WWR manual chapter 5

5.1 Getting in and Out

Getting in and out of a Wild Water Racing boat can be a little awkward but with a little practice becomes straightforward.

Because racing paddles tend to be light and fragile, the ‘beginners’ method of placing the paddle across the back of the cockpit and sitting on the shaft, is not a viable option. Instead a method, similar to getting into a flatwater boat, can be employed. Place the shoreside hand firmly on the bank and the waterside hand on the foredeck or front of the cockpit to keep the boat steady and held into the bank. Step both feet into the centre of the boat. Now transfer your waterside hand from the front and reach behind to firmly grasp the back of the cockpit rim in the centre of the boat with the heel of the hand on the deck and the fingers gripping the underside of the deck. With one hand still on the bank and the cockpit held firmly it should now be possible to wriggle under the thigh brace fittings and sit down.
It may be possible, for more agile athletes, not to require the ‘stepping-in’ part of the procedure, simply grasping the centre of the back of the cockpit while on the bank.

Getting out is simply a reverse of the getting in procedure. With the bankside hand firmly on the shore and the waterside hand grasping the centre of the back of the cockpit, it should be possible to wriggle out from under the thigh brace fittings and either stand up in the boat or put a foot on the shore.

The easiest method is to place the boat in slack water facing upstream. However an athlete should progress to getting in facing upstream on fast flowing water and also getting in facing downstream in slow and fast flowing water. The main issue to guard against is the boat catching the flow and being pulled away from the bank. Getting in and out is more about preparation and choosing a suitable place to launch or exit the boat, rather than the action of getting in and out.

Having got in, the spraydeck should be attached. Initially Wild Water Racing boats can feel a little wobbly especially when reaching behind to clip in the back of the spraydeck, but with practice becomes much easier. Practice in slack water first, to get used to it. Attaching the spraydeck in faster flowing water can be quite tricky as you can easily get separated from your paddle whilst you’re hands are on your spraydeck. You can get someone to hold the boat to stop it drifting, alternatively, you can hold the middle of your paddle shaft under your chin so that the paddle stays with you! Sometimes the eddies used for launching can surge up and down which makes balancing the boat while clipping in the spraydeck very tricky. Sometimes a better option is to sit in the flow away from the bank where the water is not surging. Hold the paddle under your chin and attach the spraydeck. This requires confidence and practice but when achieved is quick and efficient.  

5.2 Breaking in and Out

Breaking in and out is essentially the same as simple breaking in and out that would be done in a playboat or slalom boat. The major difference is that the ends of the boat are deeper in the water and so the current will catch the boat much earlier and much harder when the eddy line is crossed. Because of the extra boat length, sometimes the boat will start to ferry across the current rather than turn into it. The athlete should be prepared for all of this by preparing their body weight (leaning the boat slightly) and reading when the boat will start to turn adding additional steering, if required, to complete the turn.

A simple low brace turn is by far the best way to break in and out. It is a stable position and the brace can easily be turned into a backstroke should more turning assistance be required. Simply practicing in slower water and then faster water will provide the knowledge and experience required to be confident on any kind of water.

5.3 Ferry Gliding

Ferry gliding to cross from one side of a current to another, is essentially the same as simple ferry gliding that would be done in a playboat or slalom boat. Because the ends of the boat are deeper in the water, the current will catch the boat much earlier and much harder when the eddy line is crossed. Because of the extra boat length making late steering adjustments is almost impossible. The angle and speed of attack into the current is the key element for a successful ferry glide. This is only learned by lots of practice. Practicing in slower water and then faster water will provide the knowledge and experience required to be confident on any kind of water.

The next stage is to learn to cross a line of waves. Again, angle and speed of attack are most important. The aim is to ‘surf’ across the current through the trough of a wave. Wild Water Racing boats have a big advantage because they can go faster, thereby allowing them to cut into and across very fast flowing water. However, the athlete’s body weight must be prepared and the angle of attack carefully chosen. A good skill to practice is simply surfing on standing waves. This teaches the athlete body weight control as well as the effect the water has on the boat especially at the eddy lines.

