Forward Stroke


That’s me in the photo, taken in June 2007. My arm’s in a sling because 4 days prior I tumbled off my mt. bike and separated my shoulder. Not a pleasant experience. But that’s not why I put the photo here.

I put the photo here to show that you don’t have to rely 100% on your shoulders and arms for a decent forward stroke. Fact is, you can get by with 50% or less power coming from your shoulders and arms to move your boat forward.

From my personal experience, the key to a good forward stroke is torso rotation.

The Discovery

I was born with a backache, my genetics handing me what’s called a spondylolisthesis (in layman speak, one of my vertebra, the 5th lumbar, is missing a tiny bit of bone). Because of the spondylolisthesis, my spine doesn’t align properly and I’m prone to backaches.

Not one to suffer a backache lightly, I’ve developed a routine of exercises over the years to compensate for my spinal inadequacies. Part of that routine includes core stabilization and strengthening. When I stumbed into kayaking in my early 50s, my core muscles were already in pretty good shape.

I didn’t immediately realize I could put those core muscles to work kayaking. My first 6 months on the water were a real pain. Shoulder aches, sore elbows, aching arms . . . it wasn’t pretty. Realizing that “this really sucks,” I figured there had to be a better way, or why else would people be doing this.

Then someone told me about torso rotation, that I could move my boat forward by simply twisting my torso. Wow. What an Idea. Long story short, co-ordinating torso rotation with my arms and shoulders results in a very powerful forward stroke, one that I can repeat over and over for lots of miles without getting hammered by exhaustion or aches and pains.

Moving Forward

If you’re looking for forward stroke instruction and technique, you won’t find it here. What you will find are a couple exercises to help you stabilize and strengthen your core so that when you do learn proper technique, you can make the most of it.

I’ve lifted the following homemade exercise videos from a program I put together for Boomers with bad backs. If I’d had my druthers, I would’ve preferred Helen Mirren or Diana Rigg -- both Boomer favorites -- doing these video exercises in tights. But that didn’t happen. What you’ve got is me, an old male Boomer in shorts. If that’s something you can’t stomach, I don’t blame you.

Click these links if you want to stabilize and strengthen your core for a decent forward stroke: