Using GPS to improve technique...please advise.

I was so excited to get my GPS and get some feedback on my stroke. I went to a kayak shop and the guy said the Garmin etrex was great and he had not heard any problems with leaking. BUT watching the speed jump around with the delay did not really give me any real time data that was useful. With the "average speed while moving" it is cool to see at the end of a long run but when you push really hard the number have a delay before they move so I seemed to do just as well with my stop watch on the known distances I am paddling.

My rowing buddies say that the impeller driven devices are the way to go to watch the stroke and that if you are trying to determine your best stroke on the flat that is the way to get real time feedback.

I got this from the archieve:

"What I love about the Speedmate is that if you are working on stroke technique and tuning (e.g. try a different blade angle, or slightly change your mechanics), then you see the results of the change(s) immediately. I find such feedback very useful. I use my GPS but not so much for stroke tuning and improvement. The sampling on a GPS tends to make "cause and effect" stroke tuning much less effective IMO."

Do different GPS units have settings so you can get an averaged number that updates more often so you can get "smooth" but responsive numbers and arent just delayed and bouncing?

The whole speed on the water vs landspeed is another can of worms I am reading about in the archieves. Thanks for reply

Submitted by Shawn Michael on Sun, 06/29/2008 - 9:21pm

The Garmin Forerunner series is pretty good for immediate feedback. Under settings look for "Pace Smoothing" and set it to "Less". Then sit back, (paddle) and watch your pace improve right in front of your very eyes as you become more efficient.

This works best if you can get used to using "Pace" (minutes per mile) vs. "Speed" (miles per hour).

#1 Sun, 06/29/2008 - 9:36pm

I was taught that a heart rate monitor is the only true way to track performance since water conditions change you cant really use speed, mileage , or time. I mean you can but heart rate is the only thing that will only vary by your activity. One day you might go faster in less time but if there was help from current or wind then its not a true increase in performance. Make sense? All the new technology is great but it all seems to come back to feel and technique and reading water. I stopped wearing a watch even so I can only concentrate on feeling the boat and the water.

#2 Sun, 06/29/2008 - 9:39pm

Muther, I bought the wrong GPS...I figured that this was not right. Ugh. I broke my rudder today. 120$, new GPS 150$ Gas 75$, cracked my tooth on peanut brittle 800$

Since I have not been able to get any coaching I'll just buy the forerunner and work with that.

I think my sense of feel on the water is off. What feels good to me is doing a really long twisting leaning pull with a lot of muscle tension...I love that feel which it why I ditched the kayak because I dont get that lat cramping great feel with a double blade, but I think a shorter/faster more energy conserving stroke will probably have me go faster for a longer time, we will see.

I still feel like my boat does not fit my body. I would love to take a kaimana out for a few hours and see what that is like now that I have enough experience to know what feels right.

thanks for replies

#3 Sun, 06/29/2008 - 10:33pm

Karel has one of the funkiest strokes ive seen and we dont need to say anything more about that. Its tough without seeing it but if it feels good for you and is efficient and all that then whats the problem?

Why dont you just pick up the phone and go demo a kaimana?? Its not a tough thing to do and then youll know. Either time to pony up some cash or maybe your canoe isnt that bad.

#4 Sun, 06/29/2008 - 10:35pm


I have a Kaimana and love it, it rocks. I got a new Pegasus this spring so my wife and I both have rides to race and train in. I am 5'9 196lbs right now - working to hit 185 by end of August hopefully ;-)

Both boats work well for me, the Kaimana is a little bigger (0.5 inch wider) but the hull is rounder and not as shallow-flat as the Pegasus. Their is more deck volume as well and bow volume in the Kaimana. It would be more roomy for the taller bigger paddler. It definitely runs great in small to large conditions and does not pearl like the Pegasus can in medium to big stuff. I find it equally as fast as my Pegasus in flat to small stuff and it excels when the conditions get bigger. I am likely a little heavier than ideal for the Pegasus currently, but that boat is a great boat still and its fast as well so I am really happy with it.

