Tips and Techniques - Fiddle Widdle
If I were asked to make a prioritized list of strokes, I would say that the top three are the forward stroke, stern draw, and stern pry. The forth on my list would be what I call "fiddle widdle". It's not really a stroke per say, but rather the lining up process that gets you ready to make the next move. It's a mélange made up from bits and pieces of several strokes (forward, back, draw, scull, pry, etc.) used to help with placement and timing. When you are getting ready to leave an eddy, catch a surf wave, or go for a must-make ferry, getting properly lined up and positioned is critical. This is where fiddle widdle comes in.
Picture yourself in a boiling eddy, trying to get to the eddy line at just a certain spot so you can slide out on a wave. Visualize your paddle being set, (as in, set in cement) with the shaft sticking straight up beside the boat at the pivot point. By applying a little pressure you can inch your boat forward, back, or to the side. Don't move the paddle in a full stroke and try to keep it in the water at all times.
The trick is to use a series of quick and short (I like to call them micro strokes) forward, pry, and draw strokes all linked together to keep constant pressure on the blade. This allows you to control the position of the boat. If you lift the paddle out of the water to do a recovery stroke, the current will take control and you'll lose your positioning and alignment.
The key point is to learn how and when to adjust the blade angle and position in relationship to the pivot point. The effect of a micro stroke done in front of the pivot point will be quite different from doing it behind. A bit of blade angle will also produce a different result from having the blade perfectly perpendicular to the keel line.
On the video clip, I exaggerated fiddle widdle in a moving eddy where I wanted slide forward and to my right. The goal was not to be sucked forward by the pull of the eddy but rather to move into position under control. In real-world conditions, fiddle widdle is even more subtle and fine-tuned. Notice how the paddle stays in the water until I'm ready to complete the move.
To practice, get into an eddy and then pick a mark, let's say 2' back from a rock on the right side of the eddy line. Slowly inch yourself up to that mark. Now do the same thing, inching yourself up to a mark 3' from the rock, then try 1'. Repeat the drill on the left eddy line (don't switch paddling sides to do this). Concentrate on making the move smooth and deliberate. Avoid jerky motions and letting your bow swing back and forth. You can also use fiddle widdle while going down steam to micro adjust your position. Use the same principals of leaving your paddle in the water and adjusting the blade angle.
So get out there and give it a try! I think you'll be surprised by the increased control and greater percentage of successful moves.
Video Clip (QuickTime) 1503KB