayak will turn more readily onto a crosswind, and finally downwind, course if boat speed is reduced or eliminated. This is especially true during the second half of the turn, when boat speed across the wind will encourage the sea kayak to turn back upwind.
Of course it’s possible to make a downwind turn using a dynamic outside edge and boat speed - remember that this DVD chapter is taking a progressive approach, introducing coping strategies that are then built on and developed.
Ultimately, experimenting with changing boat speed when turning in windy weather will raise awareness and help to develop timing, stroke selection and edging skills to produce a range of strategies for each situation. Edging and Boat Trim Edging skills remain important as a part of any dynamic turn, although many paddlers are reluctant to develop this aspect in challenging conditions. Choose safe working working areas where a capsize, brace, roll or swim will have only minor consequences - and go for it! Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Remember that the movement of the sea will create moments when the kayak is more maneuverable - for example, on the crest of a wave - so try to time your paddle strokes to coincide with these moments. Edging into the wind is a good starting point, as the elements will be easier to deal with when waves wash under the kayak. If developing downwind edging skills, take a progressive approach to these exercises, building up from conditions within your comfort zone. Remember also that edging is an important component that should complement paddle strokes, body position and boat speed. If your efforts to change the trim of the kayak are adversely affecting the other Essentials, reduce the amount of edge to find a more effective outcome.
Go back to the shelter of the bay, work on your edging core skills and get back out there! Sea Kayak Essentials DVD Volume 1: Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling Skills www.kayakessentials.co.uk
Open Water Forward Paddling Moving the sea kayak effectively in open water conditions is central to the sea kayaking experience. More than most DVD chapters, this section seeks to combine the foundations covered in the Core Skills chapters. The essence of effective forward paddling is to maintain a balanced, relaxed position over the sea kayak as it cuts effectively through wind and waves. Easier said than done! Connectivity It is worth reviewing the Fundamentals chapter of the DVD, especially the section on Connectivity. Many sea kayakers find a solution to the balance issue of paddling in rough water by increasing the closeness of the fit inside their kayak, bring the foot pegs back and adopting a more exaggerated “frogs-leg” position in the kayak.
This is fine for balance and confidence and is the permanent answer for many - but it does create problems if then seeking to paddle any longer distance over open water. The tension created by the lower body adversely affects the freedom of the upper body to rotate and generate power. The net result is greater effort for less distance travelled - not a great situation!
It’s worth experimenting with different degrees of “tightness” and “looseness” in the kayak to achieve your ideal personal connectivity with the kayak. Remember, “loose” is good! You can reduce the amount of paddling in the hips/thighs contact areas (if your kayak has any) and experiment with closer and more distant foot peg positions. The DVD section on Connectivity has advice on different foot positions to accommodate these changes. “Too loose” can be a problem - so if you’re falling out of the kayak when edging or leaning back to reach the foot pegs, don’t overdo it... All the while, aim for the loosest effective fit you can achieve without compromising other areas of performance.