5.3.1    Reverse ferry gliding

Reverse ferry gliding is, again, essentially the same as simple reverse ferry gliding that would be done in a playboat or slalom boat. As already described currents and eddies can catch much earlier and much harder so greater attention must be paid to the angle of the boat. Because backwards paddling is less powerful than forwards paddling, shallower angles of attack must be used against the current flow. Back paddling with winged paddles takes a small amount of practice, but doesn’t add too much extra difficulty.

The easiest method to learn to reverse ferry glide is to paddle forwards down some gentle flowing water then stop the boat in the flow with backwards strokes. Gradually let the stern point a slight angle one way while continuing to paddle backwards against the flow. The boat should start to ferry glide backwards. With strong backwards steering strokes try and steer the stern back the other way. With this kind of practice the athlete should become familiar with the combination of boat angle and strength of paddle strokes required to maintain control. The athlete can progress to faster flowing water as well as starting to ferry glide from eddies.

5.4 Paddling Upstream


Paddling upstream is a skill that frequently required. Warming up and moving to a start line will often require paddling upstream. Athletes who do their local training on flowing water will usually do a loop requiring them to paddle upstream.

Paddling upstream is very good for learning boat control and increasing understanding of rivers so it’s worth including upstream paddling into an athlete’s training plan. Using eddies and slack water and the skills of ferry gliding from one side of the river to the other, it’s possible to paddle up surprisingly fast flowing rivers.

The only issue to be wary of when paddling upstream is damaging paddles. It can be very easy to stub or jam a blade on rocks or the river bed.

5.5 Turning and Changing Direction

The basic skills of turning and changing direction can be practiced and mastered on flat or easy flowing water.

5.5.1    Boat Leans - Drop Hip Steering

When paddling on flat or easy water, a WWR boat can be steered by leans of the boat. This allows for smooth arced turns with only a small reduction in forward power. The basic principle is to lean the boat to the outside of the turn, the greater the lean the more the turning effect.

To have good lean control, boat fittings must fit the athlete properly. If the footrest is too far away, the seat is too slack or moves about, or thigh braces are in the wrong place the athlete won’t be able to have full control.

Boats should be leaned by downward pressure into the seat using the bottom and dropping the hip. The lean will cause the opposing thigh to naturally rise into the thigh brace but it should NOT be lifted, it should simply be braced. The athlete should still be able to paddle forwards with a strong leg drive whilst the boat is on the lean. See drills section for example of drop hip steering

5.5.2    Single Stroke Foot Steering

Single stroke foot steering is probably the most important skill required to control a WWR boat on moving water. It is the ability to create a rapid change in direction with a single powerful stroke which is only possible by strong use of the legs and feet, hence the term ‘foot steering’.

Make sure the body is fully wound up, top hand near the ear and blade close to the boat. Strong leg drive and powerful body rotation is required and a slight sweeping motion to the stroke. Use the feet to direct the bow into the new direction. A little lean can be incorporated, but the key is to get a very powerful stroke. On flat water a single stroke turn will only have a small effect, but it should be noticeable. When transferred to waves on a river a well timed steering stroke can have an enormous effect. See drills section for example of single stroke steering

5.5.3     Double Stroke Foot Steering

Double stroke steering is a useful skill, which will often be used when learning a river and rapid direction change is required. Double stroking is essentially 2 single strokes executed quickly on the same side. The first stroke should be as powerful as a single steering stroke, making strong use of legs and body rotation, described above. Emphasis should then be placed on rewinding quickly for the second stroke. See drills section for example of double stroke steering

5.6 Adaptive Strokes

Adaptive strokes are strokes which are altered from the normal forward technique to giver greater control and generate more power in white water situations.

5.6.1    Wet Hands

When paddling on white water, particularly in waves, it is important to get the best grip and most power from the water (see River Technique - 7.1.2 Pulling Deep). This requires a deeper stroke to the point where the hands dip into the water.

This adaptation can be practiced on flat or easy water. Over emphasise getting the blade buried, the hand should be wet. The catch should be strong and deep, the emphasis is on the lower arm/body pulling and unwinding rather than the top hand pushing. The top hand is forced down the line of the shaft to get the depth and to hold the blade in place. It should be possible to push through at about eye level with the hands wet. If the paddler uses a very narrow grip, this may be tricky so recommend widening the grip.

