Coronavirus has hit, and, frankly, it has potentially put paid to fun times. Even without a lockdown, it won’t be long before Summer, and with places like CIWW currently closed down it might take some creativity to find ways to practice in the dry months.
So what can we do? A lot depends on whether we face a legal lock down. At the time of writing we haven’t yet been faced with movement restrictions like France or Italy. But it is realistic to expect them to come into force if, for example, parents allow their kids to roam free outside now that the schools are closing for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately it is in the British mindset to treat this like a free holiday rather than a serious attempt to stop the spread of a potentially fatal virus. We shall see.
While movement isn’t restricted, the good news is that there’s still plenty of water around. For how long is anyone’s guess. But because kayaking generally requires we are distant from one another in the great outdoors, there shouldn’t be much risk as long as groups are kept small.
If you are lucky enough to live next to a river with a play spot you will also be pretty well sorted for getting some sort of water fix. But what about people, like me, who live at least 1.5hrs away from any decent white water? And what happens if we are locked down? Remember, any lock down could last for months. We just don’t know.
If you have flat water nearby
Most of us live near to some water, even if it’s flat. If there’s no travel restrictions in place practice your general paddling technique, posture, edging balance, edging preciseness etc. If you have a playboat, you know what I’m going to suggest. Flat water freestyle. If you can’t go anywhere else you might as well!
Sit in front of the TV with a paddle and pretend
I’m kidding. One thing you could do is practice your balance. Get hold of a balance board and challenge yourself with it. Okay you can’t spend all day on one, but it will do wonders for your core and balance.
Along with the balance board you could work on other exercises that will improve muscle strength and control for when you are next able to get into a boat.
If you can’t get into a boat for a long time it can be really dejecting. Keep the flame alive and watch inspiring videos, be it from the Send guys, or even full length replays of the freestyle world championships, which you can watch in full still on YouTube.
In keeping with the above, why not read a book? Chris Brain’s Safety and Rescue Essentials would be one way to keep ideas and on-river safety methods in your head. Or be entertained by something like William Nealy’s Kayak: The New Frontier.
For something with a lot of meat there are epic kayak adventure books such as Hendri Coetzee’s Living The Best Day Ever, or Ron Walter’s Never Turn Back: The Life of Whitewater Pioneer Walt Blackadar will help to bring some awe and inspiration into your life.
Tune your boat
Most of us are rubbish at outfitting our boats. But while you have some time on your hands, why not really tune the fit of your boat. Hell it’s even an excuse to get the neighbours talking by dressing up in your kayaking kit to make sure the fit is just right!
Tune your roll on dry land
Having issues with your roll? Practice it in your garden! Okay, yes, I know the grass is still sodden with all the rain we’ve been having (in the UK at least), but if you really want to diagnose exactly how roll mechanics really work, then practicing on dry land is a really useful exercise.
All the same rules apply, and you are not allowed to use your paddle to push off the grass!
Service your gear
Go on, how many of you actually properly look after your gear? Now is the perfect opportunity to properly clean that drysuit or cag, replace any seals etc.
More importantly you could service your safety gear. Get those carabiners lubed and working smoothly again, clean your throw lines (you should do this anyway, but I know you don’t!) and slings.
Learn new things and reinforce existing ones
This is also a time when you can practice new stuff, or reinforce new things. You can set up lines for de-pinning a boat in the garden to remind you what you need to do. You can practice throwing your throw lines to targets, or get your partner/spouse to act as a moving target! Practice throw line recoil and re-throwing techniques.
This is also a good time to practice knots you know and knots you don’t.
Hopefully this has given you some food for thought even if you might be land locked during this rather unprecedented time. Stay safe y’all!