Coaching Event

We haver been contacted by the BCU (West Midlands) as regards a event for coaches or potential coaches. The event will be held at the Ironbridge Rowing Club on Sunday 13th of September 9am – 5pm

“These events aim to provide an excellent opportunity for coaches to update their British Canoeing Coaching Awards, meet other coaches and share ideas, participate in workshops to develop coaching, paddling and rescue skills, try and/or learn from other parts of paddlesport and get your Coaching & Canoeing questions answered.  Please note that whilst the priority for places at these events is for qualified BC coaches, the event is also open to those paddlers who are looking to become coaches and who may find the opportunity to network with other coaches useful.   Full details on the event and an application form are attached below.  
Applications and payment (£20 for the CME itself and an additional £5 Certificate Fee, only if allocated a place on the FUNdamentals Workshop, which is a recognised CPD module) for places on the various practical workshops need to be with Charlie by Mon 7 Sep.  
Questions about the event should be directed to Charlie via email or by mobile phone.
Charlie Miller
Shropshire Area Coaching Representative
Mob: 07800 764608

CoG – Stroke Rate – Active Blade

When entering the current or paddling down river are you doing any of the following:

  1. Altering the height of your paddles, from say a high stroke when paddling forward to lowering the paddles to enable reverse strokes, stern rudders. This also will lower your centre of gravity when entering a fast flow and the low paddle will allow you to segue into a  stern rudder.
  2. Slowing your stroke rate, you paddling too much, trying to get strokes in where an active static blade would suffice?

Some Links for viewing:



Where are you? In relation to your paddling that is?

Do you know where you are along the continuum of acquiring a higher level of competence?

maslow 4 stages learning

The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.”

The fourth stage does not mean that you know how you do something as it has become second nature or able to describe or teach something effectively. This lack of understanding can explain why often the best coaches were not necessarily the best players, if you found an activity easy then you may not find it easy to comprehend the difficulties others are having and therefore break it down for others to learn.

This lack of comprehension of your abilities when competent can be explained by the fifth stage that can be vary depending upon the mentality of the individual:

  • Reflection
  • Complacency

So wherever you are on your paddling education whether it be confusion or frustration, knowing this is natural and part of learning can be some comfort. So practise and reflect on your success to determine what to change. No matter what your level there is always something to learn.


Practice the basics (you are not a unique snowflake)

You are not like the snowflake.

You are not like the snowflake.

Its all basics, all of it be you recreational or elite. Whats the difference? Practice and attention.

Every paddler needs the same skills most of the time. To quote fight club you are not special, you are the same as every paddler.

So practice the basics in as many ways as you can. Same strokes different places.

That said a single rapid can prepare you for most things given a good mind. Sure there are things that cannot easily be practiced be it faster water, heavier water (more cubic metres aka pushier) and large drops, that said what you deal with these new things with will be the same strokes as used on a smaller familiar rapid. This smaller familiar rapid by its very nature of familiarity will allow you to relax and experiment. Then when you try harder/new rivers you can concentrate on the new features and not on the techniques themselves.

Practice the repertoire of your blade angles, balance, speed, direction of boat travel and play games and test oneself.


The article by the coach Dan John explains this in terms of physical training:



Let us look at the basic vanilla locomotion strokes the forward and reverse strokes

  • Close to the boat, closer the more the boat will go in a straight course.
  • The blade fully or mostly in the water.
  • When it is in then pause then pull.
  • Recover around the torso unless doing a stern rudder, recover as in taking blade back to the start again.

Slow full strokes are far better than half of the blade skidding through the top of the water, these fast half strokes give the illusion of speed, all that is fast about them is there rate not the speed of the boat.

This is not to be confused with the start of a sprint where you may shorten the length of the stroke but you will still want to use a full blade.

Half blade = Wheel spinning, this is not to say the blade is never pulled on whilst not being fully submerged i.e. avoiding a rock/shallow water.

Blade Half - Full

Blade Half – Full

Drawing & Handwriting

Draw scull continuum

Draw scull continuum

The sport of canoeing/kayaking is a essentially a simple blend of strokes and amounts of force. Like walking it will become second nature given enough practice. I would say learn the basics but it is all basic, practice then master and apply to varying bodies of water.

The person doing grade 4 or 5 is doing the same strokes, he may have less time to do them but his mastery makes up for this.

