Last Saturday I paddled on our local Rivanna River at the highest level I’ve ever paddled it. The Palmyra gauge was somewhere between 3800 and 4000cfs when 3 paddling friends and I launched at 10am from just below the South Rivanna Reservoir.
I knew for sure the river had crested overnight and was dropping, so I felt confident at this level.
The rapids under the railroad trestle became standing waves that were Class II+ – Class III. I was paddling my Nelo 510 surfski in the most challenging conditions yet and I stayed upright the whole time. The bucket filled with water at least 3 times, though, and I learned to open the drain before entering a set of large rapids.
One of our members capsized in the largest of the rapids and her boat had very little buoyancy since there was no foam or flotation in it anywhere. This could have been a very serious situation but we rescued her and her boat, though getting it out of the water to drain it was a challenge with so much water in it.
We arrived at Riverview Park and then I paddled back upstream to Darden Towe Park where FLOW: The Arts of the Rivanna River Renaissance Festival was taking place. There were artists set up along the walkway along the river and there was a boat decorating contest.
It was most enjoyable and I think my favorite were the Earlysville Bluegrass Boys, 3 brothers who are very talented musicians. I wish I could have stayed and listened to them for hours.
I then paddled back down to Riverview Park with a few other paddlers with decorated boats and then joined the after-party at Rivanna River Company.
I came away concluding the Nelo 510 is probably the most versatile boat I’ve ever owned.
And this celebration of our local river is a wonderful event I hope continues. It sure came a long way since last year.
I recently caught up with Salli O’Donnell who earlier this year completed the Yukon 1000 Canoe Race, the longest canoe race in the world, with her teammate Paul Cox.
I simply asked her to share her experience with you.
“The hardest thing for me [is] to try to summarize not only 1000 miles of the most amazing stretch of nature I could ever want to explore, but how to include or exclude all the other facets that overwhelm ones senses during so.
After a long day of airports, planes, delays and lost baggage, we arrived at our hotel in the small mining town of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It was not long before midnight on Thursday, July 19th and we were already exhausted. My paddle partner Paul Cox – who flew in from Atlanta, GA and I from Norfolk, VA – connected in Vancouver for the final flight into Whitehorse. We were about to embark on what is billed as ‘the longest canoe race in the world,’ the Yukon 1000.
Friday morning we met the Kevlar Seaward Passat that would be our home and ‘wheels’ for a good 8 days. This is a type of boat that neither Paul nor I had ever been in; we had a lot of ‘getting to know it’ to do!
After a few hours of deciding how and where all the gear, food and water we would need for this race would be configured, we took it on a 12-mile test ride. After discovering and fixing some major issues with rudder control (thank you Team Kiwis!), we felt a bit more comfortable. The rest of that day was spent gathering supplies and food for the race.
This is truly an unsupported race in that we must carry all we will need for the full extent. There are a few little pockets of civilization along the 1000 mile course but we are not allowed to take advantage of any of them unless we’ve an emergency, which also means we forfeit the race.
Saturday was full of boat adaptations, race and safety briefings, gear checks, satellite phone configs and tests (which were later sealed and only could be used in emergencies) and last minute purchases.
My favorite boat adaption was my footboard.
Being mostly a surfskier, the idea of having to use widespread foot pegs for 1000 miles was not thrilling. I searched the surrounding area until a found a decent plank of wood that would span the pegs, then I duct-taped closed cell foam pads to its base on either end – it made a fantastically strong and stable footboard for me to drive against.
Sunday morning the race began at 7am. The water on this part of the Yukon River is crystal clear and pleasantly cold (when it is hot out). Within the first mile, we settled into 3rd place and for the next 20 or so miles, we had a nice push from the river. Then came Lake Laberge, a 30+ mile stretch of open, slow and potentially choppy water but at the far end it necked back down to the river and we were cruising at 10 to 11 mph!
Unfortunately those speeds didn’t last too long but it sure was reinvigorating to have them and periodically over the next few hundred miles we would see them again.
Late in the afternoon, we came across the 2nd place team, Team Hobo Squad. They had stopped to get a bite to eat and were surprised to see us come by. They scrambled to get back in their boat and eventually caught up to us – they were definitely faster than us. We went back and forth a couple of times but by mandatory stop/camp time they were ahead of us.
