By Sal Montgomery
Wow, well it’s been a long ‘winter’ hasn’t it?! For many of us this will be the longest ‘off-season’ we’ve had for a very long time. The Spring normally marks the beginning of snow melting and rivers flowing. A time when we’re putting the skis and boards back in the loft, and dusting off our paddling gear.
A call from a paddling buddy excitedly announcing that the local run is coming in is usually what marks the change and suddenly you’re a kayaker again, back on rivers that have been empty for what feels like so long.
« No matter how much of a badass paddler you were at the end of the summer, realistically you aren’t going to be quite there after several months of dry land ».
For some, the transition is gradual and involves the odd weekend back on the fun but easier-going, local run. Maybe building up as the season progresses. For those that have been pretty much sat waiting at the door in their BA all winter, like a dog anticipating the next walk, it’s probably a different story. The moment the gauge hits green for go, they’re already pulling their spraydeck on their cockpit and seal launching straight back in to the gnar.
Whatever your style or addiction-level, a weekend warrior or Greyhound at the start gate, there’s a few things to worth considering if you want to get the most out of your paddling season.
From couch to crushing
No matter how much of a badass paddler you were at the end of the summer, realistically you aren’t going to be quite there after several months of dry land. Yeah you’re not going to have lost everything, but reactions will be slower, strokes not as precise and lines less stylish. It annoys the hell out of us, but it’s just the way it is.
Make an action plan and use what you’ve got…
Doorstep gnar is uncommon for most of us and with travel restrictions still in place, now more than ever we need to use what’s available to us. Sitting at home focusing on where we’re not allowed to paddle right now is going to get you no where. Instead, let’s start using that local class 2/3 that you haven’t been on since you got your roll.
You’re probably not gonna get your Cobra flip on this section, but you can refresh the basics that might have gone a bit stale over the winter. It could be a great place for working on the lesser thought of skills, the ‘I wana learn how to do that one day’ or ‘I really need to get better at that sometime’ stuff. How many of us could do with working on our off-side, backdeck or hand rolls? Even small waves can be a great training ground for working on your kickflips, or dialling your edge control with a ton of surfing. Boof that tiny ledge over and over again until you’re comfortable cranking your boat right over and getting that ear dip every time.
Get paddle fit…
There’s no denying that winter sports can make you incredibly fit, especially if you’re a demon ski tourer or mountaineer. Some of this fitness is transferable, benefiting you on the water, but really we need to get paddle fit. We’ve all been there- getting on your first river of the season and thinking ‘has paddling always been this tiring?’ or feeling like your boat’s got heavier over the winter. So as mentioned above, let’s use what we’ve got. That easy section by your house, why not put together a drill? Working the river will massively benefit not only your skills but also your fitness, two birds, one stone! Let’s get creative- attainments, micro eddies, S moves, using features, punching waves, boofing stoppers. Even short sections will have loads of training opportunities, it’s up to you to use them.
No whitewater close by? No problem. Flat water paddling is fab for fitness, as well as working on your forwards paddling technique. It may sound boring but a good forward stroke is super important for running the big stuff. A crap forward stroke means you’ll use extra energy unnecessarily, be able to generate less power and probably get a tendon strain injury in your shoulders. Worth reminding yourself that a boof is essentially a really good forward stroke. Again you can set up drills to work on endurance and power, and therefore help get the most out of your sessions. Apps such as Paddle Logger can help you to monitor your progress, by recording speeds and distances and keeping a log of your on-water training regimes. (I also like this one, as it has a few safety features such as a ‘call a friend’ or the PaddleLIVE options for if you’re not off the water when you’d expected, or your family and friends want to keep an eye on you! Which could be a good idea for those of us ‘social distancing’ on the water, a.k.a solo paddling)
« Maybe this is the perfect time for working on those ‘niggles’ and fixing those frustrating injuries we’ve been ignoring for months…«
For some, getting on the water still isn’t an option. Hopefully it won’t be long, but in the meantime we still have lots we can be doing to get us prepped for that green light. Aerobic fitness is vital, not only on the water. If you’re not fit, one big hike-in, a full-on scout or a pain in the ass portage can take it out of you and have significant effects on your performance on the water. So why not make the effort to get out running, cycling or even walking more frequently if you can. Again you can mix things up and alternate between the shorter-sharper sessions, as well as those longer-distanced sessions for endurance.
Even at home there’s loads we can be doing. Whether it’s in your lounge, bedroom, garden or a nearby field, we can be working on our paddling-prep. Due to the prolonged ‘off-season’, people doing home-exercise is at an all time high. Proving that we don’t necessarily need fancy gyms and tons of equipment, as long as we can get creative and get motivated! (Check out my Youtube channel for a few workouts and paddle-specific exercise ideas). Maybe this is the perfect time for working on those ‘niggles’ and fixing those frustrating injuries we’ve been ignoring for months…
Don’t flush it down the toilet…
Whatever you decide to do, remember the year isn’t over. You’ve worked hard to get your paddling to where it is, don’t let that go to waste. Time hasn’t stopped and neither have our opportunities to progress and keep moving forwards. My paddling plans have been postponed and I don’t know when the next expedition will happen, but when it does I’ll be ready.
We’re whitewater kayakers, we’re used to adapting to dynamic, ever changing environments. So like we do best, let’s ride it out and keep charging.
Stay positive and share the psych!
Part-time Physiotherapist, full-time kayak bum. When not in a remote, sketchy canyon in Asia or dropping off a big waterfall in Chile, Sal can be found at her home in the UK probably running silly distances, swimming in extremely cold seas, writing blogs or editing the ridiculous amount of GoPro footage from her last expedition.
Sal is sponsored by Pyranha Kayaks, PeakUK and Dewerstone.
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