Training Notes [39]

By David Winkworth

Hi Everyone, another issue and another ‘Training Notes’ column. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to know what members want me to write in this column. Usually I just watch members paddling on trip weekends and see what can be said to help them with technique etc. Sometimes, at a training weekend there will be a few members with the same problem, so I write about that etc.

What I, and other club instructors need is feedback from members as to their training needs. We have attempted to guess this in the past and done pretty well I suppose but we do need feedback from you. Please let us know if you need any specific help.

Also, if any member wants to write an article of a ‘training’ nature, please feel free. There must be many members who have noticed different training methods from other parts of the world that would be of use to us. Each of the instructors in the club has a different way of teaching rolls, support strokes etc….and the more variations in these methods that we are exposed to, the better. No-one of us has all the answers. So, it’s over to you!

Body English

This is a term that motorcycle trials riders use to describe the movement of the rider’s body over the motorcycle (they are standing up) for balance and to help them make the bike do what they want it to. It’s also a term and a technique that I use in sea kayaking – but I don’t think anyone understands me!

Let’s think about our weight in a kayak. Suppose an average paddler weighs 75 kgs wringing wet. Exclude their legs and lower torso (because they can’t move) at about 35kgs and that leaves 40 kgs of moveable body mass from about the hips up…with a big heavy lump on the top called the head! If our paddler’s kayak weighs in at 20 kgs, that means that our moveable mass is double the weight of the boat.

Now that is really significant and yet we often see paddlers not taking advantage of this in their general paddling. Sure, it’s weird to be leaning way forward or back while paddling along but it does work (to varying degrees with different boats), and paddlers should include this as a supplement to their repertoire of strokes.

Before we look at some specific examples, you should note that your firm fit in your cockpit should extend only to your hips and to your lower back. This is where you pivot from, so if you are restricted higher up your body you will find the manoeuvres more difficult. If you are using a backband system, make sure that the band is able to move down as you lean back. Put your kayak out on the lawn, hop in and check your range of movement.

Most kayaks exhibit weather helm tendencies…that is, when paddled across the wind the boat will turn towards the wind. In this case we want to hold course across the wind. We’ll assume that the rudder is retracted. In addition to lean steer and paddle sweep techniques, you can lean well back while paddling to push your keel deeper into the water. Cars steer from the front – boats steer from the back. If your boat is rounded at the stern and carries it’s volume well towards the stern or has lots of rocker, the lean back will be of more use. Why? Because the rocker and/or high volume stern means that your rear end is not deep enough in the water to counteract the wind pushing on the stern. Next time you go for a paddle, give this manoeuvre a try.

Now, supposing the wind is blowing hard across your path and you wish to turn into the wind. Although the wind is acting on your stern to aid the turn, in very strong winds this is counteracted by the wind force on your bow to hinder the boat turning upwind and you end up in eqilibrium beam on to the waves. To make this turn, paddle FAST across the wind while leaning well forward with some outward boat lean and sweep strokes. The lean forward of your 40 kgs will lighten the stern so that it will come round more easily and also depress the bow to reduce the wind effect up there. Do not practise this stroke off the coast in a 40 knot westerly. You may end up in New Zealand!

Let’s combine these two leans now – the lean forward and the lean back. If you’re paddling in reasonable wind waves with the wind and waves on the stern quarter, you may find that your boat turns into a pig!….and just will not respond to your steering inputs. Why? In this case, roughly speaking, the lower part of the wind waves are trying to push your boat back up the wave and the top of the wind waves are trying to push the kayak down . Result: you end up broaching all the time with the odd capsize and generally do not enjoy the paddle. Kayaks are at their most directionally-unstable with the wind and waves on the stern quarter.

To counteract this, try leaning forward to catch the wave for a free ride, and then quickly and forcefully lean well back as the wave picks up the boat. At the same time you may need to use a stern rudder stroke on the up-wave side, and hard foot pressure on the up-wave footrest only. Keep leaning back as you do this. ‘Definitely a manoeuvre that needs practice.

