Coaching Updates

The following coaching advice has been passed to our current racing paddlers.  All new paddlers will receive similar coaching advice on how to improve their paddling technique and marathon racing knowledge.


The paddle is used to lever you and your kayak past the paddle blade, which is locked in the water to create a resistance. It helps to understand a lever. It consists of:

   • a rigid structure (the paddle)

   • a force or effort acting upon it (the arms)

   • a fulcrum which is a fixed point on the shaft

   • a load or resistance that is placed on the rigid structure (the resistance is located at the blade in the water and the load to be moved is the kayak and the paddler which is linked to the paddle via the hand/arms)

There are three types of lever.

First class lever. The fulcrum (bottom hand on the shaft) is located between the effort (the upper pushing hand) and the resistance (the blade). Video analysis of many club paddlers reflect this “push/pull” technique with the top hand pushing forward after the blade has been placed in the water

Second class lever. The load is located between the fulcrum and the effort. An example would be a wheelbarrow. This type of lever does not apply to paddling.

Third class lever. The effort (bottom “pulling” hand) is located between the fulcrum (top hand) and the resistance (the blade). This technique is illustrated by most of the top paddlers as any viewing of the marathon or sprint world championships will indicate. It is this sort of lever that club paddlers need to develop in order to maximise their ability given their fitness and the amount of time they can commit to training

Mechanical advantages of levers

When a lever's effort arm (ie the distance between the fulcrum and the effort) is longer than its load arm (ie the distance between the fulcrum and the load), it is said to have high mechanical advantage. Levers with high mechanical advantage can move large loads with a relatively small amount of effort.

Second class levers always have high mechanical advantage – but this type of lever does not apply to the paddle stroke.

First class levers can have high mechanical advantage if the fulcrum is close to the load. In paddling, this is illustrated by the long distance between the top “pushing” hand and the fulcrum (at the bottom “pulling” hand) compared with the distance between the bottom hand and the top of the blade. The weakness of this form of lever for efficient paddling is that most of the force is being applied at the bottom “pulling” hand and only 10% is applied at the top “pushing” hand. This means that 90% of the force being applied to the lever is being applied in the same place as the fulcrum thus making it a very inefficient lever which requires brute strength to work.

Third class levers are most efficient for the paddling technique – they make racing more effective and recreational paddling more fun. The fulcrum is located at the top hand which must be fixed in relation to the body from the point where the blade locks in the water at the completion of the Catch (ie where the blade is fully covered) until the start of the Exit of the blade from the water. This means that the fulcrum must not move forward (ie increase the distance from the body) during the drive phase. However, although fixed in relation to its distance from the body, the fulcrum is not fixed in space as it will move across from in front of one shoulder to in front of the other shoulder in response to the rotation of the torso during the Drive phase of the stroke.

Currently, no paddlers at the Club in my experience are using a 3rd class lever. In my recent videos of club paddlers some have shown a first class lever from the Catch to the point where the shaft is vertical and from that point to the Exit they use a 3rd class lever. Unfortunately, by then the drive phase of the stroke is over half completed. The trick is to develop a 3rd class lever from the Catch to the Exit

The principle of the 3rd class lever also applies to single bladed paddles.

If anyone (racing paddler or recreational paddler) needs help with developing a 3rd class lever in their paddle stroke, I am willing to help with video and coaching

David Howie
Race Captain

Forward Paddling Technique

Forward Paddling Technique
A lot has been written over the years or published on the internet on forward paddling technique and a summary of the advice as it applies to flat water racing is contained in the document Paddling Technique.

Common Faults
In analysing the technique of club paddlers after the annual video session, a summary of the common faults observed has been produced.

Ivan Lawler's Masterclass
Ivan’s masterclass on Forward Paddling Technique was delivered at Richmond Canoe Club.  It reinforces all that is explained in the Paddling Technique document above but explains it in a different way.  At an hour and 12 minutes, it will take some time to watch but it is worth it.  He was World Champion in marathon 12 times between 1988 and 1999 so knows what he is talking about.  As this is an amateur video and you have to concentrate quite hard to hear what he is saying, the captions used in the video have been summarised and some explanatory comments added.

BCCC Forward Paddling Technique Powerpoint Presentation
This presentation on forward paddling technique is based on the one provided to those who attended the British Canoeing Racing Module.  It was amended for a planned presentation to the 2017 Lord Wandsworth College DW team (hence the background photos in the slides are taken from their crews taking part in our Charles Hicks Canal Challenge in 2016).  If you view the Notes Pages you will see the commentary on each slide.

Technique - Knut Holman
An example of good technique executed as part of a race (so not posed!) by Knut Holman (Olympic 1000m Champion Barcelona) can be viewed here.   Please note he is using left handed paddles so his control hand is on his left.   There is a very useful slow motion view at the end.

Technique - Tim Brabants
Another illustration, with more analysis, is of Tim Brabants (Olympic 1000m Champion Beijing) and can be found here.   A summary of the points to look out for based on the captions in the video are here.   Another video of Tim is here.