As far as GPS and Heart Rate for training I use an older Garmin Forerunner 205 for pace/speed and interval work and combine that with a Timex HR monitor. Training ideally should be centered around your specific LT and AT rates so your workouts should be centered around heart rate targets for time periods. I set audible zones on my HR monitor so it beeps to let me know when I am training 'out of a Zone'. Its nice to see your boat speed/pace relative to your HR so you can see yourself going faster with a lower heart rate over time as fitness improves.

Hope that helps.....Aloha

#5 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 9:49am

Pitt - When you put it like like that it makes alot more sense with the GPS.

Now I only have to figure out how to use my HR monitor?? Hey, what is the basic method for choosing a "target" heart rate?


#6 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 5:16am

Now we are talking about determining your max heart rate and resting heart rate values which involves a bit of testing and science. You can 'estimate' Max heart rate as 220-age and measure your resting heart rate in the morning after you wake using your heart rate monitor, but that is not the most accurate way to do it as its only about 90-95% correct so you could be off by quite a bit.

A better way to figure out max heart rate is to do a 3x1/2 mile all out repeat with about 1-2 mins of 50% effort paddling following each all out 1/2 mile. After your last all out 1/2 mile interval you should be within 2-3 beats of your max heart rate - again need to go all out here! Then based on that max heart rate you can calculate your aerobic threshold range (AT) and Lactate threshold range (LT) more accurately (without having to blood sample) and plan your workouts around those. AT is typically 40 beats below max heart rate and is very important for base building and teaching your body to burn fat and spare carbs during exercise/races. Mark Allen who won numerous Ironman titles worldwide has a lot to say about the value of AT training - check his site or google search for more info.

Now the tricky part becomes planning and periodizing your training program week to week to peak for specific dates during the year. I would recommend you read the book Advanced Marathoning as a starter by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott is based on running but the same training principles apply to paddling and you can then tailor workouts and plans specific to the mileage you have time to train for around AT, LT and VO2 max workouts specific to your paddling heart rates. It gives you great background info to understand the whys and hows of training and training plans based on weekly mileage you can then modify for paddling.


#7 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 5:53am

I got a garmin 305 GPS for christmas. I've been using it lots, mostly to keep me honest when training by myself. I paddle on a lake, so there's very little current. But we do have wind, so I try to figure out what my speed is going to be based on the wind/wave conditions on the day(when I change direction relative to wind and waves I re-assess what my speed should be) . Then I work to stay consistently at that speed while keeping my heart rate between 140 and 150 (I'm 46 years old, so this is close to the 220 - my age x 80%).

I was in a small boat race recently where I was the only OC-1, surrounded by fast OC-2's and surfskis. I turned a very lonely race into a test to see what made me go fastest over time using my GPS. I tried working all parts of the stroke - longer, shorter, faster, slower, front of stroke, back of stroke, leg drive, rotation, core. What made me go "most fastest" was balancing the boat, and lightening the ama (it was flat calm).

Shawn, you sound like a big, strong guy. You're progressing well and trying to make your stroke stronger. Don't forget to make your stroke more efficient - less tearing and ripping at the water and more "solidly anchoring the paddle" before you pull. Alan Carlsson has this great example of these powerful paddlers (even though they were only dragonboaters!) that were accelerating the boat at the catch, but decelerating the boat by ripping their paddles through the water and being inefficient at the exit.

Shawn, you have been a ray of light in this group for all your questions and love for the sport. Thanks for letting a fellow Fusion owner "chine" in.

#8 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:51am

Right on Pitt, thanks man! That stuff can be pretty confusing but I have really noticed that when I run more I paddle faster. My muscles wear out before my lungs do which makes them stronger and I feel lt the next time I paddle. I too have only been paddling a year so I know my gains are greater at this stage.

Without really getting into to detailed of a training program, isnt the basic idea to find your max HR, then train at 60 - 80% of your max during your training runs with the overall idea that your 8o% will be faster in a month than now??

