Life on The Edge Course Notes

Several students from my Life on the Edge course at the Kiptopeke Sea Kayak Symposium asked me for  notes on all the things we covered, so I’m posting them here.  It may not make much sense unless you were in the class, but enjoy. Heck, even if you were there, it may not make much sense, because I do deviate from the plan based on the students, conditions and how everyone is doing.

Discussion (land or rafted up)

  • Edging and boat control concepts – how and why (relevance for rougher water)
    • Efficiency!!!
    • Let the boat do the work
  • Posture and dynamic paddling position
  • Confidence in bracing and/or rolling
  • Boat fit
  • FEET legs, hips and rear
  • Sit-and-look exercise – what happens with body weight?

On Water (flat)

  • Edging degrees (scale of 0-5)
  • Eyes closed
  • Rafted edging – committed to a boat like during a rescue – why is this okay/comfortable?
    • You have stability

Bracing low and high

  • Elbows up & elbows down
  • Low, medium start, touchdown start – eyes closed
  • Sculling braces
    • Possible exercise – climbing over boats… assisted swimmer rescues
    • Low brace fail to high brace to prevent capsize
      • Eyes closed!
  • Edge-to-edge transitions
    • Shorten the water line
  • Sweeps, circles, Pivot turns and paddle variations.
    • Reverse sweep with high brace recovery (same side)
    • Forward sweep with low brace recovery (same side)
  • Advanced sweep: Shorter sweep w/ edge and climbing blade – low or high brace recovery
  • FEET & hips
  • Think about foot pressure – push with left foot to move bow to the right; push with right foot to move bow to the left
  • Sit and look over shoulder.  What happens with weight shift?
  • Eyes closed variations


  • Follow the leader
  • Bow-to-stern and bow-to-bow tag
  • Figure 8 forward and reverse
  • Group figure 8
  • FAST pivot turns
  • Pivot turn relay race

Edging on the move

  • Edged turns vs carved turns
  • Forward and backwards (bow rudder and reverse stern rudder)
  • Low brace turns (carved and outside edge) forward and reverse
  • High brace turns – get elbow in water
  • Edging with bow rudder, stern rudder, draws
  • Cross bow rudder
  • Bow jam
  • Power reverse stroke


  • low brace from different positions
  • Low brace to high brace transition;
  • Pivot turns with speed
  • Sitting on back deck.  Passing objects back and forth.  Paddling with feet in cockpit – ready to brace.
  • Reverse sweeps with hand under water, low brace position sweep and recovery.
  • Low brace turns & high brace turns (elbow in water on high brace turn)


Transitions & blending strokes

  • Bow rudder to hanging draw to reverse sweep.
  • Cross bow rudder to reverse sweep
  • Bow rudder to pry…. To reverse seep
  • One handed high brace turn
  • Low brace turn to reverse sweep, slice forward to forward stroke.


Rougher water

  • Pivot turns in soup   (Speed drill)
  • Edged turns in soup
  • Commit to edge and paddle blade
  • Edging and wind
    • Constant edged turn
    • Forward vs reverse
    • Alternatives to pivot turn