Too much rescue focus

I know this may ruffle some feathers but I see too much focus on avoiding death vs. enjoyable paddling these days. Too much focus on technique and gear. Too much talk about gore tex and geo-caching. Before you reply I fully understand the need for safety and have taken classes and carry (and) know how to use the usual gear. Lets not include cold water and apply this argument to safe water temps, maybe tidal rivers, calm coastal paddling? Most discussions with paddlers these days and most written topics are always about rescuing yourself or adding .25mph to your stroke. This suddenly occured to me after paddling five years when I saw a paddler last weekend. Skin on frame boat probably 21" wide. Greenland paddle that looked like a cooking utensil. The paddler was spending most of his time doing bizarre backward leans and laying sideways sculling and what not? I know he was learning the limits of his boat but what about just safely hitting the water and forgetting about whether or not you’ll hit 5.2 on the gps today? What about the eagles, fish, and shoreline beauty. What about just letting the swells roll under you. I’m also a cyclist and paddling seems to have hit the same intensity level as the roadies with 16lb. bikes who miss the “ride” but focus on the cadence & numbers and actually know the gram weight of their tires. Am I missing something or is the Zen of paddling getting blinded by kevlar and hand rolling.

No One Path In "Zen"
what you’re doing is somewhat complaining about why someone doesn’t share your “path.” The rollers feel one with the water. That first effortless hand roll is “satori.” The speed paddlers are also trying to reach one-ness in their own way. The rec boaters too in their meandering and bobbing on the wavelets of life…

I personally get off on that near perfect ride on a perfect wave. Hey, I know it’s not for everyone. I am probably one of a very small group in here who get off on it. So what? To each their own. All valid if it brings a smile and some inner perspective.


follow the force
not the dark side

If you’ve seen one eagle…
you’ve seen them all! I love watching nature and enjoying a nice paddle but with that said, it really isn’t that challenging from a paddling perspective. As a person who loves the challenge of kayaking, I like having various skill goals to keep me motivated. I love learning all sorts of strange rolls and the challenge of convincing my body that these strange contortions make sense as I twist and slice through the water. I love catching a nice wave and being able to get that exhilarating feeling of moving WITH the water as opposed to ON the water. I love running whitewater and dropping over small waterfalls. I love learning to playboat and the body/boat control that I’m developing in regards to that. While doing all these things I love, I can still look up on occasion, see the eagle/hawk/egret/heron and enjoy the moment. However, if I am out there solely to look at the birds, I’m not a kayaker but a bird watcher. Floating and enjoying nature is nice, but it won’t make you a better paddler which is my primary goal.

Gear is cool! I only Paddle to get more cool gear! Gear is EVERYTHING!!! Yah, I also cycle… and hike, and dare I say it… GEO-CACHE!

Death can ruin your whole day and I personally recommend avoiding that particular level of non-existance… besides, dead don’t collect cool gear!

5.8 mph according to my GPS (way cool toy, BTW)

Sounds Like Discussion Forum Material
I see lots of pictures and trip reports and general sharing of the joys of paddling on the discussion forum that match what you are looking for.

If I under stand this board, it’s to get help and advice, and to share suggestions, which lends itself to technique and gear.


As a new paddler, personally…
I am very competitive, and easily get wrapped up in paddling fast and feeling the burn. There’s something very pleasing in going slowly and sightseeing, and enjoying the experience of being out on the water. Something else wonderful in taking my time and working on beautiful mechanics.

It may just be that the discussions are skewed toward what’s easily discussed, rather than what’s more difficult to put into words.

many aspects

– Last Updated: Aug-02-05 1:20 PM EST –

Paddling has many aspects. I enjoy the closeness to water and wildlife and how quiet a kayak can move through the water.

However, I am still learning so many skills that the thrill of discovery and ability is very fresh. There is always more, in addition to the need to practice those skills which one has attained.

The second board here on most often has paddlers' scenic musings and links to beautiful photos taken during paddling. I believe that this one is more focused on technique and equipment is consistent with its theme.

Yes & no
Remember that the folks here are not typical – they are, by self selection, people who like to talk about rescues and speed. The “Zen of paddling” people don’t bother talking about it.

There is no “right” way to enjoy a sport. What pleases me would probably bore or terrify someone else, and vice versa.

I like to roll, practice stuff, play in waves, fish, and talk to other boaters. My wife likes to explore quiet water in silence. We don’t try to change each other.

I think it’s also a mistake to assume that pursuing technical skills interferes with aesthetic enjoyment. Developing skills gives me the ability to relax and enjoy a wider variety of conditions. Applying those skills lets me appreciate both the beauty of the waves and the forces within, which lets me try to be one with the water instead of fighting it.

You are right, though, in that it’s easy to let the numbers take over. When I was hang-gliding it was common for the answer to “how was your flight?” to be “OK – I got to 3,000 over launch, but only stayed up for an hour” instead of “Fun – I thermalled up with some vultures, and the foliage on the ridge was spectacular”. Sometimes you’ve just got to look around and realize how lucky you are to be doing it at all.

I’m with you,
but of course there are many different aspects to this sport for people to enjoy, and conditions where you paddle have a bearing on how good you should be at certain things.

Last thing I want to do is dunk my head in the water, that clammy feeling would ruin the rest of my day out there. It was bad enough sitting with wet shorts in a wet seat for two hours after the one time I tried a paddlefloat entry last year.


Zen Mountains
"Before I studied Zen for thirty years, mountains were mountains, and waters were waters.

"When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters.

“But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.”

