Sculling-moving the paddle blade back and forth across the water’s surface to create lift-is a great technique to maintain balance in a sea kayak. Unlike high- or low-braces, which only provide momentary support, a sculling stroke provides ongoing balance as long as you keep your paddle blade in motion. Sculling is most often used for support when the boat is at a moderate angle, but an ‘extreme’ scull, in which the paddler lies out on the water, is a great drill for building confidence and blade control. It’s also a natural springboard to learning to roll or for bombproofing your existing roll as it reinforces the correct posture and body mechanics needed to successfully finish the technique. - Alex Matthews
Start with the kayak on a slight lean. Reach out over the water in a high-brace position and practice the sculling motion. Keep your active blade on the surface by sweeping it back and forth while maintaining a climbing angle on the leading edge of the blade. Think of spreading butter on toast-open the power face by cocking your wrist back while pushing forward to the bow and close it while sweeping the blade back to the stern, uncocking your wrist.
Make the sweep comfy. The sweep should be a long comfortable arc. Strive for minimal splash and a smooth rhythm while keeping your paddle shaft close to parallel to the water’s surface. “Face your work” and be careful not to strain your head away from the blade.
Go extreme with the scull. Now lie back onto the stern deck and commit fully to the technique. It’s actually far easier to do a full layback, head-in-the-water scull than it is to support yourself with your head and body out of the water. The natural buoyancy of your torso and PFD helps to keep you at the surface and your mouth and nose in the sweet, breathable air. Point your chest at the sky and stretch from the waist and hips in order to keep the kayak as upright as possible-you’ll be lifting your inside knee while pressing down with the outer one. Only a light scull will be necessary to keep you floating in this position.
Finish it up. When you’re ready to go upright, simply hip snap to bring the boat back under your body. This is a great way to work on rolling with both a forward or back-sweep. Work on snapping your hips while sweeping both backward and forward. Regardless of the sweep direction, the head comes up last and the paddler continues the sculling motion until completely upright.