That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot now, thanks to the BCU’s Forward Paddling Technique DVD. To have an efficient forwards paddling technique, it is important to be well connected with the boat. As your paddle blade enters the water, you need to drive the boat past the paddle, by pushing forwards against the foot rest with your foot (right blade in the water, right foot push and vice versa). This connection at the feet transfers your body’s movement energy through the boat, in to forwards motion. Similarly, in freestyle, if you want to drive the bow of your boat under the water, you need something to be able to push against with your feet.
Here’s two common playboat set ups:
On the left is the new kid in town, the Jackson “Happy Feet” Foot Bag and on the right is the more traditional minicell foam block. I’m a big fan of the Jackson “bean bag” concept which allows you to easily custom mould your outfitting to your body shape in minutes. A lot of playboats will still come with minicell foam foot rests, which are more than good enough for the purpose. Usually, the foam will be shaped already and simply need a little shaving down (with a Surform and sandpaper) to get a perfect fit. If your boat doesn’t have a foam block footrest installed already, you can make your own by following the advice on these links:
Ideally, the footrest should help to push your legs up in to a comfortable paddling position, with your thighs snug in the thigh braces. Your toes will naturally point outwards and slant forwards, so that the balls of your feet are closer to the bow than your heels. Your outfitting should be snug, but never impede your ability to peform a wet exit should you need to. It’s a good idea to practise swimming from your boat in a safe environment, such as a swimming pool, whilst being supervised by others.
Upgrading to Jackson Happy Feet:
Initially I didn’t like the “Happy Feet” in my boat, because they moved around too much and the pump bulb would flap around when playboating. Here’s some photos that show how I stopped these problems, by modifying my foam front pillar:
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