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Question for the paddlers
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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/15/17 6:19 PM

Question for the paddlers

This issue may be specific to me, but I'll toss it out there.

I took the Bean introduction to sea kayaking course today, a full day course with work on strokes in the morning, and rescues in the afternoon (paddle float and T-Rescue).

I got through it OK but not elegantly, though the one issue puzzling me is that I couldn't find a comfortable upright sitting position in the boat. My back wanted to slouch backward, which is not great for paddling, and if I leaned forward so that my torso was upright, I felt unstable and couldn't really maintain that position. The boat had a very minimal backrest, but I tend to think the problem is muscle imbalance or something similar. Maybe I have weak abdominals and can't stabilize that position? I used to do crunches but let that slide long ago. I suppose it may have something to do with my busted hip, but I doubt it. I was pushing back with my legs to stabilize, with limited benefit.

I generally have decent flexibility in the waist, I can ride in a fairly low position comfortably.

Any thoughts appreciated!

[/u]

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/15/17 7:46 PM

It's probably the boat (the seat to be exact).

What boat modal was it that you were given for your class?

(in my own boat, I have a back band that would keep me upright. But if you get the chance, try putting a cushion on the seat that would tilt your butt forward)

Having said all that, it's after all POSSIBLE that your ab muscle is weak. A few sit up and crunches won't hurt.

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/16/17 3:31 AM

Boat

The boat was a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 175. The seatback was a mesh strap maybe 6" high. The instructor fiddled with it and she thought it was adjusted properly.

I do tend to slouch when sitting in chairs - SAD!

I'm going to pursue this and try to get to the bottom of it, looking at strengthening, technique and/or equipment. This issue aside, the kayaking was really fun.

I will say my abs are sore as hell this morning!

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/16/17 5:16 AM

The problem is that you're a cyclist...

...which likely means that you have short hamstrings that make sitting in a kayak challenging. I go through the same thing. It takes a while of regular paddling to get comfortable, but you need to resist the tendency to lean back.
The instability is due to being new to paddling and not having the right core muscles development yet, but those things will pass with time in the boat.

You do not want a higher backrest, as anything that's taller than the coaming inhibits proper paddling technique (torso rotation). The backband is meant to support your pelvis, not your back, and allow your to rotate as necessary.

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/16/17 6:54 AM

Thanks Brian

I thInk you may be exactly right. I have always had tight hamstrings, perhaps made worse by cycling. I know I need to stretch them, but have sloughed off that. Actually after I posted I had the thought that the problem may relate to the hammies, and your experience reinforces that.

What you say about the back band makes perfect sense to me.

So I'll start stretches, and also some core exercises, and do more paddling. I'm glad I took the course now as I have some time to work on this.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/16/17 11:08 AM

As with riding, the best advice...

...to improve your paddling is "paddle lots". It won't take long to adapt to your position in the boat.

One thing to watch out for is that when I used to both paddle and ride in nearly equal measure, I found that I was somewhat prone to hamstring cramps when riding, which had never happened to me before. Since I've pretty much stopped paddling, I've had zero problems.

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Matthew Currie
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 717
Location: Vermont

7/16/17 11:38 AM

I haven't done a lot of kayaking, but some, and found it pretty uncomfortable some of the time. I did find that one thing that really helps is to have the foot rests (or pedals if you're using a rudder) closer than you might expect, so that you can push back against them and keep from slouching.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/16/17 12:09 PM

In a typical sit-in kayak...

...the footpegs should be set so that you can comfortably rest your feet on them, but be able to lock your knee/thighs into the thigh braces simply by flexing your ankles. The purpose of the foot braces is to resist the force of paddling, which pulls you forward, not backward. It's actually perfectly possible to paddle a kayak with no back band at all, though very few paddlers do so because it can make it difficult to control the boat in rough conditions. That's where a back band is actually most useful.

If you push too hard into the back band, the only thing you get is sore feet and a sore back. You only need to push hard enough to resist the force of paddling, which believe it or not, is typically only around 10 pounds for an average paddler.

Another common method in Greenland-style boats is to alternately straighten your legs and allow your leg bones to resist the paddling force. It works great and I do it all the time, but it requires more hamstring flexibility and a seat with minimal rise at the front, so it doesn't dig into your legs when you straighten them.

Some paddlers who advocate "leg drive", which is pushing hard on the footpegs. While there may be some isometric benefits to your leg muscles, it does absolutely nothing for moving the boat unless you've got a racing seat that allows you to slide and/or swivel. In a touring boat with a back band, it's a complete waste of energy. The burn in their quads just makes them feel like they're actually accomplishing something.

