Kayaking Technique Forum

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Preventing Shoulder Injuries

A previous thread concerning arm/shoulder injuries in regard to the Hand of God rescue inspired me to share the following:

While on a recent white water trip, I was sitting in my boat waiting for the rest of my group when I did what a lot of us sea kayakers like to do: I started with a sculling support stoke and kept going over until I was nearly laying on my side in the water, still sculling away slowly and steadily. “Hey John! Stop that!” shouted my guide (a veteran instructor who certifies other instructors for the ACA).

After we got underway, we had a chance to talk about what I was doing and why it was a dangerous stroke. For starters, there is nothing wrong with a sculling support stroke- within reason. What I did wrong was to lean the boat so far over that I had to fully extend my arm closest to the water in order to keep the paddle relatively flat on the water’ surface. She explained that our shoulders are really vulnerable in that position and that it’s very easy to tweak, if not dislocate, your shoulder when your arm is so far extended… even if you’re just screwing around in a pool.

The same principle is true when you use a high brace for side surfing (also known as "bongo sliding" by the BCU). I was taught to keep my elbows in close to my body as I throw a high brace into/onto the on-coming wave. By keeping my elbows bent I prevent the arm nearest the wave from getting over-extended into the high brace (which really puts your shoulder at risk when you’re in the surf).

Now I know I’m not the only paddler out there who likes to take that sculling support stroke all the way over. (I even heard someone call it the “Eskimo Shampoo” once.) Are there any other opinions out there about this stroke? And more to the point, can you think of any reason why you’d ever need to be able scull all the way over on your side in real life? I can’t and I’ve decided this is one stroke drill I can quit practicing. John