Timing and “The Catch”
That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” Something about that sound screams, “Wrong!”
During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the catch solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must. When I train for standup paddle races and events I do my best to get the stroke right, but what is missing is a constant feedback loop so only my good technique and habits stick.
When reach, the power stroke and a hasty return is perfect in timing, the feel and the sound is pure music and synchronicity. While we can practice these parts of the stroke while standup paddling, every aspect of our technique is even more easily analyzed while paddling with your team in an OC-6. A team provides feedback on so many levels: feel, tips and visual cues from others.
I have had the good fortune to paddle in Seat Two behind one of our more experienced team members, Lisa Jakubowski, as she brings us through a practice as stroke in Seat One. We don’t talk while training but recently she mentioned how she was trying to refine her stroke to avoid the “plunks” and “gurgles.” Being so close behind her, mimicking her style and technique, working on timing the best i could, I decided to work to eliminate the gurgle as well.
Focusing on the one thing was amazing. It began with watching her upper arm and shoulder as she moved through her power and return phase. As if we were connected, my upper arm/shoulder attached to hers. I began to get some solid timing, great for seat 4 and 6 to follow.
Next I matched her hip rotation, working to drive with my forward foot and hip at the exact same time that she did. Mid way through our 10-mile training drills she mentioned, “When I really drive with my hip, rather than over – reaching with my upper body, I actually get an ideal amount of shoulder rotation. That results in a greater reach. I pause that nano-second at the reach then make sure i get a solid catch.” (Here is a great coaching video from KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin – coaching Lisa Jakubowski. Thanks to Lisa for sharing it)
Lisa gave me a few tips on how to “feel” that perfect moment between momentum and power when the catch can be ideally executed. At that moment the canoe seems to be moving with exquisite smoothness. The paddle matches the speed of the boat. As I began the return with my paddle I gave a gentle punch with my lower arm. This momentum opened my joints and stretched my muscles.
The energy of following the action of Lisa in front of me and the timing of the entire team in the canoe fed my ability to maintain speed, power and intensity as needed for all 4 laps of our 2.5 loop on the Deschutes River.
KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin demonstrates the Catch