Are you a Zenner, A Zoner, Or a Grunter?

What’s going on in your head while paddling?

A Zenner- you focus on a single aspect of your paddling to the exclusion of all else.
I do this a lot in ww. My focus becomes sharp and narrow. I become unaware of life’s other stresses and am firmly rooted in the moment. For example doing an eddy turn, in my head I might be telling myself a bunch of things, but all very sequentially- “drive the boat hard, drop the knee for the eddy line, drive again, watch for rocks, control the spin with good core rotation, now do a stern draw”. This is truly a look where you want to go approach that demands your total focus to the exclusion of all else. You ain’t thinkin’ about the stack of bills, work, or relationships. Your sole focus is on what you are doing.

A zoner-blissfully unaware of the miles covered and your surroundings. Your mind wanders from topic to topic. You could be in a boat, in the car driving, or taking a hike. You’re surprised when you arrive at your destination. Physical pains don’t creep in until finished. You are lost in your own little world.

A grunter- looking forward to the end, you create goals to keep yourself moving- you tell yourself stuff like “I’ll pick up current when I round the bend or the beer will taste good at the take-out, or only two more miles to go.”

In a boat I’m mostly a zenner and a grunter. Hiking I’m more of a zoner and a grunter. That’s me, what are you?

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Since you chose zenner for what I would call focused, I will then add “In the Moment” to capture the Zen state, and I offer the following:

Zenner: you focus on a single aspect of your paddling to the exclusion of all else.

Zoner: blissfully unaware of the miles covered and your surroundings.

Grunter: looking forward to the end, you create goals to keep yourself moving

In the Moment: Unfocused, enjoying the sights and sounds around you. Goals? what are they?

I am In the Moment mostly, but then something comes up that sends me into a zenner mode, then I flip back into the moment.


All of them. Rivers and lakes change all the time. When conditions are favorable it is easy to enjoy the Zen. When there are rapids and rough lake conditions, paddling requires that we become Focused. I mostly avoid being a Zoner. The older I get, the less Grunting happens. I do not have to be anywhere.

In the moment when paddling or hiking, more focused when mtn biking.

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I employ all my senses when paddling. I do mostly flatwater lakes and rivers so I don’t usually have to focus on a task.
I have a very good sense of smell and distance vision.
I love the breeze and sunlight, birds and the rare animal.
As for feel, I try to keep my aging joints from getting too unhappy.

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I’m kind of a zoner; unaware of the miles, but very aware of my surroundings. The biggest reason I go into the woods whether paddling or hiking is to immerse myself in the surrounding environment.


I don’t get out as often as I like. Since most trips are solo, I get as much out of each outing as possible. Paddling and maintaining the track has become almost automatic and zen-like, except when I get to cross currents, wind, tidal forces and waves. That allows me to value the moment, enjoy the solitude, and focus on breathing, especially when the air is fresh. The best trips are when boat traffic is light, and I feel like the entire Chesapeake Bay is just for me to enjoy. For that reason, I tend to avoid weekends.

I’ve paddled enough to remain in a zone and match energy output to the distance I plan to travel. On many trips, if the conditions are right, I just keep going until I run out of time and have to turn around.

The final 30 minute leg of every trip is a grunt, where the goal is to burn off all residual energy by the end of the trip. I recall a few trips when I regretted living, but they were the trips that I didn’t have the energy to finish with an all out sprint.

I generally regret when the trip is over, especially on days when the conditions are perfect. After getting home and cleaning up, I review the trip stats and compare progress to other trip logs.

I go back and forth between Zenner and Zoner depending on conditions, and become more Grunter toward the end of the day.

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Ha! Lots of grunters by the end of many days. I once happened across two women in clunky old rec boats - they represented another class. They were drifting along as if it were afternoo tea. Enjoying the many wildflowers and marsh birds, the fresh air, the solitude and companionship. They probably made such an impression on me, because I was on a rare zone trip that day, as I reflected on the Pretty Pictures posts. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to just savor the moment.

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We have friends who lived on a small lake. The woman would paddle to the middle to hang out with a neighbor and drink a beer.


Ain’t that a wonderful life.

Well, rarely a grunter while paddling except possibly when fighting headwinds for an extended period - portaging or dragging around a strainer, I’m rarely anything else.

I suppose I flip between zoner and zenner most of the rest of the time. Depends on how well I know the water I’m on. I zone out on flats until something, a bird, animal, distant boat, focuses me for a while. A blind turn on an unfamiliar river with the sound of a rapid turns me zenner pretty quick.
There is perhaps another state which I sometimes fall into… maybe call it empiricist? When on a familiar body or water, usually a river, I’ll notice things that have changed since I was last through this way. There used to be a channel here, that island was bigger last year, I camped there and it wasn’t so overgrown then. That sort of thing. I take note of places that might be suitable for camping, a lunch stop, perhaps an emergency egress and the time it takes to travel between such places at a typical pace. I used to keep a notebook of such things. I’m younger than that now.

Zenner with lots of awareness of surroundings for flora, fauna, fish, water changes, weather, and safety. Almost always paddle water that requires my stokes as the only motive force.

In all the years of paddling, I’ve never tried to classify why I’m out there. Maybe the closest I come to that is that I feel a responsibility to paddle my boats in a manner that compliments what the boat was designed to do. Not saying I’ve ever really exceeded at it, but doing my part is important to me and being out there is a bonus.

Doing most physical stuff I’m a zoner. When I get tired I become a grunter.

You sound like a bicyclist.

I alternate between being a dozer, a poser, or a hoser as the mood strikes me.

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A little of all of it. It all depends, because conditions while paddling always change. I change with the conditions, so I can be any, or all three, at different times during a trip.


And Donner and Blitzen
Then again, I’m starting to get the uneasy feeling this discussion might be heading toward the line, “I give up - witch un ur ya then.” 'Vousers will know what I mean, as might others…

And Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to all.


Nice mix, pblanc