TOP 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LONGBOATING
Over the last few months I’ve been out and about sharing my love of paddling long whitewater kayaks like my Dagger Greenboat. It’s been super fun working with so many folks ranging from those that have never paddled a long boat thru to those looking to improve their race times. Certain areas of attention keep repeating themselves at these events, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to outline the top five of them here and how to correct them.
- LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO
Paddling any whitewater is a little like a game of chess. How you make the move right in front of you should set you up for the next move and the next and so on. You should really be thinking several moves ahead all the time. This is even more important in a long boat that’s moving faster and not getting slowed down as much. I commonly see people starring at the bow of their boats especially when things start to get hard or go pear shaped. Instead, look up and thru the rapid to your desired exit. By looking at that exit, your shoulders realign as does your torso and boat and you should move in that direction. The added benefit of looking further downstream is stability. The “stability triangle” goes from you eyes to your seat to where you are looking. If you’re looking downstream rather than at the front of the boat, you have a large triangle and therefore increased stability.
MOMENTUM IS YOUR FRIEND
Long boats have heaps of speed potential with that long water line and you can use it to your advantage to make moves that you’d otherwise have missed in a shorter boat or thought impossible. Don’t be afraid to hit the gas pedal. Unintentionally aiming towards a big hole? Speed up and punch it. Need to make a monster ferry or attainment to get back to where you need to be … you have the speed to do it. As you get more comfortable with the power band of a long boat, you’ll be blown away by what’s possible.
NARROW YOUR ANGLES
In our shorter boats, we can easily turn at the last minute or correct when we get pushed off line. This approach doesn’t work well when you have an 11ft waterline. So narrow those angles down and things get way easier. Once you get this down, these same skills translate into your short boat and will make you a more accurate and proficient paddler.
CORRECT WITH FORWARD STROKES
If you want to perform better when racing your long boat, learn to correct with forward strokes. If the bow is moving to your right, you have three basic choices in order of preference. 1. A sweep on your right would bring the bow back and continue to provide forward momentum and not slow you down. It is a race after all. 2. A bow draw on your left or stern rudder, if well executed, will also bring the bow back into compliance while minimally slowing down the boat, but slowing it down nonetheless. A bow draw can also very quickly become a forward stroke. 3. Back paddling or breaking on the left will also correct your angle, but it will also throw away any speed you had. Correcting only with forward strokes is harder than you think, but once learned, you’ll be blown away by how efficient this style of paddling is.
LEARN AN EFFECTIVE FORWARD STROKE
The forward stroke is the stroke we use the most but is taught the least. Paddling forward efficiently is nothing more than solidly planting the paddle and then pushing the boat forwards. But doing so efficiently and maximizing your ability to apply power when you need it however, takes a great deal of time and practice. Without leaning forwards, rotate to plant the paddle up near your toes and then unwind by pushing the boat forwards with the leg on the same side as the paddle. If you’re doing this right, it should feel like you are almost running on your foot brace. Doing so engages all the large muscles in your torso so you should feel it in your abs, quads and/or lower back.
There is so much more to paddling a long boat well, so consider reaching out to a good coach or school to really dial things in.