Competitive Kayak Racing Technique
Technique 1: Wash Hanging / Wash Riding
"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: Pre-Race Resistance Training
This training is no different from any other resistant training in the gym where you endure/resist the weight for strength training purpose. To increase water strength, professionals uses Bungee cords or rubber hose tubing to wrap around the nose of the boat to effectively create drag and resistant in the water. This will make rowing harder than usual, allowing you to work on your endurance, strength and determination. The concept is like having ankle weights on your ankle as you run, when the ankle weights are removed, you will discover the lightness and being able to take off faster.
Another althernative of not comprising the streamline and smooth paddling effect, you may place weights or filled water bottles in the kayak to add on the overall weight.