Living the Paddling Lifestyle
I talked in the last blog about finding your inner paddler. I thought that for this one I might give a little advice on upping your game once you’ve picked that inner paddler. Here are some tips, but remember the main thing is to have fun, even if fun for you is acheing arms, or bugg infeste sleepless nights.
If you want to specialize in a particular type of paddling, or if you want to start “upping your game” in a particular type of discipline, here are some suggestions.
For All Disciplines In General:
· Get some instruction. Take a class, go to symposiums, get some one on one in the pool, the amount you spend will nothing compared to what you gain.
· Learn about the gear, how gear design works, and try it out to see what paddling gear works best for you.
· Stretch. OK so yoga isn’t for you. That’s ok but you still need to learn some stretching techniques. It just goes hand in hand with the sport.
· Learn about your environment, the water, weather, tides, currents, and the like. Paddling is an outdoor sport, learn about conditions. Just as rugged indoorsman know how to turn up the heat, you should know what cloths to wear.
· Just because your vessel is small does not mean you are not a boater. Learn the rules of the road, and how to interoperate them into your surroundings. Don’t be the one on the water making the mistakes and screwing it up for other boaters. You learned the rules of the road when you learned how to drive a car, do the same for the waterways you travel.
· Remember this is a sport. You don’t have to be in the Olympics to be an athlete. Taking care of your body will make for a more enjoyable experience all around.
· Go out with friends. Find a local paddling club, and join a bunch of groups. This will present many opportunities to try new places and get you out more.
· Think about why you like doing paddling. If it’s all about the birds get a good bird guide like The Sibley’s Guide To Birds, and remember to read the “how to use this book” part. If it is for the solitude, seek out hidden spots and out of the way places. Remember to talk to the locals, the right ones know everything. A good conversation over a beer or glass of wine with your new paddling buddies about what they like most will most likely enlighten you.
· Learn to flip over, and be comfortable with it. If you’re always afraid of tipping the boat over you’ll have less fun.
· Learn basic recovery skills. Even recreational paddlers need this. Some people think this should be mandatory before you can buy a boat it’s so important. It could save your life, your friend’s life, or both.
· Take a class, or lots of them. Yea I know I said this up top, but nothing will make you learn faster.
· Become a member of the ACA (American Canoe Association), BCU (British Canoe Union), or both. Most countries have a paddling organization so if you’re from New Zealand join the New Zealand Canoe Federation.
· Watch videos. Your local library has a few, I grantee it. Better yet, buy some from your local paddling shop you will want to watch them over and over anyway.
· Read books. I recommend Gordon Brown’s Sea Kayak a Manual for Intermediate & Advanced Sea Kayakers, and Doug Cooper’s two books Sea Kayak Handling and Rough Water Handling to start, but there are many great books out there by many great authors. Ken Whiting has quite a few books and has a great philosophy of kayaking.
· Every time you go kayaking, SUPing, or canoeing practice your skills, try new strokes. Sometimes the most fun is making up new stroke combinations even if they just look cool.
· Paddle as much as you can. There is no substitute for water time.
Greenland or Traditional Skills Kayaking
· Yoga, not Yoda. Like most people I can lean more in the direction of the later then I can to the floor but flexibility is more important than power.
· Get the gear. Let’s face it; you won’t be mastering all thirty five Greenland Capsize Maneuvers in your SOT fishing kayak. Besides its fun and looks cool.
· Get instruction. Symposiums are a great way to meet others in the Greenland kayaking community. This will also help you make some good friends with similar interest.
· Get into the history; learn the proper names and why each skill was needed. It will enrich your experience.
· Try rope gymnastics. If you don’t try it at least watch it on YouTube, its neat.
· Stretch, again it’s just that important.
· Start eating dried seal meat. OK, you got me. This one isn’t important.
· Get out on the water. A lot.
· Paddle for fitness as much as for fun.
· Find friends that want to put in the miles with you, or learn to enjoy paddling on your own.
Just make sure you are ready for the risks and prepared for everything.
· Add weight to your kayak, canoe, or SUP. Gallon jugs filled with water work great, and the more you drink form them the lighter your load gets.
· Go paddling.
· Learn to pee from your vessel. Yes this goes with the last one. If you’re a guy in a boat it takes practice. If you’re a woman, there are devices on the market to help, but it takes more practice. If you paddle a SUP, I’m green with envy.
· Kayak camp, canoe camp, or SUP camp until its second nature. If you repack your gear when you clean it after every trip it really helps. You can go at the drop of a dime, and tell work you suddenly came down with the flu every time the sun is shining.
· Learn how marathon runners train.
· Customize your kayak, and get comfortable.
· Find your perfect kayak food. This really is what works for you. I like hard boiled eggs with salt, and food bars, homemade are the best but store bought is fine.
· Learn and use good technique. This helps keep injuries away.
· Go paddling some more. Feel free to paddle until you get sick. Once you do, you’ll feel better and the shark that’s been following you for the past five miles will thank you for it.
