Kayaking skills and learning the eskimo roll
In case you are planning to use a sit-in kayak, you should learn some kayaking skills.
Kayaking occupies two sides of the same coin. On one side, it can be a very competitive extreme sport on the other, a chill hobby suitable for people of all age groups. One of the most exciting things is that kayaking is accessible to different people from all works of life with different levels of abilities and fitness.
While it is true that everybody and anybody can be a kayaker, what sets expert kayakers apart from ordinary paddlers is knowledge and the execution of basic kayaking skills.
The age-long “how to” question is probably the most important question in learning how to kayak. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the most expensive kayak or on the calmest seas. You should have the necessary basic kayaking skills you need to find your way around, paddle effectively and exit a capsized boat.
Knowing kayaking skills is the entire point of kayaking. The brain of the whole operation, you definitely cannot be confident in your abilities if you don’t know how to perform basic kayaking skills. Learning effective kayaking techniques don’t have to be complicated though, and there are different ways to get started; you can watch videos, read, get a tutor but the only constant thing is practice, practice, and more practice. Rome they say wasn’t built in a day after all.
As long as you’re dedicated, you will get the hang of things in no time. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert kayaker trying to improve on your kayaking skills or you’re just a beginner yet to even get in your first kayak. There are certain factors including your skills and your equipment that will play huge roles in what you get in terms of speed, comfortability, and general satisfaction.
Choosing the right paddle
You have heard of the hierarchy of need?- Well in kayaking, sitting right next to your kayak is your paddle, your chosen paddle greatly determines optimum performance on the water. Think about it, even the shortest of trips would require hundreds of strokes. If the kayak is a car, your paddle is the engine. Suitable paddles make all the difference in water; your choice goes a long way. In making this decision, there are a few key things you should consider:
Length: how long your paddle is should be a function of your boat’s width and height. You can have a small boat with a long paddle and vice versa. Also, it is important your height. Choose a paddle you think is good for you and put it upright vertically alongside you. Fully extend your arm, hooking over the top edge of the paddle with your first finger joints. If you can reach further with your hand around the top edge or if your fingers don’t reach the top. Just choose a different length where your first finger joints are able to hook the top edge.
Blade and shaft: Your paddle blade cannot be underestimated. Paddle blade size and shape influence overall performance in the water. The same goes for the shaft. Bent or feathered shaft is preferred for efficiency.
Materials and price: This is your personal decision, how much are you willing to spend. Materials that are lighter are much better than their heavier counterparts but also cost more. It’s up to you to make the difficult decision of price versus efficiency.
Getting in your kayak the easiest way
If you are using a sit on top kayak, you can get in easier, but for sit in you should consider some techniques.
Getting in a kayak seems pretty easy enough if you know what to do, more importantly where to do it.
Location: Selecting the best places to execute kayaking skills is a skill in itself. Getting in a kayak becomes much less stressful and very easy if you know where to launch.
Getting in from a dock
The best place to get in a kayak obviously would be from a low dock. Begin by finding the lowest point of the dock. Ensure that you are wearing your tight-fitted life vest, then position your kayak opposite the dock, and sit next to the kayak seat. Put your feet in the kayak and turn to face the bow. Hold the dock with both hands firmly and lower yourself as fast as possible.
All this, of course, can be done if your paddle is close enough for you to reach from the kayak. Alternatively, you can use this same method to get out of the kayak in a dock if you need to.
Getting in from shore
Getting in from a dock is the best way to get in a kayak as you probably already know that, but sometimes there is no dock nearby in which you can easily slide into the water; in this case, getting into the kayak might be a little bit more complicated. You should find a spot where the water is calm and just deep enough, and line the kayak parallel to the shoreline. You would need support so you can use your paddle.
With the paddle placed perpendicularly against the kayak, shaft on the boat, and one of the blades supported out on shore. Firmly grab the shaft and paddle with one hand at your back, bend down slowly near the kayak and slide in your boat. Do this without putting too much weight on the paddle. Inversely, you can get out of the kayak on shore like this but in reverse.
Kayaks are narrow boats. They’re made this way to ensure that they move easily through water which means that you would have to try to keep balance constantly. Luckily, it’s not as difficult as it sounds as the majority of what you will do will be done instinctively without you even noticing. It comes naturally but just to be on the safe side.
To stay in balance, you would need to sit upright. Relaxation is the key. Relax. Relax. Relax. Relax your back. Relax your stomach. Relax your mind, set your eyes on the horizon and just enjoy while the kayak tilts freely as the waves push it.
Hit the surface of the water with the back face of your paddle blade if you lose balance. This should give you enough balance and enough time to get back in the zone.
Full disclosure, Don’t hold the kayak for support. You will tip over!
