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Tips and Techniques - The Golden Principles

Note from the Webmaster: This tip is a distillation of the major points that Bob drives home in his classes. Some of the information listed here may not be clear to you or make sense unless you have taken one of his classes (or read some of the other tips). For those of you who have, use this as a handy reference.

The Golden Principles of Paddling

Both hands on the “etch-a-sketch:” Your hands should be out over the water—not inside of the gunnels. This applies to the forward stroke, back stroke, starting the stern pry, ending the stern draw, duffek, and draw.

Vertical Paddle (as seen from the front of the boat): Your paddle should be totally vertical during power strokes (both forward and back strokes). To accomplish this, both hands must be out over the water.

Horizontal Paddle (as seen from the side): Your paddle should be horizontal when performing turning strokes such the sweep, stern pry, and stern draw. Once again, both hands must be over the water and the top hand is lowered.

Quiet Paddle: Your blade should not make noise or have swirling eddies behind it. If it does, work on feeling how the blade moves in the water. The goal is to make it “stick.”

Quiet Boat: Your boat should be steady and not move around (side to side or front to back) when your upper body does. The goal is to achieve solid boat, and tilt/heel control.

Practice: Go for quality, not quantity. Practice moves or strokes slowly and precisely, and then build up speed.

Rotate your body with the stroke using the concept of “linkage.” To accomplish this, link your shoulders and the paddle shaft so they form the top and bottom of a box.

Sit Up Straight (posture): Paddling is a sport that requires balance. One of the best ways to improve your balance is to sit up straight (no slouching!).

The boat moves to the paddle during a stroke. You’re not pulling the paddle to you, you’re pulling the boat up to the paddle. Perhaps the single most difficult concept to grasp.

Keep your elbows in close to your body. If you are extending them, have a good reason. Beware of shoulder injuries and attempt to accomplish the same move with your elbows in close—not extended.

Only do cross forward strokes when carving to your off-side.

Keep your nose over your tailbone.

When going for an eddy, it’s better to initiate late rather than early.

Stop all—repeat all, power at the knee on a forward stroke.


Our thanks to Amy Lyon for suggesting to post The Golden Principles as a tip.

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