Now  to the heart of the post namely the draw and the scull, these two strokes could be said to be on a continuum, similar strokes but with different applications.

The Draw.

This stroke is one which permits the craft to move sideways whilst the direction the boat is point remains unchanged. This is easier to practice as the boat remains flat and there is less danger of the craft capsizing. Watch the video to see the various versions.

Practice points:

  • Practice the basic draw both sides, although useful the sculling draw will improve paddling dexterity more, but practice it nonetheless. I would say the most useful aspect is the slicing recovery, it is useful to learn as in many situations lifting the blade out to recover the blade can be less than optimal.
  • Practice the sculling draw both sides.
  • Vary the length of the stroke.
  • Vary the amount of angle on the power face. Feel the force, resistance is useful. If you slice there will be no movement.
  • Vary the angle of the shaft and see what happens.
  • Vary the hull angle around the x-axis, so lean away from the blade, towards and maintain a flat hull, what happens.

With the above points there are many permutations and in time you will find a use for them all and with practice use them naturally without thinking.

The Sculling Brace.

This stroke uses the some of the technique of the sculling draw stroke but applies them to enable the boat to move through or stay at an angle on the x-axis .

Boat axis

Boat axis

Things to try when sculling:

  • Play with the angle of the shaft.
  • Let the boat come over or try and keep it up.
  • Alter the size of the stroke as in length.
  • When rolling over on the boats x-axis and sculling you may have to alter the torso angle either forward or back depending on the restrictions of the boat. Also note the sideways lean on the torso to permit head to stay on water, head being out of the water is a useful aid in breathing. Its often better to not try an keep the torso away from the water when in the lowest position.


Try going from a sculling draw to a sculling brace, how would you make that happen.

The draw and scull teach you to become more aware of what your paddle is doing, that will help with rolling/turning and in particular shifting the boat sideways when turning would risk wrapping around a rock.

It will improve your handwriting. As words are made up of letters, paddling sequences are made up for strokes.



Letters & Strokes.


Continuing the theme of self-awareness/sensitivity to improve technique let us look at the use of a witness.

A witness is good for safety, reassurance and feedback.

Over time reassurance is less important as the paddler becomes more confident, safety is a personal thing.

Unless the paddler is calm and using the minimum required effort then they will not develop self-awareness and sensitivity to be able to take comments on board and change their technique or in time become self-aware.

A lot of paddlers listen to the comments but then apply the same amount force, take the same line or use the same strokes this makes the witness of little use. #WorkInProgress

witness - 1st person - 3rd person

witness – 1st person – 3rd person

Get a grip.

Continuing the theme of sensitivity.

Gripping hard can cause problems (see carpal tunnel) esp when flexing and extending wrist. But that aside try this experiment seated and with an empty hand. Repeat each step a couple of times. Try with dominant hand in first instance.

  1. Clench fist and relax.
  2. With hand on forearm clench fist again.
  3. With hand on Deltoid clench fist again


What do you notice when you clenched fist?

Takeaway points:

  1. Functionally the hand starts in the forearm.
  2. The harder you grip the tension goes up the arm and stiffens the shoulder girdle.
  3. This tension up the arm results in less mobility when side support is required, which can result in strained shoulder/dislocations.
  4. Try using the back when paddling forward and the arms for other strokes.
  5. Your grip does not need to be that hard, it will prevent a fluid action.
  6. Gripping hard will reduce your sensitivity of the paddles position in space.
  7. So basically relax your grip when you paddle, the correct amount of tension is “enough” and no more.
  8. What is useful tension and what is not useful tension.


Messrs Weber-Fechner

Do you sense by hitting or stroking? By pulling the blade mindlessly through the water or slowly and therefore sensing the resistance of the water against the blade? The latter will educate you to the angle of your blade.

Further reading: Weber Fechner–Fechner_law

Going in

When you are going in (as in capsize) often the best course of action is to?

  1. Try and stay up.
  2. Go in.

More often than not its best to accept you are going in and the sooner your paddle gets to the water the sooner you get up.

  • Lean and allow the boat to fall.
  • Tuck forwards
  • Stroke
  • Back up and ready to paddle.

The 4 points above describe a support/recovery stroke, where the paddle goes in near the front of the boat then sweeps back and when inline with side of body pulls back in.

If you resist and try and stay up you will be less in control. Whereas the above points describe an active blade.