While I was out keeping the skills fresh at Upper Railroad wavehole on the New this evening, I tried to take a step back and look at the big picture of how I can make myself a better paddler. By better paddler, I mean I want to improve my technique, style, smoothness, and snap to my tricks. This is the beginning of the competitive freestyle season for North America as well as Europe, so it is a great time to bring those skills up as high as humanly possible.
Far too often I find myself settling into a mellow routine of doing the same moves and not even paddling hard enough to get myself winded after a ride. I decided at the beginning of my session today that I would focus on a couple things:
Increasing my power/snap for my tricks. This comes from releasing your boat from the wave and throwing the move at exactly the right millisecond using solely the core muscles. Your arms and paddle should only be used as stablizers to keep balance and to transfer your torso's energy downwards against the water. Never should one find their arms extended while blunting, cartwheeling, etc. Your arms will never be strong enough to throw a snappy move. To get the boat to release to throw a blunt, for example, one must concentrate on extreme edge-to-edge transition as well as finding the rhythm of your boat to get maximum bounce. Here is a fairly aggressive session from Upper Railroad:
Pushing myself hard. A couple of days ago I ran the Lower Meadow with some buddies, and had one of the most fun runs of my life. I decided not to just hit the same lines I always run with as little effort as possible. I explored the river in a major way, catching every little eddy and sprinting back and forth to hit every slot I knew was safe out there, while using the best technique I knew how. Sure, it got me panting at the end of every rapid, but I felt like I really accomplished something. I learned new things about my Diesel and how it interacts with different currents. I felt the boat carve in and out of eddied like never before. I wore myself out and had one of the best times in recent memory doing it.
Today I went just as hard at Upper Railroad wave and had equally as great of a time. I didn't rest between moves - I let one flow right into the next no matter how winded I was feeling. I truly believe that boosting your skills and overall kayaking athleticism relies on pushing yourself physically. It'll whip yourself into much better cardiovascular shape plus will make you stronger, which will in turn let you work on dialing freestyle moves AND river running skills that much longer on your next outing. If you really want to get better quickly at kayaking this is the way. Lazy, mellow days on the river are great fun and plenty relaxing and blissful, but it'll take exponentially longer to learn new things about controlling your kayak.
Think about the technique you are using and push yourself hard physically and mentally next time you visit your local playspot or favorite river. The physical results and personal epiphanies this will inevitably lead to will only make you love kayaking that much more.
Deep thoughts, with...
Photo: Trevor Clark