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KIX Newsletter Fall 2006


Summer Kayaking with the Dawn Treader
(think back...designed by Derek Hutchinson, built by John Abbenhouse in the '80's...does it really go in circles?)

 

Kayak Instruction Excellence

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Newsletter, Fall 06

Just Some News
After galavanting around this summer, I've sequestered myself at home to knuckle-down and do some work. I've upgraded Viewit.com, put the Spring 2006 Newsletter online (with images from Hong Kong, the Whitewater Symposium, and the whitewater instructor's course in Spokane), and now this!

I think the best time to write a newsletter about paddling is after a great day doing it. (Writer’s block or no writer’s block)

						
						

I drove with a friend to Crescent Beach last Tuesday. We just wanted to paddle, we had a free day and had to accept the conditions as they were. The conditions were perfect! It was a beautiful day – little swells came spaced nicely from the west, a “small” breeze moving along the surface with the current from the east. It was high tide, I think we figured five feet at Port Angeles. I was taken back to my childhood on the central coast of California as the birds were happily gathered on the point, the sky was blue and the sun was bright. We paddled close to the sea cliffs to spot green anemones, played a bit with the surge and the rocks, saw a seal colony, a sea lion, a big white jellyfish, a few wood ducks? harlequin ducks? and maybe a loon.

						
						
						

As I don't have pictures of that trip, I've added some images from an evening solo across Port Townsend Bay. After all, it is still the Olympic Penninsula!

 

 




This summer I taught some very enjoyable private lessons and tagged along on some Northwest Outdoor Center trips to Neah Bay, the Wenatchee and Rogue Rivers. It was great to be out surfing and playing along with the rest of the recreational world!  After all, that is what it’s all about…






At the instructional level I’ve been hearing debates over all sorts of things – but mostly these two: the T-rescue and the low angle/touring forward stroke.

One thing I like to say is “never say never”. I guess I can say I’ve been kayaking for over twenty years – but I’ll never say I do something one way because I’ve always done it that way. However, I have almost always sent a swimmer to the back of their kayak to push down on it and assist me with draining the water out, and I can only remember it failing one time (the first try). I have done this with tourists on tours, beginners in Deception Pass, instructors in current, and it has always worked. I had an interesting experience with a gentleman at the Tacoma symposium. He had shown up in jeans and a cotton t-shirt and eventually flipped right over. I went through the paces of the rescue and he began protesting - "my wrists are fused,I can't do that". I said, "yes you can, just push down on the stern on the count to three, etc". He made it through all of the steps, and when the rescue boat got to us they told me it was the fastest rescue they had seen all weekend!

I’ve also done it the other way – with the person hanging onto my kayak while I do all the work, and it was harder, had more steps and took longer. But because I am only five foot two inches tall (and one hundred and thirty pounds) I like to delegate to make my life easier. My opinion on this one is try them all, get really good at all of them, and when you need it, pick the one that suits you, the swimmer and the conditions. And remember, not all kayaks have rudders – but if they do, just say “watch out for the rudder”!


 

(This was an accidental capsize. Both individuals had practiced)

If you don't see the Quicktime movie, here is a link:
http://kayakinstructionexcellence.com/Movies/RescueMovie.mov

(You might want to turn the sound off)


Just for fun, I am throwing in the images I took at the Arco Olympic Training Center when I attended a coaching clinic. What do you see - considering they are using a wing paddle? Posture? Hand placement? Windup?

 

 


I remember the coaches telling me - wind-up like you are going to spear a fish, be able to se your bow under your top hand, in at the feet, out at the shorts, and with a wing paddle, catch the new water.

I know there is new technology out there now - I've heard paddle to the same beat as a waltz, paddle as if you are pole vaulting...


Moving on to the forward stroke, a high angle works better for me. I can get into a nice frame (or box), plant the paddle like it is in cement, unwind my torso to bring the boat past the paddle, set-up and repeat. Using a strong frame keeps me from using all those little muscles, and when I hold the set-up position for a portion of the stroke (some say ten percent), my body really gets wound up like a rubber band so I have a snappier unwind. In order to do this, my feet push off the pedals and my hips rotate back with each stroke. I like to teach this at the beginning and then say – if you get tired or want a lower angle, just lower your arms.

When the arms are lowered the blade might be further from the kayak and have more of a sweeping motion. This might cause the kayak to yaw (the bow moves from right to left). This might beg more correcting – we have all seen people use their paddle as a rudder, incorporate more sweep strokes, and lower the skeg or rudder to compensate. On the other hand, many a person has claimed a low angle stroke with the kayak tracking a straight line. Go figure.

One of my first informal lessons in forward paddling was on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River back in the eighties. A guy named Billy (from Dartmouth) and a gal named Helen (from Smith College) had hitch-hiked onto our trip and she said – the best way to learn a good forward stroke is to get your whitewater kayak to go straight. (The funny thing is, they were really good paddlers. It wasn’t until much later I found out Billy had held the Downriver championship for several years running).

Anyway - since we can’t paddle down the middle of a kayak, the next best option is to keep the paddle close to the kayak and plant at the toes, release at the shorts or the hip. Bringing the paddle too far back can encourage lifting – and one sign of lifting is when the forward hand dives towards the deck. 

Some of this might change if you are using a wing paddle and catching the “new” water – but that is a whole different story…the forward stroke is a very complex stroke! At the most basic levels, if you are going forward efficiently and in a straight line, you must be doing something right. If you want to go faster, further and expend less energy take some of those specific courses.

So are you thoroughly confused? You can find a paddle designed just for you. For example, Werner Paddles makes a wide range of designs include a paddle for low angle paddling.

 

 

 

 

Still time to sign up for the following instructor courses:

River Kayaking - Instructor Certification Workshop - November 8-12, 2006

  • Spokane, Washington. We had a blast here last year - the Spokane River, Spokane and the area has everything we need for an instructors course. Books required: ACA Instructors Manual (comes with a CD).

Coastal Kayaking - Instructor Development Workshop - October 20-22, 2006

  • Port Townsend, Washington, Admiralty Inlet. We will work on moderately flat water the first two days and find rough water the third day either in Admiralty Inlet or Port Townsend Canal. The course is held at Fort Worden State Park. Continental breakfast, lunch on your own, organized dinners in Port Townsend. Books required: ACA Instructors Manual (comes with a CD) and Topic Outline for Coastal Kayaking.

I am also leading open water instructor update coming up on October 29. This has had a lot of interest - if you are interested let me know. It is modeled after the “Dixie Division” in the southeast. As the local DIF (or divisional instructional facilitator) I am volunteering my time. The instructors are donating to the division which is donating to the ACA. I’ll be heading to the annual meeting in November and will hand over the booty then.

For everyday paddling, beginning to advanced, please email with ideas you have for upcoming courses. I’ll post them on the website and hope they fill! This is a good time of year to get out and play with intermediate to advanced water (and do more bird watching!).


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