I’ve been spending a lot of time recently watching paddling DVD’s and videos. Perhaps I’m just getting old and cranky, but in one of the whitewater instructional DVD’s students were told to “cock (their) wrist back” on the control hand in order to set the proper blade angle on the non-control blade when using a feathered kayak paddle. This was a 2006 video. I thought this piece of poor technique had been put to rest a decade ago. I’m not surprised to hear this suggestion from long-time paddlers who are trying to help a novice, (This was the way we were all taught back in the early 90’s.), but to hear it coming from supposed expert whitewater instructors at the Nantahala Outdoor Center was very disappointing. It was even more disappointing when I saw that same description in print in an ACA-endorsed book, “Kayaking” edited by Pamela S. Dillon and Jeremy Oyen. On page 127 it reads, “A stroke on the left-side begins with cocking your control-hand wrist up (like revving a motorbike).” This book has a copyright of 2009. I was certified as an instructor by the ACA in 1999 and by the BCU a year before that. Way back then I was told that the better way to teach the use of a feathered paddle was to raise the hand, wrist, and forearm as a unit rather than cocking the wrist back. Cocking the wrist has caused untold paddlers a lot of trouble with tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other repetitive motion injuries over the years. Those problems can be avoided in most cases by using good technique. But I digress.
Please forgive my ranting. I guess my point in all this is just that you really need to constantly question whatever you see and hear. A good instructor should have good, thoughtful reasons for teaching skills the way that he/she does. And when you as a student question those reasons, your instructor should not get defensive. Teaching and paddling techniques do change over time, and good instructors change, as well. In some cases, expert instructors may always disagree over a technique, but both sides will have good supporting reasons for their opinions. That is as it should be. Just make sure to listen for those good supporting reasons on both sides and consider them carefully before making your own decision. In the case of the “cocked wrist”, I don’t think there are any good supporting reasons for using that technique other than it may be easier for the teacher to explain. But I digress.
In fairness to the editors of the book I mentioned above, I did find a lot of good information for beginning kayakers. Case in point, page 126 of “Kayaking” reminds paddlers not to use a “death grip” on the paddle which “is tiring and ineffective”. This is something I strongly advocate and was glad to see it pointed out in print. The DVD I referred to is, “The Kayaker’s Toolbox”. The suggestion to “cock the wrist back” was the only piece of bad advice I found in that DVD. Otherwise, I would strongly recommend it as a great learning resource for a beginning whitewater paddler. But I digress.
Keep on questioning, and stay safe!