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So what went wrong? Well number one, he probably shouldn’t have listened to his friends, but let’s talk a bit more about the body mechanics of seal launching and how to specifically avoid this.
You can actually be an active participant in this exercise by sitting in your boat and feeling what effect your posture has on the lower half of your body. After making yourself nice and snug in your kayak sitting on the ground, lean backwards in your boat, all the way on the back deck. You will feel a couple of things happen if you pay attention. First, it causes you to lift your butt out of the seat making you lose contact with the boat, but more importantly it makes you push hard on the bulkhead with your feet.
Now let’s take this exercise and put it in to the context of launching off a ledge or, in this case, a bridge. If leaning back you will surely put pressure on your feet on the bulkhead and effectively transfer a weight shift to that location causing your feet to go underneath you and once again with our kind victim here, pitchpole forward and on to his face.
So how do we get the opposite effect, go back to your living room or front lawn and sit in your kayak again. This time lean forward aggressively and you will feel your knees pull up into the thigh hooks and cause your butt to sink further into the seat. Now take this concept and put it into the context of launching off the bridge. The paddler will need to get a solid push with his hand, paddle, or hands, and then get his weight aggressively forward to help pull the bow up. He won’t necessarily get a perfectly flat landing (which may not be desirable) but he will surely have a more pleasant landing than the one he experienced.