The folks who have fished from kayaks or canoes with me in the past few years may get a chuckle out of this post because they’ve witnessed the difficulties I have nowadays standing up in most paddle craft. I haven’t always been this way. Head injuries, injured vertebrae in my spine, and a very bad left knee had all but robbed me of my ability to walk without falling down; thus, standing in a kayak or canoe was next to impossible. Since my knee surgery in December it has gotten a lot easier, but I still have balance issues that will never go away. The brain damage cannot be fixed. Some days my spinal injuries aren’t a problem, and other days they are. So some days are better than others. This is a major contributing factor to why I work with Freedom Hawk Kayaks, the best stand-up fishing kayaks in the world. Freedom Hawk kayaks make standing to fish, pole, and scout shallow water safe and easy for me. If they can do that for me, then they are certainly an excellent choice for anyone who wants to focus on fishing instead of standing up in their kayak! But this post is about how to stand up to pole, paddle, or fish from a kayak or canoe that isn’ta Freedom Hawk. I’ll share a piece of advice with you about standing/sitting transitions in Sit-on-top kayaks and canoes that a very wise and expert paddler shared with me when I was 15. I still do it any time I am in a boat other than a Freedom Hawk, which has a great stand-up bar.
Never be too proud to get on your hands and knees in a boat! The secret to comfort, stability, and efficiency is to keep your center of gravity as low as possible in each posture you use. ANY TIME you transition in a canoe or kayak you are at the greatest risk of capsizing or falling overboard. The ONLY right way to do it is to transition to a kneeling position, put your hands on the gunwales, wait until the boat is perfectly steady again, and then stand – maintaining as perfect a center of gravity as possible. So straighten your spine first and legs next in a fluid motion with your weight distributed evenly between your legs and feet. Even when not in the boat, train yourself to keep your center of gravity in your hips just below your belt by being conscious of that part of your body as you walk, stand, etc. Relax your hips, spine, shoulders, arms, and breathe from your diaphram (stomach). Work on economy of motion in the boat. Don’t make unnecessary moves. Leave your feet, legs, and arms where they are unless you HAVE to move them. Then move one at a time in a relaxed, smooth, and purposeful manner. To look around, turn your HEAD instead of your body. When your neck won’t turn any more, turn the BOAT. If you’re at anchor turn your body if you need to. These are the ways you improve your balance and become a safe and expert stand-up paddler.
Remember: it is far more dangerous to fall out of the boat from a standing position in very shallow water than it is to fall overboard in deep water…assuming you are wearing a PFD like you should, or even that you know how to swim and do a deep water re-entry (like you absolutely should).