What is the purpose of this stroke?
The “choke stroke” is used when having a shorter paddle length would be beneficial. By grabbing the paddle shaft underneath the handle, rather than on top of the handle, you are effectively shortening the length of your paddle by 2-3 inches.
How often do you use this stroke?
I use this stroke fairly often during a paddle, but not for long periods of time. It is for those short spurts when getting lower to the water has its advantages.
In what paddling scenarios is this stroke most effective?
I use the choke stroke most often when I am paddling upwind. Since a “shorter” paddle allows for quicker, more dynamic strokes, it combats the reduced glide felt when paddling into wind and chop.
The faster you can get your paddle out and back into the water, you lessen the wind’s ability to slow you down. Additionally, grabbing lower on your paddle forces your body lower to the water, which helps reduce the surface area for the wind to push against as you paddle.
Step-by-Step Guide to Performing the Choke Stroke
Grab your paddle just below the handle at the neck of the shaft. To do this, turn your hand 90 degrees and wrap your fingers around the top of the paddle shaft. Both hands will be grabbing the paddle shaft with thumbs up and pinkies down.
As you do this, take a lower stance with your body. Remember, you have essentially shortened your paddle by 2-3 inches, so you need to lower your body height by the same amount. Either bend your ankles and knees more deeply or take a staggered stance with your paddling side foot slightly behind your other foot. Typically, my knees stay bent and my body stays low for the duration of using this technique, rather than getting a full body extension for each stroke.
To make the choke stroke effective, you will need to take shorter, faster strokes with an emphasis on getting your paddle out and back into the water as quickly as possible.
Remember to always keep your chest up, your shoulders back and breathe.
Choke Stroke Pro Tips
There is no doubt in my mind that the choke stroke, when executed correctly, is faster in upwind conditions. I also see it used a lot during sprints and starts. While I personally do not use it during these times, I can see why paddlers would find it beneficial because the shortened paddle length allows for a faster cadence.
It is worth noting that I don’t do the choke stroke for long periods of time because it is harder on my legs and back than a typical forward stroke.
As with any new technique, the choke stroke requires time and practice to perform it effectively. When I first started practicing the choke stroke, it felt awkward and it wasn’t as fast. I could do it well on one side, but not the other. Now, I am comfortable on both sides and use it all the time.
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
When trying to get your body lower to the water, make sure you avoid bending too far forward at the waist. Instead, try to take the extra load into your legs by bending at the knees and ankles––not your back.
Remember that in order to make this stroke effective, you will need to increase your stroke rate significantly.
Fitness & Paddle Coaching from Seychelle
As a world champion athlete and paddling coach, Seychelle offers a number of training options and advice via her website . If you are interested in having your stroke analyzed, working on a training program or arranging a clinic in your area, please get in touch with her. A number of Black Project athletes follow training programs designed by Seychelle.