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Breaking In 101: How to get into the flow without ever flipping

This week we are going right back to basics (again).

Back to the first thing you need to learn when you start paddling on moving water.

How to actually get into the flow.

For those that already know this, you can skip this one…

Go read our last Newsletter on Freewheels or Loops.

Back to this one…

Breaking in is how you get from an eddy into the flow of the river.

You BREAK out from the eddy INto the flow of the river.

It is a core part of kayaking and one that catches a lot of people out when they first start.

But once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature and you don’t even have to think about it.

Just like riding a bike…

The tricky part is switching edges.

Eddies and the river flow in opposite directions, so make sure that you do not catch an edge and fall in at the first hurdle.

So if you find yourself struggling with your edge control you need to practice on the flat.

You can work on edge control on the flat by using your hips to rock the boat backwards and forwards.

And working on brace strokes to stop you from falling over.

Before we get into the Step by Step Process: This is pulled from our weekly Newsletter. Sign up here if you want kayaking Tutorials, News and Media delivered to your Inbox each week!

Breaking In in a whitewater kayak in Ecuador


How to Break into the Flow:

When you want to start practicing breaking in and out of the flow you want to start with a slow-moving river with large eddies.

You don’t want anything downstream that may trip you up.

From there you can build it up to faster and stronger currents.

We covered a lot of this in our Ferry Gliding Tutorial, but there are some differences here…

The Set Up

Float down to the bottom of the eddy, right to the back.

Use some sense here, if your eddies are MASSIVE don’t make things harder for yourself – 2-3 boat lengths will do!

Face the boat upstream, pointing to the top of the eddy, where the seam line first starts to form.


The Approach

Using the flow of the water in the eddy to help pull you upstream, paddle to the top of the eddy.

Build up some speed to create momentum. But make sure you stay in control.

You don’t want to hit the eddy line and spin out.

As you approach the top of the eddy you want to be at a slight angle. Where directly upstream is 12 O’clock, you want to be at either 11 or 1 O’clock.

Let’s say you’re ferry gliding from a river right eddy to a river left eddy. I.e. From your perspective in your boat, you will be paddling upstream from the left and heading to your right.

In this case, you want to angle your boat to approximately 1 O’clock.


The Edge

As you approach the seam line, you want to put a small edge on. Drop your downstream hip, and lift your upstream knee.

In this case, we’ll be lifting your left edge.

When breaking into slower flows, you don’t need much edge, put a small amount on to allow the water to flow underneath, but not enough to make you feel unstable.

When breaking into more powerful flows on harder rivers, you’ll want to whack that edge on hard – But you don’t need to worry about that now.


Breaking In

As your bow crosses the seam line and into the flow, you should be pointing upstream at around 1 O’clock with a slight edge on.

As your bow crosses into the flow, it will be pushed downstream.

To get further into the centre of the river you want to take a sweep stroke on your downstream side.

This will pull you more into the middle of the flow.

Keeping your edge on, you can then allow the bow of the boat to swing around so that it is facing downstream.

To keep your balance, you want your paddle in a low brace position on your downstream side.

This will encourage you to keep your edge on and will stop you from falling in on your downstream side

I find it is beneficial to lean forward throughout the break-in as then you engage the edges on the bow of the boat and will prevent the back of the boat from being pulled under/catching an edge.

You should now be facing downstream.

If you are still not fully facing downstream you can use a sweep stroke to correct your angles.

Breaking in to the flow malute ecuador


In Summary, to break into the flow while whitewater kayaking, you want to:

  1. Set up in the back of the Eddy
  2. Build momentum and paddle to the top of the eddy
  3. Put an edge on, lifting your upstream hip
  4. Angle your kayak at either 11 or 1 O’clock, depending on the direction you want to travel.
  5. Take a sweep stroke to pull you into the flow
  6. Keep your edge and allow the bow of the boat to swing around.

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