Author Topic: john puakea clinic  (Read 24081 times)

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john puakea clinic
« on: May 29, 2007, 09:44PM »
this was notes from a clinic by johnny puakea (coach of o.c.c, team bradley, and maker of the kaku canoes, and personal coach of danny ching) that i found on rambo's blog, although there's no verifying its authenticity

John Puakea

Recently the mixed team I coach had a paddling clinic given by John Puakea, a well-known paddling coach from Hawaii.  Here are a few of the points he made during the clinic. Some you’ve heard for years and some you may never have heard before.

1. The maximum body fat on the women who won Molokai Hoe in October 2005, a team John coached, was 7%. If you want to make your boat move faster, encourage your paddlers to lose weight.

2. I’m paraphrasing here to apply what John said to dragonboats, but basically, all paddlers in the first two benches must have perfect timing with each other. If they don’t, the timing of the entire boat will be off.

3. Bench 1 always goes to the technically best paddlers. The rest of the boat will be able to follow them much easier than paddlers who may be less skilled technically. Don’t give the first bench necessarily to those who want it; give it to your best technical paddlers, regardless of  weight or body type or size. (This advice differs only slightly from that of Alan Carlsson, former head coach of False Creek Racing Canoe Club  who believes that the best technical  paddlers should sit in the first AND last two rows of a dragon boat.) If the first bench doesn’t set a good example by really rotating and reaching, the rest of the boat can’t really rotate and reach.

4. The further back in the boat a paddler sits, the less important it is that the paddler have great timing.

5. You should never seat the boat so it’s stern heavy. Doing so creates drag.  Seat the boat so it is slightly bow heavy. It’ll go faster.

6. The best training tool for any multiperson boat is an one-person outrigger or other one-person paddling craft (marathon canoe, etc.) because there’s no place for a mediocre paddler to hide.

7. John’s crews are on the water 6 days a week. One of those sessions is all the people in a crew all training together in one-person outriggers at the same time. Difficult to do with a dragon boat team, because of the number of paddlers, but paddlers should be encouraged to paddle in one-person craft if possible.

8. Cross country skiing is the best thing to do if you’re not paddling, because it’s THE sport which uses the same large muscle groups – lats and legs.

9. A good workout movement to strengthen the stomach muscles/abs, which are very important to good paddling, is to sit on an incline bench with 5, 10, 15, 20 and then 25 lb weights in both hands and slowly rotate the weights from one side of the incline bench to the other.

10. Nearly all of the technical training John does in Hawaii is done in the canal behind Waikiki on perfectly flat water. He clearly thinks that it’s better to train for technique on perfectly flat water. He didn’t think much of the theory that a team needs to train on rough water because they may encounter some in a race.

11. Paddlers better learn to plant their blade before they unrotate or derotate (sometimes given the misnomer of pulling). Otherwise, they’re giving up the entire front end of the stroke.

Maximum effort on the power phase of the stroke should be right before the exit. This helps ensure that the power doesn’t slack off during the power phase.

13. Planting the blade must be done with quite a bit of force, but mustn’t be in a downward motion. It must be like spearing a fish or sticking the paddle through a mail slot. Paddle should enter the water at a 45 degree angle forward of vertical. Planting the blade should be done almost  completely with the arms and shouldn’t involve the body much.  The body becomes involved during the un or derotation.

14. During the power phase of the stroke, if done correctly, much of the body weight can be on the paddle which will hold up the body weight.

15. During starts, it should feel like there’s constant pressure on the paddle for the first 6 to 8 strokes. Need to minimize air time, i.e. recovery time, during those first few strokes to achieve this feeling.

16. Never try to paddle faster than the boat is moving. Doing so just wastes energy and accomplishes nothing.

17. Leaving the paddle in too long creates drag and slows the boat down.

18. The most important paddling muscle is your butt. Get it in the boat and get it in there often. Nothing beats time on the water.  The winning teams always have lots of time on the water.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2007, 10:03PM by cho »
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Re: john puakea clinic
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2007, 09:59PM »
found this also

Paddling Discussion with Todd Bradley

Here are my notes from the Todd Bradley discussion. It was basically a question/answer format, with a variety of topics. The discussion did bounce around, so I have done my best to put it under subject headings. Please forgive the brevity of the notes.


Todd and Walter Guild were the first paddlers to bring OC1 to Hawaii. Todd was involved in the evolution of the
OC1 from open cockpit to sit-on-top. He also helped design the Mirage, the ‘most winning’ OC6 and the Stingray, an
OC1 that does well in both rough and flat water.

