It was a reasonable turn out for the Jersey Canoe Club, Sunday morning session today. 17 kayakers of a variety of differing abilities gathered on the beach at St Brelade’s. It was an early start, the changing of the clocks ensured that everybody was there promptly. The plan was simple, head towards Corbiere and see what develops We didn’t realize that it was going to offer an excellent opportunity for some kayak coaching. The wind was possibly going to touch force 5 from the north west, which would blow us back, helped by the last of the flood tide.
Just before Pt La Moye the group gathered in a sheltered bay, whilst a couple of paddlers headed out to assess the conditions. There was clearly some movement off the point, which is the most significant headland between St Brelade’s Bay and Corbiere. Normally it is a magnet for shore based fishermen but today the rocks stood empty. Perfect, we could play in the waters off the point, without fear of becoming entangled in fishing lines.
The tidal stream in shore had already turn west in close creating some entertaining wind against tide conditions. One of the pleasures of paddling with a group from the Jersey Canoe Club is the cross section of paddlers, today four of the group were Advanced Sea Kayak Leaders (5 Star in old money), whilst for 3 of the group it was possibly their first time on the sea in a closed cockpit kayak. The other 10 paddlers were mainly 3 to 4 Star level.
Leading such a diverse group of paddlers can present its own challenges but Alex and Rachel, the designated leaders for the day engaged the whole group in a constructive and educational manner. Initially the group were taken into run off the point to practice turning and running with winds and waves. Then followed a couple of exercises around a rock with a few small breaking waves to introduce an element of spice. First of all simply paddling around the rock in reverse, how often do we practice reverse paddling in anything other than flat calm?
The second exercise involved working in pairs. It involved paddling around the rock again but one of the paddlers had their eyes shut whilst the other had to offer clear guidance on which paddle strokes to use and on which side of the kayak. Simple but effective one to one kayak coaching. It really made the people with their eyes open focus on future water, not just theirs but also that of their partner.
All to soon it was time to head back towards St Brelade’s, after all we had the Canoe Club Sunday lunch to attend. As the wind pushed us to the east we came across a group out coasteering from our friends at Absolute Adventures. The south west corner of Jersey is a real playground for anybody with an interest in water sports.
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.