Tips and Techniques - Using The Water
Using the Water
Often when we want to get from Point A to B, we tend to think of only one way of getting there. This kind of thinking emphasizes strokes as the first choice rather than using the water and boat control.
As an example of this, one day last summer, Greg Barnett (my great webmaster and paddler) and I were shooting some video for the Tips & Techniques section. At one point, I was sitting in an eddy and he wanted me to move downstream to the next eddy. I was sideways in the eddy, facing mostly downstream. I could have turned my boat around to face upstream, and then peeled out wich would have been a logical approach, but the focus would have been on how to get from Point A to B using my paddle and in a conventional way.
Instead, since my stern was already lined up with the downstream current, I used two reverse sweeps to place my boat in the current. Then I planted my blade in a static position (in the current) and used small blade angle adjustments to do a reverse sideslip. This used the power of the current to pull me downstream. So in essence, I moved out of the eddy and downstream about 20 feet, picking up hull speed, by using two easy reverse sweeps and a static stroke.
The key here is to "do more with less." How can I get from point A to B using as little energy as possible? To do this, first use the current or water as much as possible. Then use boat control (lean/heel and angle) next. And last but not least, the paddle. By using the water first, you are harnessing its power, not fighting or working against it. Approaching a move in this fashion will change the way you read water. You will start "micro" reading instead of just looking at the bigger features such as chutes, eddies, and holes. Or in other words, you will start reading the subtleties in all the little currents that make up the entire flow of the river.
So the next time you get ready to make a move, stop and think: "How can I use the water to help me make this move?" "How can I use boat placement to do this move?" "How can I do this move with as little energy as possible?" As Greg says, "Paddle smart, not hard."
Video Clip (QuickTime) 1096KB