× Tips and techniques for getting the most out of surfskiing.

Help with technique

1 year 2 months ago #27446 by malvina
Hello everyone. This is my first post, though I have been reading this forum for about a year. I know there are some very expert paddlers here and I was wondering if you could help me with a doubt that has been puzzling me for some time.

But first of all, since I am new here I though I would introduce myself with some info to help you understand the type of paddler you are talking to. Male, 53 years old, reasonably fit. Have been paddling for 6 years, of which 4 in a traditional sea kayak and 2 in a surfski. I currently paddle an Allwave Genesi, an initiation surfski (520 x 50 cm) with a wing paddle (Epic mid-wing). I am pretty much self-taught. I live near the sea in the south of Spain but there are no paddlers in the area (mine is the only surfski I have ever seen in the area) so I rely on the internet for technique improvement. My technique "bibles" are the "forward stroke clinic" DVD by Bret Reitz and the wonderful ebook "perfecting your technique" by Kevin Brunette. I also watch videos of elite paddlers and, last but not least, have obtained tons of good information from this forum. I had my technique checked a few months ago by Sean Rice who confirmed that I have an overall correct paddling style (I think he was overly generous). I go to the sea almost every day for an 8 to 10 km paddle, I usually cruise at a speed of between 9 to 10 kms and sprint to a top speed of between 13 to 14 kms.

So, the technique question I have for you is: what would be the right top elbow bent? I have read conflicting advice on this topic. Some experts (including Mr. Reitz) recommend keeping the top elbow at about 90 degrees while others (including Mr. Brunette) suggest to keep it just short of straight. It is also clear from watching videos that different athletes have different approaches to this. Olympic sprint paddlers seem to prefer an almost straight arm while at least some surfski pros seem to keep an angle somewhere between 90 and 120 degrees. I have experimented with both extremes and my feeling is that an elbow at 170 degrees results in a more vertical paddle at the catch while possibly sacrificing some forward reach. A 90 degree top elbow, on the other hand, seems to somehow facilitate engaging my core and, maybe, result in a more relaxed paddling style.

Any clarifications / tips on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

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1 year 2 months ago #27447 by kwolfe
I know you're going to hate my response but I have been wrestling with this a little lately now that I have been paddling an elite ski.

So here's my 2 cents. Do what feels right! Same thing with leg drive and torso rotation. Everyone is made a little different and the fact is, most of us are doing this for fun. I actually find that bending that top arm feels awkward. I'm better with my arm a little straighter. Same thing with leg drive. I feel like if I drive as far as other suggest, I lose stability, speed and rhythm. Try posting a video. It never lies! :)

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1 year 2 months ago #27453 by Aurelius

kwolfe wrote: I know you're going to hate my response but I have been wrestling with this a little lately now that I have been paddling an elite ski.

So here's my 2 cents. Do what feels right! Same thing with leg drive and torso rotation. Everyone is made a little different and the fact is, most of us are doing this for fun. I actually find that bending that top arm feels awkward. I'm better with my arm a little straighter. Same thing with leg drive. I feel like if I drive as far as other suggest, I lose stability, speed and rhythm. Try posting a video. It never lies! :)


I agree with your observation that physical differences between one paddler and another means that a technique that gets optimal results for one paddler won't necessarily work as well for another. But it doesn't follow that everyone should just do what "feels right" for them. When I first began paddling, what "felt right" was to rely on the muscles in my arms and shoulders to move the boat forward. Trying to paddle by relying on leg drive and torso rotation would definitely have "felt wrong". But after practicing the correct paddling technique for several months, things are completely reversed: now it now feels right to rely on leg drive and torso rotation, and paddling with my arms now feels wrong.

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1 year 2 months ago #27454 by WingSuit

Aurelius wrote:

kwolfe wrote: I know you're going to hate my response but I have been wrestling with this a little lately now that I have been paddling an elite ski.

So here's my 2 cents. Do what feels right! Same thing with leg drive and torso rotation. Everyone is made a little different and the fact is, most of us are doing this for fun. I actually find that bending that top arm feels awkward. I'm better with my arm a little straighter. Same thing with leg drive. I feel like if I drive as far as other suggest, I lose stability, speed and rhythm. Try posting a video. It never lies! :)


I agree with your observation that physical differences between one paddler and another means that a technique that gets optimal results for one paddler won't necessarily work as well for another. But it doesn't follow that everyone should just do what "feels right" for them. When I first began paddling, what "felt right" was to rely on the muscles in my arms and shoulders to move the boat forward. Trying to paddle by relying on leg drive and torso rotation would definitely have "felt wrong". But after practicing the correct paddling technique for several months, things are completely reversed: now it now feels right to rely on leg drive and torso rotation, and paddling with my arms now feels wrong.

Well, then, what's your take on arm angle? Straighter? 90 degrees? Somewhere between?

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1 year 2 months ago #27456 by Aurelius

WingSuit wrote: Well, then, what's your take on arm angle? Straighter? 90 degrees? Somewhere between?


I've tried various angles, but my GPS didn't show one resulting in greater speed than the others. I've been using a 10 degree bend because keeping my top arm relatively straight tires me out less. The more you bend the elbow, the harder your triceps and deltoid muscles will have to work to straighten it out during the power phase of the stroke.

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1 year 2 months ago - 1 year 2 months ago #27457 by RedBack
This is Ken.

Ken keeps his top arm at 90deg until the blade enters the water.

Ken only straightens it as the stroke is finishing.

Ken has won more medals than any other paddler in international kayaking in the last 4 years.

Be like Ken. :)

The following user(s) said Thank You: Hiro, AR_convert, diegone

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1 year 2 months ago #27472 by photofr
Looking at Ken, you would do well to paddle like Ken - but understanding what Ken does may help you even more.

Ken is using plenty of power, but Ken has no issues with balancing on his K1. Copying Ken's technique at this stage may show a decrease in speed for many newer paddlers.

Lower arm should be straight - to reach further (and since the beginning of the stroke generates more power, you might as well reach as far forward as possible, without leaning).

Top arm should be bent - this will allow you to reach further, amongst other things.

Top elbow should therefore be bent, but it should be closer to your body than you think - this will make your upper elbow closer to the water instead of having an elbow above your ears (this aids surfski paddlers in gaining way more stability by keeping the center of gravity LOWER).

On a side note, if you paddle with a straight top arm, your paddle will almost immediately go behind you - another thing you want to avoid at all costs - later in your game.

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)
The following user(s) said Thank You: RedBack

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1 year 2 months ago #27495 by malvina
Thank you very much to all of you. Good input.

So my feeling now based on all this is to keep a top bent elbow. Not sure I will go all the way to 90, though, mainly because I feel that a straighter arm helps me enter the paddle more vertical.

Again, thank you all for your help

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