As part of the race rules, we must stop and make camp for a minimum of 6 hours every day. The race managers said the beginning of this 6-hour stop must fall between 11pm and midnight, but they would allow a little leeway on either side of that hour. The Hobos stopped around 10:45 and, although they offered us to join them, we pushed on to find our own spot…and later wished we had accepted their offer!
About 30 minutes later – tired, wet and cold – we found our spot. Paul changed into dry camp clothes and I threw on a wind breaker. We unloaded our gear and set up camp. For safety, we had to position our food and water away from our boat and tents. In doing so, I noticed numerous moose tracks and bear prints, a skull and other bones, fur etc. I mentioned this to Paul and he, too, had come across some on the other side of his tent…we were NOT in a good place!
After looking around more, we realized we were in a ‘killing field’ (aka a good place for bear and moose to enjoy their supper) and knew we had to re-position. Aack, that night we learned a lot about properly scouting out our potential campsite before investing too much time and energy into it! Oddly, that first night was our most mentally challenging night as it seems from that point on our rationale appeared to be more intact.
For the next couple of days, we went back and forth with the Hobos because they occasionally took breaks to get out of their boat, we didn’t.
On the 2nd night, we camped with them on the same little island just past Fort Selkirk although they reached it first. It was on that 2nd day they asked if we ever stopped and, in retrospect, we should have lied and said that we did! They quickly adjusted their strategy and we did not see them again – or any other racer – until the morning of the 4th day.
By this point, the waters of the Yukon River had already been insulted by the confluence of the White River. Around Race Mile 364 (afternoon of Day 3), it was mesmerizing and sad to see the silty plumes of the merging White River obliterate the beautifully clear Yukon waters. From that point on, not only did we listen to the hissing of the silt as our boat glided along and our paddles dipped in but we had to find clear sources of drinking water to filter as the silt was so pervasively thick that it clogged Paul’s water filter in less than 2 seconds.
To make matters worse, we ran into our first of several fires at the White River confluence. Visibility was not good, smoke was thick, burnt flotsam everywhere, water now silty white and hissing – not my most favorite portion of the race.
Day 4’s anticipated highlights were passing Dawson City (Race Mile 440) and entering the United States (Race Mile 532). Dawson City is the race’s only supported drop out point. Up to then, we knew if we had any issues and needed to pull out of the race, as long as we could hobble to Dawson City, we’d be taken care of.
After seeing the Hobos off and on in the distance on the morning of Day 4, we stopped to filter some water at a clear creek just past Dawson; we did not see the Hobos again until that night. We paddled through another huge section of fires and smoke and finally crossed into Alaska, 11 miles farther we arrived at Eagle. It was within the mandatory stop window that we climbed up the steel stairs to Eagle, found the phone and called US Customs to announce our arrival into the United States. Not wanting to make camp there, we pushed off for the island across the way and came across the Hobo’s camp. They invited us and we joined them for a windy, windy few hours of rest.
Day 5 was full of fires, wind and rain. We thought we saw the Hobos late in the day (they confirmed they did see us) but that was the last glimpse of them until the finish. That night we found a comfy little place to camp, enjoyed taking in the beautiful surroundings, then tucked ourselves away for a nice little rest. Little did we know how dramatically different the next couple of days would be.
Up until this point, the Yukon River carves a path through mountains and bluffs but on the morning of Day 6 we hit Circle, AK (~Race Mile 700). For the next couple hundred miles the Yukon River meanders through an area referred to as ‘the flats.’ There are no mountains nor bluffs to slow down the winds and the river itself works its way around multitudes of islands and sloughs that are transformed annually by the spring’s ice movements. The river gets very wide, several miles wide, with competing currents that you had to fight against not to be taken down a path adding miles to your race.
Unfortunately, we did not read this section well and by the afternoon of Day 6, we were passed by Team Kokura and later by Team Independence Poland. We went back and forth with Poland and even camped together on the same little beach that night but since they arrived there first, they left there first the next morning. After that, we saw no one until our finish on Day 8.
