Advice From the Hammock- Make the Commitment

There's a phenomenon we see when people are first learning to paddle that I like to call roller coaster arms. As stability is threatened, like when someone is first standing up on a paddleboard, or when kayaking through waves for the first time, the arms are thrown to the sky, paddle way over the head, like going down that first drop on a rollercoaster. Unfortunately, rather than gaining stability, this causes you to lose connection with the water, while also raising your center of gravity and decreasing stability. 

Instead, we encourage the paddler to put their paddle in the water and take a stroke. Having the paddle in the water means you maintain a certain amount of control over your craft. The resistance from the blade pushing against the water gives an added point of stability while propelling your craft forward, which likewise improves stability the way a moving bike is easier to balance than a stationary one. The problem, is that this doesn't come naturally. To do this takes a certain amount of commitment. Through practice and experience, you hone your ability to consciously fight your natural instincts. 

As your experience grows, this ability to continue paddling even when stability is threatened transitions into the more deliberate act of bracing. Bracing uses the resistance from your blade against the water to assist in righting a leaning a craft, which would otherwise flip.  When learning to brace, you start by learning the mechanics of the brace with very little leaning. This is effective to learn the motion, but to really learn the brace, you have to feel it working, which again takes commitment. When I teach bracing, I instruct the paddlers to gradually increase how much they lean their kayak or board, eventually going so far over that their brace is the only thing that can save them. When learning, this usually results in getting wet. Last year during my Kayak Foundations Course, I encouraged one of our paddlers to go through this process. With each lean, he came closer and closer to flipping over, but his brace continued to get stronger and stronger. He was committing to letting the brace be the only thing that saved him. In the end, Bob got wet, but that's part of the process. Once we performed a rescue and got him back in his kayak, he tried it again and performed it beautifully! 

Committing to paddling means committing to fight your instincts, to push outside of your comfort zone, to make the hard move and go so far in that your only options are succeeding or not. 

Of course, the first commitment is showing up at all. This time of year, as the weather turns nice, we start hearing people talk about how they're going to try paddling for the first time this summer. They're excited, and we're excited, because we love getting people introduced to the sport for the first time. But by the time summer rolls around, we know we won't end up seeing everybody. It makes sense- summer is short, and our lives our busy. We get caught up in other things, insist we'll do it next weekend, or next month, and then suddenly summer is over and people are left saying, "I'm definitely going to try paddling next summer!" 

We encourage everyone who is interested in the sport to make your paddle plans now. We've got a ton of great options to help you make your commitment now, from private lessons and group lessons, to professional paddle clinics, to guided tours and company outings. If you're wondering where the right place to start is, give us a call or shoot us an email, and we'll help you figure out how you can commit to your summer goals and get out on the water! 

And of course, you don't have to wait till summer. We run spring paddle tours just about every weekend, so check out our calendar of events, and we'll hope to see you on the water! 

Happy Paddling!

Aaron Mearns