Why Technique shunned by Newbies

-- Last Updated: Jun-22-12 3:10 PM EST --

Newcomers to the sport seem to think anyone
who sits in a canoe or kayak is instantaneously
a canoeist or kayaker.

Society inherently understands people take
instruction - coaching - training - for items
at very young ages for TBall, Soccer, Golf, etc
YET somehow the impression that anyone can
paddle runs rampant in society.

People readily enroll their kids in swim classes
and understand swimming well involves coaching
but few actually seek out canoe/kayak classes.

""I can buy a boat from ______ for $200 bucks""
Now I'm a paddler. NO it's called splashing
and it may move you forward a few feet and you'll
tire quickly, leaving you sore the next day.
Floatin' ain't paddlin' !

What is it that makes people shun learning ?
Is it the cost with taking a canoe/kayak lesson ?
Is it the immediate gratification to float in something ?

I go out on the water and can immediately spot
all the newcomers to the spot in seconds - how -
because there is no technique to their strokes,
no fluidity of physical movement, and of course,
little forward motion.

God forbid I give them a friendly tip, because
they know it all already and need no help.

Am I alone in these thoughts, experiences and encounters ?

I don’t share them completely

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 3:21 PM EST –

I've been canoeing or kayaking since age 6. I learned to canoe at day camp and from my parents. I learned to kayak from my parents.
If all you want to do is float on a lazy stream or river in a pumpkinseed rec boat, I wouldn't admonish you for not taking lessons. You don't absolutely need them, and there is an added cost. Anything beyond that, and lessons might be a good idea. But again there is an expense.
I place some of the responsibility on vendors because a newbie won't know what they don't know. This is what got me started down the road of sea kayaking: input and recommendations from a vendor (who happened to be an independent local retailer).

Also, I don't think it's true that everyone takes lessons for every sport. I played soccer as a kid for years before taking instruction (as a member of a league), likewise basketball. In fact I never took bb instruction even though I played in an IM league. Kids grow up playing all sorts of sports for which they never took lessons. This sort of claim is what might make newbies suspicious of ulterior motives when one urges lessons.

Finally, I don't think it's at all important to focus on what people might call what it is they're doing. If the user of that pumpkinseed boat I described earlier wants to call what they're doing "kayaking", who cares? no skin off my nose. They may just be saying so to be concise.

I think it's important not to come across as prohibitively elitist or nannyish, which is a fine line becacuse the vast majority of experienced folks recommending lessons and training are just trying to be helpful and to grow the sport. But an excess can turn people off in my experience.

I learned more out of books and by
practice and self-criticism than from instruction.

I taught myself to roll c-1. Over a decade later I taught myself to roll kayak (c2c) and later taught myself the slash roll.

I taught myself to J, and later learned to paddle OC-1 without J stroking.

Most of my ww skills I learned by seeing them on film or done by others, and then doing them.

I have occasionally had formal instruction, and it was always helpful in certain ways, and never a waste of time. But compared to what I have been able to do on my own, I have no reason to expect ACA or any other instruction to be super-useful.

Now, I’m not a good athlete, and I’m no more than an intermediate paddler who occasionally noses into the advanced ranks for a season. So what I have said is not an argument that instruction is not highly desirable for a lot of people. Perhaps it’s just the exception that proves the rule. But back in the 70s and 80s, the way most of us were learning ww skills in the southeast was, monkey see, monkey think, monkey do.

Different Strokes

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 3:29 PM EST –

Some people need instruction. Some people need lots of instruction. All the instruction in the world can't help some. Then there are the lucky 'naturals' of the world who can just do it.

Keep in mind, some people don't care squat about being a good paddler. They just want to go play around or explore for a while.

HUGE number of close calls every year

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 3:35 PM EST –

What about tax payer costs for rescues from
numbskulls who just "wing it" and sock it to us ?

Perhaps the weak and foolish should just perish
because they lacked the initiative to learn ?

