Two edged sword: will you grow into it?

Here is a bit of a different topic for the winter reflections. We hear so often from our paddle mates, friends, instructors, dealers, hey you will grow into it. Once you relax you will find it just right, etc.

This has often gone unchallenged, by most folks, including me. I wonder what folks think about this though.

For example, many of the experts in our sport tell us candidly that almost all the errors and bad habit novice and intermediate paddler alike develop as a direct result of a visceral sense of continuous unease in their boats. Most of their early instruction is designed to relax paddlers so they learn proper recruitment of muscles and technique.

Given this, are we possibly doing a disservice to many novices by encouraging them into boats that not only are they not ready for will actually promote nervous unbalanced and even negative skill sets, that as an instructor provides me with extra cash as once a person learns these it is sometimes the devil for them to relearn them!

This is why I purchased an Explorer so that my students could learn to really deeply relax. Often though I hear a sort of insult that it anyone could scull in THAT boat. As if it impedes development of skills. True, I think, only if it is so so so easy as to not require anything of thet paddler.

Perhaps we need a more individual curve of learning and choice of boats, one that fits that person’s coordination capacities, and finds the sweet spot that challenges just enough, but does not produce that dreaded level of anxiety that detracts from learning.

Just how I am seeing it today, after all these years seeing it a myriad of other ways.


Really Pretty Simple.
there is a continuum of individual abilities and mental attitudes. Generally, the individual knows what they are (at least I believe they do) and can judge for themselves whether they can pick something up quickly (Grow into). So folks can’t and need more outside input and a more conservative approach.

Perhaps the best thing for the fast learners to do is to go rent much boats, take lessons and paddle alot. They do grow incredibly fast in their skills sets (much to some our dismay!). Heck, just look that kid, Schizopak. In the two shorts years here, he has probably amassed more skills than half the folks here (me included at twice his time in the cockpit). He’s got the physical and mental attributes to excel in the sport.

Then you have folks who think the can take on the world. Then, you read their posts (or actually go out and paddle with them) and realize they have limited skills and that extent of their experiences is on the same ole, same ole… Some of these folks can probably used some constructive coaching.

Of course, you have the majority somewhere in between. Good luck to the coaches and aspiring coaches out there. Bottom line: bringing someone along at the right speed is a fine art.


I can identify!!!
My wife and I did out first SINK ride in a Necky Manitou, after a couple of seasons on Hobie Mirage Sports.

In retrospect, we probably would have been better off to stay with a boat of similar characteristics.

Instead, we have boats that we need to “grow into”, and I have a fairly serious sort of “nervous tick” reaction to the lesser initial stability of my boat.

Oddly enough, my wife hasn’t had the same reaction. But, she tends to be a little less aggressive in her approach to things, so she isn’t “pushing” as hard as I tend to.

Maybe in time,and with continued training this can be overcome.

But, at least for me, I suspect that I might have done better to get the basics nailed down in a boat that gave me more confidence.


Try being a hang gliding instructor
I couldn’t take the stress but I loved doing it. And no people don’t always know what they’re capable of (very seldom as far as I know). They don’t come to an instructor just to learn skills but to have a capable person show some confidence in them. Hang gliding is a tough skill to learn but it is a 90% mental and 10% physical skill. The mental skill is where people usually have the most difficulty. I could teach people the physical skills very quickly but the mental part would come and go. Being afraid of heights is very logical and is no different than fear of drowning so when I do help out paddlers I approach it like teaching hang gliding.

I held membership number 900-something in the Southern California Hang Gliding Ass’n ( later to become the USHGA), made over 400 skydives, taught the first jump course at our local DZ ,and have my private pilot’s license.

But, so far, kayaking is giving me a fit! :frowning:


My preference coincides with what
Evans promulgates. I’m a bit older at 55. Started in 2004 with a WS tandem. Logged quite a few hours. In 2005 I wanted my first solo. I thought about a 16’+ narrow beam yak but instead purchased a Prijon Calabria at 14 1/2’. It is a stable, quality kayak and I have become very confident in it. I have since demoed some longer sea kayaks with a great degree of comfort due to a gradual rather than a radical progression. This worked for me but others may wish to take the ultimate plunge.

A novice just purchased and reviewed an Epic Endurance 18’ and is very comfortable with it and he’s my age. Here is the recent review:

I guess it depends on your goals, skills and disposition.

