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First Class

I taught the first half of my first ACA class. I got my certification last year, but have only continued informal instruction and teaching at the shop on Pier 40. Last Saturday was a class that I organized myself, with support from the Inwood Canoe Club (boats, location, equipment).

I had seven students and one assistant. Conditions are tricky here because the Hudson river peaks at a current speed higher than what the level two curriculum allows. However, a small marina offers sheltered water, and IĀ organized the class around the slack period.

The first half was paddling skills; rescues will be next weekend.

After orienting students to where we’d be practicing, and going over boats and kits, we launched and I started with turn-in-place. I’ve had some debate with other coaches but I find this helps get torso rotation going. For new students, this is key. I tell them to remember that feeling, and we move into turns on the move: basically, sweep strokes. This is also useful when I move on to forward strokes and send them out and need them to come back – although I have another trick for that.

After that, we moved on to forward stroke. It was much easier having explained turn in place – same motion, just closer to the boat. I had them paddle out, turn-in-place, and then come back. We did that a few times, and then I had them do figure of eight courses, turning one way, and then the other.

Then, to cap it all off, we did “follow my leader”, where I secretly told every one of them to follow one other person. What started off as a disorganized mob quickly became a stable orbit as they lined up one after another. I broke in and told one of them to follow me, and eventually they all made it out of the marina, where we had a quick powwow and then broke for lunch.

Lunch went a little long. We ate out on the high deck. When we returned, we put one paddler in a different boat – the one she’d been in did not have good thigh braces. We launched and continued.

We started with braces. First, low brace. I had each of them try, both sides, only a couple at a time. Bracing is usually where students start to go in, and sure enough that happened. I rescued her, and we resumed, then moved on to high braces.

After that, draw strokes. Here, we split up, and I had my assistant work with half the group while I worked with the other half. I demoed an in-water recovery stroke first, and then the out-of-water recovery stroke. It’s funny how this is such a hard stroke to understand, while it is so simple. We stopped at “good enough” and moved on to edging.

Edging is where we move the boat underneath us. I showed how it is different from leaning, and what to look for. After a demo, I had them buddy up and support each others’ boats to see how well they could hold an edge. Edging is not strictly speaking L2 ACA – but it is so integral, I couldn’t not show it. We got one capsize out of it but that was OK – she wanted to cool off anyway.

I was saving stern rudders for last, or nearly last, hoping enough tide would come in that we could paddle under the boathouse, but my timing did not match up with nature’s.

Last but not least, I offered up a choice: get wet, or fancy stroke. To my surprise, everyone asked for fancy stroke. I demonstrated a low brace turn, but it was clear that everyone’s brain was full. The all basically stern ruddered with edge. And, that is OK. Low brace turn is a bit advanced for this crowd, and it was the end of the day.

We ended with a wet exit. All but one paddler had done wet exits in the river, so it was her time. Minor problem though – we’d put her in a different boat, her friends’ boat, and there were concerns over damaging it in a rescue. No problem, I thought – swap boats!

I popped my skirt and hopped on the back deck, then had her do the same, and get her into my boat. After some ritual procrastination, she went in, and my assistant rescued her.

With that, we returned to shore, cleaned up and put away. Feedback was good – both direct and indirect. Several members who passed my students as they were coming to the boathouse said they seemed happy and well-paddled.

I hope they retain things for next week! We’ll review, and move on to rescues.

Published in 2014 American Canoe Association Backpaddle ICC Instruction Inwood Inwood Canoe Club Kayaking

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