I’ve now been paddling since February and, although I love it and try my best, I still have a lot to learn and a way to go to be as good as I want to be. It’s not just a question of getting in the boat and sticking your paddle in the water, there is technique.
Technique – there is the thing that eludes me. Twisting, reaching forward, working the front of the stroke, keeping your outside arm straight and taking the power from your back rather than your arms and kicking with your legs. All things which you need to keep in mind whilst also keeping your head up, looking forward, up the boat, to watch the strokes and try to keep in time with them.
I know the theory, well perhaps a fraction of it, but putting it all into practice, well there’s the thing…
Here is where I have been really lucky to have joined such a fantastic team. I kinda felt for the experienced members of the team, having a load of ‘newbies’ joining and almost holding them back. Training sessions must have been tamed down when we all joined, but I have never heard any complaints, never felt as though they resented our presence, quite the contrary, they were always warm and welcoming. The help and guidance has always been second to none.
In the last year or so I’ve struggled a bit with my confidence, I can put on a front and pretend, but there have been a few things which have really knocked it. Joining the Hurricanes has proved to be the best move I could have made, I’ve not only found a sport I really enjoy, but a team of people I really enjoy spending time with. The positivity was wonderful and they are encouraging with constructive comments about how all us newbies can improve our technique, although at times I suspect they must have found us quite frustrating.
I’ve now been allowed to join the team for a race in Nottingham later this month, to which end I want to be able to do my best and not let the team down by being ‘sub-optimal’. To which end, after the training session this Saturday, when offered the opportunity to go out in an o1 for some extra training I jumped at the chance. The o1s are kayaks with a float attached on one side which you can use to practice and perfect your stroke, without worrying about keeping in time with others.
There were just the three of us this time, everyone else left after the main session and so it was just Nigel, my son and me. It’s only really when you are able to concentrate solely on your stroke that you can clearly see your own weaknesses – and I have many! Nigel helped us break down the stroke and I can now see where I need to concentrate on improving. It was a great mixture of brutal honesty and encouragement – one is not a great deal of use without the other, telling someone they are doing well when they aren’t is just as pointless as just criticising without constructive comments and praise when they improve.
It was a hard session, in as much as we worked hard to improve and in an o1 there is nowhere to hide, but I could see how far I still had to go. I felt I’d got a lot out of the session as we made our way back to the pontoon and was feeling tired but happy. Then, just as we were manoeuvring our way back in, I was turning so as to approach the pontoon with my float on the outside when somehow I must have lent too far the wrong way and yep, I was in the water!! What a donkey!!
I’ll admit getting in and out of the o1’s always feels a little precarious, but I really hope I don’t have to swim to the side again – all that extra water does make it a lot harder to get the o1 out of the water…. I’m just grateful there weren’t a lot of people there to see me make a twit out of myself and that I remembered to bring a change of clothes.
It was a lesson in paying attention and not becoming too complacent, one I’m glad I learned whilst the water was still relatively warm!