Ever notice that really good boaters seem to sail over scary looking holes with a single stroke, land in a cloud of spray with a BOOF, and then continue into another series of moves with grace and precision. Its is not necessarily just their ability to hit a solid boof stroke, or a quick brace, but their compiled experience and training in perfecting the basics that makes them confident & graceful on the water. Ask any advanced kayaker how they got to where they are, the chances are there will be a common thread from each of them which adds up to “tons of practice”. Specifically, they practice lots and lots of moves and hone their skills constantly. If you’ve been paddling a while you’ve no doubt noticed that some long time paddlers are not necessarily as smooth and polished as some paddlers with far less years in a boat. It’s not just the quantity of time in the boat that counts here, it’s the quantity of moves. Time in boat for the solid paddler means time spent keeping those skills razor sharp.
With the increase in popularity, coupled with changes in technology and culture; there has been shift in how widely the cutting edge is being broadcast. While the level of potential risk of paddling on the cutting edge of the sport has continued to grow, “the extreme” has never been so tangible and accessible to the novice or average paddler. Seeing extreme kayakers pushing the art of paddling to its limits can be fun and entertaining. The issue is that it can sometimes lead aspiring paddlers to entertain thoughts of pushing their own limits much further than safety conventions would suggest. It’s important for paddlers to maintain an honest assessment of their own skills, and limitations; and to live within them. A key ingredient to accurate assessment of ones skill set, and limitations, is to both hone and test those skills frequently (ideally where the consequences are not so severe). Being a solid and polished paddler is all about challenging yourself within your comfort zone and striving to “Clean” or “Style” the moves you choose.
Some of the most basic skills tend to be critically important when you get into harder water. Much of paddling is mind over matter, being able to focus on the step you are about to preform regardless of what may be going on
around you. This means that the basic skills need to be performed intuitively, and with the utmost of confidence! The lines of a hard rapid are often comprised of a more
complex arrangement of relatively basic “simple” moves; being able to break things down to the most basic elements within all that scary froth is a big step to being able to nail the line. A class II ferry across the middle of “Gremlin” or “Highway Rapid” could just as easily be the class II ferry move that leads into a series of moves in a rapid on Cherry Creek or the south Yuba. Practicing your moves as you be-bop your way down the river will make a run more interesting & builds technique that will make you a stronger paddler.
So make this a personal challenge, and encourage your paddling partners to do the same. Next time you go kayaking try and catch some tougher eddies, spend a bit more time out front perhaps, and really work your skills all the way to the take out. I encourage everyone to move beyond “Getting down it” to “STYLING IT”!
Here are a few points to consider in sharpening up your own paddling:
-Work your skills in familiar waters.
-Don’t be a lazy paddler! Just because everyone else in the group floated right down the middle of the rapid doesn’t mean that there aren’t moves to be found.
-Read your water well! Be a keen observer, take note of the subtle details, and pay attention to other options.
-Don’t focus on the boat(s) in front of you, read your own water instead, and chose your own lines based on how you read the currents rather than where your friends all ended up.
-Try new lines. Catch new eddies in familiar rapids, or run different lines than you have in the past.
-Take note and pay extra attention to those moves that don’t go quite as smooth as you had planed. Look again, and look harder next time for what you could change to have better success.
-Try not to repeat mistakes, and avoid developing bad habits. If you’re struggling, or unsure about certain techniques, this is usually a great time to get help.
-Last but not least; HAVE FUN!!!
So happy paddling folks, get out there and
style the moves you choose!
Written as a compilation Piece by Gigi, Dylan, & Jason