Bracing with wing paddles

1 month 3 weeks ago #35684 by agooding2
Want to increase my rough water skills.  I have only used wing paddles in my surfskis and training K1's.  At the last Chattajack I kept from capsizing from a side wake 2' tall with a left low brace, which I had not needed to use previously as most of my training is on lakes and rivers with smaller waves than that.  

From reading the previous posts it seems that with a right feathered wing paddle a left low brace and right high brace are most effective.

Previous training was racing canoes with bent shafts so high braces with canoe paddles are more natural than low braces for me.  The wing shape does make it more difficult though.

Planning to do an ocean clinic in the spring, wondering if I should practice low braces both sides with an unfeathered paddle or learn to use the right feathered paddle (45-65 degrees) to brace effectively on both sides.

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1 month 3 weeks ago - 1 month 3 weeks ago #35685 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Bracing with wing paddles
What feather do you currently use? 

Oscar preaches zero feather because 'bracing is easier' due to the right side blade being oriented closer to a brace position vs with feather. I dont really subscribe to the 0 feather argument, but use a relatively low feather (~35*) and do find that i rarely miss a right brace

But you're saying the left brace is giving you trouble? or both sides?

Anyways, in general i'd say just learn to brace with whatever feather feels best to you. Practice on both sides. It may help you to pad the seat up unreasonably high (like 1-2") to make your boat very tippy so you're forced to brace more. Go chase some boat wakes with a high seat. That may be some good practice, though the ocean can be a magnitude of order more messy than smallish lakes. Regardless of how you practice or what feather you use, bracing is a critical rough water skill so practice practice practice!

I also come from canoe racing and miss the strength of a canoe brace vs a wing paddle. the wing paddle seems like it only has half the bracing power. Its different, but you can master it just the same

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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1 month 3 weeks ago #35686 by agooding2
Replied by agooding2 on topic Bracing with wing paddles
I use between 45 and 65 degrees depending on which paddle.  45 for a small blade, long distance, 65 for a larger Blake, shorter distance.  

Left low brace is fine, it's the low right brace that is more difficult.

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1 month 3 weeks ago #35687 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Bracing with wing paddles
This is the exact situation in which Oscar recommends less feather - missing braces on the right. 

Less feather is advantageous in this situation because with high feather, to brace on the right, you must cock your wrist downward to orient the blade to brace position. With less feather, the blade in naturally at or closer to brace position so the paddler has to do less or nothing to put in a good brace.

Sounds like you should experiment with less feather, like maybe 30-40*, or even less and see if it improves your right brace. give it a couple hours of time to adapt to the new angle. changing feather angle always feels wrong at first. 

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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1 month 3 weeks ago #35689 by Epicpaddler
This is one of the reasons I paddle with a 0 degree feather.  Flat water doesn't really matter, but when I'm out in the waves in rough water its way easier (for me) to brace right/left. Maybe if I had more experience with a higher degree of feather in big water I'd be fine. 

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1 month 3 weeks ago #35696 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Bracing with wing paddles
I use 30 degrees on the ski for easier skim bracing either side.  45 degrees on K1 as I find this best ergonomically so wrist is not cocked, and 60 degrees for flat blade on touring kayak for optimum wind resistance . Tried zero feather but given I use feathers for other boats its too much of a method contrast

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1 month 1 week ago #35772 by Cryder
Replied by Cryder on topic Bracing with wing paddles
The best brace is a good catch. 

Long Post Alert: If you really want to work on your rough water skills, then you need to be able to change your balance dynamic from one that is reactive to one that is proactive. 

Reactive balance habits are an indicator that you are taking what the sea throws at you and trying to correct. The challenge here is that even if you get very good at juggling this way, it's likely you'll also soon drop a ball and swim. The other downside is that this is not an efficient or fast way to paddle. Think of bracing as the equivalent of slamming on the e-brake. It makes sense to keep you from flinging yourself off the cliff. Fine. But taken critically, it also means that you misjudged your conditions, equipment or balance and messed up. Not fine if you take this seriously and consider yourself a racer. 

