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Timing, click to enlarge

Timing is everything.

As you paddle more difficult whitewater, timing does become everything. There is too much to explain here, its kind of easier learned through experience, rather than teaching. But, I'll list some of the important applications to think about. First of all, when I talk about timing, I mean the timing of your paddle strokes.

Timing for eddies: Don't just paddle like a robot right into an eddy, wait before your last couple of strokes, and then kick them in at the right time. That right timing controls the amount of turning you do and when you do it, which is the difference between bringing you in perfectly, and smacking that upstream rock.

Timing for boofs: Wait and pull on that paddle at just the right time if you want a good boof. When you lean forward to take a hard forward stroke, you are weighting the bow and it actually drops down a bit. This is normal. At the time when you are pulling your stroke back, combined with throwing your upper body back, is when the bow is actually lifted and the stern is dropped. So timing of the boof stroke is crucial. Don't wait until the bow of your boat is already over the edge of the water or rock, that will just drive you down when you go to lean forward for your stroke. Plant that paddle in the water as soon as the tip of your boat is even with the edge of your launching platform. Pull too early . . . and you'll be taking a bow dive while your getting ready for your next stroke. Pull too late . . . and, well, you miss your boof, and also take a bow dive. More on boofs below.

Pulling through holes, click to enlarge

Pulling through a hole.

Timing for water tongues: Water moves fastest right at the green water of a tongue then it does before and after that tongue. You want to hook into that fast green water so that you can pull yourself through the hole or wave immediately at the bottom of that tongue. That pull not only allows you to power your way through the water obstruction, but also allows you to keep your boat pointing straight during and after your break through. If you just paddle at a systematic pace as you approach a drop with a tongue of water, then you might miss tapping into the green water between your systematic strokes.

Timing for waves: Whether its big standing waves, holes, or small wave trains, they all affect the direction and speed of your boat. Your correctly timed paddle strokes can counteract that effect. Sometimes it's not noticeable, but whenever you hit a wave or go over a wave, it slows you down. Then you have to build your momentum again. And if there are many waves, your constantly working to build your speed again. And most waves pivot your boat slightly, big waves can turn you completely. Many waves push you off your line. Again, then you would unfortunately follow with a stroke or two or three to put you back on course. But that's a waist of energy, and literally a waist of time. You could have been using those strokes for something else more important, like bracing, or a strong forward stroke, or a planned maneuvering stroke. And it would have been much better if you had remained on your line from the beginning. So how do you prevent all this foul-play caused by waves and other water features? Plant your strokes at the right time. If you pull on a forward stroke right as a small wave hits your bow, you'll retain your speed. You've counteracted the slowing effect of the wave with the accelerating effect of your stroke. If you're between strokes when the wave hits your bow, then you've lost speed. To prevent a larger wave from pivoting your boat, you need to wait, and plant your paddle at the base of the wave, then pull yourself up and over it. That
Pivoting, click to enlarge

Pivoting on a wave.

keeps you on line, and in direction. If you were between strokes as you ride up the face, then the wave could slow you down and push your bow off to the side, pivoting your boat by, say, 35 to 50 degrees. Then before you can recover, the next wave spins you even more, and the next thing you know you're paddling right into the river-right rocky bank, or just into the river-right rock. Happens all the time. When going through small or medium waves, its best to approach them at a slight angle, about 20 degrees, combined with tilting your boat onto the same side of that of your angle. Angling and tilting your boat helps to stay dry and to lessen the slowing effect of the wave. Here is more, in most cases, it's better to have that angle toward your on-side. That way, when a wave attempts to pivot your bow, it will push it toward your on-side. And if your forward strokes are correctly timed, the turning affect of a forward stroke will counter the pivoting effect of the wave, and you'll stay moving in the same direction. If you're always timing out your strokes as you paddle through large waves or wave trains, then you can keep your speed and your direction with no recovery.

Timing to help you turn and pivot: Use waves to help you turn, and know the right time to pivot when paddling through waves. Just as the face of a wave can turn your boat when you don't want it to, you can use it to turn your boat when you do want to. Time out your eddy turn so that your bow is turning on the face of a wave, then that wave will turn you with greater ease and speed. Otherwise, if you try to turn in the trough before the wave, the wave can actually mess your turn up if it encounters your beam or especially your stern. An additional note though, for this wave turning to work, you have to initiate the turn and get the bow angled in the right direction before encountering the face of the wave. Then the wave will help you the rest of the way. You can't pivot from one side to the other, or even from center to one side, while on the face of the wave. You'll see why next. Besides turning into eddies, if you need to pivot to change direction when your in waves or approaching a wave, the timing of your pivoting makes a big difference. If your pivoting your boat, from one side to the other, in the trough before a wave, your bow will encounter the wave during the pivot. If the wave is small, it will make the pivoting difficult, and you'll have to add in a few more frantic pivoting strokes to make it happen. If the wave is larger, it will stop your pivot completely, just like a person putting his foot in the path of a swinging door. But, if you time out your pivot, so that you're at the crest of the wave when you do it, you'll pivot extremely easily. This is because not only is there nothing in the way of your bow or stern, but also because your bow and stern are out of the water, eliminating the friction of the water. The previous couple of paragraphs on "Timing to help you turn and pivot" are extremely important in helping you attain those difficult eddies and micro-eddies in hairy whitewater.

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