I paddled as much as I could throughout the Fall and Winter of 2010 and into the Spring of 2011. Most of my training was on flat water, in the Cobra Viper, and with the wing paddle. In fact, I had never paddled the Viper on any flowing water up to that point.
I was getting more and more comfortable making this new type of stroke with the wing paddle in a relatively tippy boat.
The first Saturday of May 2011 rolled around and it was once again time for the Nelson Downriver Race on the Tye River outside of Arrington, VA.
Race day came and I was not yet ready to paddle my Cobra Viper down river in rapids because I was still a little too scared that I’d tip over.
So I chose to race in the Necky Looksha again.
I had a great run that day and felt like I made a lot of the right choices on the river. You see, this sport is not just about speed and endurance, it is just as much–if not more–about being able to read a river and choose the correct chutes and rapids through and around obstacles. At times, the paddler only has a split second to make a decision and then live with the results of that decision because in swift current, there is no turning back. Sometimes you just have to take whatever the river throws at you.
This time I came in 1st in my division (but it was only a division of one person,) but more importantly, I was less than 30 seconds behind the times posted by the #2 and #3 overall finishers. I was thrilled with that.
I was finally running with the big dogs.
I was getting better as a paddler and was starting to put the pieces together. I had the physical endurance and paddling skills down pretty well and was positioned to start adding better equipment to the mix. I knew I had to improve myself first because the best equipment in the world will not overcome the weaknesses of a poor paddler.