Monday, November 24, 2008

A Free Lunch
A Honest Politician
Good Torso Rotation
What do these 3 things have in common? Well, they're as rare as a case of Tsutsigamushi Fever in Wisconsin. Today, let's just talk about the third one, torso rotation and the lack there of...

We all teach it to beginners and rarely see any of them doing it at the end of the day. Sometimes my inner doubter takes over and I tell students that I am going to show them torso rotation and that none of them will actually do it on the water. I can watch at a symposium and only rarely spot someone actually using this valuable motion to paddle. In discussing this with other instructors, the question comes up as to whether or not we should bother teaching it, especially to recreational paddlers. After all (as Sherri Mertz points out), unlike a roll, you can get the forward stroke 99% wrong and you will still go forward.

Rec paddlers do not usually go long distances and, if they do, not at an aggressive pace. Arm paddling works just fine for them. On the other hand, I often paddle along side folks in sea kayaks who paddle as if their spines were fussed, and they go long and hard without any apparent problems. As for myself, I have to rotate what with being in a short boat and having not the strongest arms on the planet. But, then, there are the racers.

And the racers rotate beautifully as they display the efficacy of torso rotation. Even traditional paddlers emphasize the movement so that the arms are not the main source of propulsion and long paddles can be achieved.

Think you have good torso rotation? Maybe you do. Just to be sure, however, why don't you have someone video you as you paddle along, preferably not in a dry suit. Don't put on a show and rotate more than you usually do, just paddle naturally and see what it looks like. It could be quite educational.

Paddle safe...



derrick said...

I've watched coaches talk about torso Rotation and then go about demonstrating their total lack of. . .

On the other hand torso rotation is a concept that takes some time to learn for many people. There are a lot of reasons for this of course. Generally I think it's a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly to rotate and paddle. the other is that people tend to key of head or shoulder motions that fool them into thinking they are rotating their torso.

Personally I don't waste much time on torso rotation with new students. I mention it and give them a physical key so they can recognize the feel of proper rotation, but from there I move forward. If students practice enough And focus on some physical reminders, they will learn rotation. However since many students will never paddle all that much or very far, it's not worth hammering them on TR early in their learning process. I figure we can always beat them up when they take a forward stroke workshop!! By that time we know they will really benefit from it.


Silbs said...

Excellent points. Thanks.

René Seindal said...

It is true that many never get the hang of it, and probably Derrick is right saying that for many its not really an issue.

One problem is that torso rotation is hard to see, and hence hard to demonstrate. I usually tell people to try to paddle with straight arms - Frankenstein paddling I call it - so they can feel their belly muscles working. Once people can feel those muscles working they know they're on the right track. They have to feel it rather than see it.

In Venice I often have people with me for many days in a row, and can observe them better. Usually we only do 15-20km a day, after all its sight seeing, but sometimes up to 25km, and after 3-4 consecutive days on the water people can feel it in their arms and shoulders if they don't do it right.

My guests are on holiday so I don't rub it in, but I explain and demonstrate and the day after I ask them where they feel most sore.

Still, many don't get it. It is difficult for some reason.

Silbs said...

Thanks, Rene. You, too, have added valuable information to the discussion.

Gary Simon, our local guru, wrote off line to point out that torso rotation is too much to expect from a beginner since the movement makes them feel too unstable.

There seems to be a consensus here and in the discussions with others that it is worth introducing to beginners but not worthwhile to belabore it at such an early stage.

steve said...

so now how about that free lunch you were talking about

Silbs said...

Sure, Steve. When will you be coming to my house?