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/16/17 2:41 PM

Pegs

The pegs were fairly close (they wanted the frog leg setup so your thighs were against the boat side for maneuverability) and we moved them in a bit during the session. I did try to push against them to stabilize my back and I'd say it kind of felt like it helped for a bit then back to normal. So I just think I need to improve core strength and flexibility.

I signed up for another session in August, we'll see if I'm better then. I just want to be comfortable in the boat and somewhat efficient when I go to Antarctica in February.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/16/17 6:36 PM

Chances are...

...that the tandems that you'll be using will have very roomy cockpits and you may have little or nothing to brace against. The paddling technique you learn now will translate fine, but your only points of contact will likely be your feet, butt and pelvis or back, depending on the height of the back band or backrest.

The major adaptations for paddling are learning to paddle by rotating your torso - which will build your core stability - and getting used to controlling the boat with your hips. The latter is what leads to a sense of stability. When you go from a stable boat to one that's less so, it's your ability to adjust the amount and force of hip movement to that required by the boat that makes the difference in whether you feel stable or not. Boats that are inherently stable require more force and movement to move the hull, whereas less stable boats require a nuanced approach. It's akin to the difference between a touring bike and a race bike. The latter is more responsive and requires a lighter touch.

Does that make sense?

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/16/17 7:19 PM

Makes sense

That makes perfect sense but the instability I mentioned was in my body posture, not the boat. The boat always seemed stable to me (OK, maybe not so much in the paddle float Rescue...:)

But when I leaned forward to paddle upright, it did not really feel like a stable, sustainable position. I had to work to maintain it, and after a couple minutes I'd have to slouch backward to feel "natural" (though not efficient). Sort of like being uncomfortable on a bike and having to move around all the time - you don't have a stable platform to pedal from.

I think I will try some yoga - there are lots of classes around here.

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/16/17 7:29 PM

Do some conditioning to get used to the paddling position, you will probably combine a bit of stretching of the hamstring, some ab crunch and side crunch. Basically core flexibility and strength.

And to really get used to the paddling position, there's nothing more magical than... paddling! (as Brian mentioned).

I'm not sure there's any need for more lessons. If you can borrow or rent a kayak, do a couple of hour long paddling in protected water. Or, you can join a half day touring paddle locally. A couple hours in the cockpit repeated a couple times will most likely get you ready. Combined with the stretches and crunches, you should be more than ready to enjoy the outing.

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daddy-o
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 2820
Location: Springfield

7/16/17 7:33 PM

A P.T. gave me a visualization about the human pelvis. It is like a bucket and your waist is the rim. When you tilt your pelvis forward the water pours forward. When it's tilted backward, you get it. I'm just writing this to give context to some of the posture comments, more power to you.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/17/17 5:02 AM

The instability you feel...

...is simply due to the lack of muscle development and coordination to control your hip movement. It's not something that you would experience outside of when you're in the boat, so it takes a while for your body to adapt. When you lean back and essentially lock yourself to the back band and/or cockpit coaming, you eliminate the need for your core muscles to control your pelvis movement and the inherent stability of the boat takes over. That's why it feels more stable.

Although there are certification programs for paddling skills that I think are largely meaningless, I'm a firm believer that all paddling education has benefits, as there is always something you can learn. Whether that comes from paid instructors or through peer mentoring, it's all good.


Last edited by Brian Nystrom on 7/17/17 12:14 PM; edited 1 time in total

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/17/17 6:14 AM

It's all good

I think you're right about the core muscles and I'm going to work on that and the hamstrings.

I signed up for a private lesson next week (which I want to focus on the position issues and stroke mechanics), and then an intermediate course in another few weeks (edging, bracing, etc.). Then I'll try to get out another few times, I know a good paddler who offered to help.

Glad I realize now I have stuff to work on rather than getting down there and being a dead weight in the tandem, or steering in the wrong direction.....

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PLee
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 3487
Location: Brooklyn, NY

7/17/17 8:14 AM

I can guarantee you that you're taking this kayaking in Antarctica thing a lot more seriously than any of your future cruise mates. But you're learning new skills and maybe picking up a new activity, so all is good.

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/17/17 8:21 AM

Double vs single

Dan, do I remember you said you'll be in a double during your Antarctica tour? If so, a lot of the instability you feel in a single will go away.

