Most people I know aren’t like me. By that, I mean most people don’t base their lives around
kayaking. For me, this is something I have spent the last 10 years doing nearly year round and
have found a way to base my career around it. Therefore, it is quite often that my weekend
warrior friends will take a big step back in paddling if any other aspect of life gets in the way.
Often I will hear people say ‘I am not feeling that river because I have not been out in a while’.
It wasn’t until this season did I feel the impacts of this. The reality is: sometimes life gets in
the way of paddling.
With a successful career change, moving to a new house and many other things piling up this
spring, I found myself in a situation where paddling became a difficult outing. Even getting out
to my local runs seems like a major mission.
Paddling is one of those sports (especially paddling class 4-5) that you need to stay sharp both
mentally and physically. You can’t have one without the other. Therefore, many people feel
that if they haven’t been putting consistent time on the water then their skills will not be there
the next time they need them. While this might be correct in some ways, I feel that there are
ways to minimize the impact of being away from the river.
1. Develop the proper skills to begin with:
This season I had the opportunity to work with Steve Fisher on his Dreamline project. This
project really helped me hone in on the importance of a number of skills ranging from simple to
complex. Now every day that I am on the water I work to master my skills as much as
This could be as simple as dialing in my forward stroke when paddling back up the eddy
between surfs or making simple ferries in the in-between rapids on creeks. Either way,
practice makes perfect and we all have bad habits. Developing good habits will mean that
they are there waiting for you when you get back on the water. I can’t stress this enough.
Make this fun. Play games with your friends. Push each other. Practice doesn’t have to be a boring exercise!
My local training run in the spring allows me to hone in many basic skills like working on my
strokes, reading water, and getting comfortable in various features.
Every day that I am on the water I am always working on diagonals and how to use them to help me navigate my way down the river. Even the small ones can teach a lot so you are on it for the big ones!
2. Health & Fitness:
This doesn’t just mean hitting the gym and pushing weight around. It means working on
flexibility with yoga, building stamina with interval training, and conditioning with weights.
There is always time in the day to do this no matter where you are. Having a base of fitness is always important in kayaking but having it there when you need it is crucial.
Now another important aspect to consider with fitness is also recovery. This is so important
because it allows the fitness to really take hold. I find that a good diet (I eat plant based), a
solid regimen of supplements (try magnesium glycinate & NAC), and good sleep can really
magnify your results of fitness and get you out there harder the next day. It is the recovery
process that you will really start to see impacts with fitness and your ability to perform on the
river at any time.
3. Cross Training:
I recently moved to an area that is full of trails. I have been able to do a lot of biking and
running right out the door. I truly feel that all sports have aspects that help relate to paddling
and thinking of that when you are doing them really helps out.
I have been using The Pnut as a recovery tool. It puts all foam rollers to shame.
For example, trail riding and running both have simple things that help hone your skills on the
river. Looking ahead, reacting to obstacles, and balance. I also feel this way in the winter with backcountry skiing.
Not only that but doing different sports really helps work out the muscles that get used
repeatedly with sports like kayaking. This helps prevent injuries and long-term problems.
Mountain biking helps my kayaking a lot. Get out there and rip it up.
Again, don’t forget the yoga. It helps not only the physical component but I find the mental
component of paddling as well.
4. Listen to your inner voice:
If all these aspects above are paying off and you feel great when you get back to the river that is
awesome. However, there are always those moments above the waterfall that something
inside might be saying to walk the drop.
Listen to that voice. It is likely saying something for a reason.
The drop will always be there. Sometimes there are days that you just don’t feel ‘on’. I
recently had a day like that on the Seven Sisters. I was with fellow team paddler Seth
Ashworth who was firing on all cylinders. I, on the other hand, had too much on my mind,
wasn’t feeling it, etc and opted to walk some of the bigger ones. No one judged me and I
knew I would be back another day to send it.
Being able to step up to the big ones is great when the feeling is there. Feed it when it is but listen to
yourself when it isn’t.
5. Have fun:
Kayaking is awesome. Get out there as much as you can!!
Sometimes we can take sports too seriously. The reason we got into it was to have fun.
Therefore don’t let some missed weekends hold you back from doing what you love.
If it means stepping down a level or taking a break from some of the big rapids, just get out on
Life can get in the way and the river will be there waiting for you when you get back.