The low brace is the skill we use to help us recover if we start to loose balance or tip.
The move is done by using the back of the paddle blade to push on the surface of the water, giving you momentary support, as you right yourself with a quick, small hip flick. This skill is regularly used when surfing small waves or paddling in turbulent water.
How to Low Brace
Before we start, practice edging the boat side to side to loosen of your hips.
1. Next start by holding your paddles low across the boat in front of your hips with the backs of the blades facing down towards to water,
2. With the boat stationary set up your arms and paddle into the ‘paddlers box’, ‘monkey’ / ‘press up’ style low brace position.
Low Brace Position – Your elbows and arms should be above the paddle and at right angels to the paddle shaft in a safe ‘paddlers box’. Your elbows should be in line with your shoulders and your wrists and your wrists should be straight (neutral) and not bent. Ideally you should have your shoulders, elbows and arms up above the paddle, in this ‘low brace position’ throughout the whole move. To work the best you need them to be relatively relaxed and not tensed. If your elbows drop you will lose a lot of power.
3. Keeping the low brace position reach out slightly from the side of the boat and slightly forwards (just in front of your hip).
If you do this exercise by putting the paddle in right next to your hip, without the reach out, you may find it awkward and the power you can get will be limited. Think about whats happens if your sat down and someone tries to push you over. You reach out a little and put your hand on the floor for support and you use your body to sit you back upright. Thats exactly what we are looking for here with the low brace. You tend not to try put your hand down right next to your bum / hip. Why? It just doesn’t make sense, if you do there’ll be loads less support there so instead we reach out slightly.
4. Using the flat ‘back’ of the blade push down onto the water.
As you push down you ideally want to use the top few inches of the water to complete the move as this will give you the most support. If you push to long or too deep the pressures change and can actually pull you over.
5. As you push on the waters surface feel the pressure that you can generate from the water on your paddle blade.
6. As you feel the pressure and support from the water use a good ‘hip snap’ to bring the boat back to level.
6. Next take the pressure of the blade and rotate your wrist slightly so you can slice (recover) the blade back to the surface of the water ready to continue paddling.
7. Try the same exercise with the boat of balance and on edge. Each time using a good hip snap to bring it back to level.
How to further develop your low brace
1. Ask a friend to stand in the water and hold the back of your kayak
2. Get them to tip your boat of balance slightly to one side.
3. Use the skills from Exercise 1 to reach for support from the water and use your hip snap to bring the boat back to level
4. Repeat and practise on both sides. To begin with you can ask them to call out which side they will tip the boat towards. After a while get them to do it without telling you which side so you begin to rely on automatic reactions.
Technique is key in this move.
Try and ensure you have your elbows up over the paddle in the good ‘low brace position’ and that you place the paddle in slightly in front of you to ensure you are using the larger muscles of your back and not the micro muscles in your shoulders.
Practice, practice, practice, the sooner you can make this skill your natural reaction when your boat tips the quicker you will progress to being able to use it effectively in action out on the white stuff.
Heres a good way to test that you have your elbows above the paddle in a good ‘low brace position’. In the ‘low brace position’ get someone to push up on the paddle blade as you push down. Try it with your elbows up in a strong push up position, directly above the paddle shaft. You should be able to generate a lot of power and feel stable and strong. Now try it with your elbows down or wrists bent. You should notice a big difference in the power and strength you can generate.