By the way, we did see much wildlife along the way – eagles, moose, bears, beavers, links, and wolverines. There were 31 teams that applied for this race, 14 teams accepted and 13 teams completed it. At the finish, the race managers were there to greet us with a Yukon River chilled beer, a race T-shirt, a commemorative coin, pictures, interviews and assistance in unloading our gear.
The logistics they endured to put on this race for us was phenomenal and I only hope I can return and do it again.”
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A new local magazine named Unbound hit the local newsstands today and I was happy to see our area’s paddling scene highlighted in such a wonderful way. Not only did the editors feature local paddling on the cover, but they were generous in covering our annual river race on the inside.
The first issue of Unbound Magazine
I was also honored to have been interviewed as last year’s race winner and given a full page in the magazine.
I think it was somebody in Paddling Magazine recently who wrote that kayakers need to stop talking about the technical aspects of how to paddle and talk more about why they paddle.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share the full transcript of the interview before it got edited down for space.
UB: How did you get started kayaking? How long have you been doing it (on your own and with the Cville Paddlers)?
DTK: It all started at a young age attending a summer camp outside of Ligonier Pennsylvania. One of the activities at the camp was “Waterfront” which involved canoeing and kayaking on the camp’s lake. It was painful to have to start first in a rowboat and then progress to a canoe to prove proficiency before they’d let us paddle a kayak solo, but paddling a kayak was my ultimate goal on that lake that week and I wanted to get into one as soon as I could. As soon as I did I was hooked for life. I guess it represented freedom. I must have been around 10 years old at the time, so I’ve been paddling 40 or so years.
Throughout my youth I did countless canoe and whitewater rafting trips with our Boy Scout troop and I always envied the guys and girls in the kayaks who’d pass us on the rivers. They were always going faster and always looked like they were having more fun, so I paddled a kayak as often as I could borrow or rent one since I didn’t own one yet myself.
Fast-forward to moving to the Charlottesville area 27 years ago, I soon met a close friend and local paddling icon, Konrad Zeller, who got me back into paddling after a few years’ leave of absence as I was establishing a new life and career.
Konrad and I began meeting on the S. Rivanna Reservoir every Wednesday after work to paddle, eat chicken wings, get caught up with each other, and talk about life in general. Shortly thereafter other friends started joining us. That was the very beginning of what is now the Cville Paddlers Group, also known as the Rivanna River Paddlers on Facebook. That was also the beginning of the tradition of after-work, social paddles on the reservoir on Wednesdays during the summer months, a tradition that continues to this day.
The core group of Wednesday evening paddlers now self-organize into smaller groups for paddle trips down the Rivanna and other local waters. That organizing happens through the Rivanna River Paddlers group on Facebook and it has been fascinating to watch local paddling evolve over the years, especially as social media has matured.
UB: What do you enjoy most about it?
DTK: In what seems a contradiction, I enjoy both the solitude and the people I meet. I enjoy unplugging and getting away from the rat race and other people for a few hours, yet also treasure the people I meet and friends I’ve made through the sport.
Most everyone you meet paddling is friendly and willing to do almost anything for a fellow paddler. Regardless of the type of paddling we do as individuals, we share a common bond when it comes to powering ourselves across lakes or down rivers.
The scenery is almost always beautiful, there is ample opportunity to observe undisturbed wildlife, and the sense of peace and being one with nature is palpable. It is a great way to relax and recharge while also getting great exercise.
Lastly, it is a sport that can be enjoyed at any age and like fine wine, people often progress and improve as paddlers as they get older.
You asked me what I enjoy most and I can’t narrow it down to one thing. Is that okay?
UB: What kind of gear do you use?
DTK: That’s a hard question to answer in a short space since I have ten kayaks hanging in my garage right now, ready for just about any water condition or type of paddling.
The best boat for any particular race or trip depends on the level of difficulty of the water, the comfort and confidence level you have in any particular boat for the length of the trip, and whether you are looking to go as fast as possible or go slow and enjoy the experience. Fast boats are tippy and require greater balance and skill which can cause fatigue fairly quickly whereas more stable boats are significantly slower. We are forever chasing the right balance between performance and comfort for any given body of water.
