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

Talk to me about cadence

4 weeks 20 hours ago #37562 by manta
Hi

I was out for a paddle this weekend and was paddling behind another paddler. We were going about the same speed but his cadence was a lot higher than mine. I decided as an experiment to match his cadence. I felt I got gassed out quite quickly. When I returned to my normal, slower, more powerful stroke I seemed to recover and was still able to match the other paddler in speed.

So to my question, at what point does cadence really come into play?
How does one practice cadence? I was thinking of taking my metronome app I use when playing music and setting the click to two beats per measure and experimenting with various cadences.

Any help on the cadence question would be appreciated.

M

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4 weeks 10 hours ago #37566 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic Talk to me about cadence
I guess that´a personal thing. I also prefer a higher cadence with small blades. If I would use bigger blades then my cadence would go down but then I would get tired very quickly I guess. For you it seems to be the other way round.
A higher cadence makes it easier for me to catch waves. Other paddlers might achieve that with more powerfull strokes but I am not that strong anymore.

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.

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4 weeks 2 hours ago - 4 weeks 2 hours ago #37569 by zachhandler
I think a low cadence is usually a good thing. I used to be a high cadence hummingbird. But over the years as my stoke has improved i have become a very low cadence paddler. This is despite getting older and weaker. The main difference is reduced blade slippage. My catch is now more solid, i am patient to let the water fully seal around the blade before applying power, and I try to let the stroke hang in that firm catch position as long as possible. Days where i am paddling well my cadence is very low and the water feels rock hard. Days where i struggle the water feels soft and I need to up the cadence to hit whatever speed i am trying for on my GPS.  Ivan Lawler talks a lot about spilling power, and the fact that when we rush through the stroke we feel like we are going faster, but in reality the way we get the blade through the water faster is spilling power. You still have to be able to up the cadence explosively at times to catch runs or put in a sprint, but if you are paddling at a steady pace I think a slow powerful cadence is preferable. I agree with using small blades and shorter shafts. They do lead to higher stroke rate but put less strain on the body. But for any given blade size and shaft length I think the slow more powerful stroke is usually preferable. 
The following user(s) said Thank You: mrcharly

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3 weeks 6 days ago #37574 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Talk to me about cadence
I am generally what is considered a slow paddler. Max speed over a 10k is 10km/h.

I was wondering if my slow speed was due to my lower cadence. As mentioned if I paddle with a higher cadence I seem to get gassed out quite quickly. 

A smaller blade may be the answer as it will be a less powerful stroke and so should require a higher cadence. 

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3 weeks 6 days ago #37575 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic Talk to me about cadence
Interesting thoughts Zach! It makes sense to me. I used to have a very bad catch. I didn´t realize it until a wellknown professional kajak coach told me so. I worked on it since then and I think it is much better now. Since my stroke got more efficient I have the impression that I´ve got plenty of resistance in the water even with small blades like Brasca XI (705) or Gamma Rio small Plus. I am also a big fan of Ivans instructional videos. They were an eyeopener to me.  
Regarding the cadence. I still believe that it´s a personal thing at what cadence you feel comfortable. I like to compare it with cycling, which I did extensively back in the day. Compared to my training partners I used to have a higher cadence than most of them cause it felt less tiring to me.      

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.

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3 weeks 6 days ago #37576 by Epicpaddler
Zach, your reasoning makes sense to me. I am conflicted over cadence. I used to feel my slow, deliberate stroke was more effective, then everyone said faster cadence is better. I've tried both. When you talk about a faster cadence, what kind of stroke rate are you talking about? I know the Mocke brothers, particularly Jasper, paddles with a ridiculous stroke rate like 95-100 strokes per minute. According to my Garmin watch my slower stroke rate of 30-35 strokes (per side) per minute keeps me well above 6mph. When I go over 40 strokes per minute, I feel like my technique suffers and I'm not sinking my blade as deeply in the water as I should. I agree that the Ivan Lawler videos help a lot. The "pushing down" vs pulling back seems to really help with the concept of lifting and moving the boat forward vs pulling the paddle past the boat.

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3 weeks 6 days ago - 3 weeks 6 days ago #37577 by zachhandler
I have never measured my cadence on the water. On an Erg I usually paddle 85-90. When I am sprinting it gets up to 95-105 and when I try to focus on clean powerful catch it gets down to low 80s. 

I think from an exercise physiology perspective higher cadence lower resistance is probably better for long distance efficiency. At least that is how most endurance sports like cycling and running are. But kayaking is a bit different than those sports because of the potential for the stroke to slip at high cadence, assuming some degradation of technique. It would be as though a higher cadence on a bike made the wheels start to slip against the asphalt or the chain to slip on the cog.

