What pushes you most to new limits

Doing the work of reviewing the new Tiderace Xcite and listening to my pod mates ideas about what kind of boat pushes them to new limits got me questioning myself about this. Aled’s idea is as follows. But I would really like to know from other fellow paddlers what kind of boat and what kind of conditions give you the challenge to learn new things best.

Aled’s idea

I consider myself very lucky to be born and brought up in Holyhead, the sea conditions around the islands make for a perfect sea kayak play ground. To take best advantage of the strong tide around Anglesey, you need a special kind of boat. The most exhilarating thrill for me is paddling out to a tide swept headland and surfing its overfall and tidal race. The power of the sea is evident here, it’s in your face, it’s all around. It pushes me to new limits, it occasionally allows me to think that I can master it, but never for very long. The Xcite is my choice boat here, and it’s all about having a reserve, a performance margin and a comfort zone.

I agree, rough waters rule
While only wishing to have more turbulent waters locally I have to content myslef with surf.

In saying that there are pockets of rough waters in my local bay where currents and waves collide creating dangerous conditions at time.

At this stage I have still a lot of water to cover before I can happily say: bring it on!

In the meantime I get exited by conditions like this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wil-RpuuKRo&feature=channel_page

What pushes me to new limits is:
when I get caught unexpectedly in bad conditions.

I normally don’t go looking for new limits. Just new destinations.



lately it’s been
the ACA poling events I’ve been going too. I’d say I’m about middle of the pack in ability, but when Carps climbing broken dams and Harrys absolutely ripping up rapids, I do get inspired. And tired!

Kind of at a plateau in OC-1, actually downhill lately, not using my legs enough for control. Going to have to concentrate at the local park and play, get the legs back.

sounds like an advertisement
I would never have thought of equating what pushes me to new limits with a particular brand of boat. Typically I look at something and say to myself “I’d like to go there” (open coastal paddling, etc.), then try to figure out what it will take to get there (learning how to deal with surf, etc.). You wouldn’t go in a rec boat, sure, but there are plenty of boats that will get you there (I look around me and see different boats). Holyhead must be different.

Paddler coditions boat

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 9:50 AM EST –

For me when I stretch myself it us important not to go so far I break the rubber band. So under rougher conditions what I love is the complete involvement and awareness it brings. Ido feel that a particular boat and paddle can enhance or subtract from the necessity to bringing a calm focus to those conditions. I do really love the experience of a boat that promotes me feeling I am one with it and it is an extension of me.

So what really seems to free me to push myself is the feeling transmitted through the boat if it is right for me to balance turn catch the wave the eddyline etc.

My spiffy new
Tevas, now those things are really making me want to take new risks…

jim :wink:

YES : > ) True true true!
It is true that when I was putting myself through college went to work for a place called “Bushwhaker Backpacking Supply”

I had to learn to do Whitewater and was put in a WW boat with NO paddle and told to go down a rapids that way. Didn’t give you a paddle for several weeks. YIKES

I was pretty fearless then and a lot of dumb luck got me through. But I did learn it was me not the Tevas that got me to push myself.

And yet, there is a connection from those times to here for me that I learned that when in a kayak to close my eyes, don’t depend on sight, and feel everything, balance, water on the boat, etc.

So leaving the question of does a piece of equipment enhance or not,

you are right to humorously point out the main thing that gets me to challenge myself is conditions that absolutely require me to FEEL my way and STOP using my linear analytic look think and act mode.

Tideraces for example will throw you over quickly if you try to analyze what to do next.

The WW paddler’s adage is correct when you know that the longer you have to think about it the more likely you are going to make the wrong move!

severe boat chop?

– Last Updated: Apr-21-09 10:45 AM EST –

Since I paddle almost exclusively on inland larger lakes and rivers, I've unfortunately not paddled or developed the essential skills for surf, rock gardens, and open ocean conditions. On the larger lakes here, strong winds alone can whip up sizable whitecaps, but such waves and chop are uni-directional. Such straight line wind and waves require effective boat control and paddle strokes but are not complicated. Prevailing winds are typically from the west and one can always plan this on outings.

I'm wondering if heavy motorboat and commercial vessel traffic days instead of wind, are better days for inland kayakers to practice and develop skills on, since chop is not uniformly uni-directional but coming at all angles.

If so, as long as one uses the safety of visibility, staying in groups, reflective bright colors, etc. . . . perhaps inland kayaking skills can be pushed to limits on these heavy motorized craft days? What do you think?

conditions with a safety net
The past year I’ve rededicated myself to more serious sea kayaking. New boat, new commitment to training, and looking for rougher stuff to push my limits a little more each time out.

