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Kayaking & Catchup in Freestyle


One way to analyse Freestyle technique is  measuring Arms relative Angular Distance of UPPER ARMS at certain moment.

In here, the angle between stroking arm and entry arm is measured, at the MOMENT that entry arm just hit the water based on Swimming Technique, Cecil Colwon.


Catchup FS(CFS*) - Arms angle (<45 deg)

Kayaking FS (KFS**)-Arms angle at >135 -180 deg.  when Arms angle at 180 deg, simply means arms at opposite side.

Left to Right, 1) Penny Olexiak (KFS), 2) Katie Kedecky(KFS), 3)Ian Thorpe(CFS), 4)Sun Yang (CFS)

KFS characteristics

KFS  features UPPER ARMS and SHOULDERS on the opposite side of the body, forming a straight line, like swimming with a kayaking oar .

The simutaneous arms movement in opposite direction,  offer Power amplification effect and hence more powerful strokes.

KFS , unlike CFS, do not require a higher recovering speed to catch up the other arm . Hence KFS has a more stable and constant rotating speed i.e. A more relaxed style. *** Refer to the  rotating speed chart.

KFS do not have the benefits of CFS as mentioned below.

CFS characteristics

CFS features the leading arm to stay in the reach/glide position longer, while the recovering arm is "catching up" with the leading arm

Benefits of CFS includes easier control of body Streamlining and position, High Elbow Catch

However, the recovery arm need to speed up to catch the other arm and less relaxation during recovery. Other  criticisms are lack body rotation and risk of overgliding,

Popov swim with his Kayaking Freestyle, and his upper arms and both shoulders always form a straight line at any point of the swim cycle

Picture1-4, Sun Yang use his Catchup FS and perform High recovery speed with only 0.2sec for his recovery cycle.

Swimmers & Comparison

Drills for KFS

Speed Popov Drill  

Pause Drill with 6 beat kick

Land Based Kayak Drill

Kayak swim with stick


*CFS is also known as front quadrant Freestyle, and in Chinese-Front Cross(前交叉)

**KFS is named based on the Kayak principle. And in Chinese- Back Cross  (後交叉) 

*** Relaxtion via high speed,  Kayak principle was developed by professor Rein Haljang about his book "Perfect Swimming - Technique and Tactics " 

"What is the limit " also mentioned Kayak Principle

​****There are more classification between KFS and CFS. In chinese term, the style between KFS and CFS is called Mid Cross (中交叉) 

We simplify into 2 types here for easy understanding.


******Marc Evans



Penny Olexiak, Rio 100m FS WMN,

Sun Yang ,London 1500 FS MN,

Katie Ledecky, Rio 800 FS WMN,

Janet Evans ,

Popov vs Hooganband

Cecil Cowon

The graph show CFS's higher than average recovery speed. KFS has more constant rotational speed.

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