My primary training boat is something call a Thunderbolt-X kayak which is 100% Kevlar, 21 feet long and 18 inches wide at its widest point. It is long, sleek, fast, and light and is perfect for flat water training and covering as much water as possible in a given amount of time. I can go fastest in that boat but I would never put it in an environment where I might smash it into rocks.
I have an eclectic collection of older, classic downriver racing boats I’ve restored, a modern plastic downriver racer called the Cobra Viper, various other recreational kayaks, and even a plastic surf ski, which is a specialized type of sit-on-top kayak that is long, skinny, and fast.
Regardless of the boat I’m paddling, I always use something called a wing paddle made out of carbon fiber so these paddles are strong and stiff yet light. The paddle blades are shaped like airplane wings and when paddled correctly create a low pressure or “lift” in the forward direction of the kayak. This can provide the paddler on the order of a 10-15% increase in efficiency once the unique stroke technique required by these paddles is mastered.
Aside from the boat and paddle, I try to keep my gear simple and functional. Never underestimate the value of a baseball hat, polarized sunglasses, comfortable life jacket and a large water bottle. I always keep a mobile phone tucked safely away in a dry bag somewhere in case of emergency and to notify my wife when I’m safely off the water when I’m out training alone and I also use a small GPS device to track my distance, speed and various other parameters.
UB: I see that you broke a record last year. By how much? And are you going to try to do that again this year?
DTK: I was very fortunate last year in that the water levels were very high and I had a good run during the annual Rivanna River Race. Those two things don’t always happen.
The race starts at the bridge under Rt. 29 just north of the Doubletree hotel and ends at the boat ramp at Darden Towe Park. I covered those 6.2 river miles in 43 minutes and 6 seconds last year, which beat my old record by more than 3 minutes. It was one of those races where everything just came together.
The goal is always to set a new record on race day, but it is very difficult and unpredictable because so much depends on the rain the week leading up to the race, the actual water levels on race day, and boat selection. Last year gave us near perfect conditions and a fast river so it is unlikely the conditions will be that perfect again on race day this year, but you never know. If the water is high again I’ll be aiming for a faster time.
UB: How and when do you train?
DTK: I train year round either on the water, on land, or in the gym.
Most of my on-water training takes place on the S. Rivanna Reservoir. When I’m in town during the summer months I do a training run right after work on Wednesdays and then join the Rivanna River Paddlers group on my inbound/return leg of the workout. Those workouts are usually 10 miles and start at the boat ramp just above the S. Rivanna Reservoir dam at the end of Woodburn Rd. and go to the bridge at Reas Ford Road and back.
On Saturdays I typically do a longer run and paddle all the way up to the far end of the reservoir where the Meechums River feeds in, not too far off Bleak House Road. That round trip is 14 miles and when I ramp up for racing season I’ll also paddle up Ivy Creek so it is easy to log 20 miles or so on the reservoir during a training session without doing any laps.
Two years ago my paddling buddy and training partner, Dave Segars, and I started paddling the whole length of the Rivanna River to prepare ourselves for some of our longer races and ultra marathons. The Rivanna from Charlottesville to Columbia is about 44 miles. Last year we did that and added some miles of the James River to Cartersville and covered those 55 miles in just a little over 8 hours.
The winter gets a little tricky as air and water temperatures drop which requires a wetsuit and makes the efficient, tippy boats more risky in case of accidental capsize. Fortunately that’s never happened to me, but I usually paddle one of my slower, more stable boats in the wintertime just to err on the side of caution and safety and as a result paddle far fewer miles on water during the winter.
Several years ago I needed a solution for those times in the winter when the reservoir is frozen so I designed and built myself an indoor kayak ergometer out of an old Nordic Track ski machine so I can paddle indoors anytime now. When the water is frozen I just paddle in my basement. Much to my surprise, the device found somewhat of a global, cult following on YouTube and I’ve built a few more of these devices for friends and now in a strange twist due to popular demand, offer a “how to” video teaching people how to build their own.
