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The Moving Stuff

Learning to paddle a kayak with our kayak coachesIn this featured article Neil Dickinson looks at the principle and practice of breaking in and out of an eddy

 

You already know how to make carving turns on flat water (‘Carving turns’ September 06) with this mastered you have the perfect building blocks to progress onto the moving stuff. Being able to break in and out and cross the flow is an essential skill if you want to progress onto river paddling. In this article I will try and give you the basic tools in order to make that transition.

The Conveyor Belt Analogy

The Terminology
breaking in in a kayak
Eddy:
This is and area of still or slow moving water
Eddy line:  
This is the transition line between the still or slow moving water and the flowing water.  
Break In:
Leaving the eddy and entering the flowing water.
Break Out 
Leaving the flowing water and entering the eddy.
Ferry Glide: 
Crossing the flowing water to the opposite side or eddy.

 

You can think of moving water as a huge conveyor belt. In order for us to paddle down river we need to be able to get on and off the belt, and cross it to reach the other side. If you've ever stepped off something whilst it is still moving you probably found that you either fell over or had to run to stay on your feet. Paddling is no different. This is because your boat isn't moving at the same speed as the water that you are about to enter. The basic skills that you need are acceleration, positioning and balance, get these right and it doesn't matter what strokes you use, you'll be successful.

 

The Key Elements

There are three key elements to these skills. Angle, speed and edge. The right combination of these will make the chosen manoeuvre seem effortless almost Jedi like. The amount of paddle strokes and effort involved should be minimal, let the water do the work!

Angle 'The clock face'

Angle of flow on clock faceFor the purpose of this article let's think of the river as a clock face. Directly up stream, the direction that the flow is coming from we'll call 12 o'clock. This enables us to describe an angle easily, using numbers on the clock face as our system.

 

Speed

Now you have mastered efficient forward paddling ('Ever increasing circles' July 06) its time to reap the benefits. Remember speed is your friend! Being able to crank up the power when needed will mean that you can get your kayak up to speed quickly too break through eddy lines and match your boat speed to that of the water.  

 

Edge

Edge with the flowThe Golden Rule: If you remember nothing else from this article then the most important thing to remember is: EDGE WITH THE FLOW!

This may be in the opposite direction to your instinct but trust me and go with the flow! 
Do this and you will prevent the build up of water pressure on your upstream edge and stay upright and dry!

Remember that it's edge you want not lean. ('Supporting yourself through kayaking' August 06)
Edging the boat will mean that your turn will be a carving one and that you will feel stable during the transition as you cross the eddy line. This will prevent water pressure building up against your boat. Edge into the turn. Remember as you cross the eddy line on a break in or at the end of a ferry glide you will have to change your edge to match the turn.

It's as Easy as ASE (Angle, Speed and Edge)

A - Angle the boat in the direction that you want to go in.
S - Speed up, accelerate towards the target. 
E - Edge the boat as the nose crosses the eddy line.

* Smile and look cool as all your friends look on in envy.

Follow your nose
Or in this case your eyes, look where you want to go. By doing this the edge is automatically initiated and your boat will follow. Focus on the place you want to be at all times and you'll avoid the places you don't want to be.

 

Breaking Out

The amount of edge, speed and angle will vary depending on the rate of the flow. In general the faster the flow the more edge and speed you will need. The angle will effect how far into the flow you will go, or how tight the turn is. Always leave the eddy pointing upstream as high as possible. As a starting point use 2 or 10 o'clock in our clock face system. Let the water do the work and turn the boat for you. With so many variables I won't attempt to tell you how much is necessary for any given situation. Part of the learning process is to experiment and see what happens. Want to do it!  The worst thing you can do is gingerly creep up on the eddy line, it will bight you! Be positive and attack the eddy line with forward speed. If you have enough speed and you edge the boat, remembering the golden rule, you will be successful. Go for it! experiment with different speeds, edges and angles, on both sides.

 

Breaking In

Aim for the highest entry point possible'Where in the eddy should I aim for?'
the answer is simple, aim to make your entry point as high as possible, everything happens so quickly at first that it's easy to sail right past. Aim high, and even if you drift past a little you'll still make it.
Angle the boat towards the eddy focusing on your entry point. Accelerate towards it. As the nose crosses the eddy line edge into the turn. Again experiment with different speeds, edges and angles, on both sides.

 

Ferry Glide

In order to perform a ferry glide you have to reduce the amount of angle involved in the break in. Using the clock face system reduce the angle either 1 or 11 o'clock, or even less.  Keep the angle constant as you cross the flow, remembering the golden rule. Accelerate to cross the eddy line, change the edge into the turn and the jobs done.

 

Summary

Practice, practice practice! As often as possible, in as many differing situations as you can. On both sides. If in doubt with more speed and with more edge than you think you need, you can always slow it down, or reduce the edge as your experience grows. As you gain confidence try it with your eyes closed,  feel what its like.
'You have much to learn my young apprentice'.

Happy paddling.

 

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