Paddles/Paddling technique

• History – paddles used to be bigger until Tahiti came in with small paddles and beat everyone. Marathon
canoes influenced the blade angle, which provides lift to the boat on entry. Paddling blades are angled ~ 15’
while steering blades are angled 5 – 7 degrees (the best steering blade is straight, but a slight angle allows it to
contribute to paddling as well). The blades have also evolved in shape the first 6” in the water doesn’t contribute
to forward propulsion, the power surface happens below 6”. The materials also changed from wood to include

• Paddling with a tail-wind – sit up tall with a tail wind, short, lively, quick strokes. The crew should feel

• Need to focus the most on being smooth. Often strength is less important than smoothness.

• The ama shouldn’t bounce, the hull shouldn’t bounce, and the spray of water should be continuous.

• Drills? Good drills to practice this are 6 on one side, pairs. Practice first on calm water and then in rough
water. Watch all top arms should be the same. All heads, backs, bodies should be the same. Steersman can see.
Start off slower and then build. Find the ‘sweetspot.’

• Changes per side? – Rough water don’t change when the wave is about to pick you up. ~15 – 20 Strokes.
Flat water ~18 – 20 strokes.

• Stroke Rate? – 58 ideal for men, 60 – 62 ideal for women.

• Critique of Canadians? Too high a rate, not deep enough, too much ‘arm paddling.’ Power comes from
the whole body, not just the arms.

• Stroke Rate for Mixed Crew? – let the women set the pace, but keep it down. Timing first, only after it
starts to run. Get the rhythm, then the power.
• Leg Drive? Very important. Rowing machine, cycling are great ways to cross train.

• Paddling Erg. Tech. - Release early (lower hand at knee) sit up tall, release fingers on top hand. Cross
Training with the rowing erg. 3 days/ 30 minutes. Keep stroke count low < 30, switch your grip every minute,
alternating overhand and underhand. Dumbbells – bicep curl, military press (?).

• Technique – to correct ‘arm paddling’ focus on the twist. The stroke stops where you finish your twist
(when your shoulders are square). Sit up. Paddle ‘slices’ in from the twist. Engage the legs.

• Bobbing of boat – watch head position, keep head/chin up. Keeps your body forward, keeps airways
open, keeps body straight. The ama should not be bouncing (definitely too much bounce).

• OC6 paddling – paddle ‘together’ not fast, not about the workout, rhythm, timing, technique. Entry,
power and release together.

• Seats? Crew Selection? Worse paddling in stroke. Kidding themselves that this is the best seat. Best
paddler in 5 seat, has to blend in with 4 other paddlers. Paddlers that blend are the most important.
• Stroke Correction – videotape them.

• Calls? – 2 seat calls, except if it is noisy, then 3 seat calls. Everyone, the whole boat calls ‘hoe.’


• Steering paddles – started straight and then went to 5’ angle. Steering is shaped like a wing with more
surface one side to provide lift, plus a ridge along the centre of the back, which holds the paddle to the hull of the

• Steering position – a lot of people hold their paddles as if they are paddling, but the best position is up at
your knee, angled forward in the water. This is most efficient and easiest to paddle between steering moves.

• Steering – the most important component of steering is anticipation. The physics of steering is to slow one
side of the boat down, therefore turn, but also to be done the least amount possible. “Steering by the seat of your
pants” is literally feeling the boat’s movement through your body. Best advice for beginning steersman – Keep it
straight and not worry about paddling.

• Steering with changes? – Doesn’t matter what side you paddle on, the main thing is to stay in sync with the
rest of the boats paddle strokes. Strokes shouldn’t be hard, don’t disturb the rest of the crew; don’t try to make the

• Paddle steering with a draw stroke? This was fine. Draw longer than 2 strokes is too long (static draw

• Steering to catch a wave? Anticipation times 1000. Often the crew paddles harder, lunging into the stroke,
thinking that they will catch the wave more, but really they increase the effort and also increase the waterline on
the boat, which makes the boat go slower. Better to put in just enough effort to maintain (therefore holding a
better position for the boat).

• Steering into the wind? Let it run into the wind, and then bring it back rather than fighting it all the way.

Boat Design

• Amas – should be stable because of ‘reserve buoyancy.’ More pressure on it makes it want to get back to
waterline even more. ‘V’ shaped. Don’t worry about rigging a ‘light’ ama. New PUFFY ama very wide above the
water line. Bigger water, rig it out more. 66” when calm, 70” when rough. Trim – the trailing edge should not be
underwater. Back tip of ama should have 2 – 3 inches of air (later he said 6 – 8”) with a little veil of water.

Race Strategy

• Start – start near slow teams. Can jump out quicker. Clean start, no banging.

• Buoy turns for sprints – Approach wide and finish tight. Steersperson starts the turn when they are ¾
through it they call “Uni” (sp?). 1 Seat pokes to the right, 2 seat sets a draw to the left close to the ama,
steersperson will call 1 seat to the left for draw stroke. Seats 3, 4, & 5 paddle easy through the turn.
A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.