I’m in the gym year round. Extended cardio exercise like paddling is primarily catabolic so I try to counter that in the gym during the off season. When paddling time is light the weights get heavy. When the paddling picks up in the Spring, the amount of weight and total volume in the gym drops so I don’t hammer my shoulders, wrists, elbows, and back through overtraining.
UB: Briefly describe the Rivanna course.
DTK: The Rivanna River around Charlottesville is mostly flat water with a few sets of small to medium rapids to keep it interesting. The largest rapids qualify as Class II+ under the right conditions, but those only last a short distance so the river is generally safe for a wide range of skill levels. My daughter did her first downriver solo on the Rivanna when she was 8 years old.
The river feels amazingly remote in many sections and it is quite common to spot an American Bald Eagle or two. It is such a gem I wish public access was a better so more people could enjoy the peace and beauty of this local treasure and enjoy all it offers.
UB: Have you done other kayaking races? Where? How does the one in our area compare?
DTK: I’ve paddled many races and they are all different.
The most comparable race to the annual Rivanna River race is the Nelson Downriver Race held on the Tye River in Nelson County the first Saturday in May each year. It is a little longer and more technical than the Rivanna race and seems more like a wild mountain stream when compared to the Rivanna.
The Nelson Downriver used to be my first race every year until I discovered another race, “Little D on the Monocacy,” in Frederick, MD held in April that is a fund raiser for a young child, Danny Sullivan or “Little D,” who has a terminal disease. It has become my new season-opener and last year I raced in the 19-mile version of the race and never felt more of a sense of purpose and community coming together to support one of their own. The Monocacy River is easy technically but it seemed like the whole town showed up at the finish line to cheer on the racers so it had the feel of a much larger, more challenging event.
I’ve paddled the Wye Island Regatta in Maryland several times which is a 13.1 mile, open water race around Wye Island and the Lehigh Classic Whitewater race in Pennsylvania which was a terrifying experience for me because I chose the wrong boat which was way too tippy for Class III rapids. I got home after that race and immediately told my wife I needed a shower to wash off all the fear and regret.
I’ve paddled in some other races that no longer exist, and in 2016 paddled the Cumberland River Challenge in Kentucky. That 15-mile race was an absolute hoot because of the great people I met there who made me feel especially welcomed as an outsider. I managed to set a new race record in that race and as a result met and shook hands with the mayor of Barborville, KY at a finish line awards ceremony as he presented me with a commemorative, Overall Winner wooden paddle with brass plaque to place on my mantle. How often do you get the opportunity to shake hands with the mayor of Barbourville, KY, for goodness sake?
Last but certainly not least is the James River Rundown, which to my knowledge is the longest race on the East Coast. I set the 40-mile race record there in 2015, came in 2nd place to Paddling Buddy Dave in the 100-miler in 2016 and tied for 3rd place with a wonderful man named Bill Crawford last year in the 120-miler that started in Lynchburg and ended at Tucker Park in Goochland County. Bill and I paddled neck and neck for nearly 70 miles and became instant friends even though we started out as competitors.
The James River Rundown was my first experience paddling an ultra-marathon race and it is certainly quite different than paddling the 6.2 mile Rivanna River race. The Rivanna race is more of an all-out sprint but when you paddle the longer races a lot more planning, strategy, preparation, nutrition and other factors come into play. During the long races you put your body into auto pilot paddling while your mind focuses on everything else. It is a very different experience where all those base, training miles pay dividends.
Probably the next level goal is to paddle in the Missouri River 340 race. I’ll let you know how that goes when it happens.
UB: Anything else you want to say about kayaking, or being outdoors in Charlottesville/Albemarle?
DTK: Kayaking is better than therapy or a social networking site.
I’ve made good friends through the sport and last year was contacted by Los Angeles-based celebrity fitness trainer and best-selling author, Vinnie Tortorich, who reached out to me to help him train for a 100-miler he’s preparing to do in Louisiana. I now consider Vinnie a friend and look forward to paddling with him and alligators down Bayou LaFourche in Louisiana later this year. We’re doing it on a diet absent of sugars and grains and it promises to be a unique experience.
