With the boats at cruising speed, paddler #1 makes a conscious effort not to push on the footbraces (or move your feet completely off the pedals) while paddler #2 pushes forcefully on alternating footpegs. After two to three hundred yards, switch. How much effect did pushing with the feet have? (If you have a ruddered boat, lock the blade to allow for the firmest footpegs you can achieve.)
What most paddlers find:
The pushing paddler moves ahead of the non-pushing paddler.
Lessons to learn:
Our goal is to transfer the force applied to the blade into the boat. The most direct route for that force transfer is through our bone structure into the footpegs. When you don’t push on the footpegs, your butt tends to twist in the seat, your lower back gets torqued, and energy is lost to the twisting that would otherwise go into propelling the boat forward.
Sit on a bench, in your normal paddling position, and have a partner hold your blade at a right angle to you. Now apply force to your blade (as in sweeping) and note how much energy you can exert against the blade before your lower body twists away from the blade. Next move the bench against a wall and push your feet against the wall while sitting in your normal paddling position, again have your partner hold your blade and compare how much more force you can exert compared with not pushing with your feet. You can quantify the difference by holding a bathroom scale between the blade and your helper’s hands, so that the helper can read the scale as you push against it. There is some potential for injury with all that pushing going on, so be careful of your helper – and be sure the helper is careful not to let the blade slip.
Atlantic Kayak Tours, Expert Center
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