get skills and experience without...

I wish I could go to the Rough Water …
Sounds great–I envy those of you who are going.

Thinking is a skill
and like all skills can be done badly or well and can be improved with training. Bad thinking (…thinks too slow…)is equal to or less than no thinking. Justy as bad action is equal to or less than no action.

The ability to think, assess, make decisions and act on them is obviously very important. In a dynamic environment such as rough water kayaking it usually needs to be done quickly but it still needs to be done, even if some of it seems to become subconscious/reflexive.

I’m sure genetics plays a part but so does knowledge, experience, training etc. Was it “natural genetics” that helped you keep your head (or ?)…the fact that you have been in tight situations before and figured out that panicing doesnt help?. The knowledge you got from reading books almost certainly helped you get out of the hole quicker than if you had not read the books. Having experienced that first hole you probably got out of the next one quicker, easier and in better shape. That’s skills and experience at least as much as genetics.

In your impressive progression to running class V inside a year were you working in complete isolation? or did you have access to books (we already know this one), experienced paddling buddies, video to watch etc.? Genetics helped get you there quick but knowledge, experience and training are what got you there.

Ref. Athlete over Thinker any day. Without direction the natural athelete will almost certainly develop bad habits which can and usually do lead to poor performance and injury, especially in a technique dependant sport like kayaking. Ever seen a super fit iron man tri-athelete get beat by a flabby kayaker with good forward stroke, it happens. I know who my money is on in the rough as well.

Have fun, challenge yourself, take risks

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 3:43 PM EST –

but be safe.

It's a hard line to tow with those things in play.

WW/Surf is the best way to do it where there is a quick pullout to safety.

For surf you have to have the strength to break out, which is a limiter for a lot of folks. So there is a baseline of skill and conditioning to really even break in.

Same could be said for white water, though I have decidedly less experience in that arena. You do have to know how to roll. You can't have a pool roll and hope to have fun.

Not everyone is an EJ, a nigel or a doug van doren, but you won't know unless you try.

I wrote a post about this last year after a nasty swim where i took a few lumps for being stupid. However, I think it is safe to say when I was the only one out there it's easy to call it from the safety of the beach.

Jim Whittaker said it well
"I heard a philosophy not too long ago that pretty well captures my philosophy of life: “If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” It has nothing to do with thrill-seeking. It’s about making the most of every moment, about constantly stretching your own boundaries, about being willing to learn constantly and putting yourself in situations where learning is possible–sometimes even critical to your survival. Being out on the edge, with everything at risk, is where you learn–and grow–the most."

Jim Whittaker

(famous American mountaineer, possibly not well known by kayakers on

i have seen the same thing on
big days on the great lakes, I have rescued a few sea kayakers from chicago and other areas of michigan, guys I know from the ww club have done the same thing. It’s never the kiteboarders, the windsurfers, the boardies, or the ww boaters having trouble it’s always the bloody sea kayakers.

TRAINING WORKS and is essential in one form or another if we want to improve.

Training at what you want to get good at in the environment you want to get good in is most effective but needs supplementing.

Understanding the environment through observation, reading about it, discussing it with others etc. is pretty much essential as well.

Cross training can be effective eg. working out in the gym, practicing strokes on the duck pond before using them in rough water, paddling white water to get good at seakayaking (or vice versa this definatly cuts both ways).

You will probably need to make a progression from where you are to where you want to be (west coast surf or grade V white water may be a bit much for many novices).

REMEMBER though. Practice only makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Has anyone noticed that many top rough water kayakers live next to rough water (some left home and family to be there) and go out on it a lot maybe there is a connection. Many of them may also be willing to admit that they are not natural atheletes and some may even admit to having learned from someone or even having taken a lesson or two. Most of them will have spent a lot of time studying to environment they work or play in.

It is also important to note that many of these top paddlers believe in putting something back in to the sport by spreading their knowledge usually through a recognised system of training /certification.

As encouragement to those of us feeling discouraged by all the talk of natural atheletes and naturaly suited mental disposition. There is still hope (lots actualy) it is possible to overcome at least some of what genetics didn’t give us or time has taken away. It may take you a bit longer but with a little luck and good practice you too could run class V or surf big waves on the west coast. And there’s a fair chance you’ll have more fun getting there and be doing it for longer and safer than the guy who got there quick.

You don’t need to take a class or become qualified but it seems to help a lot of people and definately benefits the sport including the “I’ve never taken a class” “I dont need no stinkin award” crowd, yes you too are benefiting from the system you mock.

Very few (my guess is none) competent paddlers (or any functioning human being)can rightly claim to be entirely self taught. Some of us are better at figuring it out our selves (it can be fun I do it a lot) but I’m sure you got some help from somewhere and guess what most of the time you could have saved your self the bother of reinventing the wheel. Experimentation is essentilal to inovation, most inovation comes from people who think about stuff and talk to others who know about stuff.

