Imagine a boxer who never spars with a training partner. He skips rope and punches a punch bag to prepare for fights. The only time he ever gets to learn and experience fighting, is in an actual fight. Imagine a rugby team that runs around the field for fitness. They stand in a circle and pass the ball to each other to practice ball skills. The only opportunity they ever get to learn to play rugby, is by playing matches. Or, perhaps more relevant, imagine a slalom paddler who only practices gates on flatwater. Her only experience of paddling through gates in a rapid is when doing slalom races.
This sounds ridiculous, right?
The funny thing is that this is exactly how many paddlers approach their river racing. Too many paddlers only ever see rapids when they do river races. All of their training is done on flatwater. I know this because over the years I have been a spectator at many races where I’ve seen paddlers take wrong lines and brace through rapids without really knowing what they’re doing. I know this because I’ve been there myself a long time ago, doing river races with very little experience, thinking that I know what I’m doing because I didn’t swim. Finally, I know this because at the last few races I did, I ended up in front of paddlers who were much fitter than me, simply because they lost valuable time swimming through rapids where I didn’t.
It is simply not possible to learn much about rapids when racing through them. You have a split second to choose a line, and often the decision is to just follow someone else’s line without even knowing if the other paddler knows what he is doing….
READ MORE from page 50 in Issue 3 of 2018: https://issuu.com/thepaddlemag/docs/tpm_3_2018