#9 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 9:01am

If all you do is train at 'some range' all the time - i.e. 60-80% of Max HR then your gains will be limited and you won't get as fast as breaking it up into specific workouts weekly at more targeted heart rate zones. Certain workouts need to be at 60%, others at 80% and others at 90+ percent. Then you need to figure out how long these workouts need to be also. If you are doing Intervals to improve VO2 then what's better - more intervals of shorter duration or fewer intervals that are longer? - i.e. 4x1mile at Max effort. These are common questions people have - btw fewer intervals of longer duration provide a greater training effect to improve VO2 5x1 mile intervals are better than 8x1/2 mile intervals.

That is why you to need have structured specific workouts each week, and week to week with each workout targeted at applying a certain level of effort (heart rate) and duration to stimulate all the different elements of fitness and energy systems you need to develop to be faster and maintain that faster pace (endurance).

Trust me read the Advanced Marathoning book - it will explain all this and more in detail and give you example can get used copies for 12-15$ on Amazon. It will help you structure your training weekly, monthly and for a specific time period or race date. Its all about planned training so you maximize each workout to stimulate adaptation of key systems in your body to support you getting faster over your entire race(s).

Good luck my friend, its all about the journey. If you have only been paddling for one year you have lots of time to get faster and faster. Just plan out your training and you will get there sooner :-)

#10 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 9:48am

Thanks for replies

As I have said I have been trying to contact danny c/chris s/al c or anyone who has experience coaching or to try out a kaimana at the Redondo Beach club (via email) but no luck. I guess they are really busy! It seems like good money for hourly coaching, I know that is more than what our new M.D.s make hourly so I am not sure.

I think the issue with the boat is just feeling like it fits me right I would want to go out for a 2.5 hour paddle and see how everything felt. I think that is the only way to know if all the angles and the design is comfortable

Because my weight is still around 260 I was thinking that I am pretty locked in with the fusion. I am amazed at how well this boat is made, how easy it is to rig but all I care about is finding something that is comfortable. My right hip bone presses into the high sides of the boat. My hips are probably just too wide for the sit down inside structure. By adding extra foam under the seat I am comfortable but higher up and so is the center of gravity. The foot wells are angled forward too much (maybe due to my short lower legs or the seat is too far back) so when I push with the feet they are wanting to slip I have rigged that up with foam.

I hear that the scorpious along with the kaimana is also a big boat and that might work for me?? I dont have any info on that. So I am going to wait till it comes out I can give it a try and then decide between the three. I know Im not going to win any race but Im thinking about getting a good fit. I dont want to waste anyones time until I am ready to decide but since the fusion is the only canoe I have paddled I would love to try others. Because of the hip bone issue maybe an older design where you are not sitting down inside the canoe would be best.

Knowing that the forerunners have a smoothing capability I have looking forward to working with that.

On a good note I have been paddling 5 months now and I did my longest run yesterday 16miles. my last 2.5 miles of the 16 were covered in 28 minutes. My previous fastest 2.5 miles when I was totally fresh was 27:30 so I may have improved a lot the last few months. All I want is to have a 20 mile range any day of the week and be able to cruise at 6mph. Im getting closer. Coming in I hit a rock and snapped off my rudder : (

I have had problems with switching sides quickly and smoothly and I cannot get a good catch on the side change but as that gets better I think that will be a huge help. Also when I paddle left I tend to lean on the ama and I can feel the boat slow when I paddle left so that is my second biggest problem unless I am messing up the glide with my release which a coach could see.

Many thanks

#11 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 10:02am

Pitt - Thanks man, you are giving me really good info that ive been looking for for awhile but havent really outright just asked for. I know that each training session needs to be at 80% or 60% or 90 or whatever and not to vary it so much during the individual training session but as far as how to change it up over a period of time is what I need to learn and I guess I am just going to have to check that book out so I will. I feel like I can paddle a solid hour at around 80% but want to get that to 2 hours and be ready to extend that for the outer island races next year and I think this is what I need to get me there. Its tough sometimes because when the water and wind and everything are going right you really want to get on it and just keep going to take advantage of the conditions. Some days you just feel fast and strong and other days I wish I had my HRM to keep me going. Luckily I have some really fast guys to chase around here and that has worked well to this point. Thanks again man.

