Tips for Spring Time Paddling

The sun is out, the grass needs to be mowed, and there is enough pollen in the air to have to use your windshield wipers. While it’s tempting jump straight into the water after being cooped up all winter, there are some crucial tips to remember before your first trip of the spring.

 

Pre-Trip:

Double check your bellyak…are all the handles tight? Is the pad adhered on all sides? No glue is perfect  (though ours is pretty close). If your pad is peeling up, take the time to make sure the boat is dried out and cleaned as much as possible, and use contact cement or our favorite, 3M Super 77. Spray both sides, allow to dry until tacky, then press together. Did you store your boat in the weather all winter? Need a new pad? Order one here.

Drain plug:

Some of you store your bellyak with the drainplug open. Is it still there? Screwed in? Your boat will paddle MUCH better if not full of water. If you are missing a drain plug, contact us. We’ll take care of you. In a pinch? A piece of ducttape over the hole will do.

Dress for the water temp, not the air temp:

Here in the southeast, springtime temps can vary more than 30 degrees between day and night. There can be a dramatic fluctuation between sun and shade as well. Don’t make the mistake of being hot at the put in because you are in a sunny parking lot…further downstream around the next bend could be a whole lot cooler! I wear a drysuit with thin layers underneath for maximum spring time comfort, or a 3/2 wetsuit. It’s better to be hot at the put in, since you will invariably cool off once you are in the water.

Speaking of water temp: it takes a while for most rivers to warm up past the fifties. Fifty four degree water is extremely chilly. If the nights are still regularly in the 30s and 40s, it will take a while for the water temp to catch up. Check sites such as this for water temp: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?03451500

Length of Trip:

If you’ve been working out and/or staying active all winter, then good on ya. If you’ve been like most people and only worked out the first two weeks of January, then take it easy on your first trip. Bellyaking is strenuous and uses a lot of energy. We suggest having an easy ‘break in’ run where you can get your arms and bellyak shoulders warmed back up. Check out this blog.

 

Post Trip:

The takeout will almost always be colder than the put in. We suggest a warm layer for when you get off the river. Our favorite? The Recover Brand Bellyak Hoody. Wear it commando style post paddling. Just remember to leave it in your takeout car.

Food and Beverage:

Leave your future self something when you leave the car at the takeout. You may not be hungry now, but you will be after paddling. Our favorites? Kettle cooked BBQ potato chips and any number of the great beers from breweries around Asheville NC. Sure it’s not the healthiest choice like cucumber kale slaw, but we believe in increasing your activity level in order to enjoy all of the deliciousness life has to offer. That’s the best part about owning a Bellyak: get fit, have fun, eat chips, repeat.

 

See you on the water!

Adam Masters during the Ocoee River Race

7 Principles of Efficient Bellyak Paddling

The bellyak looks easy. Just lie on your stomach and paddle with your hands. No problem. No need to pay attention to the details, you got this! Ten minutes in you are exhausted and blaming the boat for a fault in your skills.  In order to master the craft and minimize fatigue there are techniques to prolong your fun. The  seven principles of proper bellyak paddling will help you get the most out of your paddling time.

7 Principles of Efficient Bellyak Paddling

Principle #1: TRIM:  Proper body position and posture.

The Bellyak is ‘front wheel drive’ and made to glide through the water. The goal of proper trim is to create the most efficient position for effortless bellyaking.

Proper Trim is when you are centered on the Bellyak, neither too far forward or too far back, as shown below.

Just right, centered in the bellyak

Too far Forward: Stern is too far out of water. This makes paddling straight very difficult.

Too Far Back for Paddling *

*In the more advanced skills, surfing river waves requires the rider shift their weight towards the back of the bellyak to be in a position as shown in the picture above. This will raise the bow and make it easier to surf. Therefore, for the majority of paddling, the neutral position, centered in the boat, is most effective.

