Moving swiftly along

paddling on Loch StrivenLast week’s canoe club session focused on forward stroke technique – the very thing for me, as I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure it out for myself . To quote Manuel of Fawlty Towers, I learn it from a book. But that’s not quite the same as the real thing. Richard had us parading our skills (or lack thereof) around the loch and gave us votes out of 10, or some helpful commentary at least. We experimented with straight arms (the Frankenstein technique), then with a wide stroke, and with a slight bend at the elbow etc etc. My most significant learning was to engage my feet in the process of achieving rotation. I’ve spent months trying to get my head around how to get one’s torso more involved in the forward stroke (per the many books I’ve referred to) and this was the key. Once you start “pedalling” (as it were), you automatically involve the trunk muscles which contribute more power to your stroke than just your arms. Another breakthrough. I love these classes!

We finished up by picking up where we left off last week and chucking ourselves into the loch, quickly followed by a self-rescue. I repeated the movements I’ve been trying to refine and felt fairly satisfied that I can rescue myself in a calm loch any day. It was very interesting for me to confirm with one of the younger star students, Jordan, that it is tougher for a lighter person to completely empty their kayak, especially using the head-under-water method, and that a little water in the boat is perfectly fine (which Richard also OK’d). So I’m quite the happy bunny. Just got to take it out into “real” conditions now.

kayaking on Loch StrivenWe were indeed out on the high seas on Saturday, meaning the good old Firth of Clyde. We decided to paddle up Loch Striven and made it to Inverchaolain and back without incident. Conditions were quite amenable, of course. Although I must say, the chop around the fish farm in the middle of the loch was pushing me out of my (albeit limited) comfort zone. I think we both privately resolved to just keep on keeping on and simply paddle like blazes through the confused water. This is when I realised that I need some lessons on steering in chop pretty darned soon. I put into practice my newly acquired learnings on forward stroke technique and Alan helpfully informed me that he hadn’t had to wait up too much this time (thanks). The only trouble was that my lower back complained mightily. I’m not sure if that’s because of a) my boat/seat – my only other paddling trips of any length involved other boats (and Alan says the Capella hurts his back), compounded by the fact that I can’t bring the foot-pegs any further forward. Or could it be b) my newly perfected forward stroke is involving too much lower back rotation? It could just have been old age my back playing up on that particular day, as can happen. Anyway, will ask at tomorrow night’s class. Maybe I’ll have to source the kayaking equivalent of a Lazyboy to install in my boat. I’m sure someone’s thought on it.

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