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Technique Tips

Braces and the Body; High Brace!

This is part two of a three part series designed to transform your brace into a bombproof skill that will work in most river situations and never hurt your shoulder. First we covered what the body does in Braces and the Body; what's the connection?. Now we'll cover using the paddle in the high brace position.

She's up! She's down! Yes, she is up! Remember our drill practicing the dink? We gave the balance point-of-no-return, with the boat teetering on its edge, a setting of 5 degrees and a stable up-right boat a 0ยบ. Well, a proficient high brace can recover a boat from the up-side-down position! The best boaters use their high brace when others are going for the roll set-up. What makes this possible is this paddler's experience and timing, allowing her to simultaneously dink her head, pull up on the lower hip and knee, and use her paddle to safely and effortlessly recover. First a reminder - it's the body that rights the boat. Review this skill in your living room "river" right now.


  • Sit on the floor as though you are in your kayak. Tilt your "boat" on edge by lifting one cheek off the floor.
  • Balance yourself by keeping your hands in the air below and in front of your shoulders on either side of your body.

Notice that your spine curves toward the high hip and knee in an effort to counterbalance. Knowing that the head bone is circuitously connected to the hip/knee bones, drop your head toward the fall and pull up on the lower hip/knee simultaneously. Your cheeks flatten evenly on the floor, your balance is regained. Have you practiced this dinking motion on the water until the body motion is smooth and fluid? If so it's time to look at how the high brace recenters the body over the boat.


  • Assume your aggressive, upright posture - the position of greatest stability.
  • Hold your paddle shaft horizontally in front of your body with your hands on either side of the boat. This evenly distributes the weight of your upper body so as not to overweight the bracing side of the boat.
  • Rolling the knuckles back, place the powerface on the surface of the water just out from your knee. Keep the back hand low so that the shaft remains as horizontal as possible.
  • Now, slide your blade inward toward your knee a few inches. Then, clear the blade from the water by rolling your knuckles forward to slice the blade free. Practice the movement of the paddle with your boat flat and stable until the motion becomes natural.


Remember, the key to an effortless brace Is dropping your head toward and pulling up on the lower hip/knee simultaneously. Our Instinct Is to use the paddle first. Be sure to synchronize the dink to the movement of the paddle. Now, tilt your boat a mild 2 degrees and practice the two movements simultaneously until they are smooth and fluid. Once your muscles are ingrained with this new habit, edge the boat a little more. Be sure to stay synchronized and fluid before adding more edge.


The high brace is potentially the most dangerous stroke to the shoulder. If the blade drifts behind the hip, the shoulder joint is placed in its weakest and most vulnerable position. Unfortunately, this Is our Instinct! A forceful flip onto a poor form high brace can direct enough force to the shoulder to cause muscle tears and even dislocation. Moving the head away from the flip, which is another dangerous instinct, further enhances the potential for injury. Keep your shoulders safe by;

  • keeping the bracing paddle in front of the body in the area of the knee,
  • moving the horizontal paddle inward toward the boat, not backward as in a forward sweep while
  • simultaneously Dropping Your Head toward the fall.

Think dink or get dunked!

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