*The handles are used to reposition  and are not for hanging on while going downstream.

Principle #2: Proper Paddling Strokes

The Forward stroke is an alternating, thumb down sweep stroke. Imagine the breast stroke and alternating arms. The forward stroke reduces shoulder fatigue over doing a deeper crawl style stroke. Move forward effectively by imagining pulling the boat past your hand rather than pushing the water backwards. Reach forward, catch the water, and pull yourself past your hand, releasing your stroke once it passes your shoulder.

Reach forward, Thumb Down for the catch phase of the forward stroke

Alternating Thumb Down Sweep Stroke

 

Principle #3: Combination Strokes:

Hand paddling allows both of your hands to be used simultaneously.  Practice spinning in place by using a combination of a forward stroke on one side and a reverse stroke on the other. This will help you become familiar with how the bellyak moves through the water and is the quickest and most effective way to change the angle of your downstream trajectory. Keep the boat flat as you spin.

Energy Conservation Tip: if you veer off course, it’s often easier to work with spin by continuing to spin back around til you are pointed in the direction you want to travel, then continue on your path.

Left Hand Reverse, Right Hand Forward, Spin Left

Always remember to smile!

Principle #4: Secondary Stability: Learning to Trust your Edges

The bellyak has excellent secondary stability. When you lean left or right the boat will support you ‘on edge.’ Learning to trust your edges will make learning moving water skills much easier, as you will be able to confidently enter and exit eddies with proper lean.

 

Practice finding your edges in an area of calm water

Lean over as far as possible to learn to trust your edges

Principle #5 Front and Rear Rudder:

Now that you have the basic body position, the forward and combination strokes along with right/left lean you can start adding in rudder strokes to help keep you on course as you move forward.

Static Front Rudder

As you are moving forward, if the bellyak starts to drift off course, you can use your opposite hand to help it correct back to center. You place your hand forward just as if you were reaching to do a forward stroke but instead of being ‘thumb down’ it will be ‘thumb up’ as the picture shows. Practice this in flat water by generating some speed and as the boat glides practice combining the lean you learned above with a static rudder. As you glide forward, using your right hand will cause you to turn right, and vice versa.

Always LOOK where you WANT to GO, not at what you want to avoid.

Principle #7: Work with the Water

Using the water to your advantage will insure you have the best time possible.  Strength will never compensate for a lack of technique. Looking where you want to go and allowing the water to take you there, with strategically placed strokes to guide you will work much more effectively than muscling your way through.

The most effective advice is to SLOW DOWN. If you are veering off course, slow down, use a combination stroke, and get back on course. In river bellyaking, you are most often using combination strokes to position your boat, allowing the water to carry you where you are going, and then applying strategically placed forward strokes to enter/exit eddies and accelerate through/over river features.

Remember: don’t fight the water, enjoy the experience, and relax. To go fast, slow down!

 

Adam Masters going slow to go fast in the 10th Annual Ocoee Race

 

Is there a specific skill you would like to learn? Send us a message and we’ll create a blog to answer your questions!

Thank you to the American Canoe Association for providing the photos and supporting the development of the Prone River Paddling Curriculum. If you are not a member of the ACA, join today!

Understanding Shuttle Math and Other Paddling Tips

New year, new you! And you’re ready to take up bellyaking. Here’s how to have the best time on the water.

Read more

Kayaking vs Bellyaking

Bellyak Versus Kayak

They may look alike from a distance and share the same habitat, but how does a Bellyak compare to a kayak?

Read more

Swim training for bellyak

Training in the Off Season for Prone Whitewater Greatness

It’s true that one of the most popular off season workouts involves watching YouTube and drinking beer.  While this is one of the top training methods for marginal athletic performance, this approach results in startling feelings of being out of shape after a long cold winter. We suggest another route: intentional training for the activity at hand.