Ching-yuan, Zen master

Put another way, a sailor I know once told me that newbies call ropes ‘ropes’. After they become sailing ‘enthusiasts’ and read a few books, they start calling them ‘lines’. Once they’re experienced old salts, they once again call 'em ‘ropes’. It might seem they have come full circle, and have gone nowhere, but oh, what different paths they have taken.

As a beginning paddler, I think it takes a certain amount of effort to comprehend that the seemingly benign water and solitude and remoteness which first draw us to paddling, can also be our undoing and even our death. Most paddlers I see on the water still haven’t gotten this, and blithely cruise along without benefit of skirt or PFD, and do not know a paddle float from a root-beer float. They can perhaps be considered pre-Zen.

I am perhaps currently in the early Zen stage, and find I spend an inordinate amount of time studying stroke technique, practicing self-rescues and partner rescues, and striving toward some kind of roll. As Castaway points out, I often forget to pop the skirt, slouch back and cruise, enjoying the scenery and wildlife (the ‘mountains and waters’) which originally attracted me to this sport.

Through my fledgling studies on the water, my practicing and learning and experimenting, I hope one day, like Ching-yuan, to get ‘its very substance’, and be ‘at rest’ with paddling. To be so ‘at one with’ the water and my surroundings that I no longer think about carving a turn or sweeping a roll; I simply do it.

I will no longer keep a list of exercises prominently displayed on my foredeck, and I will not spend more time practicing than cruising. I will be no more out of my element than a dolphin. In fact, I hope to look just like the rank newbie, without a care in the world …

News Flash
I find this board to be a news flash of new ideas regarding paddling. Granted I have heard quite a few of the ideas mentioned here over and over, so I weed through them. It’s the occasions that I read here something new to me that I never thought of that stimulates my interestes that keeps me looking through this board. I thank all of you on this board for sharing.

Oh, I definitely like a natural scenic view with some wildlife interaction. Yet I don’t expect to get that on this text based bulletin board.

5.2 on the gps, you go that slow?

– Last Updated: Aug-02-05 11:12 AM EST –

""" I know he was learning the limits of his boat but what about just safely hitting the water and forgetting about whether or not you'll hit 5.2 on the gps today?"""

For some people kayaking is a sport. I race. Therefore I concern myself with getting faster and that is what I talk about because it interests me. That doesn't necessarily detract from my aesthetic enjoyment of kayaking though. I pretty much take this aspect for granted having lived and worked on and around water for my entire life but I still sit and watch a sunset every now and again.

Just because some people pursue speed, tricks, surf, etc....doesn't mean that we think everybody should do the same. I recognize that there are people that don't consider sweating through a hard interval workout in FL heat to be fun. They just might enjoy the scenery a bit more than I and that is the focus of there paddling. That's great. I wish more of my fellow water users here in FL would give up their internal combustion engines when they go sight-seeing.

A higher level of skill, safety awareness & gear, and being constantly aware you don’t have gills ADDS to the level of natural enjoyment you can experience. Increasing your comfort level so you can go where few can others can ADDS to the natural wonders you will see and the peace of mind you will carry with you.

I agree
all things balance,

too much safety bums the whole buzz about having a good time.

too much focus on speed and technique bums the the whole buzz about being out on the water.

too much focus on any one aspect of paddling and maybe you forget why you got into paddling.

But remember, each person gets into it for different reasons.

some people could just care less about the beauty of their surroundings and they just want to pull inward for the focus on their technique, their speed, their roll, or whatever. But that’s their choice.

But all in all, yes, don’t forget the big picture.

What is wrong with a mix.
My wife and I take off for the Big Bogey and Bacall races down in Key Largo in February, and then the following day we start for the next two months a mixture of nature watching, camping, exploring and paddling in the 10,000 Island, the Everglades, the various spring runs and along the coastal estuaries as well as some good ocean paddling.

We have canoes and kayaks for every type paddling that exists.

We love to race and never pass up one if we can get to it, but on the other hand three summers ago we drove to Alaska and spent four months paddling just about every place we could get to including Glacier Bay and a lot of the inner passage.

I myself highly recommend a good mix of canoeing and kayaking in races, as well as nature watching and checking out every little cove and tributary you can find.

If you find fault with that you are the one with a problem, not us!



integration is the thing
A very very cool study some years ago on how athletes get into the zone, that place like a meditative state that is pleasureable, and the most efficient, coordinated, and focused place.

They studied athletes who used dissociative methods, i.e., ignoring their fears and their pains and those who found a way to focus on those fears and pains and everything else without getting caught up in it.

The results were that initially the dissociators did better in terms of performance and coordination, but then the integrators did dramatically better.

Draw your own conclusions but what I find is that paradoxically by taking care of myself and others in terms of managing the dangers ENHANCES my total experience.

Your on the wrong list.
If you don’t want discussions on safety etc go

try Boatertalk for a Zen experience.

Or at least go to the discussion forums here and read posts like the trip report to South Manitou Island.

well said.

Yes, you are missing something
Skills development and better (suited) equipment do not detract from paddling enjoyment. They can greatly enhance and expand it.

None of that interferes with “the eagles, fish, and shoreline beauty” or “just letting the swells roll under you.”

Not everyone is interested or will benefit from the same things, but to pose it as you did is either a blatant troll - or just a sad way to cover inadequacies under a blanket of disinterest (feather ruffle back at you :wink:

“Zen of paddling”? I seem to get in the flow of things and lose myself whether just paddling, rolling, tweaking gear, contemplating designs/building, or shopping for paddling stuff! All seem to keep me fully in the moment and temporarily free of monkey mind. I’ve even even had a few rare moments where even the kayak and paddle disappeared and there was simply the paddling (sorry, can’t really put to words - but there was no sense of self, or gear - just everything/nothing).

Your thread has provoked some great responses. I enjoyed them all.