Improving Skills (or lack thereof)

Stylised capsizing at Nafford Weir!

Stylised capsizing at Nafford Weir!

Here’s an interesting video…

https://vimeo.com/98753591

This was me two years ago when I first started to practice a bow stall in a playboat. Two years on and my bow stall is exactly the same (although the other day I was given some good tips to help stop me tipping over). Okay, I am getting better, but the improvements are minor.

Now I’ve shown you this because it shows, frankly, that skills don’t just happen. Especially if you are not exactly a teenager anymore! You have to practice, and you have to try new things to improve. Quite often people get stuck in a rut and wonder why. Usually you can get out of the rut by doing either of these things.

  • Chill out, and just do the stuff you are comfortable with instead of pushing, and then start advancing again when you’ve found your mojo again.
  • Go back to the very basics and fine tune things.
  • Try something new. Are you the one (like I used to be) who shy’d away from having a go at surfing a wave or playing in a hole? Well go to a place like Cardiff and have a go. Don’t stay static.

The latter one is interesting. As we get better at general river running it sometimes becomes harder to try new skills. Certainly fear of holes and features is a factor, and swimming, even at a place like Cardiff can be painful. But sometimes the lack of motivation to try new skills can stem from ego. For example someone who runs sessions for a club doesn’t want to be seen to swim in front of other club members because they are the one that the beginners look up to. This can of course go the the other way too. I know some great play boaters who will not go anywhere near real rivers through fear. Despite the fact that they are probably the best equipped to sort themselves out should they go over.

This last winter gone has been a rubbish season for paddling for me. Both my girlfriend and I have been tied up with all sorts of things, and there has been far too much rain, or the right amount of rain at the wrong time! I was out of practice at the time on real rivers anyway, but on the ditches that we have in the UK, high water usually means lots of trees, and very continuous swims. Not the sort of place you only want to be on half your game with. So out of practice have I become that I have had a couple of swims on some very low grade rivers.

My language during those swims is not repeatable here. So I went back to Cardiff, the old faithful, to get back into the swing of things. I was rusty at first, going over the first time I stuck myself into a feature, but I popped back up, thus proving that, contrary to my brain’s negative voice, I hadn’t lost my roll.

There is something else, however. When I went to Cardiff that day, I went with a different mindset to the one I had on the rivers. I went with the attitude that if I swam, I wouldn’t mind. What the hell, I’d get wet, and that’s part of white water kayaking. It is a simple change of mindset, from worrying about a swim, to pre-telling yourself that you won’t mind, and it’s all about getting wet anyway.

When I went over I didn’t panic, I just relaxed and laughed at the fact that I was silly enough to go over.

So what’s this got to do with the price of tea and how I started this post? A couple of things really. The first is that if you only paddle once in a blue moon, don’t expect to be the next Evan Garcia. But importantly, if you are out of practice it doesn’t take long to get the skills back, so don’t be disheartened. In addition don’t let your ego get in the way of practicing a new skill. Yes, you will go over more as you learn. And if your roll isn’t bomber, yes, you will swim a lot more too.

But this means that you will get better. If your roll is shaky it will improve naturally as a result. However if you hold back because you are afraid of being seen to swim, the only person you are hurting is yourself and your own skills development, and you will be forever destined to stay at the level that you are currently at.

Now all I have to do is to practice what I preach…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s