The Hands Have It

I wonder how many miles I’ve swum (swim, swam swum?) in my life. First foray onto a swimming team was at age 5 in 1954 (yes, they actually had pools way back then).  Once we started a family more miles accumulated during summers at the club pool and year round at the house. For a spell it was some ocean miles. Perfecting the reach and pull of the stroke along with hand position was a great way to keep my mind occupied during longer swims. Perhaps some of those watery decades embedded a sense of reach that is transferring to my paddle stroke over time.

Photo by Nikki Brooks (Copyright)

The value of using our hands in the art of paddling may be under-rated. At many SUP events there is a single or maybe a few prone paddlers.   Candice Appleby strolled out of the water at the recent Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge after a spin in the bay prone paddling.  She noticed a group of us watching.  She enthusiastically explained why she takes time to prone paddle on a regular basis. “When you’re lying on board propelled only by your hands and arms you get a better sense of what’s  happening in the water. Whether you are going to ride waves or enjoy flat water, it’s good to really get close and experience the currents and personality of the water you’re on – up close.”

On a recent paddle in the crystal clear Hosmer Lake not far from my home I gave it a try. What a totally different sensory experience from the view we get standing. In fact, it was a whole body change of pace and training. Going slow was my top speed – not likely to have prone paddling in my quiver of top-skills! Getting a bit wet and reaching through the surface of the lake was fun.

Back in the stand up position I finished a tour of the lake and practiced some of the techniques that make every paddle more enjoyable. Today it was reach-reach-reach! I stumbled upon a rich body of information on technique posted by Dave Kalama, he’s the one with the ready grin on a mission to have fun.  He’s written some easy to understand articles on paddling technique. The one that has made the greatest difference in my paddling is called “Kalama’s 50-50.”

The written explanation of the technique meant to hone and improve “reach-reach-reach” is excellent and easy to understand. The real jewel is the video. Seriously, don’t sit at your computer and just watch the video. Grab some tape, go out on the water and really give the technique a try. It made an incredible difference in the effectiveness of  my paddle stroke this summer.

Sharing kudos on technique videos with Dave Kalama. Photo by Ed Shasek

It was cool to run into Dave at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. I had a chance to let him know how often I head over to his blog and search the technique section. True to his nature, he listened a bit and reminded me, “As long as you keep having fun out there. Glad you enjoyed the process.”  Dave’s got it right, the most important technique is mind set. keeping that positive mood and building confidence that leads to the most fun in whatever aspect of standup you’re in to.

What’s your favorite technique or skill-builder? Would love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “The Hands Have It”

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