#12 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 10:25am

Shawn - Have you tried contacting Tom Bartlett to see if there are any local reps near you that would most likely have a scorpius demo for you to try?

As far as your paddling on the left goes, someone in a post here said to imagine leaning on your paddle almost when paddling on the right to help with not leaning left. I have really put that into practice and it works well for me and now when I paddle on the left pretty much try the same thing and I notice a difference.

Have you lost much weight since you started paddling?

#13 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 10:28am

Your welcome anytime! There are times to chase the faster guys (during your hard sessions ;-)) and times to slow down work on technique and aerobic fitness. Go slow to go fast...but like you said you need to build up some mileage and the book will help you plan for that.

Choke Aloha....Pittbrah

#14 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 11:32am

Based on your weight the Fusion, Scorpius and a Tiger Pahoa (Tiger is in North Cal now) might work well for you. The Tiger Pahoa is a nice boat and the seat foam edges actually run over the side cutout of the boat. A buddy of mine here has one and its very comfy and good in all kinds of conditions. As with all of Tiger's boats they are built pretty well and solid too, he makes quality stuff.

A Kaimana might be a little small for your weight...but I don't know it may work for you so don't rule it out.

Finding a ride that is comfortable is key...good luck big guy.

Choke Aloha...Pittbrah

#15 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 11:36am

I know some really big guys (250 or so) that paddle pahoas and love them. I have never heard anyone say anything other than the highest compliments of tigers work either. I shoulda thought of that before a Kaimana.

#16 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 12:05pm

The trouble with GPS is it measures your speed across the surface of the earth and therefore includes current. Since current is not separated out, your reading is distorted by current.

I prefer Speedmate. Unfortunately it requires an impellor on the outside of your boat which is easily knocked off. Speedmate only displays your speed through the water, i.e., it is less influenced by current.

I think it is better for individual training.

"Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm" - Syrus Publilius

#17 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 12:24pm

I only had a chance to skim thru the other post responses but I was surprised to read your rowing friends suggested the impeller driven devices are the way to go.

The one company on the east coast, trying to recall their name, have vast knowledge in this area and once designed impeller devices for the racing rowing shells that captured all types of interesting data. Most useful pertaining to your post was one feature - distance per stroke, which really, when you get down to it is what you're really asking about -distance per stroke vs. heart rate.

The problem with the impeller is first, a calibration is required, and you almost have to wait for the perfect day with no currents and wind to affect the calibration. Secondly, on a day with a strong current running, you can be sitting still in the water getting ready to start recording your first workout and the impeller device will be reading the speed of the current! That would have to be negated from your actual data, which becomes quite a hassle and inaccurate since the currents will change along the length of the course. I believe the new devices have been redesign using GPS instead.

As for technique and GPS usage, theres a threshold of efficiency that peaks at a certain stroke rate like a bell shape curve before the efficiency drops again. During the course of training and improvements in muscular and biomechanical efficiency that peak begins to shift along the stroke rate curve.

In anycase, as others have said, the Garmin Forerunner 305 is probs the best commercial device available (they now have a 405 but that got some features absent that was in the 305 with some other added new features that is useful such as the real time wireless data feedback. There are other devices out there that will also measure the force curve per stroke and the "yaw" effect caused by inefficient blade entry and top hand position thru the stroke but they are much more involved to setup.

If your affiliated with the OTC, you may also be able to get a discount on the Garmin.

#18 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:15pm

Thanks for the responses. I going to get a 305 after I pay for all the other stuff that broke this weekend.

Never knew about the tiger pahoa, many thanks.

I have been paddling a lot and my weight has not changed, but I have still be lifting weights and when I lift I put on weight like crazy. If I drop my carb intake I can get my body fat down around 10% it runs 12-14% but I get overtrained pretty quick when I do that so it will be a process. I think I just have really really heavy bones or maybe I have cement in my colon like John Wayne because I look like 230 at the most.

