Improving your stability part 1

Ok, so you have bought this canoe using one of SA’s most ethical websites and although the previous owner swore to you that it is unbelievably stable you are just not having any fun! But let’s go through a couple of steps that can really help you enjoy your paddling.

The first thing is to head to your favourite spot of water on a calm/ flat day. Stay close to the shore and put these ideas in to practice. The best way to learn is time in the boat – paddling takes practice.

Fill your canoe with about 10/ 15l water.

I know you will never win the Tuesday dice with all that water but it does wonders to lowering your centre of gravity. Some people recommend you take the seat out of your canoe for the same effect. We do not because:

  1. Your bum and the boat are not the same shape = pinched nerves.
  2. The rough fibreglass on the bottom of your canoe will go through your baggies = itchy bum.

If you are fortunate enough to own an Epic surfski you can do the same thing by closing the bailer and filling your seat with water.

Understand where your balance is.

Margie Oliver used to tell us a ” girls’ centre of balance is in their hips, a boys’ centre of balance is in their shoulders.” Therefore a boy paddling a canoe will rock the boat more than a girl. Get used to it – try not to fight it. This is magnified in a double so just relax and laugh it off. In time you will get to experience your crafts primary and secondary stability.

Lower your own centre of gravity.

Have a look at lowering your knees. If you can move your seat back a couple of notches until the top of your knees are in line with the top of the cockpit, try that. If your seat cannot go back any more it is time to adjust your footplate. On a canoe this is quite a process of:

Loosen the footplate retaining wingnuts.

Loosen the cable joiners that secure your rudder cables to the peddles.

Move the footplate forward and replace wingnuts, tightening them enough so that you can climb back in the canoe without the peddles falling out to try it for length. Keep moving the footplate one hole forward until you are comfortable and your back is not rubbing on the back of the cockpit.

Tighten the footplate wingnuts and the joiners on your peddles so that your peddles are pointing slightly towards the front of the boat and they are even.

Lastly loosen the screw on the top of your rudder. Jump back in your canoe and push on the peddles to make sure they are tight and even. Get your mate to adjust the rudder until it is straight. TIGHTEN the screw on top of your rudder.

For a really good video on how to do it on a surfski watch

Do not move your footplate too far forward so that you cannot push on it as this is part of your brace and power when paddling!

Shorten your paddle length

A shorter paddle allows for shorter stokes and quicker bracing. Try and make sure that your paddle starts exiting the water soon after passing your knees and is out the water at your waist. Past your waist your paddle forms a scoop and will effectively pull you in to the water.

Relax your bum muscles.

I know that we should not mention these words on a national blog but it is true! The more tense you get, the more you tense your bum muscles and in turn the more unstable one gets in the boat. If you find yourself tensing up – slow down / STOP – take 5 deep breaths – smile and start again. Just think about the last time you fell in. Chances are you were going fine, fell in, and could not stop falling in after that. Stop and breath, calm down and paddle on.

Practice bracing.

Do the drills. Spend time in your boat and make sure that you can brace on both sides comfortably before trying the weekly time trial. At the start all the boats seem to be sucked together so practice bracing beforehand.

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