The Charlottesville area is a wonderful area for training and being outdoors. I can ride my road bike on some of the back roads and see some of the most majestic views, climb up into the Blue Ridge Mountains for unforgettable hikes and paddle any one of the numerous rivers or lakes…and maybe even do all of that in one day. Please don’t tell anyone about the fly fishing on the Rapidan River near Camp Hoover. That place is so special I want to keep it to myself.
The local kayaking and paddling community is very healthy in the area whether you are looking for recreational opportunities, flat water training, or whitewater thrills. I’ve been lucky to be able to participate in the local paddling community and have enjoyed watching it grow and evolve.
My wish is that our community comes together to support our annual river race held the second Saturday each May and that the event itself evolves into a charity event or fundraiser to give it greater meaning and purpose. It would be wonderful to one day see the whole community come together to support the event for a good cause and know that I played some small role in creating a spark to help make that happen.
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And, no. I never thought that faded Prijon Beluga I bought off Craigslist would ever make the cover of any magazine.
Some of you know that back in 2013 I shared a YouTube video that showed my design for a kayak ergometer made from a Nordic Track ski machine. It was the first such design, to my knowledge, that introduced rockers to the ergometer.
It actually combined elements from both my first kayak ergometer “bench” style design along with my balance trainer. All of which I also shared. You can see all three in the video below.
Since then I’ve been refining and redesigning the ergometer.
And also since then people have used my videos to build their own units and now some of these people are actually trying to sell the plans to MY design that I freely shared with the kayaking community.
I feel that’s not right. Maybe not illegal but certainly not right.
Toward the end of last year I built a new design for celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich so he could do indoor training in his office in preparation for a 100-mile trip down Bayou LaFourche in Louisiana this Spring. I knew he had limited space in his office so I set out to make the ergometer much shorter in overall length.
I accomplished that mission by moving the flywheel under the paddler’s legs which also had the side benefit of making the feel of the device much smoother while paddling.
My “kayaker’s selfie” with Vinnie Tortorich upon delivery of his ergometer
Later I heard from Vinnie that he started to have some troubles with the forward rollers. Vinnie is a legendary ultra athlete and generally an animal when it comes to training so I knew he would put wear and tear on the unit like it has never seen before.
So after mulling that over in my brain for a while, I went back into my garage over the weekend with a new design for the forward rollers in mind, and built two more kayak ergometers with subtle variations in the design between the two to see which is better and/or easier to build. These happened to be the 5th and 6th units I’ve ever built. (Well, honestly, I probably built and rebuilt the first two at least 10 times each until I was happy with them!) I’ve only made a few of these for close paddling friends.
These two new units have square legs so mere mortals can paddle them, but this design allows rockers to be easily attached and detached as desired.
The final design in action
The result of my weekend in the garage. 1 unit complete and the other one 90% complete
I spent hours in the garage not only building the two units but also recording video of each build so I can edit and produce a “how to” video and then make it available for sale since so many people have reached out to me over the years to inquire about either purchasing a unit or buying the instructions from me.
I’ve greatly simplified the design and now use only hardware and parts that are stock and can be bought off-the-shelf at most hardware stores. The build is much, much simpler than the first few so I feel now the design is at a point where I can effectively communicate how to build your own and you can build one from those instructions rather easily.
It is also the first design I feel is so unique and innovative in the way its built that I’m not so willing to freely share it because there is a little “secret sauce” that I’ve learned through years of trial and error.
When the “How to build it” video is ready I will sell it for $20 since that is the price most people have told me is reasonable and that they’d expect to pay. I believe that is a fair price based on the number of hours I’ve spent building and refining the design to make it as compact as possible, easy to build, and fun to paddle.
Let me know what you think and please let me know if you would like to buy one of these 2 fully completed units (Central mid-Atlantic of the U.S. only.)
These plans assume you will be able to obtain an older style Nordic Track ski machine made from a wooden frame as you will be using some of the mechanical and wooden parts from it. You might want to check on local availability first, but this video will also offer tips on how to get one for a great price or even free.
Update March 2, 2018:
The “How to build” video is now ready for purchase!
The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.
These plans assume you will be able to obtain an older style Nordic Track ski machine made from a wooden frame as you will be using some of the mechanical and wooden parts from it. You might want to check on the availability of this first.
