what makes canoeing cool?
Our friends are how most of us got into paddling. You know, the gentle, patient – very patient – variety.
You’ll probably know someone like that already, someone who has been hinting or openly enthusing at the ‘other’ world that exists when you sit inside a boat rushing down a living river. You do? Great! They will be more than willing to help you find a stable boat (or better still, let you paddle with them in their stable double kayak) and get onto the flatwater at any time of the year.
The truth is that you need to improve your balance and technique before you can work on your fitness and speed on a section of flatwater.
Only then should you even think about going near a river, and then only with experienced club paddlers who will evaluate you and ensure you’re not a danger to yourself in the swirlies! Finding an experienced coach is a good idea before you practice poor technique over and over again.
Always give a stable boat the benefit over a supposedly faster boat. The slower boat will actually be faster for several seasons until you have your technique nailed. A swim can cost you several minutes or even your race. Option of K1 (single) or K2 (double) for racing, plus paddle, hydration bottle (best to get one that fits into your PFD, an acronym for a personal flotation device or lifejacket), and suitable clothing. Due to the no-compromise, no-prisoners taken nature of rivers, you have to join a club and pass a proficiency test to enter whitewater events. It’s also best to pair with a more experienced paddler, starting on flat water and gentler rivers to build your fitness and develop your balance before you even get to the test stage, simply to put extra skill in the ‘bank’.
training for novices
Time on your Arse is the boat equivalent of TITS (Time in The Saddle), so important to building stamina on a bike. It is the only way to pay your dues and improve. Spend as much time on the water in as many different conditions as possible. And don’t get into a rut – it will stifle your growth! Mix long slow distance days, with speed days and strength days. Doing land-based weight training is also highly advisable. Burpees and Superman are two highly recommended exercises that don’t require any weights – just gravity and your body weight. Keep it simple stupid!
Helmets are not essential in most races, but are considered essential on fast-flowing rocky rivers and waterways with high weirs.
The importance of a personal flotation device (PFD) cannot be underestimated. A PFD is designed for flotation and will keep a conscious person’s head out of water in calm conditons. A lifejacket is much more buoyant and is designed to turn most unconscious persons into a face-up, head-out-of-water position. By law, canoeists must each possess one wearable flotation device. Life vests must be worn properly, meaning they are tied, zipped or otherwise attached properly to the body for maximum protection.
Even the most seasoned veterans never travel alone. Water safety specialists recommend traveling with at least three people in your party or two separate crafts. Also, be certain to let others staying behind know where you’re going and when you’re expected to return.
Water bottles are best carried on your chest. The most popular systems in South Africa secure them to your PFD using straps. Liquid is sipped with a hose system.
Four-time Dusi winner Ant Stott’s tips for before, during and after a race.
- Visualise yourself having a great race, feeling strong, not making mistakes and crossing the line in your desired position. This will bring you one step closer to the real thing.
- Try to eat two and a half hours before the start so your food has time to digest before the start. There is nothing worse than trying to race with a full stomach. Eat an extra something very small an hour and a half before the start if the race is going to be a long one.
- Before you leave home subconsciously dress yourself from head to toe as you would for real when you get to the race. There is a lot to remember when packing for a race and this will make sure that you leave nothing important at home.
- When you arrive at the race check that nothing in your boat has rattled loose while driving. I like to use a cock-pit cover while driving to a race to ensure that nothing important falls out of the boat. Double check all nuts, bolts, seats and bouyancy to make sure everything is tight.
- Get into your race gear before you cover up with sunscreen. This way you will know which parts of your body will still be exposed to the sun. Aerosol spray, sunscreen spray and sports stick are the easiest to apply without getting it on your hands. It is a nightmare if you can’t grip your paddle properly because your hands are too slippery.
- Go for a warm-up jog 20 minutes before the start in full race kit to make sure that all your gear is sitting comfortably. Don’t be shy to work up a good sweat and get the blood flowing. Climb on the water 10 minutes before the start and paddle hard. You don’t want your body to be taken by surprise when the starter’s gun goes off.
- Start as fast as possible to ensure you get into a strong group. It is far easier to hang with someone stronger than you than trying to catch up later in the race.
- During the race don’t be scared to push yourself. You will never know your own limits unless you push them.
- Hold back on the drinking for the first 30 minutes. From then on sip on your juice regularly to keep the thirst at bay as well as providing your body with all it needs to keep going at the highest of levels.
- Drink your recovery shake no more than half an hour after the race has ended. Get some food into your body no later than one hour after the race if you have had a protein shake, otherwise much earlier. Your body needs fuel to recover so make sure you give it everything it needs to facilitate recovery.
contacts & events
The KZN, Gauteng and Free State river seasons start in earnest from September, while the Cape has already reached its zenith with the Breede. The Cape season starts picking up from April, going into the rainy winter season, reaching a crescendo with the tough Isuzu Berg River Canoe Marathon in July, now more accessible due to an innovative relay option (instituted in 2008).
KZN’s mild winters allow flat water activity throughout the year, although the rivers can become too low in areas. Training reaches fever pitch before the Hansa Powerade Dusi in the third week of January, but there’s no time for slouching, as the surfski season starts without skipping a beat.
There are a host of races throughout the year on rivers and dams catering for all age groups. Big races include the Hansa Powerade Dusi, Fish River Canoe Marathon, Isuzu Berg and Drak Challenge. There are canoe unions in KZN, Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Central Districts.
Contact Canoe SA www.canoesa.org.za
International Canoe Federation http://www.canoeicf.com/icf
paddling bloggers and twitters
Ronnie Rauhe – Olympic and World Champ
Mike Arthur – K2 speed demon
Shaun Ruby – K2 speed demon
Race winner and legend in the making Andy Birkett
Dusi 2011 runner-up but world champion when it comes to good sportsmanship for the 12th year running Ant Stott
Anyone on Twitter who would like to stay up to date with what is going on in the canoe tweeting world can follow some of these tweeps:
Thanks to Cedric Rubenstein for all the links.