New Strokes for Paddling Folks- Rocky Run Reservoir, Laurel MD

A couple days ago an impromptu paddling trip got brought up while talking with friends, and of course I was immediately interested. Yesterday we woke up at 9 (feels like 6 as a college student on a Saturday morning) and prepared to set off for the Rocky Run Reservoir in Laurel, about 40 minutes from Baltimore. I was super excited to get back onto the water, since I haven’t been since I was in Cape Cod in early June. And I got to be reunited with my favorite boat, which is actually a bit of a dinosaur of a Dagger boat (spending 10 days living out of a boat kind of bonds you).

We got on the water pretty quickly, since only 5 of us went (organized through Hopkins Outdoor Pursuits) and we could unload the boats easily. Our instructor in charge of sea kayaking trips spent a little time refreshing us on proper form (use your core, sit up straight, make sure the power face is facing you) and we had a really leisurely paddle as the day got sunnier.

After lunch was definitely really exciting for me, because we got our leader to teach us some cool new paddling strokes that really have me feeling like a pro:

1)Sculling Draw Stroke: if you’ve ever felt frustrated trying to organize the perfect flotilla of boats on the water, having to overcompensate and T-bone another boat before you get close enough, then you’d really appreciate learning sculling. Sculling lets you paddle sideways. It’s a little tricky, and involves holding the paddle out at about a 60 degree angle from the water about 60 cm away from the boat, your bottom hand close to the power face and your top hand acting as a loose guide. Sculling involves turning the paddle parallel to the boat and then perpendicular, moving your wrist and essentially pulling yourself to the side. This stroke involves underwater recovery, which keeps the paddle in the water during the whole stroke. It’s probably worth watching a few YouTube videos or having an instructor show you how to do it. With a bit of practice, I was perfecting the stroke and really having fun.

Here’s a diagram:

2. Low Brace Turn: A low brace turn involves edging in your boat, changing the way the boat appears on the water by leaning almost far enough to fall out of the boat (which I did, trying to perfect this move!) It’s a useful thing to know for choppy waves in order to let them flow under you and not over you. Plus it’s really fun and makes you feel like you’re doing tricks on the water. To perform a low brace turn, you need to be paddling at a pretty good clip. Right before turning left, give a powerful forward stroke on your right side and immediately afterwards you’ll lean your hips towards the left side of the boat and sit on the edge, essentially. It’s important to hold your paddle with a strong grip, your arms at a 90 degree angle holding it directly perpendicular straight across your body. When you’re edging, you can hold the power face of the paddle so that if you sense you’re losing your balance, you can use the surface tension to your advantage and push yourself back up by pressing the paddle against the water. Also, if you snap your hips to the right you can usually right yourself. This is easier when you have a skirt on, and can’t get excess water in your cockpit ( like I did, especially after I tipped over). Make sure to have a water pump or a sponge handy if you’re gonna try it.

Now armed with these new strokes, I feel like a way more experienced paddler and excited to apply to be a sea kayaking leader in the fall!

Do you know any cool strokes? Give me some to learn!

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