Ah ha! A fellow nut.
My jump master was my first hang gliding student. USHGA# 57623 joined in '91. Passed ground school for powered flight but I was a terrible pilot so I didn’t pursu it further. But gliding was natural. Kayaking, not so natural for me either.


I am always growing into boats
It is just the way I am. I like being challenged and don’t care how long it takes me to learn something. But then I am an independent cuss who is hard to discourage. And what I hate most is learning something in circumstances that are too easy and then have to undo things because I have learned bad habits (like relearning to roll 2 or 3 times). None-the-less, what I see most often is people clinging to what they can do or feel comfortable with and being reluctant to try something more challenging. That is their choice and I would never try to talk them out of it. But it is not for me.

They also tend to have lower center of gravity and experience initial stability quite differently. Just ask Frank…

The cure for that nervous tick is seat time -lots of it. I had it for 2-3 month going from a Tarpon 160 to a QCC 700. Now the 700 feels crazy stable and I’m building a 19" beam SOF. When I want a challenge I take out my surf ski. I can just manage it on flat - and have not improved as I haven’t devoted time to it. That too would change very positively with seat time.

Of course, sometimes the amount of seat time required to get comfortable is just not practical for everyone. Paddling once every weekend was enough for the 700. So far I can’t seem to find time to spent an hour on the ski at least 2-3 days a week - which seems to be what it will take. I’ll keep playing Lotto. Winning is probably the only way I’ll have the time I want for all paddling related activities.

Growing into boats…
… is better than growing out of boats!

Evan and Nigel
I think Evan is corect that a capable boat that is confidence inspiring can be the best utensil for somone learning and developing skills.

It is no accident that this is exactly the nature of the Explorer and Romany.

Nigel Dennis designed these boats as schooling boats.

Sometimes you feel like a nut…
I just took up kayaking about 3 months ago. One of the things that struck me was how many similarities there are to hang gliding. The intimate connection to one’s immediate environment, the need to understand the dynamics of a fluid medium and make a piece of equipment perform as an extension of one’s body. The absolute need for good judgement based on a realistic assessment of your abilities is perhaps the most striking parallel.

Sitting at a put-in contemplating windy conditions prior to “launch” is, I think, when these similarities first hit me.

…Mike…USHGA #1899…1976 Ellenville NY

People Are Different
But I think MOST people need a beginner boat when they begin. I also think MOST people need a skeg or rudder when they begin.

Later if someone can, or wants to become a better paddler, they’ll move up to a more challenging boat. If not, by all means let them be happy paddling the beginner boat.

When kids learn to ride a bike, they usually have training wheels, right?

Morning Rex !
I am on my first cup of French roast.

I completely second your statement:

I wouldn’t touch a kayak that I couldn’t be comfortable in.

My first was a wide “bathtub” that was just as stable as if you were sitting on a solid floor.

That was where I became “an advanced Pro” (ha, ha)

When I decided it was time for a longer sea kayak I tried all kinds of them at demo days, and there were many that were way to tippy for me.

I wanted a kayak that I can get in and paddle without a learning curve. If I can’t have that, I don’t want it.

The one I settled on was a poly 17 footer that gave me the exact ride, stability and secureness as the bathtub and I would have been quite content to keep that forever.

Then I got into racing and when I realized that in order to go fast I would have to get something skinnier, longer and lighter.

I did a lot of checking around and asked here on P-net and was told which yak was the fastest sea kayak.

The only problem was there was no way to try one out before buying it.

I found out that the manufacturer gave a 30 day money back guarantee if you didn’t like the yak so I went ahead and got it.

You can imagine my apprehension when I took this long skinny thing out of the shipping container, but lo and behold when I tried it out it was just as stable as my original bathtub, and to this day it gives me the exact same secureness and stability.

I am getting kind of interested in trying one of those ulta skinny surf ski type thingies, but before I ever got one it would have to be as stable as my original bathtub.

I used to be able to say the same as above about my progression in canoes, but I can’t any more since this year I bought a J-191 c-1 racing canoe, and that sucker is going to take a twenty year learning curve to keep upright when I make a bouy turn.

To make a long story short. I don’t like a learning curve.

If I can’t enjoy a boat the first day out, I don’t want it.



Good Morning, Jack

– Last Updated: Dec-17-05 6:49 AM EST –

Mrs Kudzu and I have just about emptied the coffee pot. I was thinking about a short bike ride this morning but the radar looks bad. Don't want to get far from home and have to deal with freezing rain.

