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Barton's Forward Stroke

I try to get maximum power on as soon as possible in the stroke but you don't want to slap the water at the catch...

The Catch - At the catch you want to have your body rotated out which means that your knee on the side away from the stroke should be pushed down almost straight. You should be rotating from the hips too not just from the upper shoulders while keeping your hips straight.  Your bottom arm should be nearly straight but like the leg not locked out.  Being locked out can be a dangerous position with which to enter the water.  The shock can hurt your elbows or shoulders.  The push elbow should be bent but never more than 90 degrees and usually a good deal straighter than that. This differs from stroking with the traditional paddle. With the traditional paddle you needed to bend your lower elbow at the end of the stroke much more in order to keep the paddle close to the side of the boat and yet not go too deep. So when you exited the water the exiting hand was closer to the side of the boat than with the wing. This meant that as this hand came up and became the pushing hand of the next stroke it started out close to the head.  By way of contrast the wing stroke goes out to the side so you finish a stroke with the exiting hand further from the side of the boat and thus starting as the push hand in the next stroke further away from the head. This enables you to keep your top arm much straighter both during the pull-through and the push which is good because it enables you to use your back more and your arms less.

The most important thing at the catch is to get the blade in the water as quickly as possible and bury the entire blade - but no more than that - before you start pulling back on it. Barton sometimes puts pieces of red tape at the tops of his blades so when he looks at a video of himself he can judge whether he is at the right depth.

This results in a top arm push at eye level.  ''This is what I learned years ago " he said. "Then in the late 70's and early 80's a lot of people especially the Soviets and East Germans tended to push out at shoulder level. But when the wing appeared top arms started going back up again."

Initiating The Catch

To initiate the catch the paddler should use both arms to push the paddle down into the water.  “To me  the catch is like spearing the water and a lot of it is done with the top arm." As he inserts the paddle into the water Barton brings his top hand forward a little bit to help get a good clean catch.  It is important to insert the blade as close to the side of the boat as possible for three reasons: 1) it makes the paddle more vertical as viewed from the front; 2) since the wing paddle moves sideways from the boat a wider start a wider finish which isn't good -it's easier to pull when the paddle is closer to the boat; and 3) the closer the paddle is to the boat's center line the less it will cause the boat to yaw.

The Pull-Through

Barton appears to execute the pull-through almost entirely with the body and not the arms. He appears to plant the paddle when he is rotated completely out and then simply holds the paddle in the desired vertical position while he unwinds his torso. It looks as though the arms simply provide a link between the paddle and the body.  Once the catch has been initiated he takes care not to push out too soon or too much with the top arm. For Barton the top arm push is about 25 percent of the force on the blade and the pulling about 75 percent. He thinks about using the top arm "almost as an anchor " as though the top arm was locked in place and he is pulling as hard as he can with all the muscles on the stroke side -back shoulders obliques and arm. He lets the top arm almost stay stationary at this point because he is trying to get a "high pivot!' point on the shaft.  What is a high pivot point? During the stroke as seen from the side there is a point on the shaft that does not move either forward or backwards during the stroke. It is the place where the top hand pushing the shaft forward merges into the bottom arm's pulling the paddle backwards. This is called the pivot point.  If you were to put the paddle in the water and just push hard and not pull at all you would have a very low pivot point. If you did the opposite - didn't push at all and just pulled - you'd have a very high one. A high pivot point is desirable because it keeps the blade vertical longer.

Pumping with the Legs

Not only is he thrusting back with his leg on the stroke-side Barton also is swaying his knees inboard and outboard to compensate for the shifting of his torso weight during rotation. As he rotates out for a stroke on the right his knees sway to the left; as he rotates to the left they sway to the right.

Application of Power

When he takes a forward stroke Barton thinks about the following things:

I try to get maximum power on as soon as possible in the stroke but you don't want to slap the water at the catch. That's really important getting the blade in the water instead of thinking about pulling back right away.  Submerge it first then pull on it and then keep the power on evenly throughout the stroke.

The Finish

Barton believes you should start to take the blade out of the water when it passes your knees and it should be completely out of the water as it passes your hip. You need to think about the blade not getting buried too far in the water so you can avoid a problem with the release. This means possibly bending the bottom arm slightly to keep the blade at the required depth.  'This is not as critical as it was with the traditional paddle " Barton remarked 'but you still need to think about it."  He also thinks about "counter-rotating " which he picked up from his old coach Andy Toro. Counter-rotating means continuing your rotation even after you're pulling the blade out of the water. You don't simply finish the stroke and abruptly pull the paddle out of the water. That causes a slight braking action on the boat. Instead it is better to continue to rotate a little more even when the paddle is out of the water. That way you are sure not to stop the blade in the water.

The Release

The wing is both better and worse than the traditional paddle on the release.  It is worse because it lifts more water at the release due to its thicker size. Overall though it is better because of the way the blade moves out to the side. This way you can keep the power on the blade right up to the end even when you take it out (counter-rotate).


The following describes how Barton thinks about his forward stroke:

It helps if you think that someone has taken a series of poles and driven them into the water down into the bottom on both sides of the boat and you are able to grab each one and pull yourself by. Only take it a bit further and pretend that you've got this big old row boat that's out in front of you and you're actually suspended just above the water behind it pushing it forward with your feet. So you're grabbing this pole and trying to push the boat forward with your feet. And there's another pole on the other side and you do the same thing with that. If you think of it that way it really helps to get the forward force on the legs. In paddling you have to transfer your power to the boat and the two places you are touching are your feet and the seat.  But I think the forward force is coming almost entirely from your feet and your rear end is stationary.

Watch one of Greg's first videos on the forward stroke!

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