Letter to the Editor:
Paddling Tip: "Feet First"
February 25, 2008
by Wes Kisting
Recently I received an e-mail from Dan Bright, an ACA instructor, describing the value of using your feet and your kayak's footpegs to establish a firm foundation for transfering the power of your paddling stroke to the kayak. Dan does a very nice job explaining the importance of this concept, so I've reprinted his letter below.
I just read your online tips to better paddling technique. As an ACA instructor, kayak sales associate, and kayak bum based in Sarasota, Florida I appreciate access to first rate resources that reinforce the instruction and approach to paddling that I teach to my clients. An aspect of the forward stroke I have found very helpful (and often overlooked) is the importance of the muscular engagement of the lower body, specifically of the feet to the foot pegs, throughout the stroke. In much the same way that a proper golf swing, tennis stroke, and batting stroke originates with a solid foundation through the legs and feet, I encourage paddlers to initiate their stroke by first engaging their foot with the foot peg of the kayak. Right foot, right paddle blade, left foot, left paddle blade.
Rather than initiating the stroke with the upper body and then transferring the energy through the foot and into the kayak, I encourage my students to go "feet first" by applying a discernible but not overly ambitious amount of pressure to the foot peg. In doing so, you establish a solid foundation upon which to leverage the rest of the stroke, causing an even higher percentage of this leveraging energy (via torso rotation) to go into moving the kayak forward. By engaging the lower body just a nanosecond ahead of the paddle's entry into the water I find that you create greater efficiency in the stroke. In the same way you suggest shortening the interval between paddle strokes to up efficiency, this "feet first" tip seems to hasten a student's "ah-HA moment" of the forces that actually cause a kayak to move through the water. I find too, that by emphasizing the lower body's role in the stroke, the paddler's physical awareness of torso rotation is even more pronounced and more readily applied as they now have something for their torso to leverage against.
Thanks again for the info! "Paddle smarter, not harder!"
© 2008, Wesley Kisting