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#1: DON’T lean into it! There are times when out on the river that you just cant do anything about running into things. Boulders, root wads, downed trees……there are tons of things to run into, especially if you are paying more attention to fishing than you are boat position. I see this happen all of the time and it happens to me quite often but what I also see is people trying to lean away from or even lean into the obstacle. Both scenarios have similar outcomes. You’re going to flip over. Especially if there is much of a current. You want to keep your head centered over your hips and you want to keep your hips level and not leaned in any direction. It is hard to fight the reaction of leaning away from danger or leaning into and absorbing a hit but this is the best way to keep you out of the water when you don’t want to be.

#2: Use the river and its current to your advantage. I’ve always told people that if they feel like they could be in danger or in a precarious situation, just keep paddling. That is still true to an extent but I have learned that is not always the best solution. Sometimes you end up building too much speed and that can complicate your situation even more. A reverse paddle stroke can be substantially more effective when you already have a little speed. Its comparable to a zero turn mower when one wheel stops and the other continues moving. Your turning radius seems to be cut in half and the kayak is more responsive in this situation. 

#3: Sit up straight! Bad posture is something that I struggle with. I try to correct it but inevitably I always end up catching myself slouching. This generally isn’t a problem but when it is a problem, it’s a big one. You loose a lot of your power in your paddle stroke when you aren’t sitting up right. The positioning of your foot pegs are a big helper also in the transfer of power from your arms to the water. You want your back straight against the seatback and you want your knees slightly bent with your feet flat against your foot pegs. 

#4: Are you tracking? I have seen a lot of people who complain about the tracking of their kayak. A lot of times I end up getting on the water with these people and quickly see why. Leaning on one side or the other will make your kayak start to stray from its once straight line that you had it pointed in. Its something that I think a lot of people do without realizing it. 

#5: Am I positioned for success? Often times people put zero thought into boat position. They just try to get from point A to point B. I can tell you, without a doubt, that boat position when going through current or a rapid is just as important as any other principal of paddling. A lot of the Ozarks river ways where I’m from are tight turn on top of tight turn and there is inevitably some kind of obstruction in the middle of the first turn that makes the entire process infinitely more complicated. I generally never hit the first turn head on. I will have my boat positioned about 45 degrees in the direction that I will need to be pointing when I hit the next turn. This makes the entire process easier and allows me to navigate both curves without too much effort. 

Thanks for your time! I hope these tips were helpful!