I can hear chuckles and smirks already. Easier said than done I hear you say. This may come as a surprise to you, but stability issues will remain with you forever, whether you’re starting out or winning the World Championship. Yes, that’s right, being stable is an issue even the best have to deal with.
The secret here is to approach it in a pragmatic and progressive manner. Firstly, there are certain things you can do that will immediately make you stable, for instance: play with and then know your leg length. Too short and you’ll be unstable, too long and you’ll be unstable. Find just the right setting and then keep it. Another example will be to focus on using the paddle to balance no matter what, instead of your hand. Do drills in the shallows where you use the paddle to brace and stabilise yourself. Then there is also the much quoted and much ignored adage of: Never sacrifice stability for speed. When you invest in your first surfski from The Paddling Centre rather buy a surfski that is more stable and less fast than the other way around.
Secondly, when you approach it in a progressive manner you know that finding balance happens over time and gets better over time.
An effective technique will catapult your paddling ability to the next level…actually, you may even skip a level altogether! So it’s very important to always remain aware of what your paddles are doing in the water and how the movement of your body affects what the paddle does. Technique is something you’ll be working on forever as it can always improve. By having a continual awareness of how you can improve, you will launch your paddling ability. Always think of your technique.
To me, playing in small sized waves is one of the secrets of building your confidence in your ski and also radically improving your balance, skill and confidence. Small waves mean that you aren’t nervous because the waves are intimidating. They are also easier to catch and the wipeouts are much less severe. By spending time in the surf you also learn about the waves, the impact zone and of course the critical skill of catching a wave, which you will need for downwind paddling. Catching and surfing small waves is one of the best ways to improve your paddling ability.
PULL YOUR WEIGHT
There are a number of off the water exercises you can do that will improve your ability to paddle. These are all “body weight” exercises where you are required to push and pull yourself. These are the classics: pull ups (or chins), push ups, sit ups, dips, lunges and squats. You don’t have to spend hours doing them and can do sufficient amounts in 10 minutes. Pick a round number, like say 50 of each, and start there building the total amount you can do. These exercises make you strong and also work your stabilisers.
PICK A TARGET
One of the best ways to improve your paddling is through racing. What you do here is pick the person or persons that are always just ahead of you or mostly next to you and then try to punish them every time you go paddling. Ok maybe not every time as you still want friends after you’ve gone paddling, but a good forum for this is in a time trial or short weekly race. The nice thing about a time trial is that you can also use your “time” as a target and aim at improving that.
Dawid Mocke, one of the world’s top surfski paddlers runs the Varsity College Surfski School.