Welcome to Louisiana Adventure Racing's new website. This site includes upcoming events, videos, blog, racer forum, and race photos. Enjoy!

Paddling Tips from Sleepmonsters.com

Paddling Tips from Sleepmonsters.com

Pete James put together a great writeup about paddling over at Sleepmonsters.com.

Water sections can provide some of the most exciting and memorable moments in adventure racing, from sea kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean in huge surf to rafting grade IV white-water. Unfortunately it can also provide some of the most mind-numbing and tedious sections. Both scenarios are challenging in their different ways: having the technique, balance and experience to paddle in big surf and white-water, or having the determination and sheer bloody-mindedness to push on when you’re paddling an inflatable slug of a boat and struggling to stay awake. As usual good team work, confidence and smart thinking will help you through, but they aren’t the complete answer.

It’s probably true to say that canoeing and kayaking are easy to do, but hard to do well. For white-water paddling and sea kayaking, the only real solution is to get out there and do it – with some professional instruction. The good news is that this could be a really fun way to spend a weekend with your team mates and friends. If you want to get really good at endurance paddling, then the best solution is to join a canoe club with members who enjoy marathon racing, and get yourself into a racing kayak and/or canoe to train with them and learn the required skills. If you’re finding paddling boring, then mastering a racing “K1” is guaranteed to keep your attention!

The Boring Bits

The boring stuff? Most race organisers have the imagination to make paddle stages fun, but if you’re suffering from the Sleepmonsters, then paddling can be very soporific. Top tips are:

* set your watch count-down, and try to paddle harder/easier for alternate time periods.
* Singing is another favourite (time for all those old sea shanties you learned at your father`s knee).
* Less desirable solutions include arguing with your team mates or falling asleep.

Technical Tips

Try to ensure you miss as few paddle strokes as possible by adopting a hands free drinking system, and by having your food readily to hand – ideally in a pocket of your buoyancy aid. Navigation on the water (and particularly at sea) is a huge subject in itself. As well as the usual considerations for land navigation you may be on a moving surface (ocean current or river), while also being moved around by the wind and waves. The straight line route may not be the fastest!

A few points to consider:

* The fastest flow is generally around the outside of a bend in the river
* Shallow water will significantly slow your boat
* If crossing large stretches of open water look for land to shelter you from head winds and cross winds.
* When crossing Upper Lough Erne with it’s myriad islands in the dark, make good use of the local charts showing the location of the numbered buoys all over the lake. (Ed. This refers to when Pete`s team lost the lead & the race at Adrenalin 2002. He`s not forgotten it. and probably never will!)

Canoe Versus Kayak

I get really cheesed off with the misuse of these two terms, so I guess this is my chance to EXPLAIN the differences. To be fair, definitions do become blurred due to the sheer diversity of watercraft available, and by the fact that ‘canoe’ is used as a generic term for both canoes and kayaks.

* A kayak is any boat propelled using a double-bladed paddle (traditionally, think Eskimo in covered boat with spray-skirt).
* Any boat paddled using a single bladed paddle is definitely a canoe (traditionally, think Red Indians in open birch bark vessel).

Enough said?

Paddling Roles

Since you’re likely to be part of a team, the chances are that you will be sharing a boat (whether canoe or kayak). There are two fundamental roles to play: the person in the front of the boat sets a nice regular paddling rhythm for everyone else to match, while the helms person in the back has responsibility for steering. In a boat with no rudder, the helms person tries to match the stroke being set up front as closely as possible, while using various techniques to keep the boat heading in a straight line.

Basic Helming

Fine trimming of the boat can be accomplished by using harder/softer strokes on different sides of the boat. To make the boat turn harder to the right (say) the steerer makes a big sweep away FROM the boat with their left paddle or if necessary, uses their right-hand blade like a rudder in the water behind them. As you improve, so will your anticipation, so that you require smaller and smaller corrections. There is no real substitute for practice.

The Double-Bladed Paddle

There are two fundamentally different kinds of double paddle: conventional flat or ‘asymmetric’ blades, and wing blades. Flat blades are better for technical strokes, such as you might use in white water, canoe or slalom. Wing blades are more efficient for most forms of racing, but also require more strength to use.

Most paddles are “feathered” which means that the blades are set at an angle of up to 90 degrees to each other. Most paddles are right-handed or ‘right twist’, but some are left-handed. You grip the shaft of the paddle with your dominant hand so that the adjacent blade sticks out parallel to your knuckles. Usually the shaft of the paddle will be ovalised where you grip, so that you will naturally tend to grip it correctly.

Your other hand will then switch positions as necessary at the end of each stroke (see below). As a general rule of thumb, you should have your hands far enough apart on the shaft of the paddle so that when you rest it on your head, your elbows make a right-angle. CONT`D

For the rest of the article, go to the source at sleepmonsters.com

© 2009 Louisiana Adventure Racing. All rights reserved.