Zen and the art of boofing
Good news fans, guest writer Liam is back in action! Check out what he has to say about the best week of kayaking he's had in Ecuador so far! Liam, the floor is all yours:
A round up of our advanced creeking clinic interjected with some of my personal, inane and sometimes inconclusive thoughts about improving your boating.
Last week we were in safe hands with Steve the Doctor and Anders the Paramedic joining us for a week of advanced creeking clinic.
Both Steve and Anders had kayaked with us in Ecuador before and both were fit, confident kayakers. So we needed something special to keep them on their toes. So the day before our new group arrived Captain Darcy cracked open a beer, busted out her note pad, carefully re-organized her highlighters and concocted the ultimate seven day dream itinerary for the advanced boater.
Just writing this list makes my boof muscles ache.
***Warning reading this may result in severe jealousy, side effects include drooling and impromptu air ticket purchases***
Day 1.) Lower Cosanga
Day 2.) Oyacachi from the upper most get on
Day 3.) The Upper Jondachi
Day 4.) The Piatua
Day 5.) The Cheesehouse section of the Quijos.
Day 6.) The Upper Jondachi.
Day 7.) Bridge to bridge on the Quijos.
I get a real kick from watching people's learning styles. In my opinion Steve and Anders had different approaches to reading rapids and learning. It was good fun to watch them and they were great people to be on the river with.
After a boof or punching a hole I would often see Steve re-enacting the movements in the eddy or gentle flow below. Especially when seeing someone else uncork a good boof Steve would often immediately imitate the actions, training his body.
Every time Steve nailed a boof one he'd be grinning before the boat landed. Those moments came more and more as the week went on. In Particular I remember the last rapid on the bridge to bridge section on the final day. I watched Steve take of with perfect technique and just boof the crap out "Esquina." It was awesome to watch, and with that in mind I over thought the boof, waited too long for my stroke, did absolutely nothing and slid over the edge like an overweight penguin.
Luckily I was the sweep boat and no one saw how ungraceful it really was.
Anders is a very solid kayaker and, from what I can guess, a shit hot skier. (I understand more Ancient Latin Than I did of his ski terminology) and his approach to improving was a much more subtle to watch and I imagine he was not consciously trying to improve. But, alas, of course he did.
If Anders didn't quite nail a drop I saw the quickest flash of him assessing what just happened and then carry on. That moment's reflection was him quickly assessing what just happened and how to improve on that. Years of skiing have allowed him to become very aware of how to make his muscles do what he wants. (kinesthetic awareness). Anders has a pool of knowledge gained from skiing he can draw from to improve his paddling. Those who practice yoga, Pilates, gymnastics, downhill biking, surfing as well as paddle will often be able to improve themselves by making analogies from other experiences in sport.
I really hope this is true because maybe my experience in kayaking will prevent me from being terrible when I try skiing.
The great thing about this job is that I constantly get to improve my paddling. In fact it's one of the great things about this sport. You can always look to improve your performance even on your local run.
It is also a sport that is relatively friendly on the body allowing a long time to improve and hit your peak. It doesn't rely completely on physical fitness but much of what makes a good paddler is technique and experience. I'm 26 now and I hope to be a whole lot better than this in my mid thirties. I might not be paddling as hard stuff when I'm 56 but I reckon I'll make a lot less mistakes.
I do make a constant effort to improve. It's not just down to time in a boat; it's a mixture of time in a boat and constantly giving myself new tasks and reflecting back on what worked etc. This is often referred to as varied practice.
A recent example of this is; I tried to run the Piatua this trip with no reverse strokes. Reverse strokes aren't necessarily bad but by giving myself this tasking made re-think my paddling and try new things.
Practice makes perfect.
Unfortunately this isn't true 'practice makes permanent' is a more accurate phrase. For example if you keep trying to boof with a bad forward stroke and leaning right back then your going to keep getting the same poor results and unfortunately every time your making it hard wiring it in to your muscle memory and in the long term making it harder to learn proper technique.
A common scenario in paddling is when you meet someone who says they are class three paddler, you join them on a class three paddle and they are all over the place. Speaking later they inform you "I don't know whats going on, I paddle my local class three all the time." In short they know how to paddle that particular class three run but they are not a class three paddler.
Variety is a great tool to help improve yourself as a paddler. Try new things, new strokes, new boats, new lines, new paddling buddies, new roles in the group and new rivers.
Well that's quite enough from me, would love to know your thoughts, time to go paddling!