The device can be built with either the square legs or the rounded ones and the video discusses both approaches.
I am not making any announcements, but my friendly UPS delivery man dropped off a new book from Amazon so I can now begin some “research.” I’m looking forward to reading it and when I’m done I’ll post a review.
Missouri River 340 by the Jacksons
I also happened across an interesting article, “Technique: Does Wash-riding Help?” that discusses drafting or wash riding behind another kayaker.
We seem to instinctively know this is a more efficient way to paddle, but Brett McDonald found a way to quantify the gains in efficiency by monitoring his heart rate at two different positions behind the lead boat and while he himself was the lead boat.
It is a short yet interesting read, but this one figure from the article summarizes it perfectly.
There are many types of kayak paddling just as there are many different types of kayaks.
The two videos below cover the most basic types of paddling, mostly applied to flat water kayaking. Of course, these strokes are every bit adaptable to flowing streams and rivers, but whitewater kayaking is almost a different sport requiring its own special blend of unique strokes and nuanced maneuvers.
These, however are the basics.
Recreational or fitness paddling with a flat bladed paddle
Fitness paddling or racing with a wing paddle
See also: The kayak wing paddle
I had the day off today for Good Friday and after waiting a bit to see if it was going to rain (it was very overcast with some sprinkles this morning,) I decided to head out to get in some base miles in preparation for the James River Rundown 100 mile race.
I got up and ate about 4 strips of bacon and 3 eggs and by the time I hit the water it was noon.
I skipped lunch.
I should also point out that I got myself into a state of dietary ketosis this past week. (I’m never more than 2 or 3 days away from being in ketosis.)
I hit the water with my Thunderbolt-X kayak (my go-to flat water training boat) and new custom wing paddle and made the conscious decision to paddle for 20 or so miles rather than my typical workout which is geared toward maintaining relatively high speeds for 10 or 12 miles, with an all-out sprint for the first 5.
This was a huge mental shift.
It was very windy and the water was choppy. I had to force myself to start out at a much slower pace than what I’m used to on my training runs. I normally like to start out sprinting for 5 miles but today I wanted to paddle more miles to build calluses and log some base miles for my ultra-marathon in June.
I logged more miles on my local reservoir today than I ever have in one day before, and the wind was definitely a factor. At one point when I was paddling directly into a brisk wind I remembered the words of one of my paddling heroes, Oscar Chulupsky, in a interview in some article when he stated, “You have to shift gears.” He was talking about adjusting his wing paddle due to changing or different conditions on the water.
So with Oscar’s words reverberating in my head, I started playing with my paddle.
I normally paddle with a 30 degree offset but I tried different settings and found that a 50 degree offset seems to work well for me in windy conditions and seemed to favor a better stroke for a marathon pace.
I ended up paddling 20.7 miles and averaged 5.5mph. That was slower than I thought it would be, but not unexpected given the windy conditions.
The only nutrition I had with me on the outing was a 25 ounce water bottle with water and BCAA’s.
I was fine.
In fact, I didn’t need to eat again until a few hours after I got home at around 7pm. That’s a full day with 21 miles of paddling on 3 eggs and 4 strips of bacon.
Being fat adapted is great!
I learned a few things as take-aways for my upcoming James River Rundown adventure.
- I need to paddle a boat with a bit more stability that will allow me to lean back, twist my torso, and stretch my back without fear of overturning. My back isn’t going to be able to handle a tippy kayak for 100 miles. I’ll need to move around and fidget more.
- I’m going to have to remind myself to start out at a steady, slower, marathon pace which is counter to all the training I’ve ever done. Marathon not a sprint…marathon not a sprint. I’ll be repeating this mantra for 90-95 miles.
- I need to continue to experiment with different offsets and lengths with my wing paddle to figure out what might be the best starting settings for race day. I’m so used to the same settings that it is going to take me a while to play around and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Loose hand grip on the paddle shaft will be essential
- I need to be in dietary ketosis on race day.
It was a great day on the water and I have an early season sunburn on my arms and shoulders now.
Let the training continue.
Feeling a little grizzled after 21 miles