The slower than average paddle on the river mighty river Thames – a session overview.

Having run the last session of 2021, I thought it might be useful for some club members to know what we get up to. Although we don’t travel huge distances, we spend our time working on paddling technique. That might be turning and edging the boats or simply improving forward paddling, it really depends on what those that sign up for the session require.

The last Sunday prior to the Christmas break was in fact the culmination of several sessions with three of our club members. Coach Steve normally teaches these sessions from a canoe, but as it was the last of the year, he swapped out to paddled a kayak.

The session started with fitting ‘the fantastic three’, into whitewater boats. Later they discovered the importance of a dynamic seating position, but for start just a good fit. Next on the list of differences was much shorter kayak paddles. The shorter paddles allowed more control of the blade to develop the more advanced stroke technique.

So with everyone setup and fitted in their boats we each sat on the edge of the pontoon. Coach Steve had not been in a rush to get on the water as an extra 30 mins of fitting meant the tide was significantly slower. This was an important decision as none of the students had paddled a whitewater boat before so the slowly reducing speed of water made the transition easier.

Each of these students had worked with coach Steve before, but never in these shorter boats. We each seal launched into the flow, this was again an unusual procedure. Once on the water each student found their boat turned very speedily but were challenging to paddle in a straight line.

Coach Steve kept the group opposite the pontoon as there was less flow there. Here he worked on edging and trying to control the turn. None of this was easy, but each brought into the process each yielding good results. We were working on two parts of a low brace turn. We just needed the last part the low brace to complete the sequence. Rather than wait for perfection we moved down to the steel poles at the end of the pontoon, almost too late. The object here was a practical use of the combined low brace turn around a specific object. So much more difficult than a random turn mid river.

As the group split on the return to the pontoon Coach Steve instructed them how to cross the eddy flow and effectively ferry glide from the river bank to the pontoon edge. One by one they crossed the flow, each raising the upstream edge of the flat bottomed kayaks to be able to make the crossing.

The weather was chilly and several in the group weren’t dressed for this more challenging style of paddling, so with coach Steve’s insistence we only worked on one other move. This was effectively an ‘S Turn across the Flow’ starting from the shoreline. To achieve this takes practice as it combines all the strokes and edge control that we had worked on that day.

With that attempted, it was time to get off the water. We each assisted each other and coach Steve’s team of three even carried all the boats back to the boathouse.

Distance traveled on the day was less than the length of the pontoon, but the students had been worked extremely hard. There was surprise that not only had they worked the shoulders harder than normal on a longer paddle but more that they had to use their legs to raise or lower the edge of their kayak.

So ended the session.

Each did extremely well as nothing was standard, boats, paddles were all different and more importantly they each discovered new found excitement for paddling these more challenging boats.

1 thought on “The slower than average paddle on the river mighty river Thames – a session overview.”

  1. Steve – what a brilliant account of your last teaching session of 2021. The detail illustrated many of the subtle techniques which contribute to skilful kayak paddling. I look forward to learning more of them myself!

Comments are closed.