This week, instead of discussing how to do a certain move, I want to discuss a few tips that will make you a better paddler. The first thing I want to talk about is the forward stroke. The main purpose of the forward stroke is to build forward momentum in a straight line. to avoid turning, we want to put the paddle blade in as close to the boat as possible and as vertical as possible. Put the blade in the water by where your feet are and pull the stroke through to your hip where you take the blade out. Aim to take the blade out by your knees however because by the time the paddle blade is fully out of the water, it will be at your hips. When you stroke rotate your torso and apply pressure to the opposite footpeg of the side you are stroking on. This will help keep you straight and help to generate more power and use your whole body to power the stroke as opposed to just your lats and arms. All of this is fairly common practice and pretty common knowledge, yet everyone has room to work on their forward stroke. Now lets talk about hand placement on your paddle. I know a lot of people, myself included tend to grip the paddle very close to the blades. You feel like you have more control over the paddle this way and it feels more natural to brace in that position. If you try moving your hand towards each other by just six inches or so on each side, you will notice a huge difference however. Now when you use a forward stroke your top hand is not nearly as high up, in fact it should be shoulder height at highest. This not only makes it easier and more natural to have more vertical forward strokes, but also keeps your shoulders a lot safer too. Not to mention it is easier and more instinctive to brace as you have more length to work with.
The last topic I would like to discuss today is the ferry. A ferry in whitewater is a move used to go from one side of a river to another. You can ferry facing upstream, or ferry facing downstream. I would like to talk about ferrying facing upstream today. When you ferry out and across a eddy line, the number one thing you need to do is keep your upstream edge free of water flowing downstream. Just like side surfing, if the water upstream catches your edge it will flip you very fast and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. The next thing that you need is the correct angle. This depends on the spot you are ferrying but generally angling your boat to be at about the 2 o’clock will be enough angle to use the water to your advantage, but small enough of an angle that the current does not turn you around and change your ferry into a peel out. The biggest mistake that people make when the ferry out is starting up too high on a ferry. If you start out on the top of a wave, you will ferry out and immediately be pushed down the wave face. What you want to do is use the wave to your advantage and surf across it to the other side. Start just below the wave in the eddy and put in a few forward strokes so you cross the eddy line just below the peak of the wave. Then your forward momentum will carry you up onto the wave and you will ferry right across it provided you maintain your angle.