One of the Best Sea Kayaking Recovery Skills to Learn - The Low Brace
By Alex Matthews
|No matter how good your balance is, sometimes you will lose it. A brace is a stroke used to recover when you've been thrown off balance, or used in anticipation of potentially losing balance. Because the low brace is so quick and efficient, and keeps your shoulders really well protected from injury, it should become your primary and instinctive reaction to instability.
The low brace is so named because the paddle is kept very low throughout the stroke. To set up for a low brace, sit upright and roll your paddle under your elbows so that your forearms are virtually vertical. Think of a pushup position.
From here, reach out to 90 degrees so that one hand is at your belly button and the other is out over the water. Smack the water with the non power-face or backside of your paddle blade, keeping your paddle as parallel to the water's surface as possible for maximum support.
As you slap the water, drop your head in that direction and pull up with your lower knee to level off the kayak. To finish the stroke, move your paddle forward and inward, and roll your knuckles upward to clear the blade from the water.
It's important to understand that the slap of the paddle just provides momentary support. It's actually your body that's responsible for righting the boat. As you flip, the only way to right the kayak is by pulling up with the knee that is going underwater. The only way to pull up with this bottom knee is to drop your head towards the water in the direction that you're flipping. Your head should be the last thing to come back up on a well-executed brace. If, instead, you lift your head up, you'll inadvertently pull on your top knee, which simply flips you even more quickly. To ensure your head drops towards the water, try watching your slapping blade as you brace. It's hard to lift your head if you're looking down.
Keep practicing these motions until they become really natural, and then start pushing your boat tilts further. Also practice on alternating sides, making sure that your paddle hits the water flat. If your paddle has any type of 'feather' or offset, you'll need to rotate the paddle in your 'grease hand' in order to slap the water with a flat backside of your blade.
Photos ©2006 Rochelle Relyea
The Low Brace - Sea Kayak Technique Video
The low brace is one of the best sea kayaking recovery skills to learn. With a good brace, you may never need to learn the roll. Ken Whiting explains the technique in this episode of Sea Kayaking TV.