Read more

H20 Dreams

Bellyak Rental Locations

So you’ve heard about bellyaking and want to give it a go? You can rent one for a day! North, South, East or West – there is a location for you. Even if you’re across the pond with our Fish and Chip loving friends. Perfect for trying out new rivers, treating family and friends visiting, or just trying it out before you walk away with your very own Frequency bellyak. You can find a full list of Bellyak Rental Locations HERE, and below are a couple of our new friends. Happy prone paddling!

Lake Junaluska

Lake Junaluska Rec Hut

Where the mountains meet the lake. If you’re in Western North Carolina, you literally can’t leave without paying a visit to Lake Junaluska. Not only are there amazing views, but a beautiful lake to hone your bellyaking skills on. For more info:

91 N Lakeshore Dr, Waynesville, NC 28785
(800) 222-4930

 

H20 Dreams

H20 Dreams

Enjoy a 5 hour beginner course on bellyaking (3 hours on the water). Are you new to moving water and want a fun, safe and exciting way to to get on the water and learn? Then Bellyak can take you there. Seasoned expert bored of the same old river? Bellyak will show you an entirely new perspective and challenge in a brand new way. Ages 6 and up! For more info:

435 E Main St, Saluda, NC 28773

(828) 767-7109

http://www.whitewaterdreams.com/product/fundamentals-of-river-running-for-bellyak/

Mike's Marine Supply

Mike’s Marine

For our Michigan friends, Mike’s Marine Supply is family owned and operated store offering great discounts on quality marine accessories and fun rentals on Lake St. Clair.

24910 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48080
+1 586-778-3200

 

Saluda Outfitters

Saluda Outfitters

A local fave, Saluda Outfitters is super easy to find at 435 Main in Saluda at the intersection of Ozone Drive and Highway 176. Just look UP on the hill and you will find this treasure of a store at the top.

435 Main Street, Saluda, NC 28773
(828)848-4060
http://saludaoutfitters.com/

 

For a map of our bellyak rental locations, please explore below!

Lake bellyak workouts

Do You Remember Your First Time?

By Sara Weidemann,

“My workouts are boring!” Said no one ever that owns a Bellyak. My first time on the Bellyak was an unforgettable experience. And by unforgettable, I mean my muscles felt the workout for days so I literally couldn’t forget about it. To be honest, I haven’t stopped talking about it either. So, I bought a bellyak.  Since I can walk out my front door and go 10 miles in any direction and run into a lake, I bought the Frequency bellyak because it’s best for open water – and let’s be honest – it has a built in hatch to hold a couple cans of my favorite beer.

Lake bellyak workouts

A New Kind of Workout

I’ve been a personal trainer for over 10 years and I was amazed by the number of muscle groups involved when using the bellyak. While paddling down the French Broad Section Nine River in North Carolina (first time ever on a bellyak!), I told myself how thankful I was that I incorporate Pilates into my fitness routines. I found myself engaging certain muscle groups that I would in prone Pilates exercises on the bellyak. The only difference was that the next morning I felt as if it was the first time ever doing Pilates. Hell, I felt like it was the first time I’ve ever worked out! My muscles ached, specifically my core muscles. It brought a smile to my face and I thought to myself…”I have to be a part of Team Bellyak, and I need to do so immediately because the world needs to know about the bellyak”.

Exercise buddies on the Frequency

Mixing Up Exercise Routines

I get bored easily with workouts and even the classes I teach, which is why I’m certified and able to teach so many different fitness formats; Yoga, Mat Pilates, PiYo, Barbell, Kettlebells, TRX, Water Aerobics, HIIT are some, but not all the formats I teach on a weekly basis. The bellyak gave me new hope that there IS something out there for me that will keep my workouts fun, fresh, and different. My goal going forward is to show you all, the Bellyak users, different fitness routines you can incorporate into your life to not only help with being better at the Bellyak and possibly surpass the man himself – founder Adam Masters – but to increase your overall strength, help with posture, decrease risk of injury and to spice up your workouts!