Do retailers bear any burden to direct buyers
toward resources, for increased self preservation ?

Paddling Tips

willi_h2o, and anyone else, I am a newbie and would love some paddling tips. I want to take a class, and will, but can’t get into one until mid-August, because on a few classes in my area and that is the first one I can make. In the next two months I would like to get on the water and practice, but don’t want to get ingrained with a bunch of bad habits.

I recently purchased a Kestrel 140 TCS on CL that came with a Werner Cyprus bent shaft paddle (205 cm, I am 5’10 160 lbs and plan on doing a high angle stroke, but realize this paddle still maybe 5-10 cm too short).

I am planning on doing a triathlon in September where the first leg is kayaking instead of swimming, so would like to develop a decent high angle “forward” (I think that is the term) stroke. I am not hoping to win this triathlon by any means but just want to not finish too far behind the pack.

Based on that any tips? Exactly how should my core rotate when paddling? grip tips? arms/legs/hips tips? I tried doing a some research and watched some youtube videos but weren’t as helpful as I thought. A checklist I could go through in my head while paddling would be great.

I agree most everyone should take a lesson and I plan on it, but in the meantime any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

so put it in context

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 4:08 PM EST –

Ask yourself how many of those rescues, many of which were in remote areas, were the result of someone taking their pumpkinseed boat out on the local pond? I'd bet that most of the rescues involved people with some ability or aptitude and some who had also taken lessons. You're complicating assumptions with generalization.

This is what I'm cautioning against. It sounds like hysterics to a newbie only interested in lilydipping.

Bubba Watson never took formal golf instruction or was coached on his swing. Watson won the Masters tournament this spring.

rescue costs
What about the rescue costs of “real paddlers” who get in over their heads? Seems to me that these make up the majority of the rescue stories I read about.

you have to gage their interest first
I help out at demo days and have been witness to some truly horrendous technique. I always ask first IF they are interested in some tips,the most common being: Turn the paddle over. In responses, I get everything from people asking where they can get paid lessons, to ‘No thanks I know what I’m doing’. Women tend to be much pretty receptive whereas dad’s with their kids just give you a evil look.

The problem with the ‘just playing around’ type of paddler is inevitably they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in trouble.

No they don’t. Not inevitably.

Don’t even go there!

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 5:35 PM EST –

If that line of logic is reasonable, than ALL of us should be subject to intense training and frequent tests regarding our driving skills. Further, we should all be required to wear helmets when driving, since the cost to society due to head injuries suffered in CAR accidents is huge enough to eclipse that of just about any other kind, except PERHAPS the whole spectrum of car-related accidents (you can easily leave bicycles and motorcycles out of consideration, since head injuries from those activities are a drop in the bucket compared to those that happen while driving cars). Wanna do something to reduce the cost to society as a result of untrained behavior? Start with car drivers. In comparison, nothing else even matters.

Keep things in perspective and maybe you'll lighten up a little.

I won't argue against the value of paddling lessons, or the use of bike helmets, or anything like that, as long as you speak of its value to the individual or their friends/family. However, once you bring up the cost to society as a primary issue, you've crossed into la-la land, because that particular cost is so miniscule compared to so many other things that are beyond our control until we become a police state, and perhaps not even then. Even if the cost to society were great enough to matter in the grand scheme of things, your data are totally without validity until you can show what proportion of all those paddling accidents were the result of newbies getting in over their heads, rather than due to things turning bad for experienced paddlers. Would you cite the number of deaths of highly trained mountain climbers as proof that hikers wearing sneakers on the easy trails haven't been properly trained? Sheesh.

But in whitewater, rescues are done by
other paddlers and seldom cost the State anything.

Is the Water different from Dirt/Land ?
Fall off something on land, you usually do okay,

-scraped battered bruised but you can breathe.

Fall off something in the water and you get

water tossed in your nose, mouth, lungs and

it all goes bad in a hurry - especially

with no PFD on.