My father in law is into the gadgets and still prefers the impeller. to hone the stroke, I will have to find out why. He also uses softward loaded with clip of the top rowers that he can superimpose other trainee's images on top of.

When I really try to put all my weight on the paddle using the pole vault analogy I can feel it on the inside of my elbow (like golfers elbow) and wonder what all the downward pressure it going to accomplish. When you see guys paddling on the left and the ama is just brushing the water you wonder how they do it. When I have my GPS maybe I can really see what it going on speedwise.

#19 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 4:01pm

Per ocean ohana the who is the distributor for the scorpious here in so cal it is excpected at the end of july maybe. I just want to know how big it is.

#20 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 4:02pm


My understanding is the Scorpius is about 15 inches at the widest beam. It is about the size of a Zephyr and Pahoa based on specs. Bigger than a Kaimana at 14.5 inch beam, but smaller than the Fusion which has a 16 inch beam.

So the Scorpius may work for depends on other things as you say like the seat, cockpit and footwell angles for you. You will need to hitch a demo ride to find out. I hear from people in Hawaii that have paddled it that its a pretty nice boat to paddle and race. Its a bigger brother to the Pegasus.... a little wider + more bow volume.

#21 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 5:04pm

Just my opinion here-don't get all excited. I tell our novice paddlers this all the time, and think maybe I said something like this to Shawn before, but I say learn how to paddle smoothly and efficiently first, then worry about being fast later. Shawn and jp, you guys are killing it for the short time you've been paddling, but in my experience most people don't start to fulfill their potential paddling ability till they've been at it for at least 4-6 solid years. The GPS is a great training tool, for sure, but I don't think someone in the early stages of their "career" needs to be worrying so much about speed. Furthermore, if your eyes are focused on a screen near your feet all the time, your head won't be up as high as it should be. Shawn, if you're feet are slipping out of the footwells like that you might be focusing on leg drive a little too much. Frankly, in twenty plus years paddling on O'ahu, I didn't hear leg drive mentioned more than once or twice. Not that it isn't important, it just sounds like you might want to turn it down a notch. Just my opinions here, I'm no guru, but I've been in this game a long time. Relax, get alot of easy miles, have fun and the speed will take care of itself in due time.

#22 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 5:54pm

the 305 updates pretty fast. i can see differences after altering stroke. there's prolly about a second or three lag, but it's not much. just make sure to maintain your tweaks for more than a few seconds and you'll see differences.

as far as impellers, just remember, that little thing in the water is going to create more drag. it may not be a lot, but it will be something. i used to think fishing lures were tiny and didn't cause much drag. but try paddling with one off your one man. it is a bunch of drag! i'm sure impellers are designed to minimize drag, but i still don't trust all those lab techs in their white jackets.

plus they are pretty fragile. if you are flipping or have a habit of breaking things, it will snap off pretty easy. i've seen that happen a few times.

#23 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 6:12pm

Its good to know that I will (hopefully) keep getting better. I still have my eye on the catalina crossing. I met a lifeguard today that often paddleboards there at night, sleeps and comes back in the am. Thats close to 50 miles. He has a lot of stories about sharks, dolphins and the strange things you see paddling in the moonlight and how the weather can change 180degrees in an hour. I would think he was crazy but he is a sort of legend in so cal.

I was so gung ho to get some coaching, but now (since nobody took up my offer) as time passes I sort of feel like I have my stroke and nothing is going to radically change that. I have watched all dannys instructional vids like 20 times and watched Kai 20 times, and with some minor variation your body starts to find a groove that each time you go out gets some minor refinement. I have had a few days where for whatever unknown reason it just felt easy, the boat felt like it was gliding and it felt fast, tireless and flowing and not a struggle like it usually does so I am hoping to have more days like that in the future.

#24 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 7:08pm

Pittbrah thanks for the specs. Kind of excited to give it a try. Maybe its like when you have only had one girlfriend and you want to try a new one and then after some years you see that it is all variations of the same theme, but for now, looking forward to it.

#25 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 7:12pm

Is there no one else around when you paddle who is faster than you?

