Kayak stroke drills

This post is in response to a question from Jack in Sacramento about teaching drills for the kayak/surfski stroke.

In many sports where there are distinct propulsive (P) and glide (G) phases, you can draw parallels. One thing we can learn from all the great swim coaching knowledge is the importance of drills and linking drills to the real sport. What we can do is examine swim drills and looked for ways to cross them over to kayak and surfski.

Think about what you want to emphasize, isolate or correct then dream up a drill. You’ll have a few failures, but you’ll learn a lot through trying.

Here are a few brief examples in different categories;

Catch Drills

  • Enter, pause then pull: add pause after entry until water pushes on non-power face then pull
  • Enter (foot pressure to core to paddle) then pull: activate connection to hull

Pull Drills

  • Single side strokes: keep top arm locked in pull and recovery (feather blade and slide forward similar to finger drag). Do 10L, 10R, 20 normal or some pattern 30 sec L, 30 sec R, etc
  • Single side strokes through exit to PG transition or ear touch drill
  • power stroke (extend glide for 1-4 seconds while maintaining pull force x speed = power)
  • little finger: pull deep and down getting little finger in water by exit
  • tricep extension: keep triceps fully activated in pull

Exit Drills

  • Pull through exit; no pull, pause, exit
  • Quick exit

Rotation Drills

  • Swing drill: paddle 4 or 6 times (even number) then rotate only 3 or 5 times (odd number) with paddle parallel to water at waist height. Keep rotation speed constant on paddling and rotations. Keep range of motion the same on rotation as in paddling.

Transition (P to G) Drills

  • exit connection (foot board/foot well to leg to hip to core to shoulder to paddle)
  • overemphasize acceleration to exit/de-emphasize catch/pull for exit
  • rotation through exit into PG set up

Glide Drills

  • ear touch with exiting hand
  • deck touch with blade (same side as entry, opposite side as entry)
  • power stroke (extend glide for 1-4 seconds while maintaining pull force x speed = power)

Transition (G to P) Drills

  • set up drills
  • paddle parallel to water in PG to GP (hold 1-2 seconds: see power stroke)
  • top hand lifts into place while holding bottom hand at shoulder/chin level

Entry Drills

  • enter then pull
  • enter near heels, slowly reach entry forward until paddle “plops” (i.e. no longer quiet) or elbow flexes

Postural Drills

  • check torso angle overemphasize forward lean or upright posture
  • learn to flex front back in waves

Surfing Drills

  • quartering waves to a) left and b) right
  • reading swells that are a) faster than you and b) slower than you
  • reading wind waves
  • linking waves

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services


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