I have seen it in many sports, and in particular the martial arts, which I have been involved in now for the last 18 years or so. To what do I refer? It is the plateau that people often reach after 2-3 years of any given particular activity. I am seeing it happen in kayaking as well.
Often people reach this plateau and feel that their skills are not developing any further. They might have started out picking up skills fast and seeing real improvements over the short time that they have been taking part, but then this slows down, apparently grinding to a halt. They then end up thinking that they will never be as skilled as they want to be in their chosen sport/activity and as a result they quit.
Let me tell you, most of the very top people in any given sport have plateaus all the time. The difference between them and those who quit is that they push through these apparent ‘skill development walls’.
There is an extremely fundamental thing to understand about sports that involve skill. Once you reach a certain point the improvements to your skill, assuming that you practice, will be much smaller and incremental than when you first started. Quite often what you feel has been zero improvement over a few months will actually be a noticeable improvement to someone watching who hasn’t seen you for a while! You might not think that you are improving or learning, but I can assure you that you are! It’s just that the improvements get smaller the more advanced you become.
Often the best thing to do when you feel that you have reached a plateau is to go back to basics. In the case of kayaking go back to the start and look at your core powering, paddling technique, and basic eddying. Really examine things like ferry glides to understand what is happening. Actively look for ways to improve. Try some zany ideas out! Don’t just paddle in the same way that you always have. Try different ways of performing the same moves on the river. The sure fire way to stagnate is not to experiment.