· Retire, just so you can paddle.
Granted these are all incomplete lists, and there is a lot of cross over. This should be enough to help you get an idea of what you need to achieve your goals, and I hope it wasn’t too bad of a read ether. I didn’t mention balancing games, like kayak wobble boards and slack lining, in any of the lists but these can be a lot of fun. They can also cause broken bones if you fall so just be careful if you take them up for a side sport. Palates as well as Yoga really do go hand in hand with paddling along with many types of martial arts. The real trick is to find out what you like, and the rest will fall into place. Until our next blog, happy paddling.
In the 1991 film Dead Again Robin Williams plays an ex-shrink. In his first scene he says “Someone’s ether a smoker or nonsmoker. There’s no in between. The trick is to find out which one you are and be that.” This line’s stuck in my head since I saw it in the theaters. Not because I am a smoker but because of the definitiveness of it. Luckily when it comes to picking a paddling discipline we don’t have to be quite so absolute, but sometimes we forget this, and sometimes we want to be the paddler we think we should be rather then the paddler we like being.
I’ve met a lot of people in the past few years that are searching for their inner paddler. In many cases they look up to instructors, leaders in their local paddling community or friends, but very often they forget to look at themselves. When at kayak symposiums or club outings they see others and think about someone’s great paddling form, or how well they roll. They may daydream about exotic trips and becoming an expedition kayaker. What’s being overlooked is how others got to that level. Just as often they don’t realize a slight change in their paddling behavior can make all of the difference in the world. I have seen people paddle for years at a recreational level and as soon they decide to kick it into high gear their skill level goes through the roof.
Every time I go kayaking I work on my skills. My objective is to become a better technical paddler, coach and instructor. I still love to go on trips and explore, but at the moment messing about in boats is about working on technique. This “technical paddler” is my current inner paddler. Something else that helps me with this is watching other paddlers. Watching people helps me see different styles and define my own. I’m able to learn from their experiences and decide what I want to try next. Kayaking is so diversified, and personal that we can change our style over and over again and never get borded. I have learned there’s no one way to do anything in kayaking, just as well as in life. There are tried and true techniques and safe practices, but new stroke combinations and techniques are being discovered everyday by people like you and I who love to spend time on the water playing with our kayaks, canoes, SUPs or whatever water toy strikes our fancy.
I am a multi discipline paddler. One day I would like to go on grand expeditions, and put miles upon miles behind me in the course of a day. I would like to become an expert at Greenland rolls, and when I slow down advance to bird watching lily dipping trips in a big fat comfy recreational kayak. It’s easy to look at other kayakers and think that they’re better at rolling, or at putting in the miles, but when the time comes for me to become an expert at traditional skills I’ll do that rather than playing in the surf. After my kids are a little older and I can take a few weeks to kayak the fjords of Norway I’ll concentrate on putting in the miles. I know I have to pick one thing at a time to prioritize when I get a chance to go out. Until my next change of discipline I just love to paddle and in the words of a good friend, “give me a log and I’ll paddle it”.
When trying to find your inner paddler, don’t be disappointed if you haven’t mastered every type of paddling, put in twenty miles every time you go kayaking or wish you were a better kayak surfer, if counting birds gets you on the water. Remember the Robin Williams quote “The trick is to find out which one you are and be that” and if I might add, be happy with it.
The first time I remember going paddling, I sat with my sister in the middle of a 17’ aluminum canoe between my parents. We were on a narrow strip of flat water with lush green trees, and dark foreboding water. My sister and I shared a paddle and spent the time grabbing it from each other and dragging it next to the boat. I don’t know if this is actually the first time I went paddling, but it’s the memory stuck in my head and I cherish it. As the years went by my sister and I became accomplished recreational canoeist, and I consider those early experiences the basis for my love for all types of paddling.
I got my first job as a sea kayak guide in 2001 on Orcas Island in Washington State. For the next year and a half I paddled constantly. When I wasn’t kayaking for work, I was kayaking for relaxation or fun. This was when I started living the kayaking lifestyle and I’ve been chasing that life ever since. After Orcas I traveled with the seasons, learning the styles, techniques and philosophies of paddlers all over the US. I have been lucky enough to have been a sea kayak guide in Maui HI, Yellowstone National Park WY, Jupiter FL, and in the winter of 2005/2006 I started Hidden Reef Eco-Tours on the Island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands.
Last year two major events happened in my paddling carrier. I received my American Canoe Association (ACA) level four (L4) Open Water Coastal Kayaking instructor certification and Paddle NC was awarded the paddling concession for both Carolina Beach State Park (next to Wilmington NC) and Hammocks Beach State Park (in Swansboro next to Emerald Isle NC). With the opening of Paddle NC and the launching of this new web site I want to share with you some paddling thoughts, philosophies and truly incredible adventures. I hope this sparks some good discussions from you in the process and helps you enjoy, as much as I do, living the paddling lifestyle.