Basic Technique Fundamental – Pull Yourself Past the Paddle

In all paddled watercraft the most fundamental principle of technique is to gather water on your paddle blade, secure it in the water and pull yourself by the paddle.

In the 1980s, Tamas Buday, a sprint canoe athlete from Hungary was doing his coaching education and at the 1982 World Championships in Belgrade took tons of high speed video of canoe athletes as they passed a buoy on the course while racing.  A few years later, when he came to Canada to coach our National Team he shared what he’d been able to demonstrate with the video he took. 

Using a series of photos, each representing a frame of the video he took, he was able to show us that every paddler either kept their blade in one spot relative to the buoy or their blade actually entered the water before the buoy and came out slightly ahead of where it entered, just past they buoy. 

This was clear evidence that for top level paddlers it wasn’t the paddle that was moving through the water but rather their boat past the paddle.  I’ve recreated this on my standup board by filming from the dock as I’ve passed a buoy placed in the river just in front of the dock. 

In the first pair of photos you see my blade entering the water just passed the buoy, with the distance indicated by the green line.  In the second photo you can see the blade tip exiting the water at a distance from the buoy indicated by the red line.  The green line appears in the second photo, still the same length as in photo 1 for comparison.  You can see that the blade actually exits slightly in front of where it enters. 

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The second pair of photos shows Seychelle Hattingh paddling by a post in the water during the 200m sprint at the 2016 Lost Mills race.  You can see Seychelle demonstrate the same phenomena by looking at the green and red lines in these photos, which represent the distance the blade is from the post at both entry and exit. 

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-10-11-41-amimg_0204A different way to look at it is to advance video of one stroke frame-by-frame, drawing the position of the paddle in each frame (green lines).  You’ll see that while the board moves forward the distance between the two small vertical red lines (indicated by the red arrow) in one stroke, the paddle blade itself stays in basically the same spot (indicated by the red shading within the circle).  Again, this indicates that we pull ourselves past the paddle rather that the paddle through the water.img_0232

Does everyone do this?  If they’re moving forward, the answer is yes, they’re doing it to some degree.  However most paddlers don’t do it enough.  Their blade moves through the water a bit while their board moves forward a bit.  Rather than secure their paddle blade in one spot, they let is slip, causing the blade to move through the water more and the board to move forward less.  Minimizing the slipping and maximizing the connection that secures the blade in the water is what fundamental #1 is all about. 

Stay tuned for tips of how to maximize your connection or join Paddle Monster All-Access and learn more today.

Coach Cain
Larry Cain began his career in 1974 at the Oakville Racing Canoe Club, now the Burloak Canoe Club, in Oakville, Ontario. Cain competed in three Summer Olympics, winning a gold medal in the C-1 500 m, and a silver medal in the C1 1000 m events. He also won a silver medal in the C-1 1000 m event at the 1989 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Plovdiv. In 1984, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 1997, he was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. A trail in Oakville has been named in his honour running along the town's waterfront where Cain trained. He worked as a coach, preparing paddlers for the Olympic Games in Rio. In 2016 Cain co-founded Paddle Monster.

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