5.6.2    Hyper-Extended Stroke

When paddling on white water, particularly in waves, it is important to adapt stroke length to the cadence and length of the waves (see River Technique - 7.1.1 Timing Strokes – synergy with the white water). Sometimes this entails using a longer, or hyper-extended, stroke to match stroke timing to wave length whilst taking care not to accidentally steer the boat.

This adaptation can be practiced on flat or easy water. The objective is to rotate as much as possible to reach as far forwards as possible and pull as far back as possible. Pull directly down the line of the boat, extending as far back as possible.  Maximise leg drive, and rotation in the seat to maximise stroke length. Try to minimise the kick of the bow by pulling down the line of the boat.

5.7 Drills

There are some drills which can be done on flat or easy flowing water to develop the Steering and Adaptive Strokes, described above, that will later be used on white water. These are very useful for athletes that can’t get to white water on a regular basis, helping to develop skills, muscle memory and an understanding of WWR boat handling.

5.7.1    Drills on Flatwater

Single stroke "foot steer"

This drill exercises the muscle coordination required to move the boat quickly onto a new line. This is most commonly used when the bow is in the air (shortened length principle), and the stroke will be most effective.

On the flatwater we will not expect a major change in direction, but we do expect to see a good connection with the water and a strong 'kick' of the bow. 

Beware of trying to steer the boat too much and extending the stroke behind the body where the paddler will be unstable. The paddler should be able to incorporate the steer stroke quickly into the normal flow of paddling.

- Make sure the body is fully wound up, top hand near the ear and blade close to the boat. Strong leg drive and powerful body rotation is required and a sweeping motion to the stroke. Use the feet to direct the bow into the new direction. A little lean can be incorporated, but the key is to get a very powerful stroke with good connection.


One foot steer stroke, then 4 normal strokes, so that the athlete is alternately steering left and then right - repeat for 1 min.

 

Double stroke “foot steer”

– 2x single stroke. The first stroke should be as powerful as a single steering stroke, making strong use of legs and body rotation. Emphasis should then be placed on rewinding quickly for the second stroke.
Double stroke, then 4 normal, so that the athlete is alternately steering left and then right - repeat for 1 min.

Drop hip steering

- apply only down weight, control a smooth, slow, roll from one wing to the other whilst paddling forwards. The trickiest point is just either side of upright. The aim is to maintain leg drive whilst contolling the rolled lean of the boat (no deck is good to see if this is being done). A smooth 'S' should be prescribed by the boat on the water. If the boat is jolting from side to side, it may be an indication the athlete is lifting with the thigh rather than pressing down with the bottom and hip.

Key points:

Keep the boat moving forward with good technique and strong leg drive

constantly change the boat angle - do not leave it on one wing for a long period of time

Smooth control of angle of boat, not flopping from one wing to another

Wet hands

- over emphasise getting the blade buried, the hand should be wet. The catch should be strong and deep, the emphasis is on the lower arm/body pulling and unwinding rather than the top hand pushing. The top hand is forced down the line of the shaft to get the depth and to hold the blade in place. It should be possible to push through at about eye level with the hands wet. If the paddler uses a very narrow grip, this may be a tricky drill so recommend widening the grip.

Hyper-extended stroke

- rotate as much as possible, pull directly down the line of the boat, extending as far back as possible.  Maximise leg drive, and rotation in the seat to maximise stroke length. Try to minimise kick of the bow through pulling down the boat. This is a tough drill - usually 30 seconds is enough - it's often better to mix the rates up with this drill.

5.7.2    Drills on short pieces of flow

Forward Stability

- A skills drill which works well is to take a weir chute or rapid, ideally a long piece of flow. Start in slack water, establish a good aggressive technique and then continue to paddle directly upstream into the more turbulent water. It only need slightly turbulent water for this drill to work well, as it is trying to get the athlete to rely on leg drive and power to provide the boat stability - not locking the legs out.
1 min upstream, turn around cruise back to start - repeat 10 times in a set. It will be very noticeable if the leg drive is not there as the rotation will be limited.

