10 Tips for Beginner Paddlers from Canoecopia
Cheese curds, brats, pretzels, beer. Madison, Wisconsin has no shortage of delicious temptations to lure visitors year-round.
And every March, Madison offers one more temptation. Canoecopia.
Sponsored by Madison’s own Rutabaga Paddlesports, Canoecopia is the largest paddlesports consumer event in the world. This 3-day event draws close to 20 thousand paddlesport enthusiasts from all over the country, and beyond.
In addition to showing off fun, new gear and exciting adventure innovation, Canoecopia brings together experts from all types of paddlesports —canoe, kayak, SUP— to offer more than 180 seminars and clinics.
As novice kayakers and canoers (plus SUP-hopefuls… someday, sigh), we attended Canoecopia for the first time in 2019. After a long winter with record breaking windchills and snowfalls, this well-timed March event got us hype for the warmer (we hope!) paddle season ahead. And the clinics inspired us to level up our skills this season. Which brings us to…
the top 10 tips we learned at Canoecopia:
Physical Prep for Paddling
Assuming you maintain reasonable strength and flexibility off the water, there’s not much reason to stretch immediately prior to paddling, except for areas of tightness. -John Chase, Exercises to Improve Paddling
The Mental Game of Paddling
Struggle is part of the process. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. -Keith Wikle, Coaching the Mind
You’re gonna have to look at the river and do what it says. -Cliff Jacobson, Canoeing Secrets
Tips on Paddling Techniques
Beginners tend to “choke” the blade. Keep hands in closer to the midline for longer paddle/oar reach. -Cliff Jacobson, Canoeing Secrets
During the "catch" of the stroke (when you are stabbing down with the top hand, submerging the blade into the water), loose hand grip of the bottom hand is imperative. Think of the bottom hand making the “ok” hand sign on the shaft, so that only the thumb and forefinger are truly holding on. This makes for better ergonomics and lengthens the stroke. -Danny Mongno, Forward Stroke Efficiency
Low angle paddling uses small muscles groups in the arms and puts less pressure on the body. It’s good for about 45 minutes. And hey, if you’re happy with that, it might be all you need. But progressing up the skill pyramid, high angle paddling, which requires rotating at the tailbone/pelvis, uses large muscle groups, and is much more efficient. -Danny Mongno, Forward Stroke Efficiency
Stab the paddle into the water. The whole blade should get wet. Load the entire blade before moving it through the water. Take the blade out of the water at the hip. -Danny Mongno, Forward Stroke Efficiency
When performing a brace (brace = reaching out with your paddle, slapping the water to gain momentary support), keep elbows down to minimize the risk of a should injury. -Wayne Horodowich, Staying Upright in Your Kayak
If you capsize in shallow water, do not use the paddle to push off the bottom. But, if you do (please don’t!), be sure to walk both hands up the paddle with your elbows pointing down to minimize the risk of shoulder dislocation. -Wayne Horodowich, Staying Upright in Your Kayak
Other Great Paddling Advice
Always turn around. The best view might be right behind you! (said in reference to outdoor photography, but applies to views when paddling, too) -Marty Koch, Ten Steps to Better Outdoor Photography
These are tips we intend to use during the coming kayak and canoe season, to level up our water time. And we’re already looking forward to Canoecopia 2020 —which will be March 13-15, if you’re excited to get it on your calendar, too— to go even farther with our paddling skills!
Are you a kayaker? Canoer? SUPer?
What tips for beginner paddlers would you add? Tell us in the comments!
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