Video by Roger Smith
By David Santaniello
Running pour-overs can be incredibly fun, but paddling in dynamic water increases the chances of capsizing. One way of salvaging a run and preventing a complete capsize is to use a sculling brace. By employing a continuous back and forth sweeping motion in a high brace position, this stroke allows you to support a large portion of your weight with your paddle. This support comes from a small climbing angle on the leading edge of your blade, which keeps the paddle acting as an outrigger on the surface instead of diving down into the water. This outrigger gives you time to use your hips to snap your body upright. While paddling in rock gardens, this brace is usually used when a strong current is pulling you over or when a hole has grabbed your bow and you can feel your kayak wrenching beneath you. Even if that force lasts only a second, it requires you counteract it with a significantly longer counter-force than a standard high- or low-brace offers. The continuous sculling brace allows you to support yourself for as long as you may need.
Because of the sweeping motion of this brace, it blends very easily other strokes. It is not uncommon to see a paddler start a forward stroke, change the orientation of the blade to go into a sculling brace, sweep the blade forward to the bow at the end of the brace, and then continue with another forward stroke by once again readjusting the orientation of the paddle blade to the water surface. Similarly, you can modify your brace into a forward or reverse sweep once you are upright and no longer need the stroke for support.
As with all braces, the most important part of this stroke is safe body positioning. If your shoulder is not in a safe position, you will feel a large amount of stress and you open yourself up to an injury. It's always worthwhile to practice these strokes on flatwater so they become instinctive when you find yourself needing some extra support in dynamic water.
David Santaniello is a member of the Neptune’s Rangers ocean whitewater paddling tribe and a sea kayak instructor and guide at Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz California.
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