Another thing to keep in mind is that assuming the blade is locked in the water and the boat is moving past the blade, then slower moving boats should have slower cadence and faster moving boats should have higher cadence. I have heard stories of OC6 teams struggling without success to match the high cadence of the most successful teams, not realizing that the winners were not going fast because of their high cadence, but were paddling with a high cadence because of their high speed. 

I really notice the need to match cadence to speed when paddling into the wind. Upwind boat speed slows down a lot. If I make a conscious effort in that situation to slow cadence way down and not push the blade so hard that it slips, I always notice that speed goes up and effort goes down. It works so well it almost feels like cheating some times. I don't slow down the air portion of the stroke (where there is no blade in the water) upwind as there is no benefit to that, I just slow the part were blade is in water. 

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3 weeks 5 days ago #37579 by feeny
Replied by feeny on topic Talk to me about cadence
I used to use a higher cadence too. I'm now a fan of a lower everything, elbows, hands, shoulders, shaft length, blade size...  cadence... you name it, I'll lower it :-)

The Mockes do talk of cadence, and one of their rules of downwind paddling is to keep a steady cadence (not high, but steady) - the idea is to always be paddling, because many of us stop paddling at exactly the wrong time.

Jasper definitely has a high cadence, but he did point out that they don't all need to be full blooded hard strokes - in fact, upping the cadence to get onto runners works, and even the  "less buried" blade strokes can make a big difference.

Oscar, on the other hand, suggests getting on with a much slower cadence - harder strokes, but also having something left to take the boat to where the next runner is going to be. In my opinion, this requires a really good read of the water, whereas the cadence burst is a bit more reactive - and hence forgiving - for catching runners.

I now try to sit at 65 strokes on the ergo, keeping it at around 2m30s / 500m. Low cadence and everything else. I can get it down to 60 strokes or so, but I start to lose the effect of the uncoiling if I go too low.

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3 weeks 5 days ago #37583 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Talk to me about cadence
I totally resonate with what Zach says. I find that specially on long upwind stretches my cadence creeps up but I go no faster, I just spend more energy going through the motions. Then I focus on slowing down and pulling harder, more deliberately, more precisely. The net result is that I go faster. The thing I have a really hard time doing is slowing down my cadence and NOT going faster, keeping my heart rate steady. The feel of the stronger pull is too addictive!

An exercise I find very satisfying is to paddle just behind someone who is going at 60% effort, then deliberately lowering my stroke rate, focusing on the strongest pulls I can muster, and passing the other paddler.

Overall, I find that it's just so easy for me to drift into a sloppy high stroke rate and I really need to make an effort to focus on quality first, rate second.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #37584 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Talk to me about cadence
Increased cadence is wasted if  your efficiency per stroke drops, which it usually does, so its a fine line...then of course if you tire quicker the whole point becomes defeated.

The power phase is only a small % of the whole stroke. So an extra hard pull at the same cadence is often enough. Watching K1 marathon paddlers is often a good way to observe how they can put a spurt on with very little increase in cadence, when paddling in a pack

Bigger blades may be good for acceleration, hence the big blades of olympic sprinters, but once momentum is achieved I am not sure it makes a big difference, and probably not advisable for us older blokes with fragile joints.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #37585 by downwinda
Replied by downwinda on topic Talk to me about cadence
I like to think of cadence like bicycle gearing.  Since we don't have an internal gear, power and/or stroke length should be adjusted depending on stroke rate.  Higher power and longer stroke for a slow cadence and vice versa.

It was the late great Tommy Conner (C ski) that really got me to understand the concept. During a hot long Lili'uokalani OC6 race in Kona, with him in the steering seat, we started to fade about 3/4 of the way through the race.  He kept calling for us to up the rate, which many in the crew were loathe/unable to do.

It seems counterintuitive to try for a higher cadence as you tire, but as he explained it to me it made a lot of sense.  In order to make a boat move at a low stroke rate you need to exert a lot of power with every stroke.  As you tire, that power is no longer there.  No matter how hard to try, your power output has waned.  The only way to get the boat back up to speed is by upping the cadence and dropping the power.

Alas, since we hadn't trained at a higher rate/lower power output, everyone in the crew seemed to be trying to still apply full power and up the cadence at the same time, so it didn't really work for us that day.  After the race, as we questioned him on why he kept calling for a faster stroke rate when we were already so spent, he explained his reasoning. I bought in to his theory......some of the others in the crew, maybe not  so much!  LOL  

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3 weeks 2 days ago #37590 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Talk to me about cadence
Hi

There has been some really informative information shared so far - thanks.

For now I think I will stick with my standard cadence but I need to practice being able to vary it consciously. I know I do when on a DW and accelerating for a wave but that is usually when technique goes out of the window. I need to be able to accelerate while maintaining my frame.

