I'm in the waves on a windy day with a student. He struggles to keep up with the rest of the group. He seems to be working harder than the more experienced paddlers. He is taking two hard paddle strokes for one of theirs. And I ask myself why.
Have you ever seen penguins swim? They move their fins the way a bird moves their wings while flying. There is very little backward movement. they move their fins up and down, on each side, propelling themselves forward at incredible speed.
It's striking how agile they are in the water. So why are they not suing their wings to push water back the way ducks kick with their feet? Have they discovered a more efficient way?
Here's what I discovered: when I feel like I'm borrowing energy from the wave, I use my paddle like a penguin uses his wings. Except I'm lifting the wing instead of moving it down. I may pause and hold the paddle to let a wave create the lifting motion. Or I add my own lift by pushing down with my upper hand. the force on the water is mostly lifting, not moving back.
When you practice this in your kayak, remember how it feels. As you move your whole body, you will feel a pushing pressure with your top hand. You will feel pulling with your lower hand, as if you have weight on y our shovel. You will be using your core to apply that pressure. No arms.