Rougher water skills Part II

I received the following question from a Yahoo! Surfski group user;

Hi Alan,

I have a Fenn Mako XT as my first surfski for over 6 months. Previously I was paddling a plastic Sprinter.

After reading your posting i found some very interesting and technical advice there I would like to keep reading on. I do have all the beginner symptoms in rough water in the XT> The flatter paddling, quicker turnover and inevitable capsizes in unpredictable water and winds. Even though I go out again and again in this conditions to master them.

What would your advice be to handle this waters better? My “keep relaxed” mantra has worked well, but I still capsize when in unpredictable waters or sudden side gusts of wind.

Your ideas would be appreciated.

Thanks for following up.

From what you indicated my advice to you given your challenge in rough waters is two fold to being;

1. Learn to use your paddle for support during the pull; which means engaging the top arm, shoulder and pecs to stabilize the stroke, securing the blade in the water before you pull (which means trust your balance which will come from better stroke- yes a catch-22 situation but you’ve got to break into the cycle!), keeping the pull connected to the hull by maintaining heel pressure throughout the stroke from catch to exit.

  • You will also need to work on a more vertical paddle angle: enter close to hull, top hand close to centre line of hull or over your centre of gravity if you can move it side to side. The pull should be along bow wave line; slightly in or out of the wake is fine. Taller paddlers (longer arms) will pull out of the bow wave more than shorter paddlers (or shorter arms).
  • Think about pulling the paddle down into the water while you pull back as this helps activate lats and triceps NOT biceps.
  • Ideally you want to accelerate your stroke (and hull) from catch to exit.
  • Exit when your elbow reaches your torso- a quick exit will help prevent you from getting sucked too far back and then into the water.

This is probably the #1 thing limiting rough water ski paddlers; the paddle does nothing for stability.

2. Look for the horizon as your overall focus: glance at the water around you, but never for more than a fraction of a second. Take it all in and ignore the small movements your hull makes; relax the hips and core enough to allow the hull to roll and pitch under you while you paddle. Primarily, the waves will move the hull up and down, but will also gently pull the hull up a wave toward the crest (opposite direction of the wave’s direction of travel) then push it into the trough behind the crest. This second point is very hard to overcome but once you do it all will be easier.

  • As a learning tool, try going out in flat conditions and paddling through progressively bigger boat wakes with your eyes closed. You’ll be surprised at the outcome!

Hope that makes sense!

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services

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