by Larry Cain, Head Paddle Coach, Paddle Monster
It’s crucially important to spear the blade into the water so that it is actually moving forward as it enters. This helps us maximize the water we’re able to gather on our blade at the catch, thus maximizing our connection.
One of the most common mistakes that people make is “air catching”. This occurs when a paddler reaches too far with the blade in the air and cannot extend any further as they bring the blade tip to the level of the water at the catch. What invariably happens is that they achieve their maximal reach in the air, and the blade travels back before entering the water. This usually kicks up a splash which gives it away, and always results in less connection being established at the catch than when the blade spears forward into the water.
How can you avoid this? It’s vital that you do not over-extend or over-reach when the blade is in the air. I like to suggest that the rotation in the set up portion of the recovery be comfortable but not maximal. Then, as you drop the blade tip down to enter the water, you can continue to extend forward with your paddling side (hips, hand, and shoulder). If you over-reach with the blade tip in the air, well above the surface of the water, you’ll likely be unable to rotate any more as you drop the tip towards the water. You’ll actually find the blade tip ends up moving back as it drops towards the water, meaning it is doing the exact opposite to spearing forward into the water like it is supposed to.
If your rotation is comfortable in the air, you’ll find that it’s easy to continue to reach forward as your blade tip approaches the water, ensuring it’s moving forward upon entry and allowing you to acquire effective connection by gathering maximal water on the blade at the catch.
Photos 1 to 4 illustrate this. In photo 1 you can see a comfortable rotation in the recovery with the paddle tip close to the water.
In photo 2 you can see there’s been more rotation and the tip is very close to the water.
In photo 3 the blade tip has continued to move forward and has finally contacted the water.
In photo 4 the blade is fully buried and loaded with body weight, and has established a firm connection with a positive blade angle. You can see in photos 3 and 4 that the catch is extremely clean, with no signs of the tell tale splash of the air catch.
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