My current boat (pintail) keeps me much more on my toes than past boats (Tempest 165, Looksha), but in conditions it also provides great reassurance. Getting into bigger (for me) stuff just requires keeping my paddle engaged with the water and my mind focused. It’s those paddle strokes that keep you up. Just how and where you make them are refinements that will help me improve over a lifetime, but just making strokes is the first and most important step, I’ve found.

Steve Maynard made the analogy last year to hiking - On rough terrain you don’t try to balance on each step. Instead you are constantly falling towards your next footstep. Paddling should be the same. If you are trying to balance the boat at every instant, you are way too tense, and you’re going to trip. Instead allowing yourself to relax and recognize that you are simply falling from one stroke to the next loosens up the boat, and keeps your body engaged with the water. That simple lesson has really stuck with me, and it keeps me comfortable and confident when the waves are getting bigger. And allows me to focus on the effects and handling of my strokes, rather than trying to decide what will keep me upright at any instant.

Another thing I’ve discovered this year is the value of adventuresome but safety-conscious paddling companions. That provides a lot of room for pushing your limits and working on new skills. Finding those partners is as valuable for skill development as discovering all the challenging tidal races, rock garden spots, and surf breaks around us.

So, boat, mindset, the right partners - those are the conditions that challenge me and help me grow right now.

Great post totally agree
Steve was my mentor years ago when I came back into kayaking. Totally agree. Dynamic balance, relaxation, engagement. Yes!

And I am fortunate to have a truly great pod of safety first and yet adventuresome comrades to engage in these things. Actually, I don’t think without this I would feel like there is safety in a group and the nurturing of staying open to learn new stuff.

And, Martin’s idea sounds really right too. The sort of massive chop we get on our inland sea here totally requires dynamic balance.

YOU gotta check out this video
OK, this is about a bicycle rider. But talk about challenging yourself to find your potential! NOT saying this is anything wise, etc. However, it is just sickeningly amazing what we are capable of sometimes. This fellow is quite incredible. Some of my best moments in life came when I was able to understand how much more we can be than we think.


that IS amazing.

how many bones would break learning that stuff?



Strong currents and new deadfall
on twisty rivers that I’m not very familiar with usually stretch my solo canoeing skills, often beyond comfort or present skills. The currents force me into the new situations.

Ok I am lazy.

Got serious about weather radio etc after trusting the morning forecast too much and spending nearly 3 hours stuck on an island as storms rolled thru.

Got serious about getting roll on both sides after exiting the boat when my right side turned out to be against current. It turned into a messy rescue. Having a roll on both sides would have been a lot less embarrassing.

Realized I have to get better at catching eddies after finishing Zoar Gap backwards (though upright). My paddling companions enjoyed the heck out of it, but it would have been better to catch that eddy at the top.

And so on. I know people who learn by other than emergency scenarios. Maybe some day I will grow up and figure out how to do that.

having an open mind
lately, myself and a lot of my paddling partners have been trying to approach looking at rivers and conditions through a new lens. for years we’ve heard “that rapid is unrunnable”, or “it’s too high to run”. instead of relying on the conventional wisdom passed down for years, we are trying to look at things objectively as if we’ve never seen them before, or heard anything about them. we’ve run some “unrunnable” drops, and paddled rivers beyond flood that turned out to be great fun and completely reasonable.

of course, some things are still unrunnable, or too high. i currently have my arm in a sling from a shot i took last saturday to my shoulder. hopefully i’ll be back at it by the weekend.

HP surf kayak, and big surf.

As Grayhawk once told a group…
of us when we were getting ready to cross a busy channel; “Everbody stay close together. We make a much easier target for the power boats!”

On another note: if you are looking for chop from boats to play in, you won’t find it from the high powered ones or the jet skis.

They hardly make any wake at all.



any kayak
in B I G surf.



Unless you’ve got
large commercial traffic, I don’t think you’ll get much to play on. Even big pleasure boats moving slowly don’t put out more than a 1’ tall wake, and the smaller faster boats hardly leave any wake at all because they’re up on plane.

I’d think the dangers would outweigh any challenge created by the waves.

If your lake is more than a few miles long you should get some 2’ or more wind waves developing on 15 or 20 knot days, towards the downwind end of the lake. It’s not exactly 10’ tall erupting clapotis, but then, most of us aren’t really ready for that kind of play anyways. :slight_smile: