The low brace is a support stroke. It is mostly used:
- To counter imbalance and prevent capsize.
- To stay upright when broached in small or medium waves.
The key to this stroke is coordinating paddle use and body movement. Its effectiveness doesn’t rely on strength.
- Ensure you have an upright posture and normal hand position on the paddle.
- The paddle shaft should be near to horizontal, low and close to your body running 90 degrees across the kayak from left to right.
- Keep your wrists straight and your elbows well above the shaft (visualise a ‘gorilla’ position). This provides maximum power and reduces the risk of injury.
- Place the back of the blade on the surface of the water on the side that you need to recover your balance. This gives you something to push against for initial balance.
- Use your knee and a hip flick on the same side to bring the kayak back upright and level. Relax the knee on the opposite side.
- Open the wrists to slice the blade out of the water.
- Bring these elements together quickly and seamlessly.
In surf (beyond basic skills):
- When broached (going sideways in moving water), edge your kayak into the wave and support yourself on the blade on the wave side.
- The blade can be kept on the surface of the wave as long as the wave has the strength to support it.
- Time your knee-lift / hip flick / blade recovery to coincide with the loss of support from the wave.
- At setup, keep your wrists straight and your elbows up.
- Lean slightly forward to improve stability by lowering the centre of gravity.
- Push the blade forward slightly while opening your wrists, before slicing it out of the water for additional support.
- For a more powerful recovery, drop your head towards the water on the side of the bracing blade at the same time as the knee lift and hip flick. Bring your head up last once the kayak is in balance.
- A low brace turn is a progression from a static low brace. The support is provided by the movement of the blade over the water. You need forward speed for this stroke to work. You’ll need to keep the leading edge of the blade raised at a slightly climbing angle.
- Always check the water depth when practising this stroke – ensure it is deep enough should you capsize.
- Failing to maintain straight wrists and elbows well above the shaft (i.e. the gorilla position).
- Not exiting quickly enough – putting your weight on the blade for too long will cause it to sink.
- Lack of timing and fluency with the whole stroke.
- A tendency to leave the blade unfeathered when taking it out of the water – this can tip you in!
- In surf a common mistake is to rely on the wave to keep supporting the blade – once the wave runs out of power, you won’t get support from the blade.
- A second person can stand at the back of the kayak and tip the kayak to either side while still providing support. This allows you to practice the recovery using the low brace without the fear of capsizing.
- Progress to the person at the back tipping the kayak without providing support.
- Practice your low brace skills in small surf by paddling parallel to the breaking waves. Wear a helmet. Be aware of the risks to yourself and others and manage the risk. It is much safer to develop your low brace surf skills with the assistance of an experienced sea-kayaker.
- Remember to practice your low brace support stroke on both sides.
- Practice performing the low brace stroke from a gentle edged position. Progress to practicing with a more aggressive edge and, ultimately, practice to the point of capsize.
- How much of your spray skirt can you submerge in the water before going over?