Technique Evaluation
For those who would like to analyse their own technique we have produced a Technique Evaluation form which can be completed and discussed with one of the coaches.  It is based on one issued at a recent Sprint Discipline Support Module and used by the national racing squad coaches suitably adapted.  The cover sheet attached to it illustrated the key stroke phases.

Sprint Paddling Technique
Here is a transcript of the commentary in three videos produced by Alexandre Nikonorov the successful 2012 200m Coach.  One is “The Set Up” and the other is “Lock the Blade”.   A third video in the series is "Make a Pivot".  There are still more videos to come to complete the series.

Forward Paddling incl Power Circles
This covers information on technique based on the theories of Imre Kemecscy which was provided in the Racing Module for Level 1 and 2 coaches and covers much of the same information in a different way.

Forward Paddling and Functional Stability
The following were issued to all those attending the Racing Module for coaches:

Crewboat Technique

There is a lot to think about and concentrate on when paddling and, inevitably, concentrating on one aspect can cause faults in others which can be frustrating.  If you focus on getting the Catch right then many other aspects of good technique will follow.

Paddling in a crew boat complicates matters even further.  Ideally, each crew member will have a similar style and technique.  It is also essential that each paddler completes the Catch at the same time.  Failure to do this means that for a part of every stroke each K2 paddler is taking the full weight of both paddlers and the boat.   Completing the Catch at the same time means that each paddler only has to take half the weight of the crew and boat on each stroke with obvious advantages for strength endurance.  In general, it is better for the more experienced paddler to be in front and the taller or heavier paddler to be in the rear.

The NZ Ladies K4 can be seen working on their technique and timing before the Rio Olympics.  You can practice these exercises to improve your technique and timing in a crew boat when not involved in a timed effort.

ICF Canoe Sprint Coaching Manual

The International Canoe Federation Sprint Coaching Manual covers all aspects of canoeing including kayak and canoe, sprint and marathon.   It has useful information for all racing coaches, aspiring racing coaches, paddlers who want to coach themselves and those, including parents of paddlers, who would like to improve their knowledge of the sport.  Topics include:

  • Safety & Rescue
  • Equipment
  • Technique and Hydrodynamics
  • Kayak Paddling Technique
  • Crew boat technique
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Endurance
  • Speed
  • Strength development
  • Training principles, methods and intensity
  • Planning a training programme
  • Racing – both sprint and marathon
  • Psychology
  • 200m specialism

The Science of Canoeing

The Science of Canoeing by Richard Cox (ISBN 0 951 8931 1 4).  The Science of Canoeing is now out of print but still available in some libraries and obtainable through the inter library loan system.  Although it was published in 1992, this book is still a valuable document for coaches, aspiring coaches and for paddlers who just want to find out more about their sport and how they can improve their performance.  It was the first book in English to cover the subject matter for canoeing.  There is still no book that covers the same subject matter for kayaking but the ICF Sprint Coaching Manual covers some of the subject area and is more recent.

Other Coaching Advice

Marathon Racing Advice  This Powerpoint presentation on Marathon Racing Tactics was produced for a proposed course at BCCC.  The information in the presentation was based on the course handout.

Portaging  This is a summary of the advice available on portaging.

The following handouts were issued to a recent Sprint Discipline Support Module and provide useful advice for anyone who wishes to improve their performance.  One is on the setting of SMART goals; another is on land based warmups using RAMP principles; the third is on designing a race day plan; and the 4th is on how to reflect on your performance.

Race Psychology  Understanding race psychology (before, during and after a race) is an important part of competing effectively.  This advice was originally distributed to the Junior Development Squad in the 1990s and this version was adapted for a club course on Marathon Racing.

Nutrition and Hydration  General advice on Nutrition and Performance has been produced by Edel Duffy.  A Powerpoint presentation prepared for a club coaching session gives advice on nutrition and hydration for club paddlers.  The notes page view contains the detailed advice which is based on the more detailed advice contained in Nutrition and Hydration tips for marathon paddlers.

Core Stability  These core stability exercises using Swiss and Medicine balls have been designed to improve core stability as an aid to balance in a racing kayak.

Paddling Machines   The BCCC has two KayakPro paddling machines (ergos) which can be used for fitness training on land or to practice technique as well as many other uses.  Advice on how to calibrate the on-board console to take into account the paddler's weight, damper setting and shaft length and also advice on all the many uses of the ergo can be found here.   The Paddling Ergo Resource Pack was distributed to those attending the Racing Module for coaches.  In addition, BCCC has a Lawler Single Arm Incline Ergo.  Details on how to use it effectively are here.

Boat Fittings  This powerpoint presentation on boat fittings was included in the Racing Module course for Level 1 and 2 coaches.

Rudders  This detailed technical information on the selection and care of rudders was requested by GB canoeing.

Boat Preparation   Some advice on how to look after your kayak produced by GB Canoeing.

Boat Trim  Some advice on how to trim your kayak.

Paddles  There is a lot of detailed advice on paddles on the Braca website concerning the characteristics of their paddles and how to maintain them paddles.  Some general points about choosing the correct length and size of paddle was produced by the World Class Programme.

The Start  This advice on starting was produced by GB Canoeing.