I also want to experiment with a smaller blade and see how that affects my cadence. If I cannot put the same power to the smaller blade I may automatically increase cadence.

M

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3 weeks 2 days ago #37591 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Talk to me about cadence
I think that zachandler has nailed it.

I would like to add from my perspective (as a K1 racer), that race starts are always done at a high cadence. Short strokes, lots of slip. You can't really 'lock on' to the water until the boat is moving. Watch some videos of sprint starts and you'll see what I mean. Water is going everywhere, Coaches say about 40 strokes before settling down into the hard catch, pull hard rhythm. 
That tallies with the suggestion that high cadence is needed for the surge to catch runners - you are trying to accelerate quickly, not really caring about efficiency.

I used to cycle a lot and, sure, high cadence when cycling is easier on muscles and joints. As already pointed out, bike transmission systems don't 'slip', so it is a very different situation.

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3 weeks 2 days ago #37592 by kwolfe
Replied by kwolfe on topic Talk to me about cadence
I paddle OC1 and SUP as well.  There is a lot of discussion on this topic in SUP however it is always accompanied but talk about stroke length and blade size.

In surfski we have both of those things as well.  One way to increase your cadence and have a good catch may be to ensure that you are have an early exit.  Pulling that blade to far winds up be unproductive or even counter-productive.  Once the blade face is pass perpendicular to the ski, you are no longer generating maximum forward propulsion.

The other thing is blade size.  If the first part above is achieved and you still want to paddle at a higher cadence, a smaller blade is needed.  I can see why some people might favor it.  As downwinda stated, people conditioning can be different therefore higher aerobic and lower strength endurance would lend better to a nighen cadence and vice versa.

It's a really individual thing that I also play with on different days.

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3 weeks 1 day ago #37593 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Talk to me about cadence
Yesterday I did a downwind in some 23 knots and focussed just on this question of cadence.

Lower cadence with lots of power on the stroke or faster cadence. Honestly with the messy moving water, the lower cadence felt far more stable and planted. The faster cadence felt like there was a lot of slip and wasted energy. Even on runs I still only pulled hard but slower. I found I was able to time that single or double pull better to really get me onto the next wave.

It may have been nothing to do with the cadence and more to do with the fact that I was being deliberate about every stroke. It was an interesting experiment and the lower more powerful cadence left me less gassed. 

Worth playing around with.

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3 weeks 2 hours ago #37603 by Epicpaddler
I've been experimenting with cadence since this thread started. Yesterday it was blowing 20-30 knots and I needed a slower steady stroke to keep any reasonable amount of forward progress. I was only going 5.2 miles per hour upwind. When I turned downwind it was very easy to have a higher cadence and although I was paddling at a brisk pace, it was easy to keep my heart rate low. Same thing again tonight. Not as breezy, but a higher cadence (which for me is about 80 strokes per minute) was easy to maintain without getting winded. 

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2 weeks 5 days ago #37613 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Talk to me about cadence
I think one of my big issues has been that I apply a lot of power to the blade with my slower cadence. When I try and up the cadence I still have the tendency to want to apply too much power and that is why I think I get gassed. I will need to practice my higher cadence paddling with a focus on not putting as much power into every stroke.

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2 weeks 5 days ago #37615 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Talk to me about cadence
manta, try shortening your stroke.

That's what we do for sprint starts.

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5 days 23 hours ago #37744 by zachhandler
Just sat on the erg for the first time in many months and decided to pay attention to my cadence with this thread in mind. I think on flat water cruising  with easy to medium effort my rate is in the 60s or 70s and I am focused on powerful connection and glide.  On the erg I am different. I can only tolerate the machine for about 30 minutes so I pretty much just stare at the min/500m and hard every time I am on it. There is little sense of glide to reward a slow cadence. So i think thats why my erg cadence is so much higher than on the water. 

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2 days 17 hours ago #37754 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Talk to me about cadence
Some feedback after a few paddles with the recommendations made in this thread.
  1. Making sure to take the paddle out "early" (once hand passes knee start to pull out comes out at hip)
  2. Shorten the stroke i.e. put in the blade short pull and then pull out as per above point
  3. Less power on the blade when increasing cadence to not get gassed
I have tried all three with limited success.
Point 1 above has meant I need to focus a lot more on my rotation - Good thing I was rotating at my waist and I'm busy fixing that.

Point 2 is tough for me, lots of bad habits pulling for too long this one is a work in progress.

Point 3 very much relates to point 2. 

For now I am going to keep my focus on proper rotation as it seems to be helping with some of the other issues. Cadence is still low but I feel like I am feeling the blade and the boat better.

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