Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What makes a kayak side-slip?

A side-slip is a satisfying smooth sideways glide that makes use of your forward speed. You can use it to approach a dock or another kayak without turning.

Side-slip. Upright paddle, blade behind hip, blade face engaged

There are several factors key to success.

1) Start by paddling forward in a straight line

2) As you glide forward, position your blade upright in the water alongside your kayak in a neutral position. That is, so it does not grab the water with either the face or the back of the blade.

3) Position the blade a foot or so behind your hip, a few inches away from the side of your kayak.

4) Gently engage the face of the blade by rotating the leading edge (the blade edge nearest the bow of your kayak) just a few degrees out from the side of your kayak.

5) Your kayak will do one of three things: slide gently sideways, turn toward the paddle, or turn from the paddle. If it turns toward your paddle (as in a bow rudder) move your blade back. If you turn from the paddle (as in a stern draw) move your blade forward until you eliminate the turn.

6) Once you have found the perfect blade position for a side-slip, you'll notice that as your kayak loses forward speed it will begin to turn from your paddle. This will occur because your center of turning will move forward as your kayak slows. To prevent the turn, gradually move your blade forward toward your hip as you slow.

The side-slip is a draw stroke. If you start from standstill to draw sideways, you place your blade and pull your kayak toward it until the blade reaches your hip. When you are moving forward your center of turning/pivot point moves back, so you must position your blade behind your hip for the side-slip and move it gradually forward to your hip as you slow. To make a side-slip work in reverse, begin with your blade forward of your hip and gradually bring it back as you lose speed. You'll need to open the blade toward the stern by rotating the leading edge of the blade away from the hull by a few degrees. The leading edge when you reverse will be the edge nearest the stern.

You'll find more detail in my book "The Art of Kayaking"

The Art of Kayaking by Nigel Foster

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kayaking and the desert

Music breathes softly through the cracks between the spot welds of Ricardo Breceda’s magnificent desert sculpture as the hot breeze fills its cavernous body. In its escape, as from the bellows-filled bladder of Northumbrian pipes, the air makes music.

Ricardo Breceda's desert sculptures breathe with the breeze

Music is not the main purpose of Breceda’s sculpture, but as I move through the desert to stop at each massive monument I can hear the breeze playing across the surfaces.

Heavy metal guitar, but the desert music whispers

The sounds remind me of the diverse water songs I hear in my more usual environment paddling kayaks and canoes. Many of these sounds I create myself as I strive for efficiency. Maximum effect for minimum effort plays its own tune, a different one from maximum effort with indifferent efficiency.

An efficient stroke sounds different from an inefficient one

There’s the rush of water when I pull too hard and my blade drags through the water losing traction. There’s the quiet “sip” sound when I slice my canoe blade edge-first from the water after a stroke, a sound I hear from my wooden blade but not from my carbon one. There’s the plop of blade entry when the trajectory is poor.

A carved turn sounds different from a skid turn, an efficient stroke sounds different from an inefficient one. The slap of kayak against wave subdues when I tune from out-of-sync to in-sync paddle strokes.

A skid turn sounds different from a carved turn

When I listen I can hear these water sounds like the song between the metal plates of the desert sculptures, but it’s easy to miss their significance when there’s a lot going on. It's better to start listening on a quiet day.

Nigel Foster's newest book "The Art of Kayaking" explores how to get maximum effect for minimum effort, and this mantra has influenced his kayak and paddle designs.