Showing posts with label improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label improvement. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yoga for Paddlers

Reason #21. Yoga Makes us Better Paddlers by: 
         •Increasing our flexibility/torso rotation
      •Increasing our balance 
      •Prevents injury and delays age related physical ailments so       we can paddle for years to come
      •Helps us to focus and relax (when is focus important?) Big    seas, interesting conditions, navigating whitewater, combat    roll
      •When we are focused and relax, we have better performance

Why Do I Practice Yoga? 
After years of endurance horse back riding injuries and a serious whiplash injury that permanently straightened my neck vertebrae, I had very limited neck rotation and chronic back/shoulder pain
YOGA keeps me paddling and has increased my flexibility to allow me to roll, never would I have been able to do that without it
Yoga greatly enhances my connection w/
         mind, body, spirit, boat, nature
         and the water

Yoga Makes You More Grateful

When and Where? 
In a studio
Every day
At home
Shore side before entering a boat
In the boat (KAY-YOGA)
After paddling
Whenever sore, stiff, hurting
In the early morning
At your desk
In the evening
With your family
By yourself
With strangers in a class
Outside is the BEST! J 

Chris fit at 53

I am grateful for kayaking

Yoga isn't Just for Women! 
From Men’s Fitness Magazine, professional athletes who practice yoga:
Shaquille O’Neal Basketball
LeBron James Basketball
Ray Lewis Football
Victor Crews Football
Mike Krzyzewski Basketball
New Zealand Rugby teams
Philadelphia Eagles
Evan Longoria Baseball
Kevin Garrett Basketball
Vernon Lewis Football
Kevin Love Basketball
Joe Taft 

Men, Proceed with a Small Note of Caution:
 NY Times
Yoga for men can be harmful IF:
They ignore aches and pains
Force themselves into poses that they are not ready for (being more muscular than women, they tend to do this)
Don’t jump into advanced poses too quickly
Women naturally have more flexibility, men have more muscle and less flexibility
Begin with a certified YOGA instructor, beginner classes

Where to Start? 
Your local studio: we have partnered with mind/body/fitness yoga in Greensboro at 
At home:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Forward Momentum; Cutting the Brake Lines

One of the greatest assets of a kayak over other forms of human powered vessels is the kayaks' efficiency in the water. The human that is paddling the kayak however, needs to be proficient in forward momentum skills and corrective steering maneuvers in order for the kayak to work in the manner in which it was created 4,000 years ago. It was created to be a fast, stealthy, efficient hunting machine. Oh, don't be fooled, we still hunt from our kayaks, some of us are hunting certain bird species, the elusive river otter or beaver, or chasing other forms of wildlife. Perhaps we are hunting MONSTER fish, or we are hunting that amazing sunset, sunrise, or special get away place where we feel complete peace or maybe that isolated campsite that you can only reach by water. Yes, we still hunt from them for sure, the targets may be just a bit different now.

We all aspire to work on our efficiency and endurance, which allows us to go farther therefore experiencing more. When teaching new paddlers or even veteran paddlers from time to time, helping them learn to master efficient forward momentum is one of the most challenging tasks I encounter. Some paddlers tend to consistently revert back to "putting on the brakes" to turn their boats, which forces the paddler to "re-start their engine" to get going again in forward motion. This takes a lot of energy. This morning after taking my son to basketball camp for the day,  I was driving in "rush hour traffic" and noticed that as I accelerated and decelerated over and over, driving is much like paddling. When we press hard on the gas in our cars and then hit the brakes to slow down then hit the gas again, those are the actions that suck the gas right out of our gas tanks. It is the most inefficient driving time. We get the best gas mileage when out on the open road, cruise control on, at a steady pace. If you want to waste gas, we all know how to do that, stomp the gas pedal and accelerate quickly and then slam on the brakes so you can do it all over again. As we mature in our driving, we learn to drive at a more relaxed, even pace, saving energy with our cars as well as our state of mind. It's the same with sea kayaking or flat water kayaking. If we are fighting the water and trying  to accelerate too quickly, using bad form (i.e. allowing the paddle to exit past our hips), and then slam on the brakes to turn the bow of our boats (putting the paddle blade down into the water behind you to slow your boat), then we are greatly sucking the energy out of our gas tanks, our energy reserves, our muscles, and diminishing the joy of kayaking overall! Our goal should be to learn how to keep forward momentum at all times, NEVER using slowing maneuvers unless you need to stop or avoid hitting something. By utilizing skill and simple maneuvers, anyone can master maximum forward momentum. Personally, as we mature in our paddling, I believe it's something we will always be working on, always honing and perfecting. 