If you’re on an overnight or multi-day trip the day’s weather forecast should tell you how to pack your boat. If you expect to have downwind conditions (paddling with the sea and wind) you should increase the weight in your stern hatch. Your lean-back will still be needed if the waves pick up though!

One last example where movement of body weight can assist is the ROLL. Two common faults for paddlers learning to roll is to keep their heads up and failure to lean well back or well forward. Not only is your head heavy,but it sits up there on top of your body for increased leverage AGAINST your roll succeeding! If our bodies ended at our necks, rolls would be a snap! To guarantee that your roll succeeds 100% of the time, keep your body and head as close as possible to your boat. Good Luck.

Storm Conditions

Last issue I wrote about storm conditions and posed the question for members: How would you sit out a storm? Although the responses were low, the consensus was to lie to a drogue and sit it out with the stern of the kayak towards to weather. I’d just like to throw in a few problems and possible solutions for future discussion round a campfire….because I certainly don’t have all the answers!

We’re talking in this example of winds in excess of a genuine 50 knots with stronger gusts. Making headway (if that is where land is) is not really an option. On the open sea this is going to generate big seas and lots of wind blown spray near water level (which is where we are!) Obviously, facing into these conditions is going to sap your strength very quickly but conversely, facing away from the weather means you’re not going to see all the big waves coming down on you. Some are sure to roll you over.

To the drogue – if you’re already rigged, do you have the drogue on the bow? Can you change it to the stern out there? If you have no drogue, you’ll have to make one from your towline and something from inside your hatch such as a drybag full of water or a rolled up jumper. Drogues need to sit under the surface to work …but not sink…so you may need to use an empty drink bottle as a float. Also, those who have used a drogue in strong wind will know that kayaks tend to yaw when lying to a drogue so you may need to attach another line to the other end of the boat to hold it steady This is getting difficult isn’t it?….. To do all this rigging or re-rigging on a raging sea means you’re probably going to have to get out of your boat!

If you do get out of your boat, there is a real danger that the wind and the next breaking wave will take your boat away from you so you need to attach yourself to the boat somehow. Also, once you’ve opened the hatch etc (if it is one you can safely open and close at sea) and rigged up the drogue, you’ve got to get back in the boat. If your kayak is NOT lying up-down wind, you’ll probably find a roll difficult as the wind may blow you over again. Your first shot is your best shot!

There is a obviously a limit to how long you could last in these conditions – especially if it was off the Tasmanian coast in cooler water temperatures. If you managed to get off a call before the storm hit on a radio or satellite phone and finally and miraculously you’re plucked from a watery grave, the first words from the rescuers may be the ultimate put-down line: ‘Does your mother know you’re out here?’

Australian Board of Canoe Education – new award scheme

For candidates and holders of Skills and Instructional Awards from the Aust. Board of Canoe Education…there is a new award scheme which is due to be implemented by 1.6.99

The new award scheme is seen as being necessary in view of Outdoor Rec. developments in Vocational Education and Training and the Outdoor Recreation Council of Aust. (ORCA).

Holders of current awards will retain them. There are four streams for sea kayakers:

  • Skills Awards: Intro to Sea Kayaking

    • Sea Kayak Skills Award (the existing Sea Proficiency)
    • Advanced Sea Kayaking Skills Award
  • Rescue Awards: Intro. To Sea Rescue

    • Sea Rescue Award
    • Advanced Sea Rescue Award
  • Guiding Awards: Canoeing Guide (Estuary and Protected Waters)

    • Sea Kayaking Guide (Inshore)
    • Advanced Sea Kayaking Guide (Offshore)
  • Instructor Awards:

    • Sea Kayaking Instructor
    • Advanced Sea Kayaking Instructor.

At this stage I have no details as to individual award requirements. I will pass on details for comment as soon as I have them.

The Sea Instructor Course set for 20-21st March is postponed till a date to be fixed due to the unavailability of another Sen. Instructor. I apologize to candidates. Keep paddling.

Arunas Pilka and I will be paddling in Northern Australia (Kimberlys) by the time you get this.