“Just get in and follow the person in front of you” they said. sound familiar?
Yep that was my intro to waka ama too. I’ve learned a lot by trial and error since then but the biggest thing I had to do was unlearn all the bad habits I had picked up from coaches along the way. I have spent the last two years going back over my stroke, breaking it down into fundamentals and basically start over. Through that I picked up some key areas I notice other novice paddlers make or are still making. There is more than just five but I have focussed on some key ones I think are important in getting a good start.
1. Many paddlers don’t get a good catch.
There are many paddlers, who instead of starting with a good catch by getting a good angle on the blade, they are pulling before the blade is buried. This makes the stroke inefficient and reduces the potential for glide of a canoe and speed.
They usually have a negative angle, meaning blade enters the water after 90 degrees, after the power phase, which pushes the canoe down reducing glide.
They usually pull the paddle before it is planted. This can look like the wheels are spinning, or feel like it’s really easy to pull through the water, meaning you actually haven’t grabbed much water so won’t be going far.
They also do a double movement at the catch. Something I used to be guilty of until recently. And it came down to my interpretation of what was most important, or what I was taught about catch. Told to spear it like a fish and then push and pull. Sequence is important in a stroke and making sure everything is engaged together to push, pull and drive together really is as hard as it sounds.
2. Top arm elbow is too high.
I don’t normally get caught up in exactly where peoples areas and legs should be except when it comes down to efficiency and injury prevention.
Many paddlers when starting out flare their elbow out above their head to try and get reach. This opens up the shoulder and rotator cuff to extreme pressure and potential injury and also limits the application of power production. Its best to keep your elbow below your shoulder to make the most of your power.
A good way to tell if you elbow is too high, have a look at your shadow. Or if you are starting to feel discomfort in your shoulder area this could be why.
3. Many novice paddlers suffer from the death grip
They hold the paddle too tight. When I first started paddling I used to get really sore forearms. I learnt pretty quickly it was because of my grip.
It is important to keep a relaxed grip on your paddle to avoid blowing up your forearm muscles. Staying relaxed helps you to recover in your recovery phase of the stroke.
4. Most beginners lean on the ama making the canoe tippy.
I know as a beginner is really easy to just lean left, especially when the ama lifts a little. The thing is you need to get used to being comfortable with the uncomfortable and balance your posture. When the ama lifts everyones first reaction is to lean left, and then the ama usually jerks right and hello huli!
It also reduces the glide of your canoe. Try sitting more balanced, so weight across both cheeks and use your core. This sets you up for so much more efficient paddling in the long run and less injuries.
5. Most new paddlers just jump in the waka and go.
This I believe is partly due to the club culture, but at some point there needs to be a connection with your surroundings, other paddlers, the water, and whats going on around you. There are hints to help you perform better in the natural environment, as corny as it may sound it’s totally true. I see it all the time with people who are new to the ocean, they attack the water instead of falling into its natural flow.
Ok so now what?
You can’t fix something if you don’t know its broke so have a look and analyse where you are at first. The best way to work out if you are doing these things is to ask your coach, or someone you can trust to be honest with you. Otherwise get someone to film you and give you the proof.
Once you know what you need go about finding someone to help you fix it. I have a bunch of resources from my own journey of sorting out my stroke and would be happy to share with you. Or if you are a bit more serious about sorting yourself out drop me a line and lets chat.
If there is anything in here that has created a lightbulb moment for you please jump on my facebook page and share. It would be great to get more discussion going around it. Paddling can be so isolating at times and its easy to lose motivation when we think we are on our own.
As always, thanks for following my journey,
#imagine Believe #achieve
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