Are Strokes Over-Taught? Episode 3

Do we put too much emphasis on strokes to beginners? Are we putting the emphasis on the wrong strokes for beginners? A lot of the time I will let the beginner be, while they get a feel for the paddle and its effect on the body, balance and boat. Unless the paddle is a total alien concept, most folks will develop a natural stroke that can then be worked with and tweaked to make more efficient.

Think of it this way, when we give folks information, they have to process that information first, and then try to execute that information. If you give too much information before they develop any natural feel they will be processing information for an exorbitant amount of time instead of getting any practical knowledge. The same philosophy can apply to almost any skill in kayaking (when folks are upright), where guided discovery can make the instructor and students task much easier.

I spend more time at first working with a student on corrective strokes as they are going to be spending more time correcting the veer of the kayak as they first get started, and then work gradually into the more aggressive acceleration strokes. You have to remember that a student does not have the same expectations as you the instructor, or buddy giving a hand. They simply want some control. I let this even go as far as showing them the application of the “dreaded rudder” to correct the boat. Everything has its application and is a tool for the paddler to use. We as instructors have dogmatically taught the “no rudder” rule as it kills momentum. However, what if you want to kill momentum and redirect?

Explaining to a student that there is no “law” to kayaking allows us to think creatively and use new applications in new situations, and potentially allowing us to push forward.

On a side note, I am not simply attacking old hat methods of teaching, I have had success with students in teaching, that by having no set rules they are allowed to be creative about their approach to every rapid. A successful stroke and line is determined by the individual and whether or not they executed the task as they saw it.