Advice From the Hammock No. 5

This month’s tip is actually half observation and half tip. If you look in the bed of our truck on any given day, it’s a mess. Part of it is the inevitable struggle of trying to keep organized a pile of life jackets with hanging straps, dragging SUP Yoga anchor ropes, and 10’ leashes that fly about as we drive. But scattered through the tangle of equipment are also empty plastic coffee cups, bags, Styrofoam containers, and nip bottles. Oh the nip bottles. They’re everywhere. Some of the trash we find on the beach, but most of it comes from our paddlers, who, having just come off the water, pull out the various items from the bungee cords and say, “I picked this up while I was out there, is there a trash I can throw it in?” The truck becomes the trash until we’re able to clear it out later. And we’re happy to have it that way. Because something really unique happens when people are on the water.


Walk down the street and pass a piece of trash- you might pick it up, but more often than not, we leave it there. Maybe we’re in a hurry. Maybe it just seems gross to pick up trash with unknown origins. But on the water, with the same gross trash, (and actually sometimes worse due to algae growth), there seems to be a deep-seated understanding that we need to keep the oceans clean. Maybe we’re in less of a hurry and notice it more. Maybe, without the concrete and metal structures that fill our cities, this intrusion by humans is more obvious on the otherwise unspoiled ocean.


Whatever the reason, we encourage it, though we hardly need to. The benefits to the environment are obvious and don’t need stating, but what’s not always recognized is how picking up trash can improve your paddling. Here’s how.


Often, a piece of trash isn’t noticed until you’re flying past it on your board or kayak. By the time you see it, it’s often too late to grab it on the fly. You now need to use one, or several, maneuvering strokes to turn your kayak or board close enough to the trash to pick it up. In a kayak, an easy maneuver is a reverse sweep stroke to turn around, in which you use a sweeping rainbow, or C-shaped stroke, from stern to bow, to turn your kayak. An even more effective, but more advanced stroke, is the high brace turn, in which the kayak is set way over on its edge and the face of the paddle is planted in the water and held in place while the kayak pivots around it. On a paddleboard, a favorite stroke to turn around is the cross-bow draw, in which the paddle reaches to the opposite side of the kayak and is used to pull the nose to it before hopping over the board and performing a sweep stroke on the other side.


Even once you’re turned around, the trash may lie just off your direct path. At this point, a well executed draw stroke allows your board or kayak to slip sideways through the water, correcting your course to bring you alongside the trash.  At this point, a brace on the kayak will allow you to lean over and grab the trash with your paddle, while a brace on a paddleboard will allow you to kneel down and pick up the trash (unless you’re a flexible yogi in which case you can just bend over and pick it up.)


All of these strokes comprise the more subtle side of paddling, where finesse and control is more important than power. To be sure, they can take a while a to master, but once you do, your ability to maneuver and control your board or kayak increases drastically, which leads to not only safer paddling, but also more fun exploring the nooks and crannies of the coastline. So next time you’re on the water, though I don’t have to tell you, go ahead a pick up some trash, utilize the above strokes, and do good for both your paddling and the ocean. If you’re not familiar with these strokes, a lesson is perfect for helping you learn them!


See you on the water!


Happy Paddling!



(Need a little help getting motivation to pick up trash on land too? Check out this article on Plogging, during which joggers find health benefits in picking up trash while they run!)  

Aaron Mearns