Speaking of starting at the beginning... I got so mad at a segment of the kayak industry that was telling brand new cusomers "You don't need a skeg or a rudder. You can handle the boat without it." I had two buddies who were brand new at kayaking that were told that. Both of them got out in windy conditions and were miserable in their boats. They were just plain lied to. They should have been told "We urge you to learn to handle your boat without a skeg or a rudder. You might enjoy it and it will make you safer."

Have a great weekend.

And Jack! Maybe we can talk Andrew (afolpe) into letting us demo his skinny skis sometime. We could shoot down to Atlanta and play in the water. I have a kayak buddy here in town who would also go. You reading this, Andrew?

4 Different Touring Boats
in my first year and a half. I too like to be challenged physically and mentally. Lost money on each resale of a boat. That’s why perhaps a rental route would have been better for me.

I won’t get into talking about the parallel in the streams of white water and surf boats. Still having tons of fun though. :slight_smile:


I got to try that…
Outrigger down at the Wrightsville beach, and that thing could fly.

I plan on trying a ski down at the B & B in Feb.

There should be lots of them to demo. If not I’ll ask some stranger to let me try theirs.

“Old is good”- Everybody will do anything for you.

I even have to fight off people that insist on putting our yaks and canoes on the racks for me.



Then, Of Course, There Are Dummies
I purchased a QCC as my first boat and it was way over my competency level. I had taken a basic paddle course and rented a dozen or so times.

I am now fairly comfortable in the boat but it took a while. I may have been able to shorten my learning curve with a more forgiving boat but on the other hand, the Q may have made me work harder, don’t know. I have further to go to be sure but I am now at the end of my first season and I feel comfortable in most of the water that I venture into. And, I am looking forward to learning more about this boat and I rather than thinking about another boat.

Happy Paddling,


There’re different people. Some learn fast, some not. WE’ve touch on that.

The other IMPORTANT aspect of this question is the GOAL of the sport. Do you want to ‘work’ on your weekends, or do you want to ‘enjoy’ your weekend?

Some of us learn to kayak for the challenge. I admit I’m one of those. So, for me, the learning is THE fun part. A boat I can GROW WITH (I don’t quite like the grow INTO thing, it implies you’re not quite ready for ‘it’ yet!) is absolutely what I always look for. I ‘also’ get to enjoy the scenary and peace and quiet. But that really isn’t the main motivation.

Other people, I suspect a BIG portion of the kayakers on the water around us, got into kayaking to ENJOY the environment! For them, a more suitable boat would mean the difference of that boat sitting on water or sitting in a garage (and the owner sitting on a couch)!!! Who wants to spend the weekend WORKING on ‘growing into the boat’ when they really rather be ENJOYING the water paddling a reasonably stable boat?

Again, learn by asking!
Don’t let it got to your heads mates, but asking questions here is most usually a surprise reward. I get what some of you are saying about folks are different and that for many of us it IS the challenge the discomfort, the growing edge that merits all the fuss, expense and hassle of carting these boats and all this stuff around, etc.

But seriously, thanks for really considering the question I posed, and I have learned some things from your responses. I feel myself a bit guilty for imposing my own views on students without knowing it over the years. Although my entire adult life is professionally devoted to learning how to converge on the exact feelings and needs of vulnerable and hurt people and to help them discover the inner resources that they need to recover and lead a larger life, and in my spare time as an instructor to individualize lessons to the exact needs and learning style of that person, I see now that I have possibly overlooked that fact that not everyone is like me, a super challenger type.

Last season was the most ambitious one of my life as a kayak instructor and I think some folks would have done better by me if I had not encouraged them into boats that frankly inhibited their growth somewhat. I do think perhaps all of us need challenges, part of our structure, but just I over did this to the degree that some students were desperately trying to do the skills we focused on but what actually was happening was they were responding to signals from the boat of imminent demise.

A couple of folks, who will of course remain nameless were frankly simply not able to modify their forward stroke, could not for the life of themselves demonstrate even somewhat a brace stroke, and one person retreated to a completely irrational idea about herself to justify that she was unable to allow herself to practice wet exit and re-entries.

I prided myself on my abilty to get past my own ideass to what others need and found instead yet again I have my own blocks to being a good instructor.

I have decidded getting older is not necessarily getting wiser. That is why despite it not being fun, it is a good thing to get one’s proverbial rear end kicked here a bit. Out of rut of thinking you know something.