Some thoughts on forward paddling

As sea kayakers forward paddling is the most important stroke that we have in our repertoire but possibly the one that we practice the least, once we reach a certain skill level.  Something that we rarely think about is cadence, the rate at which we perform the stroke.
This weekend I have spent a very enjoyable two days with members of Portsmouth Canoe Club, paddling in Swanage Bay.  We conducted a number of 5 minute time trials recording the number of strokes performed on the right hand side of the kayak, there were 16 of us in the group and over half of the paddlers were within 10 strokes of each other.
This is an exercise, which I have conducted in many areas of the world with a large number of paddlers of all abilities, for nealy 30 years, and from the results I would suggest that an appropriate paddling rate is between 135 and 145 right hand paddle strokes every five minutes.  This would appear to be suitable for paddlers of all sizes and abilities, all paddle lengths and types and weather and sea conditions.  There is no scientific evidence for this number but it seems to work.  For most paddlers it results in an appropriate forward paddling speed.
Try it when you are out on the water and see what figures you come up with, as an exercise it also helps to pass the time whilst on open crossings.
Remember that if you have an effective forward paddling rate of 145 right hand strokes every 5 minutes this translates into 10,440 strokes on a six hour day trip, whereas if you have a rate of 180 strokes in the same six hour period you will end up doing 12,960 strokes.  Over 2,500 more strokes, which on a two week trip translates to an extra 35,000 strokes hence the need to develop an efficient technique.  
These are my thoughts and observations but comments would be welcome. There are plenty of other ideas regarding forward paddling plus a variety of other strokes available in my e-book The A – Z of Sea Kayaking, which is available from Amazon.
 John Crosby leaving Polyageos for Folegandros, nearly 12 nautical miles.  An effecient forward paddling stroke is essential when paddling in waters like these day after day.
 Pete Hargreaves en route to Sark with a reasonable westerly swell.  Sark is just visible in the top left.  A  fluent forward paddling style is required on such crossings.

One thought on “Some thoughts on forward paddling

  • October 24, 2012 at 20:36
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    Thanks for a great couple of days on the water.
    Hope to see you again when you have some dates for training next year.

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