Single mindednes is good but dont let it stop you from learning lessons, where ever they are comming from.

Some have experiences. Some gain experience.

No Monopoly
I dont believe sea kayakers have a monopoly on stupidity, bad luck, poor judgement or weak skills.

I have rescued pretty much every kind of paddle craft as well as sail boats, jet skis, power boats etc. From a sea kayak. Most of these people could have sorted them selves out with a little more knowledge and or ability.

However there do seem to be some pockets where certain groups of water users cause more than their fair share of trouble. I’m sure there are many reasons why but “a little knowledge being a dangerous thing” mixed with normaly benign conditions encouraging a false sense of security would be near the top of the list.

Many sea kayakers do consider the roll as just another stroke, that can be performed in various ways dependant on what is needed. However wether you are a sea kayaker or a white water kayaker there is no such thing as a 100% always everytime “BOMB PROOF ROLL”.

Thank you
…there is no such thing as a 100% always everytime “BOMB PROOF ROLL”.


As rick wrote on another thread (paraphrase); “a bombproof roll is a roll that hasn’t met a big enough bomb.”

A common aphorism among both accomplished ww and sea kayakers is “We are all between swims.”

Sometimes, too many times,

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 5:26 PM EST –

personal fear is the hardest obstacle to overcome and compounds all problems.

When there are no options, concentrate and focus on the task.


Lance Armstrong called Jan Ulrich. . . .
. . . . the most talented cyclist he’d seen, yet Armstrong kicked Ulrich’s butt every time they went head to head in the tour. Why? Armstrong trained harder and smarter.

Natural talent may be unevenly distributed, but so is luck. The one thing that any of us has control over is what we do. Training and building skills is something that any of us can take control over. One thing I know for sure is the harder I work; the luckier I get.

Before anyone chimes in about performance enhancing drugs on the Armstrong analogy, remember Ulrich was caught using them. The best you can hope for on that score is a wash.


Warm water, SOT, wind
You can learn a fair bit about how boats and waves mix when you take hypothermia and rescue drama mostly out of the mix.

if you’re going to practice playing in waves, put everything else in your favor. Upwind/upcurrent of a sandy beach and warm water is a good start.

sea kayakers vs ww kayakers

– Last Updated: Aug-09-07 2:36 AM EST –

yes ww kayakers will have a much better honed intuitive sense of the water and their reactions in rough seas, higher confidence, etc. however i've seen some ww kayakers come to long boats and they are terrible paddlers. slow, have no efficiency, no forward stroke to think of and very little appreciation for the risks associated with large open bodies of water. take that ww cowboy attitude and put it in the wrong place and it's all bad. mostly though i know very few who cross over both ways or enjoy both types of kayaking. it's either one or the other but almost never both.

The playboater would never be able to get to that feature!

I definitely appreciate whitewater, but who really cares if it’s exciting to watch??? Screaming down the face of a wave in sea kayak sure feels good, and that’s all that matters! I hope the playboat throwing loops isn’t doing it because he wants to look cool.

I’ve seen good rough water sea kayakers make an easy transition to whitewater, but most whitewater paddlers I know find sea boats edgy and hard to handle in surf…they get frustrated then make blanket statements about how bad sea kayaks are to surf. Bad for you…not bad for me.

There are times when I definitely enjoy taking my whitewater kayak out to play in the surf, but for the past several years have really started to love the sea kayak for it’s sheer speed; ability to catch waves beyond the break and pick up energy with the wave as it builds; the long rides; and the joy of figuring out how to make a sea kayak do things that everyone else says it isn’t designed to do.

Or just plain wind
Leave out the electrical storm-caused wind for obvious reasons, but other wind can be useful for getting used to how the kayak responds.

Doesn’t have to be warm water as long as we’re dressed for the water.

The motorboat wakes actually are not a big deal (other than the question of drunken operators). They are over with very, very quickly–UNLIKE high winds that just keep barreling on for hours.

Just thinking of my own and others’
experience here. It took me a while to figure out that our mild conditions would count as rough water by most mainland standards. What makes it manageable is that the boats are forgiving and you have all the time you need to get your stuff together if you do come out of the boat. Still possible to screw up badly, of course, but just being out there in a Scupper Pro is pretty educational and not all that demanding.

for making my point much better than I did. I was the fit class V kid, now last year I was the flabby paddler beating the ironman at Sea to Ski.

Copy that, Bro
seen those scenarios more than a few times.

Have you ever seen Nigel Foster play in the surf in a sea boat. Its what Mozart’s music would look like if you could see it.

good post
The sports world is full of guys with “natural ability” who didn’t make it for lack of commitment - and guys who didn’t have the natura ability but had long careers by training and practicing hard.

Scupper Pro


I still wish OK had come out with a longer, streamlined version of the Scupper.