I look forward to putting on fitness challenges, creating workout videos, and writing blogs.  If there is anything specific you’d like me to write about please e-mail me at sara@bellyak.com!

Psst – have you completed my first fitness challenge? The bellyak burpee? Check it out below!

 

Bellyak Burpee Challenge

Bellyak Burpee Challenge!

Do you have abs of steel and a thirst for winning? Then we have the challenge for you! The Bellyak Burpee Challenge! A play on the regular burpee found regularly in CrossFit and fitness workouts, this version uses all the same technique but is styled out on your bellyak! Take a gander:

Think you can beat Jaime’s 19? We want to see! Submit your videos by sharing them with us on Facebook! Just tag @bellyak and use #bellyakburpee! Winner’s will receive this limited-edition hat!

Bellyak Hat

Other than being super fun, the bellyak burpee also helps improve:

  • Core Strength
  • Agility
  • Explosive Power
  • Stability

Have fun and good luck!

Swimming next to a bellyak

Cross Training for Swimming with the Bellyak

As a kayaker, swimming is to be avoided at all costs. If you swim, it means you came out of your boat because you didn’t roll. Your friends then have to round up all your gear, help you get to shore, drain your boat, and get started again. Plus, there’s the odd custom of having to drink a beer out of your shoe to pay penance to the river gods. It’s exhausting! After swimming in whitewater a few times, most kayakers hit the pool. Not to swim laps, but to perfect their roll.

via GIPHY

Why would you Swim on a Bellyak

If you’ve already read this far, you know the bellyak combines the best elements of swimming and boating into one awesome 8′ long piece of lifestyle enhancing polyethylene. Say that 10 times fast. Not only does the bellyak help swimmers to develop a better ‘catch‘ as it forces you to keep your elbows high, it also allows you to swim in places you may not have thought about before. Think shallow rivers, brackish water, poop-filled lagoons, dirty swimming pools, and algae filled lakes.

via GIPHY

Other reasons bellyaks are a great tool for swimmers:

  1. They build specific strength
  2. Improve stroke technique
  3. Develop Core Power
  4. Give your brain a break from swimming laps
  5. Give your eyes a break from staring at the bottom of the pool
  6. Help give the lower body a break in case of injury/fatigue

A Swimming Escort’s Dream

No, not having The Rock as your Baywatch style lifeguard. The bellyak is also the perfect craft for a swimming escorts during open water swims and training.

 

Escort swimming with a bellyak

Open water swimming has exploded in popularity over the last few years, with events popping up nationwide. What is open water swimming? Open water swimming takes place in outdoor bodies of water such as open oceans, lakes and rivers. Most open water swimmers employ some form of escort boat to provide water, snacks and safety. Typically, these are kayaks or paddleboards.

Bellyaks and Open Water Swimming

Bellyaks are a great alternative to kayaks and paddleboards for one HUGE reason. No paddles. Adam Masters – founder of bellyak – has a healthy fear of paddles. He’s typically one of a few prone river paddlers in a sea of kayaks, all with their paddles at face level. So he knows what it’s like to be in the water with the potential of a paddle to the face at any moment. Open water swimmers get this too! A bellyak, on the other hand, is powered with webbed gloves worn on hands. So – at a push – the most you’ll get is a gentle caress to the face.

They also make a great surface area for storing water bottles, energy gels and extra equipment. Plus lots of room for tired swimmers to perch while getting their breath back.

Bellyaking in open water

Let’s swim over there! Why? Because it’s there!

Bellyak serving as a rest station for an open water swimmer

Nice mountain view to quench ones thirst

Bellyaking at a safe distance from an open water swimmer

Let’s go this way now

So, if you’re looking for fun, new alternative to cross training for swimming, or if you’re an open water swimming escort, the bellyak may just be the tool for you. If nothing else, it will make a good summer floaty for your off days.