Sit up straight in your boat by arching your back slightly and pushing your navel toward the front of the cockpit. Feel your pelvis roll forward, your knees and thighs press up under the deck, and your spine grows taller, the vertebrae stacking up one atop the other. This is an aggressive paddling posture that allows you to paddle more safely with balance and full power. A couple of physical limitations to truly sitting up straight are flexiblity and outfitting. If your hamstrings or outfitting are tight, you won't be able to realize your full potential to sit upright. Outfitting is a quick fix. Flexibility requires a stretching program and takes weeks before the results are felt.
Balance is a function of posture. Try these simple drills to learn more about balance, range of motion and what is an "ideal posture" for paddling.
- In your kayak on a flat pool of water and without your paddle, hold your arms out to your side as you sit up straight.
- Go wild and rock your boat as much as you can side to side using your hips. How is your balance and your range of motion?
- Continue to rock as you lean forward. What changes do you notice in your range of motion, more, less? What about your stability?
- Now, lean back so that your spine makes contact with the cockpit combing as you rock your hips. Again, how does this affect your range of motion and your balance?
Think about what you discovered; your greatest stability is found while leaning forward, your greatest range of motion is found while sitting up straight and nothing worth repeating is found while leaning back. Now, which posture do you want to use in the rapids? Here is something to remember while moving around the river; sit up straight. During those moments when extra stability is needed (ie, when you think you are about to get flipped) arch forward.
In addition to what we just learned about balance and stability, this upright posture allows you to access a greater range of motion in the form of rotation. This is the key to adding power to your strokes and to avoiding injury. The greatest sources of power are the large muscle groups of your torso. In addition, while doing strokes that start or end toward the back of the boat, rotation will allow you to keep your hands in front of your chest, thus reducing the risk of shoulder injury.
- Sitting in your boat with your new upright posture, rotate your torso and look at your back grab loop. How's your rotation?
- As in the drills we did earlier, check out your rotation while you lean forward and lean back.
Arching forward or back allows for a great deal of rotation while permitting you to affect the pivot point of the boat in moving water. Curving forward or slouching back decreases your ability to rotate fully.