It is SO FUN to watch students whom I've given the "secret tips" to and all of a sudden the woman who started the class saying "this boat will not go straight no matter what I do", to paddling not only in a straight line in her 10.5 hybrid kayak, but with efficiency and a smile on her face at her unexpected success. So, CUT THOSE BRAKE LINES and be sure to work on efficient forward momentum, resist the urge to use any slowing maneuvers to turn your boat. I won't give away all the secrets, you need to master the basics before moving on the the next maneuvers anyhow, but I will give you just a couple of starter tips here to have fun working on:

1. Make sure you are showing the judges on your left your name and your number with EVERY STROKE.This ensures you are using your CORE, not your upper body. It's like a 4 cylinder vs. an 8 cylinder engine. Your CORE is the 8 cylinder engine, your arms and shoulders are the 4 cylinder and prone to sputtering or breakdowns! 
2. Be sure you are exiting the paddle at your hip, going past your hip turns your boat which causes you to exert more energy to turn your boat back on track. We would never stop our cars every time we needed to turn the wheels to make a curve, if we stopped every time we needed to steer we'd never get anywhere!
3. Keep your eyes on your target (where you are going). Not on your bow or your paddle. You will go      where you are looking and you can make quick corrective strokes/maneuvers as soon as you get off track.Keep your bow lined up with your target while looking at the target. When you were in drivers ed, remember looking just over the hood trying to look at the pavement directly in front of the car? That didn't go too well did it? You had to look BEYOND the hood and out and up. Same with paddling.
3. Use your forward sweep on the move stroke to correct your direction. Resolve to ONLY use forward maneuvers to keep forward momentum. 
4. Constantly edge your boat while continuing your forward paddling motion, the more you practice this the easier it gets. It gets downright FUN to edge while you are accelerating! Be sure to keep your eyes up while edging and on your target. You can certainly pair your edging with a forward on the move sweep stroke if you need a big correction in steering. 
5. Foot pedal your feet. When your blade catches at your feet into the water, press hard on that same foot peg. Then the same on the other side. This gives you maximum bracing and helps with forward momentum. 
6. Push/pull with your hands. The blade that is in the air, push with your top hand, and then vice versa on the other side. Keep your eyes on your target. Resist the urge to look at your hands. We tend to look at whatever skill we are focusing on but train yourself to use these skills while keeping your eyes on your target. 
7. Make sure you have warmed up and stretched before hitting the water, especially spinal twists, hip looseners, and shoulder stretches! 

I hope these tips help you with forward momentum and cutting those brake lines! It's also always a good idea to pair up with an instructor or skilled paddler and ask them to observe your skill set to give you feedback. They may be able to see how you can perform the skills even better. 

Happy paddling! 
Kay-Yoga Jo

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Finding Stability in a Sea of Chaos

As we indulge the sounds of life, a mosaic of diverse vibrations, notes, and beats play upon our ears at times orchestrated with purpose, other times randomly.   With the experience of life, we perceive these sounds and wire our minds to react to them in thoughtful predictable ways.   The sea is not unlike our terrestrial world.  As we watch the ocean, we see another type of concert manifested in the waves with rhythmic vibrations, harmonics and beats similar to the sounds we surf with our ears.  As kayakers, we are afforded the unique opportunity to become part of the music of the sea.  Where every other water going vessel passively opposes the sea's forces, the kayak alone is able to interpret and play upon each wave with elegance and precision, realizing remarkable stability for watercraft of such narrow proportions.  Last year I faced faced a situation of hostile conditions far out at sea for more than 10 hours (see "50 miles at sea") and learned in course of the trip, rather than futilely react to each wave, there was a opportunity to assimilate with the rhythms of the sea and feel stable in the midst of chaos using my paddle as an instrument, and my cadence as a verse.

But the waves and motions of the sea are even more complex and diverse than a symphony orchestra.  Waves originate from many sources and many directions, close by from boats to storms and winds hundreds and thousands of miles away, and even reflect from rocks and shorelines and move in opposite directions making the water very confused and difficult for kayaks.  A paddler unfamiliar with such conditions, like a person encountering a loud strange and unanticipated sound will react defensively with a thoughtless opposing reaction.  As we gain knowledge of unfamiliar sounds, we respond with a predictable and well thought out action.  Similarly, as kayakers, we will encounter difficult conditions many times and must develop ways to handle these situations.  Especially in a long trip where we may face difficult conditions for hours and days at a time, we do not have the luxury to react to each wave.

Large cruise ships use sophisticated stabilization systems with bracing fins that work exactly in the same manner as a kayaker braces with a paddle to provide remarkable stability in rough seas.  As its complex computer algorithms interpret the sea's motions and rhythms, so do our minds in an even more eloquent way with the the ability to anticipate the conditions and instinctually apply the proper stabilizing actions.