If you approach rough water skills from the perspective of connection, you have nothing to react too. You are connected powerfully to the ski, and the ski is connected to the water. To get a solid connection however takes some serious work, starting with the realization that a surfski is a craft not designed to balance for you... that is absolutely your job. But a ski is designed to listen to you. They are very rewarding, and demanding because they are incredibly reactive to all the inputs that a paddler sends their way. If you tell your ski you want to go for a swim, it will listen to you. And if you tell it to drop in on awkward 2' boat wake for a nice little side surf, it will listen to you... if you are sending it the right message.

The point here is that it's your job to tell the ski exactly what to do, and to get good at rough water you have to develop the fluency in your craft to say exactly the right thing to it all times. No. Matter. What. 

A few observations from having taught hundreds of people to paddle over long periods of time and seeing them develop from shaky flat water duckies to downwind screaming eagles: 

1. The first thing to go when a paddler gets in trouble is foot pressure. It is a natural reaction to not knowing what to do, so the legs come back (fetal position of fear), the pressure on the foot board disappears which takes it off of the back of the bum. When this happens... BOOM! You are no longer connected to your ski, and when you take that precious next stroke, you pull yourself off balance or into the water. If the boat is jerking / rolling sharply left and right this is a tell that your footwork needs work. ProTip: Focus on keeping the pressure on your heel all the way through your stroke until you make the next catch. This has the added benefit of keeping your hips rotated forward and in position to make a better catch. Work your shift in foot pressure like a clutch. Smooth, but firm. 

2. The paddler is the biggest liability in the ski. If you ever watch a ski fly downwind without it's jockey, you'll know that it's just fine without you. If you watch a paddler who struggles in rough water, you'll quickly see lots of body parts moving independent of each other. It honestly hurts to watch because it telegraphs so loudly. Each movement you make sends a message, so part of the paddler's technique focus needs to be to reduce the number of sequential, independent movements to just one movement that is repeatable over and over and over again no matter what the water is doing.  ProTip: Practice paddling in ultra slow motion in figure eights and in increasingly rougher water. Go from boat wakes, to rebound to haystacking, confused seas. When you can paddle beam in slow motion with breaking seas and 40kts of wind and not feel the need to rush the catch - you are definitely connected to your boat and the sea. Savor this, for great white shark blood now courses through your icy viking veins and even the orcas fear you. 

3. Do not paddle with your arms. Paddle with your torso and legs. One helpful tip is think of your arm as a stabilizer for the catch. Repeat after me: The arm does not move after the catch is made. The body rotates and pulls the entire boat past the arm as the paddle tracks slightly away from the boat to either side. If you pull that arm from the elbow, you pull the paddle through the water. Very sloppy. Very unstable. Your power and the generation of forward movement should come from the torso being used to power a lever. The arm becomes the pole of a pole vaulter. Its job is to act as the lever held perfectly in place by the bicep and tricep, and the torso is the engine pulling against it consisting of your big muscle groups: lats, traps, gluts, rhomboids, quads, abs and hamstrings. ProTip: Imagine that your elbows no longer work from the time you make the catch all the way to the exit, and you're using your arms nearly locked and forcing yourself to pull the boat past the paddle locked in the water. 

4. If the torso is where your power comes from, make sure your hips and your shoulders are locked together and rotate together. Think of two hinges on one door. If your shoulders are rotating independently or faster than your hips, you are not only whipping the stroke (which can make you more unstable), you're also putting your fine shoulder muscles, ligaments, joints and cartilage at risk because of the extra movement when under power. I know many paddlers who burn out their bodies from this issue. They get stronger, a little faster, and then BANG! Injury to a rotator cuff or a tear to the rhomboid or another small muscle. Why? Because the shoulder group was moving under power and not protected by the torso. If the torso drives the movement, the shoulder doesn't move very much until the paddle is fully out of the water (recovery phase of the stroke), and is not under the load of the catch.  ProTip: Stand in water groin deep, and focus on making your hips and shoulders turn together, like a door hinge. You'll know you're doing it right when you feel the pressure on the heels of your feet corresponding the power that the torso is making.

5. Get the paddle out fast. The paddle is incredibly powerful, and can absolutely pull you into the water if used incorrectly. In rough water, the most valuable real estate in the ocean is from in front of your footboard to your knee - after that it's irrelevant. Focus on getting a powerful, clean catch that happens close to the ski, and then have the exit well under way by the time the paddle is at the knee. If you leave that paddle in too long or it tracks to closely to the boat, you will not only put undue stress on your shoulder group, you will also destabilize the boat. ProTip: Never let your push hand drop below the horizon in front of you. This will help you keep the paddle in the correct pitch, and prevent you from destabilizing yourself at the exit. The exit should feel crisp and fast - like a flick - not thick and heavy like the catch.

