Ok, so you have been paddling for a while and are reasonably comfortable in your boat. The next challenge is that downwind / river race that you started canoeing to do in the first place.
The first thing to do it make sure that all the adjustments you made in part 1 are back to normal.
- Lengthen your paddle – read “Perfecting your Technique” as a really good read on paddle set up.
- Adjust your seat / footplate so that your knees are slightly above the cockpit. If you are in a surfski then a good basic measure is to be able to put your first between your knee and the boat.
Try and arrange your training with this in mind. Find a friend that is in a similar position and try and paddle downwinds with them. First gentle winds and gradually get out in stronger and stronger winds.
Again the best way to learn is time in the boat but that is not always possible as we have other commitments. So let’s have a look at what you can do to improve your stability.
Extra seat pads
If you are able to paddle during the week and are feeling comfortable in your boat on a flat day it may be time to mix it up a little. Duct tape a seat pad in to your boat and feel the difference. Just raising your seat an inch makes a big difference. If you really want a challenge duct tape 2 seat pads in to your boat! This way on a flat day you are working on your stability and if things get hectic simply take the seat pads out – instant stability!
Get a stability / exercise ball.
There is a marvelous photo of Barry Lewin sitting on a balance ball with his feet on a medicine ball practicing his stroke. This is a great exercise that can be done at home. You only need 1. Balance ball, 2. Soccer ball, 3. Broom handle.
Start with the exercise ball slightly deflated and as you get better – pump up the ball
The great thing about this exercise is that there is nothing to brace yourself on.
Try and do this exercise in front of a mirror so that you can watch your stroke at the same time.
Exercise ball exercises.
Try using your exercise ball to do push-ups, crunches, chest press, curls, DB rows. That way your core is engaged in the exercise while your focus is on the muscles you are currently working. The most important part of this is that you are working your core muscles and getting fit which mentally makes you feel better when you are out on the water.
Build yourself a Kayak Balance Trainer.
Depending on how much time you have and space at home this may or may not work but have a look at this video and see what you think of it.
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Get a unicycle
I once did the Duzi Canoe Marathon with a complete novice (he only just qualified in time!) We were able to shoot the 3 big rapids of day 2 without any problems simply because he had impeccable balance. I had another friend that used to ride his unicycle around the parking lot before training – again perfect balance.