Good kayak paddling technique
Anybody can paddle a kayak, but not everybody paddles properly. People often just slap their paddles against the water over and over. Proper paddling guarantees you speed, efficient kayaking with less stress and ultimately less strain on your body. Paddling generally depends on physicality and style, but there are elementary features of a good stroke which starts from holding the paddle correctly.
Holding your paddle is one of the fundamental kayaking skills, vital also for the eskimo roll.
If you want to have an efficient, stress-free and enjoyable stroke, you need to know how to handle a paddle correctly. By now, you should already know the best paddle for you, so we will limit this to the four most important things that dictate effective paddle holding
Knowing your paddle blades
Properly focus and direct the blades
Adjusting the shaft handle
Relaxing your hand on the paddle shaft
The most important thing in paddling is posture. Good posture. Paddling with good posture translates to upright sitting and not leaning backward. Make sure your legs are flexed, and your feet are resting against foot pegs for the needed extra support. Effective paddling requires much more than your arms, in fact, much of the work will be done by your torso. There are three stages of the forward stroke:
The catch stage: Involves winding your torso and submerging, close to your feet, your blade fully on one side of the boat.
The power stage: Rotating your torso as the blade moves behind. Follow the blade (already in water) with your eyes and Torso while pushing against the shaft with your upper hand.
The release stage: When your hand reaches behind your hip. Now “ slice” the paddle out of the water.
Repeat to maintain a continuous stroke.
Some tips to take note of while doing these are;
- Try as much as possible to remain upright to maintain balance and efficiency
- The stroke should be powered by your strong core muscle instead of weaker muscles of the arms.
- Keep the blade in a neo-vertical position and consistently immersed in water.
Paddling backward technique is pretty much reversed forward paddling. You might need it for reducing speed in waves or when approaching for a rescue. Because paddling backward is only done if ever to cover just a little distance, it doesn’t matter what you do as long you keep your balance.
Exiting capsized kayak
Being able to get out of a kayak that is upside down, also known as a wet exit, is one of the extremely crucial kayaking skills directly concerned with the survival of a kayaker. Successful wet exits can be the difference between life and death in many situations. Getting out of a capsized kayak is essentially a reflex action.
Your body automatically responds to you seemingly stuck under water but doing it calmly while still holding on to your paddle or kayak is a different ball game and definitely requires some level of practice. You should know, getting out of the capsized kayak takes only a few seconds; so you really don’t need to be Michael Phelps for this one. However, it’s always safer to have a friend nearby when practicing.
- First and most importantly, stay calm. Panicking when you flip over only make you run out of breath Stay focused so you can consider all your options to achieve a successful wet exit.
- Move your body up as close to the deck as possible. This technique, known as tucking protects your head against rocks and reefs while also preventing you from getting stuck in the kayak
- Try to roll your kayak; it is better to remain in your kayak rather than swimming away from it. If you can’t move it by yourself, check to see if you can buddy-roll your kayak.
- Pull off the loop of the spray skirt from the cockpit of the kayak
- Push the boat up, forward and away from you. If your legs are too tight in the kayak, you might have to learn to angle yourself to release one leg before the other.
How to do Eskimo Roll
Every kayaker finds himself flipped over at some point even the most experienced, sometimes its fun, other times it can be dreadful and life-threatening which brings us to the Eskimo roll; one of the oldest and most efficient ways to get out of a capsized boat. It is fast, reliable, an age long go-to kayaking skill. You don’t need to hop out of your kayak into the water and figure out how to empty it and get back in.
There are different ways to perform an Eskimo roll, but knowing one or two is enough.
Needless to say, learning to roll can be quite easy, but doing it in real life situation is different. So keep at it.
The first thing to do after finding yourself flipped over is to pull and gear your body towards the deck of the kayak, the tucking technique, to prevent any hits to the head from the river bottom.
After tucking, positioning your paddle in such a way that it is parallel to the kayak should come next, then reach your hands out of the water.
When you’re confident your paddle has gotten as high as possible, turn it 90 degrees to the kayak
Stretch your upper arm as high over the kayak as it can reach while extending your bottom arm also as far as it can go to get the outer blade to the surface. All these must be done while your head is carefully rested on the shoulder of the outer arm holding the paddle.
Even though it might not seem like it, the hip is the force behind the Eskimo roll. The paddle placed on the water is merely for support, the hip-snap is the impetus of the Eskimo roll. The driving force. Snap your hips and start driving the kayak back, applying tension to the paddle blade on the surface of the water.
This, if done well should be followed by breaking the plane of the water. It is vital that you keep the same energy- literally and follow through until you get to a stable position
Tip: Focus on your paddle blade and surface of the water throughout the execution of the technique so you don’t raise your head too early and ruin the attempt.
These are just some of the kayaking skills you need as a beginner. However, if you plan to start the sport, it is advisable to take rescue classes. Even classes that will help you avoid getting in trouble in the first place. Learning the eskimo roll will be important.