The kayak itself has little innate stability.  Although wider beam kayaks for the novice possess a higher degree of primary stability,  nothing comes close to the skills of a skillful paddler.  In wavy conditions, primary stability works against the paddler and shows its weakness inherent in every other craft as it characteristically applies a righting force to bring the kayak level to the surface of the water.  If that surface is on the slope of a wave, the kayak's primary stability will actually attempt to right the kayak more sideways which can be seriously destabilizing in the moving motion of the waves.  In challenging conditions, lower primary stability is more desirable as the paddler assumes the responsibility for providing the stability.  But every kayak still has some primary stability, and the paddler will be pressed to mitigate the affects of the waves on that primary stability in addition to the other effects by applying a brace to each stroke.

Applying a brace to the stroke is a simple matter slightly angling the blade downward during the stroke.   Angling the blade will add a downward force component in addition to a forward thrust.  Adjusting the downward angle of the paddle can be done very quickly.  Often times the paddler will need to try a number of angle settings to find just the right bracing strength.  But once the right angle is found, its normally good for the wave set and should be noted for similar reoccurring sets of waves.  If more bracing force is required to cross over a sharply pointed wave or through a whitecap break, a downward pry can be added to the stroke by pushing straight down on the braced blade during a stroke.  The pry can be used only when a brace is applied to the stroke.  Otherwise, the blade will knife downward and possibly compromise stability.  If a wave hitting the kayak requires a pry on a brace, the paddler should be ready to brace quickly on the other side to address a possible abnormally harsh transition to the downward slope with a temporary shift to a fast cadence.   As I paddled long hours in rough conditions, I was periodically hit by isolated waves which posed a problem, requiring a fast cadence until the wave passed.  On a couple of occasions  a wave broke over my bow, causing the kayak to spin off course like a compass needle.  The fast cadence possibly averted a capsize far from shore.    

As waves travel through the ocean they combine and cancel each other out.  Over a distance, the resulting set of waves normalize into a consistant procession known as a "wave train".  The waves further congregate into groups like harmonics from a string instrument, which  called "sets".  The kayaker will notice groups of similar size waves passing in cycles as wave sets come and go.  The paddler will need to adjust to changing wave sets by altering the brace angle and cadence to match the oncoming set of waves and make fine adjustments.  Through a number of cycles the paddler will notice a pattern which can be anticipated and formulated into a strategy to be used at any time in the future.  As we learn to anticipate the notes of songs we hear many times, paddlers on longer trips will have the ability to predict when wave sets will arrive and structure tasks around the arrival of specific sets of waves.
As a padder moves through a rough conditions with the wave train at the beam, the kayak will transition between the upward and downward slopes of each wave.   With a normalized wave train, the waves are spaced consistency.   The paddler may use this to an advantage, by matching their stroke cadence to the consistant period of the wave train.  A slower cadence is used for longer wave periods.  A faster cadence is used for more confused conditions with sharp pointed waves.  When in doubt, I always start with a faster cadence and adjust downward to empirically match the conditions.  The transition between braces should match the crest and the trough where the slope changes.  After a while I was able to develop an instinct to match my cadence to the wave train and develop a strategy for a number of conditions and realize a feeling of stability and confidence in a sea of chaos as these motions became more instinctual.

As kayakers, the chorus of the sea summons our skills and intuition to artfully ply confused waters with uncommon grace and dexterity while bearing witness to its every nuance like no other craft.  As a musician contributes to a song, the kayaker flows with the beats and rhythms of the sea, wielding their paddle in a special art of seamanship as a small contributor in the greatest composition.

Copyright 2012 Lyman A Copps

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kayaking with the Big Kids

Several years ago, I wanted to skill up so that I could do more open water paddling, I ran in to a Catch-22. Most of the recreational paddlers I started paddling with weren't interested in ocean paddling, and the more skilled paddlers I knew routinely closed paddles to those they determined to be "less skilled." I don't think it helped that I was a woman and that most of the sea kayakers were guys. For a while, I felt like I had to drag my husband out on every paddle with the "serious" guy paddlers as some sort of chaperone to prove to the guys and their significant others that I was actually there to kayak.* I found it to be a truly miserable time. I tried to recruit folks from my rec kayaking community to skill up without success and I had limited success "breaking in" to what began to feel like the "big kid" paddles. 

So how did I blast through the impasse? Well, two ways. First, I went out and skilled up the best way I knew how: I routinely invited those paddlers I knew to be more skilled on paddles that I planned. A lot of the time, I didn't know what I was doing. Some of them very rightly told me that, but I was not to be deterred. Once some folks determined that I was determined to get on the ocean, others took the time to correct me AND to offer the resources on where to obtain the correct information. They referenced great resources like, leant me nautical charts, and offered insight on the local knowledge they had gained over the years. Most importantly, a few excellent kayakers even began going out with me on the water, then the trips I planned, and supported me in ocean trips even before I knew how to roll. 