Sorry for the book, hope this stuff helps. 

Nicholas
FasterFarther.com
The following user(s) said Thank You: Ronbo, agooding2, Wombat661, manta

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1 month 1 week ago #35773 by agooding2
Replied by agooding2 on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Wow, this is great stuff, thank you!  I plan to share it with my paddling group.

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1 month 1 week ago #35774 by zachhandler
Great post nick. I really like the pole vault analogy. 

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1 month 1 week ago #35777 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Nice write-up, Nick! Couldn't agree more. But I think you strayed a bit from the bracing topic ;-).
I just started paddling a V12 and I thought your first two sentences were right on: "The best brace is a good catch." and "If you really want to work on your rough water skills, then you need to be able to change your balance dynamic from one that is reactive to one that is proactive."
I'm obviously not a pro, but what I have found so far is that I need to balance myself and forget trying to make boat keep me upright. That means a good upright posture and using every stroke to tune the balance such that the boat can do anything under me yet I continue to being upright. Then I can start thinking about controlling the boat with my bum/feet so it does what I need it to do. The moment I try to use the boat's stability to stay upright I become a jittery mess...

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1 month 1 week ago - 1 month 1 week ago #35778 by Cryder
Replied by Cryder on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Fair enough TVE... but I do believe in teaching paddlers to not rely on bracing skills is better than making them experts at it at the expense of going fast in the rough. Just like being lightening fast on a remount will never win a race against someone who isn't in the water in the first place. In both instances, bracing or remount... it's better to not have to rely on either. 

But your comment does remind me of a skill that saved my arse on many occasion when it comes to bracing. Which is to say that any brace should finish with a powerful catch. I call it a a "sweeping brace" technique. So let's pretend a paddler is out of sorts on a rough bit of water, and attempts to use a low leverage brace to keep themselves from a swim. When that boat stops moving, if the paddler has let the blade submerge deeply and doesn't recover with a crisp lunge forward to a catch, the brace is for nothing and a swim is inevitable... because when he or she goes to move that paddle, they will simply pull themselves in. We have all experienced this; leaning way over, hanging on by a thread only to have gravity and leverage catch up with us in slow motion as we tip completely into the blue. But if the paddler is trained in not letting the blade submerge deeply and recovering very quickly before the ski stops moving by making an aggressive lunge forward to the next catch, the outcome is much better and little time is lost. 

I think this needs to be shown on a video in slow motion, but I'll try to describe it: When you start to go over, get the face of the paddle flat on water as make your brace, but reach out and set it wide away from the boat (there is little point in setting a brace near the ski) and about even with your knees. The concept is to set the brace out wide and forward, and then use the low brace in combination with your forward momentum to regain balance as the paddle skips on top the water. As the boat slows due to the brace, the paddle face should track slightly behind you as you milk it for maximum leverage to help you improve your CG without letting the boat come to a dead stop or letting paddle go down deep into the water.  Before the ski slows to a dead stop, enough balance should be recovered to pull the ski back underneath the paddler in order to allow a lunging catch that makes it look as easy as an Ace Ventura parallel parking job. The hips articulate the movement, the arm is fully extended to a flat paddle face, and the core is used to pull the ski back underneath you until the moment it's feasible to lunge to a good catch.  Because the paddle tracks behind and away from you as you brace, your hips and the opposite side hand should rotate forward in a natural position to make a powerful catch. 

In terms of getting the paddle flat on the water in split second, I recommend making sure that first digits of your finger bones from the knuckles forward are the same pitch / angle as the face the paddle of your control hand. If this is off, everything is off. Your best bracing side will always be your dominant hand (left or right), so you have to practice low sweeping braces on the each side to make up up for the tendency to favor one side. 

I am traveling at the moment, but when I get back I'll try to make a video that covers this technique step by step. Hope this helps. 

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1 month 1 week ago #35781 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Bracing with wing paddles
I think the biggest rookie mistake is to brace behind as thought you are doing a rear rudder pry which is left over traditional kayak manoeuvring.

I think aggressive paddle stroke/catch bracing is what makes the difference between being comfortable or not when traversing short duration broaching chop. Gives you the confidence to just let the boat do its thing while you have a firm contact with blade and footrest.