Figure 8’s

- Another drill is figure of 8's paddling across a flow into very large circulating breakouts, repeating the loop 3 times to make around 2 mins of effort with 1 min rest. This is good as gradually the athlete gets tired, but continues to push in the turbulent water and eventually becomes more comfortable on it. The change in boat speed from flow to breakout is good to use as an emphasis of having to go to the legs to re-accelerate the boat.

5.9 Rolling

Rolling is a core whitewater skill, which when mastered allowed the paddler to be much more positive with their attack on the rough water as they have a higher degree of confidence that they can recover from a problem. The technique for rolling a river racer is identical to a slalom or playboat with one exception. A river racer has a tendency to get stuck on it’s side which means that the boat is almost upright – but the paddlers body is on the opposite side and stuck way down underwater (see diagram below). There is usually no way to reach the surface with the paddle from this position – and the paddler needs to take ‘two goes’ – one a simple tug on the blade to get the boat flat and then the second a full roll to right the boat.

 

rollboatedge.JPG rollboatflat.JPG
Boat is ‘on side’ – difficult to reach surface with paddle. Paddler puts single ‘heave’ stroke in to get boat flat on surface.

 

This technique should be practiced in a swimming pool to gain confidence. Rolling over very slowly will often cause this situation –otherwise see the extended drills below which will often cause the problem and force the paddler to rectify.

5.9.1    Rolling drills


Once the paddler has mastered rolling in a swimming pool, it can take some time to take this skill into the cold and dark world of rolling on a river. However the key element to this skill transfer is psychological – remaining calm and realising that they do have enough breath to attempt a roll. The following drills (in increasing difficulty) are designed to improve the confidence of the paddler when the capsize that they can attempt to roll – and if they can get a breath they can have another go and that having another roll is a faster way to get a breath than bailing out.

1. Roll left and right sides as normal
2. Roll over , switch sides underwater then roll up
3. Place paddle directly across the boat, roll over - get into position and then roll up
4. One hand only on paddle - capsize, re-grab paddle  get into position then roll up.

5. Roll over - one hand on paddle, switch sides, one breath - repeat 5 times, grab paddle and then roll up
6. Roll over - switch side, half roll up - take one breath, switch back - repeat 5 times then roll up

Rolling Drills Video

Once the paddler is proficient in all of these drills, more advanced drills can be performed:

Disconnecting breathing - The reflex to take a breath is often associated with the initiation of the roll, as it is an understandable urge to try to get a breath as soon as possible. The downsisde to this is the risk of breathing in water if the head is not fully clear of the whitewater before taking a breath. To try to disconnect the breathing from the roll - roll up on one side so that the head is just clear of the water, but do not take a breath - then drop back into the water, switch sides and then roll back up fully before breathing.

Trainer assisted rolling - One of the differences between rolling in a pool and rolling on whitewater is the coice of when to roll. Typically we do not choose to roll, and so we have less time to prepare mentally. To try to bridge this gap we can take the decision to roll and what side to roll out of the athletes hands. The coach will stand in the water holding the bow of the boat, the coach will then twist the boat slightly to one side - not enought to capsize the paddler, but enought to indicate to the paddler that they need to capsize and roll on that side. The paddler will then capsize, and roll up on whichever side they prefer. This can be repeated on any side the coach desires, often prompting the paddler to capside multiple times on the same side in rapid succession. The coach will need to determine when the paddler is starting to get out of breath and stop at an appropriate point.

Grow Our Sport

Grow Our Sport is here to enhance and improve the promotion of exciting  WWR events directly to as many people as possible

Raising awareness and participation in a great paddling discipline!

If you want to receive regular emails, detailing events in your area, just sign up!

Everyone is most welcome!!

Mentor Scheme

Have you an interest in helping a young athlete reach their full potential ?

...With just a couple of hours a week to offer...you could be part of the next big success story!

The Young Paddler Mentoring Scheme aims to assist and grow the sport from the ground up. For more details contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Race Promos