Anyone can sit at a piano, bang on the keys, and make sounds. But making music demands a precision, a feeling, a dedication far beyond simply purchasing an instrument.
Sea kayaking is much the same. It’s easy enough to figure out how to make a kayak go forward, backward, turn, etc... but the sum is much greater than its parts. The dance more elegant than the steps alone.
Technique is made of many elements: how best to apply power to the paddle; use of your body in the stroke; transferring the forward push through your legs and feet; keeping your wrists straight to avoid tendinitis; opening your hand as you push toward the end of your stroke; lifting the blade cleanly from the water for the next stroke; and using your lower body to control the kayak in turning, bracing and rolling. Although each technique is learned and practiced on its own, the end result is a combining and linking of one with the other, until you have a full repertoire of handling skills. It is important to go through this process (and it is a continuing one), not only to learn your strengths and abilities and hone them, but more importantly to confirm one’s limitations before you are in a situation that is beyond your capability.
Many people want to learn the ‘tricks’ right away, and many people teach this way. While rolling has its place and is in many situations the best “self rescue”, hopefully you will be spending most of your time paddling upright, luxuriating in the interaction of water/kayak/paddler. Rolling is best thought of as a continuation and extension of bracing as it uses the same boat handling skills. Initially, learning a two boat assisted re-entry/rescue is of greater value.
Andy Singer is the owner of Northstar Kayak and Canoe Company (516-676-1260).
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