The core doesn't direct the boats roll it just acts as a damper, much like a cars suspension

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1 month 1 week ago #35782 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Bracing with wing paddles
I can't find much to fault with the recommendations there.
Paddling figure 8s is a great way to improve stability, even on totally flat water. It improves turning in both directions, you can vary the speed and radius of the turns. 
I have a boat (K1) that isn't stable without a paddler in it (falls over onto its side when put on the water). Could barely paddle in a straight line when I bought it. I finish every session with a couple of figure 8s and that does wonders for my stability.

What do you think of side sculling (sculling to pull the boat sideways)?

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1 month 1 week ago #35784 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Bracing with wing paddles

mrcharly wrote:
What do you think of side sculling (sculling to pull the boat sideways)?


I can side scull easily with a flat blade. I find it difficult and slow to the point or rarely finding it useful with a wing blade. It is a good way though of familiarising yourself with the dynamics of a blade being pulled through the the water

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1 month 1 week ago #35785 by zachhandler
At the risk of getting side-tracked (ha ha) from the OP:

With a wing blade a sculling draw (feathering the blade back and forth) does not work well at all. You have to do more of a straight draw. There is probably a sea kayaker name for it but I'll cal it a straight draw. Basically turn the blade sideways, slice it straight out away from the side of the boat, then turn the power face towards yourself and pull it straight back, long slow and strong. It is more difficult than a sculling brace. In 2010 I did my first surfski race, the Chicago Shoreline Marathon. We were lined up between a half dozen or so massive metal pylons. The wind was from the side, blowing the starters sideways and into these pylons. I was on the starting line next to Dawid Mocke of all people. He had this amazing side draw. He would reach way out and then move the boat a great distance in one powerful draw. One of his draws accomplished what three of mine did.  

The side draw is hard to do well. It challenges balance for sure and requires you to control the ski with your hips and trust the paddle to support your weight leaning on it. I use it in a few situations. One is maintaining position on the start line in a sidewind as mentioned above. Another is pulling myself to or from a calm shore when I don't want to hop into deep water.  The most important time is assisting other paddlers on downwind paddles. When I help other paddlers that can't remount, or need their ski stabilized for some other reason, I like to raft my boat next to theirs so that I can wrap my arms around their ski and lean all the weight of my upper body on their deck. In big waves and wind it is really hard to just slide into this position because the boats bounce around and separate there is risk of putting a hole in a boat if you do it clumsily. So invariably I and up needing a number powerful side draw strokes at some point in the process to get myself rafted up. 

It is worth practicing if you not a skill you are comfortable with. 

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1 month 1 week ago #35786 by agooding2
Replied by agooding2 on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Nice ideas, I do practice the side scull when getting out but it is awkward, the side draw sounds better and would translate from canoe paddling in whitewater.  

The figure 8 is a good idea, I'll plan to do that this winter, especially in side wake.  I notice after an hour or so I'm more comfortable, but it's hard to get out more than once a week right now.  Used the low brace two weeks ago in 1 foot waves, but still more left braces than right, I am left handed, need to practice on the right.

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1 month 1 week ago #35787 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Bracing with wing paddles
A straight draw would just make me fall in, I think (paddling a stab 1 K1). I use a gentle side scull quite often to move off a bank, or to pull myself towards a bank.
It isn't easy with a wing blade, because the stroke is asymmetric. Still works. Done right, you get some continuous support during the stroke. 
Marathon startlines can be really crowded - 1ft between boats - being able to hold position in a crosswind by sculling gently is pretty important.

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1 month 6 days ago #35788 by Wombat661
Replied by Wombat661 on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Thanks Cryder for the great tips on paddling. 
Want to make sure I understand this:
4. If the torso is where your power comes from, make sure your hips and your shoulders are locked together and rotate together. 
I know the shoulder and torso should be locked together. Should the torso be allowed to move some. If torso and hip are locked together, then the only thing that can move is your legs and your bottom sliding on the surfski. Am I reading that right?



Thanks
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1 month 6 days ago #35789 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Bracing with wing paddles
Hip rotation is much easier to develop in a K1 due to less restrictive seat, especially if you have a swivel seat. Since training in a K1 this is something I have brought back to the ski. Though have to admit on the ski its not as locked in

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