Whitewaterinstruction.com presents a lesson on Paddle Awareness by Shane Benedict.
Rocks aren't always getting in the way of your kayak, occasionally they'll do a number on your paddle as well. That's why this post is devoted to paddle awareness. This particular skill may seem intuitive, but often in the heat of the moment the location of your paddle is the last thing on your mind. Shane explains why paddle awareness is important and demonstrates what can happen if your paddle is the last thing on your mind.
Here are a few more comments from Shane on Paddle Awareness.
I am pretty psyched by how that video turned out. You can really see the paddlers either working with their paddles or not. Its one of those things that takes folks a long time to figure out and its so important because there is nothing more disconcerting than floating towards the next rapid without your paddle because you chocked it in the drop you just ran.
I think something that really made me much more aware of my paddle was paddling slalom gates. Racing slalom you get a couple seconds added on to your time if you touch a gate. Paddling creeks you get upside down, smacked in the face, or a broken paddle if you touch a rock hard enough.
One thing that we just glanced over in the video was being aware of your paddle enough to be able to look for the spot to place your paddle for a good stroke. Its an often overlooked skill that you only develop if you make yourself aware of it, or through lots of paddling in tight places. As you are scouting or heading for a rapid try to look for the spots that you want to place your strokes. If you paddle in tight rapids you will learn this skill. It doesn't need to be hard rapids just tight ones. So go out on the river and run all the slots and tight lines around rocks that you can. Don't settle for scraping your paddle on the rocks try to run clean, No Touch!