By all means take some lessons using single kayak. The forward stroke mechanics will translate directly. But a lot of the other move don't. Sweep strokes are pretty useless in a double. Bracing is also much less ineffective in a double. Though edging actually works much better in preventing any need for bracing....

Basically, because there're TWO bodies in the boat moving independently, most of the body movements got cancelled out. The boat is likely to do its own thing, which is staying upright as its designed. :D

Just in case you end up on the back of the double as the steering person, get a feel on how the rudder works. (hint: it only works when there's forward momentum).

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/17/17 8:58 AM

maybe maybe not

Parkin that may or may not be, but as you say I'd like to learn this anyway.

Although this is an extra cost option on the trip and we had to certify that we had or would obtain basic sea kayaking experience and knowledge.

I'm planning on doing more now than I originally thought because the maiden voyage showed me I'm not physically comfortable in an upright position, and I don't want to be uncomfortable or distracted in that gorgeous environment.

The course I took at Bean's was introduction to sea kayaking, no prerequisite, but most people had significant kayaking experience - one young lady didn't really need the rescue training as she just popped a roll. With an alumni crowd on this trip I'm pretty sure there will be some good paddlers, and I don't want to be heading the wrong way when a whale is sited and not be able to turn around....

April, yes on the trip I'll be in a tandem, but right now I'm most interested in being able to sit comfortably in an efficient, upright position - the double boat won't solve that problem!

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/17/17 11:01 AM

You're describing me!


quote:
young lady didn't really need the rescue training as she just popped a roll.

Those are not the same!

I bet that young lady came from the same background as I did, from white water. Yes, most of us ex-WW paddlers can "pop a roll", which impress the hell out of sea kayakers.

However, it's not a replacement of the "standard" rescue method used in sea kayaking. Rather, we view it as additional skills. There're times and situation when one may fail to roll up (bad boat fit, fatigue, injury...). That's when a "standard" rescue, particularly the "gold standard" assisted rescue can save life!

Us white water paddlers, we know capsizing is a matter of when, not if. So we're more motivated than the beginner folks in learning sea kayak specific rescue skills.

For your comfort in the cockpit, some flexibility drills, and just paddling will be more helpful.

p.s..

On your next lesson/outing, try a different boat. I'm still not 100% convinced the issue is entirely your hammi.

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dan emery
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 5765
Location: Maine

7/17/17 11:15 AM

Rolling

Yes she was a white water kayaker. Cool to watch.

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Brian Nystrom
Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 3754
Location: Nashua, NH

7/17/17 12:29 PM

Rolling

Being able to roll is a necessity for whitewater paddlers, for obvious reasons. Sadly, most other paddlers couldn't care less and aren't willing to put any effort into learning to roll.

I consider rolling to be a "gateway skill", in that once you learn to roll, it makes learning many other useful skills much easier. You're more willing to push your limits if you know that you're not going to end up swimming and doing a laborious reentry after every "learning experience" that causes a capsize. You also become more comfortable underwater and generally more relaxed and confident. You don't fear the water, you embrace it and become one with it. The benefits are huge, but it's difficult to convince many paddlers of that. Too bad for them, as they don't know what they're missing.

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/17/17 1:03 PM

white water vs flat water

If sea/flat-water kayaking capsizes as frequently as white water, I bet there wouldn't have been the huge explosion of popularity in flat water and sea kayaking!

90% of the people take up sea kayaking only after they're assured they wouldn't frequently go in for a drink!

Unfortunately, that impression perpetuate itself when "experienced" kayakers who had never capsized introduce their friends to kayaking.

Ironically, it's often after their first capsize that many paddlers decided they want to learn to roll. They're the lucky ones. They've discovered a world of fun and excitement they didn't know exist. But many of them would never had tried kayaking altogether if they thought they're be upside down a lot!

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PLee
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 3487
Location: Brooklyn, NY

7/17/17 1:10 PM

On another note, it sounds like contact lenses are not a good idea for kayaking. Do people make do with simple croakies or is there a system of tying them to your clothing?

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April
Joined: 13 Dec 2003
Posts: 6072
Location: Westchester/NYC

7/17/17 1:14 PM

why not?


quote:
it sounds like contact lenses are not a good idea for kayaking

Where did that "sound" come from?

I wear contact kayaking.

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PLee
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 3487
Location: Brooklyn, NY

7/17/17 1:54 PM

I tend to open my eyes underwater. I've lost contact lenses in those situations.

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