Wind on land you can usually take cover from

– wind on water is unforgiving and relentless

Water rips heat from skin much faster than dirt

According to the United States Coast Guard

-kayaking & canoeing represent more than 15%

of all recreational boating fatalities in the U.S.A.

People need to take personal responsibility

for their actions. Don’t expect anyone to save you.

It is your responsibility and yours alone.

If someone shoots themselves with a gun,

it isn’t the guns fault.

hate to burst your bubble

– Last Updated: Jun-22-12 5:03 PM EST –

Anything in those CG stats that tell us how many of those deaths were newbies who shunned technique?

I taught myself to swim at first (eventually thru camp).

I taught myself to body surf.

I taught myself to boogie-board.

I taught myself how to waterski.

I taught myself how to surf, to a certain extent. Those who helped me said they were self-taught.

Like guideboatguy said, lighten up francis. I'm beginning to think you're an instructor who's down on his luck.

is like a golf swing, or a bat swing. There are certain things that must get done, but a billion ways to get there.

Bubba Watson has showed us how much instruction is really needed.

That said, instruction is fine, but its not mandatory for participation.

Ryan L.

You are alone.
First, no one cares about labels unless they are some sort of elitist. If you care about those people being “kayakers”, etc., you should consider getting some instruction on social skills and maybe think deep and hard about why you care about those other people and feel the need to label them.

Second, why do you get to chose the labels? If I get to chose then I say that anyone who gets in a boat is a boater and anyone who paddles is a paddler. No minimum experience is necessary when I do the labeling. Why is it required for your labeling?

Third, if you were to look at internet forums for other activities, you would hear the exact complaint from people just like yourself who don’t like beginners encroaching on their sacred territory. paddling is not unique in this regard and people going out without instruction is common in all activities. Fortunately the death rate of absolute beginner paddlers is not as high as that of absolute beginner rock climbers. BTW, there are more elitist rock climbers who hate people with shiny new gear than there are elitist paddlers. Even you might be offended by the crap they spew on their forums.

Fourth and finally. People do not like to be told that they are wrong. It is depressing. You giving unwanted advice just makes people feel bad about their situation. I suspect too that with the attitude that they don’t qualify to be out on the water, you probably have that little tone in your voice that goes beyond just giving unwanted advice.

You actually are not alone because there are lots of elitists who condemn beginners. People who encourage others and give support to beginners without labeling them are certainly not part of your thought group though.


Tain’t rocket science
I’m not terribly atheletic. My dad took me out in a canoe a couple of times when I was 8 or 10 or so. I might have read something in a book at some point.

Then a few months before my 30th birthday a pal organized an Allagash trip so I went.

Got in the canoe at Chamberlain Lake for the first time since I was 8 or 10 or so and paddled down to Allagash Village.

I do recall dear sweet Ava wondering why we went in circles the first mile or so but it taint rocket science. After a bit I figured out how to get the canoe from A to B across the lake and down the river. Did I J or Goon stroke? I dunno. But the Chase rapid was an absolute hoot and confirmed my budding addiction.

Yes I have benefited from many classes with some fine instructors. For me mastering technique is one of the joys of paddling.

But there are many other joys, some like fishing don’t do much for me but clearly do for others.

So who’s to say?

If someone goes in circles but loves their time on the water, is my joy in learning technique somehow better?

Is my joy in learning superior to my joy in seeing new places, or spying an eagle, or camping in the quietest place I’ve ever been?


If folks are happy just to be out there why worry about it.

It ain’t exactly rocket science this paddling we do.

Good Post

– Last Updated: Jul-09-12 6:12 PM EST –

The cost issue comes up far too often. The fact is that rescues cost nothing because the rescuers are already getting paid and they need the real life training so that they are there for anyone who needs them including the elitists who condemn beginners.

I always get him confused
…with ricky fowler. I have no idea why. Ricky Fowler is a nut who probably pisses off all of the “old guard” golfers.


credit for a very zen post