Video: Kayak Stroke Tutorial from Michele Ramazza

This is a really in-depth, well explained video tutorial on the kayaking forward stroke by Italian slalom and whitewater paddler Michele Ramazza.  If the forward stroke sounds like the simplest of things, keep in mind that people make hour-long videos and write actual books about the forward stroke.  Doing it well is not actually all that intuitive and it’s the foundation for a ton of other things, including the occasionally-elusive boof stroke.  (Oh, sure, now you’re interested.)  Just kidding. ;) Here’s the video:

I first found this video because Mike sent me an article written by Michele giving his opinion as to whether or not creekboaters who want to improve their technique will benefit from practicing in an actual slalom boat or a creekboat.  Seeing as he started out in slalom and moved to Class V creeking, he’s a pretty good person to hear that from, I think.  Here’s the link to that creekboat-slalom kayaking article.

I like how at around 5:20 in this video there’s a breakdown of how much arm versus torso you’re likely to use depending on what you’re doing – flatwater, slalom, sea kayaking, creeking, etc.  and the footage of things being done both the wrong and the right way is super helpful too.  Michele was also nice enough to write back to me several times when I emailed him about the video temporarily not working, which I know from experience is not an easy thing to keep up with when you’ve got 500 other things going on.


Simon - March 11, 2014

I really like Michele’s articles and videos. I’m not sure that I agree with his article on slalom though. Especially because he mentions several advantages to practising it.

In times when the water is low slalom is a fantastic way of making easy rapids hard, and also for getting experience in a different, and very tippy boat! Slalom also teaches pro active paddling and using the water to help you get to your destination.

I think the key is to practice slalom while being mindful of how it applies to your river running and creeking. Remember that slalom was developed in the first place to teach essential river running skills in a safe environment. Only later did it evolve into a competition sport.

Variety I think is the key to being good. It’s an irony of Michele’s article that despite what he says, his practice of slalom originally probably equipped him with all the skills to become a great creek boater!

Irene - March 11, 2014

Hey Simon, thanks for your comment, I think one of the things he was saying was about people asking if they should get a slalom boat to practice slalom for creeking or if it made more sense to practice it in a creekboat, and he thinks a creekboat is more useful because there are some moves, like slicing the stern underwater on a turn, that pretty much don’t happen with creekboats. But I see your point as well about practicing slalom in a tippy and responsive boat, and I think maybe from the perspective of someone like me who has never done slalom there’s a ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ factor going on in which it might be helpful to get a feel for how a boat reacts that’s built for slalom so that you have a better idea of what feel to shoot for in a creekboat, even though obviously not all of the same moves will be possible. Kayakers with slalom training are the ones cleaning up on a lot of creek race competitions, that’s for sure.

Simon - March 11, 2014

Reading the article more he may well have been referring to practicing slalom in a creek boat. It is true that there are moves that are not applicable to creeking and modern river running. I am a novice at slalom, but I practice it to help my general river running. I told my coach from the outset that this was why I was doing it, and so I wasn’t interested in developing techniques such as holding the top hand arm behind the head when doing stern dip turns etc.

Having said that going in a slalom boat really is a good experience. Not least because they are so nice to paddle! Fast, with lots of glide. I also love going in them because they do require good balance and very precise edge control. The rear tail can catch quite easily, and what you think is a mild edge in a creek boat gives you an extreme edge for the same effort in a slalom boat. So it trains awareness of those aspects.

Most of all though, it is fun! :-) I thoroughly recommend it if you get a chance to do so.

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