Competitive Kayak Racing Technique


Technique 1: Wash Hanging / Wash Riding

washriding.jpg picture by streetrally

"Wash riding/ wash hanging ", this refers to using someone's back wash (from the back or either diagonal sides of the kayak) to reduce the required effort to maintain the same speed. It is similar in theory to that of drafting on a bike. The positioning is important and you need to be slightly behind and to the side as shown above, the guy at the front is doing a lot of the work and the two guys to either side are using his wake to make life easier and the guy behind is getting the best tow of all. In this situation, the front paddler will break 'Still' water formation as he paddle forth and converts the water catch into an incoming current that will benefit the paddler behind as opposing current will give slight lift & ease for the kayak to surge forward. Of course, this has to depend on the weight ratio of the back paddler and the ratio of strength output of the front paddler to create such motion.

Sometimes paddlers will take in turns to lead, effectively creating a more efficient group during marathons. When you are in the right position, you will physically feel the nose of the kayak drop and you will need to counter act the forces that will try and draw you into the lead kayak. Its not as easy and simple as it looks and requires practice.

This "washing technique" is mostly effective in Kayaking marathon races.

By keeping the kayak positioned correctly on the wave from an other kayak, you can ride the wave and surf down hill all the way. It reduces the necessary effort considerably. The effort it takes to follow up is reduced considerably, and on top of that, there is also the psychological effect of "keeping up".

The kayak creates two waves which are relevant; there is the stern wave behind the kayak and the broadside waves, which are the most important. The best way of riding the wave is to place your own kayak next to the leading kayak.


Technique 2: Mental / Pyschological Straining

Now you might guess what is this all about. This technique is only ideal for long distance races & marathons. Most kayakers often made the mistake to start off the race with 100% burst power and take the lead. It is good to take the lead for the first 100m but not after that. For the first 100m in a mass start off, starting slow may cause you to end up riding all over other paddler's back wash and it can make you very unstable on the water and the inability to perform the right strokes to give you the maximum output you need to keep up. Yes, you can burst off in the first 100m but after that mark, you need to drop back to 60% and spot a 'Marker'. A 'Marker' will be another paddler whom from your judgement will be the ideal candidate to keep up close behind.

Depending on your speed, if you are an average paddler, that's fine! Spot a 'Marker' that is within your comfortable speed, get up close behind his/her kayak and tail it. This way, you will be saving some effort as mentioned in the above 'Wash riding' post. Secondly, tailing behind another kayaker will create an mental strain on him/her that will push her to speed up, likewise, stay on her tail. Remember, you are straining him/her out, you shouldn't think of exhaustion in your mind at that moment because if you do, you will give in to your own mind and it will fail. Be on the tail till you spot another 'Marker' worthwhile of chasing. Usually, after some distances, these 'Markers' will get exhausted and annoyed and they might start to lose focus on their stroking & technique and this is when you know it's time to abandon them and to overtake them at turning buoys/points.

Tailing and maintaining behind a paddler often create stress as he/she could hear the splashing of your paddle and will definitely sense that you are trying to get advantage off their back/side wash. Hence, they may make the wrong decision to raise their power strength from maintainence power to power paddle to brush you off. This will ultimately drain them instantly. By creeping up on them again after they switch back to maintainence power paddling will further annoys them. This is how the whole game runs in a long distance rowing. But if you are a serene paddler, then this technique is not suitable for you.



Technique 3: Kayak Marathon Starting off Tactic


When preparing for a start-off behind the starting line in a marathon, many kayakers made the mistake of getting into the first front line, hoping to burst off when flagged off. Being in the front is a 50/50 chance to speeding off first. Bear in mind, everyone will be thinking the same as you, imagine every kayak is closed packed together and the space between is a metre or less, you wont be able to effectiviely launch your maximum start-off stroke. Chances are, you and your opponent may be fighting underwater with the paddles.

Here's one tip. This is only use by some pro's I knew. No point fighting for the front line, find yourself a gap that is wide enough for you to sprint, if you cant, stay on either side of the start-off point. Leave yourself 5-10m from the starting point and always check that the distance must not be obstructed by any stationary or incoming kayaks. When this is done, pay full attention to the official flagger. Now, this will be hard. Watch closely to the flagger body language and actions, you need instinct to guage when he will flag off or fire the pistol. In 2-5 seconds before you could tell that the flag off is going to happen, start paddling to get your kayak moving (NOT FULL HARD STROKE, normal paddle), when you see him holding up the flag or pointing the pistol into the air and that is the moment to start off, look forward and burst off before the flagger flags/fire off.

You will never be disqualify as long as you are behind the starting point before the flag-off. This moving start will be very advantageous, because once flag off, everyone will be starting off from stationary position and it will take 6-8 strokes before they could achieve effective acceleration. On the other hand, you will be 6-8 stroke ahead of them and in full acceleration, that could bring you 2-3 boats away from them. Staying in the front would also earn you the best water condition to start off, while others at the back and to fight and manage the "back wash" from your kayak.

When considering this tactic, do take into consideration the surrounding at the present moment, if you are unable to achieve a clear path ahead, get to the front, back paddle for a few metre before the start off, at least you will still be able to apply a moving start (moving kayak allows easily take off than stationary).