The second thing I did was actively work to develop my skills in more formal settings. I found instructors I worked well with and sought out their knowledge. I found that I worked very well with teachers who could clearly demonstrate, who did not overwhelm me with excessive talking, and who had a kind and gentle good humor that kept a nervous learner eager to learn. I almost gave up kayaking after a negative first experience, but Lamar Hudgens at Barrier Island Kayaks showed me that I could do the things I wanted to do AND have a great time. As a result, I've bought two kayaks from him and gone to numerous symposia at his shop.

One very important lesson I learned was that the more skilled kayakers weren't shutting me out of fun trips and adventures because they were cliquish. They were shutting me out because they feared for their safety and the safety of the group. A solid, skilled group of paddlers can only support a few who are less skilled--it's simply a matter of safety. For instance, I planned, or tried to plan, a trip to circumnavigate Bald Head Island in 2009. It was tough for me, even once I got more skilled paddlers to come along; the strong personalities of folks and what I interpreted at the time as an "officious" tone nearly drove me to cancel. But I stuck it out, and as a result, I got to do my first real ocean journey of 20 miles around the Cape of Bald Head.

So where does safety come in to the story? Well, in lots of places. I discovered on that trip that even the skilled paddlers had limits and they (and I) weren't yet aware of mine. They sometimes capsized during surf landings; they didn't always adhere to plan and sometimes took off on their own; some didn't pack enough water. On this trip I discovered that I become violently seasick in ocean swell. I also learned that I could paddle through 5 foot swells, vomit 20 times, and paddle ten miles without bailing out. (Now, seasick medication keeps me happily afloat.) I can't say what the others learned, but I learned I was a lot tougher than I thought and that the "big kid" paddlers still had plenty to learn too. That heartened me considerably. They didn't know it all. They simply knew more than I did and had more practice. With classes and people to practice with, I knew I could learn what they had.

So, if you're new to skilling up, take heart and be persistent. And if you're more skilled, remember what it felt like when you weren't and invite those who are lesser skilled on some of the more challenging, technical paddles. That way, our community continues to grow and to flourish.

Dawn S's account of the Bald Head Adventure is here:Bald Head Island

*My husband became an excellent kayaker in the process. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who Are You?

Guest Contribution:

Kayakers kayak for different reasons: some of us love to kayak on glassy water and drift along quietly;
some of us like to kayak down rivers; some like to cover lots of miles; some of us like a bit of whitewater; some of us like surf and swell.

In a big community like CKC, it's important to remember that what often works well for one paddler might not work at all for another. Luckily, we mostly know one another from trips, symposia, or the CKC forums and so we are respectful, generous, and kind.

Whatever your kayaking interest, you'll often find at some point you want to “skill up” a bit. Before you sign up for a class or symposium, do some homework on yourself and some fieldwork on your chosen venue and instructor. This can help you spend your hard-earned money wisely and emerge more satisfied with your learning experience.

First, ask yourself what sort of student you are.

Do you do better one on one than in a large group? If so, individual lessons might work better at first than a symposium class with 8 students.

Do you tend to be a thinker and need to understand things theoretically prior to attempting to execute them? Or do you tend to just want to watch and then do? Make sure that both you and your instructor know this in advance. Then you can help your instructor create the best class for your needs.

Do you have any fears? This is important and often overlooked.
For me personally, I wasn't told by the first company I trained with that I was going to learn wet exits with a sprayskirt on. I'd been bullied and trapped underwater as a kid and the idea of being upside down in a skirted kayak seemed overwhelming. Luckily, my instructor (Robert Smith) just sat with me through it, and was reassuring, so it all worked out. But it would have been better if I had known to get details on what would happen that day and to clearly disclose my fears. Now, I'm happy as a clam underwater, but it took me a long time to feel at ease. I need instructors who are patient and not punitive. Now, I seek out those I have heard are patient and encouraging and quickly discard those that are not. It's just what works for me.

Do you have any physical limitations? If so, let your instructor know. Many instructors also have adaptive skills training.

Then, ask yourself what, specifically, you hope to gain from the class. It helps to clarify your goals.

Perhaps you want to be able to turn your kayak with ease in the wind.  Perhaps you want to learn to climb back in your kayak. Perhaps you want to learn to roll. Perhaps you want to learn to surf.

These are all great things to learn and all of them take some time to master. You might dip your toe in at a symposium and get a taste of each. You might take one class a time, then go off and practice with your kayak friends from CKC. For me, I like to learn one thing at a time.

Finally, get some local knowledge. Ask others who know you and whose skills you admire which instructor they think would be a good fit for you.
Look at the kayak forums and websites. Who is more structured? Who tends to be gentle and soft spoken? Who tends to demonstrate strokes clearly and effectively? Who is excellent at navigation? Who is an excellent rolling instructor? Once you've selected a teacher, try to talk with them a bit beforehand.

Teachers and students are individual. A great fit is key to both developing your skills and enjoying learning.