The 4 Ps Of Paddling

on Aug 07 in Uncategorized by


Over many years of paddling, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some terrific coaches and athletes. Through being surrounded by lots of ideas, theories and methods of training and technique development, I’ve picked up a lot of information over the years. More recently, as I meet lots and lots of new paddlers, and through my work with Think Kayak, spending time with them on demo paddles, it has been really interesting to see how a lot of that knowledge has started to click into place for me from a different perspective. Just being an athlete, you sometimes don’t see the whole picture. Being a representative of a great surfski brand involves trying to help paddlers find the correct craft for them. With that, I advise them on not just the purchase of a new ski, but on why a particular ski will suit them. I am now conscious of not only performance, but other factors, such as perfection of technique, positive posture and prevention of injury. I see each of these factors working in unison, and with any one being out of synch, they have a negative effect on the others. It’s what I refer to as the 4 Ps.



Performance is pretty self explanatory in the grand scheme of paddling. We all want to paddle fast. Our fitness and strength are determined by how much we train, how hard we train and how applicable the training we do is for the events we wish to perform at. But have you ever considered how your performance is effected by bad posture in the boat, or by bad technique?


Perfection of Technique

I once had a coach describe paddling as “a simple sport made complicated”. He wasn’t far off the mark. To the untrained eye, paddling looks like an upper body movement, dominated by the arms. The reality is of course a lot different, with the stroke being a full body movement, with power and force being applied by the body and legs, in addition to the arms. As we are are all different physically, our ideal strokes will differ based on our physical attributes and limitations as individuals. Technique which compliments your body will mean you perform better with less likelihood of injury.


Positive Posture

One of the main flaws I see and hear about is posture in the boat. Slouching in the seat opens the back up to an array of different injuries, while also restricting the transfer of power from the legs and body to the paddle. By having a positive posture, you are ensuring back health, but also making yourself a more powerful paddler. Positive posture can only be achieved if you are in the correct boat to suit you and your current skill set as a paddler. Paddling craft which are too tippy can cause huge changes in posture, as your back and core are placed under excessive strain in an attempt to keep the craft upright. I’ve discussed craft selection previously. In addition, the ergonomics of your craft also have a huge bearing on positive posture. A huge focus for our brand is ensuring that the athlete is comfortable and stable, and from that, they can apply more power and be technically better. The feeling of your hips being higher than your ankles in a Think Kayak craft isn’t a fluke, it’s a well thought out application of correct ergonomics, designed to allow you paddle well.


Prevention of Injury

All too often of late, I’ve been speaking to paddlers who are injured, or are working their way around an injury in the hope of paddling again soon. Often an injury occurs because one of the other Ps is out of line. A technical flaw could result in a shoulder injury as an example, while a posture issue could result in a back complaint. In the quest for increased performance, overuse injures may occur from a heavy training workload, while paddling the wrong craft has seen many paddlers injured. Prevention of injury means having all the Ps in alignment.


For such a technical sport, I find it strange that so few people utilise professional coaches in paddling. For sports like tennis or golf, seeing a pro at the start of your career seems like a standard move for any aspiring player. In paddling, athletes seem to just join up with their local paddling group, try pick up tips along the way, and grind away in the group in the quest for more speed. With all that in mind, I cannot recommend the use of a professional coach enough. By setting a foundation of good technique, excellent posture, and a training program for your goals and ability, you will be setting yourself up for a long, fruitful and injury free paddling career. The final piece of the puzzle is matching up with a craft which suits you, and a paddle which allows you to perform well. Yet again, the advice of a seasoned coach is invaluable here. So the next time you are out paddling, ask yourself, “How are my 4 Ps aligning?”. If you’re happy with where you are at, that’s awesome. If you feel something could be improved, don’t be afraid to address it. It could be the best decision you ever make for your paddling career.


See you on the water,


Stewart O’Regan

Think Kayak Australia

Mob:     0404 236 638
Skype:  stewieor