#26 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:12pm

I never seen any other oc1s going my way. I am sure all of them are faster than me, but I think I have more determination than most people.

I only went out with another oc1 one time and I got smoked, however the guy is super fit and competitive in 6 man so I only tourtured myself a little...and that was when I was only 2 months into it.

I have seen some unlimited paddleboards and surfskis that were really moving.

What I see all day is the long beach rowing team, the dragonboat (dont get that at all) and a lot of ocean kayaks

#27 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 9:02pm

305 sounds good, Im sold, thanks.

Yea the rowing impeller he was talking about captures a lot of data and it has sensors on the slide of the seat, etc.

#28 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:59pm

thoughts on performance:

" If you want to know about surfing, go surfing"

If you are really in a hurry, I think you should look at a trainings volume of at least 50 miles/week.

Weight is the number one thing you do not want to have in excess:

The under water body of a boat is also called the 'wetted surface area'.
In very slender hulls at speeds ~ 6 mph this hull area is the number one cause of drag - the friction drag.
When you load the boat, 'sinkage' occurs. Example: a Hurricane will sit 1 inch lower in the water when you load it with a paddler that weighs about 70 lbs more than ideal weight.
A one inch wide strip of the entire hull is now also under water and increases the wetted surface area.

Maybe by about 25 %.

The power that you need is resistance x velocity. Resistance is the force that holds the boat back due to friction.

Thus the paddler with 70 lbs extra will need 25 % more power than the ideal weight paddler for the same performace.

In addition, the initial design of the boat did not forsee that the entire hull would be deeper in the water. Again a disadvantage.

In my profession I consult people on weight. Here is my observation:

Exercise does not reduce weight significantly; the only effective and reliable way to reduce weight is to 'not eat' .This can range from fasting, over vegetarian to whatever-you-want in small amounts.

Here is the simple answer:

The overall calory intake has to be smaller than your need - otherwise you will not lose weight.

There is nothing that can change this relationship.

People would be surprised how little they need to eat to keep their weight, and even less if they would like to reduce it.

Now, of course everybody can weigh whatever he wants, but in watersports weight reduction will bring the greatest gain.

#29 Mon, 06/30/2008 - 10:26pm

true. Is this less so in 6 man?

I know there are a lot of really fast heavyweights in rowing and they always beat the lightweights but there does seem to be an ideal weight for each type of craft.

I need a really skinny pair of legs!

#30 Tue, 07/01/2008 - 12:54am

Heart rate will tell you how much good you are doing your body, but it will not tell you how efficiently you are travelling through the water.

It won't tell you if one style of stroke is better for you and your boat than another.

There might even be an inclination to do things that drive your heart rate higher not realizing it does not push the boat along faster.

"Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm" - Syrus Publilius

#31 Tue, 07/01/2008 - 3:40am


As far as OCs being like girlfriends of a varying theme :-), yeah some can be until you find the right girl that is the one for you and never needs to be traded up! ;-)

That is how the Kaimana has been for me. Had the boat for 4 years, bought other rides I thought would be faster (sold them), tried other rides I thought would be faster, but for me that boat just did everything great for me. Take your time, have fun, learn and try other rides. You will eventually find an OC that just works great specifically suited for you.

I have been paddling for about 15 yrs now in different boats, the last 6 have been OC entirely and you are always learning and trying new things out each year - faster stroke rate, longer pull, shorter pull etc. to see what works best for you. Paddling is something you can build on year after year as Jim said and that experience and time will help you go faster....take your time be patient and sometimes just go out and have fun and relax and chill as Johnny Puakea told me once. Work on FEEL which happens when you are paddling at relaxed paces.

Paddling Outrigger is a journey for most people and a lifetime one for many. I remember racing OC1 the first time at Queen Lil and seeing these 50 and 60 yr old dudes going smoking fast from the start to finish kicking my A! That is experience and time on the water :-).

#32 Tue, 07/01/2008 - 4:33am

Thanks yall.

#33 Tue, 07/01/2008 - 9:51am

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