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Old 09-27-2013   #21
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
Gotta ditto Learch;
If your goal is to be one of those big waterfall, first descent, does your momma know what you did kinda boaters, you have to dedicate yourself to the sport full time, and you know, find a sponsor. And a good medical plan. And, maybe a good divorce lawyer.

If your goal is to continually challenge yourself until you find your absolute, positive, physical and mental limit you're probably gonna need a passport and a handful of Visas. You might start with Siberia or maybe Costa Rica.

If your goal is to enjoy the great outdoors, a beer with friends, and occasionally have the poopie scared out of you you're doing it right.

I had the Jesus moments on the river, and the fun but not so challenging river moments with friends, and the jesus it's cold, and wet, and these people are asshole times. I'll take the good memories with friends over the holy poop! moments anytime.

The point is, if you're out to prove something you're gonna need to dedicate some more effort (and money) to the deal.

If you're out to have a good time, you're doing it mostly right. You just need a few more beers in your cooler. And, maybe some different friends.

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Old 09-27-2013   #22
SW, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 120
Originally Posted by GoodTimes View Post
Stick with it....and like most have said....it's all days in the saddle. Paddle paddle paddle.

Thanks for all the contemplative responses.

I guess at the end of the day, what made me broach the subject was that this was my second year going to Baileyfest. My big goal for this season was to really style Bailey at the 'fest. I was thinking that after another season of boating, I would perform much better on the runs. Didn't style 'em.

Moreover, as an analogy: If you are a 5.10 climber, you can travel much of the world and enjoy tens of thousands of incredible routes of all styles.
However, to truly be a 5.10 climber means you have the skills to onsight any 5.10 in any region, even scary, dangerous stuff in unfamiliar territory.

It seems like if you are a super solid IV+ paddler (not an unattainable goal - I wouldn't think), you can have the same type of kayaking experiences - via travel, seeing unique places, unique challenges. I like to think that I should be at that level. But I know I'm not, and the progression (which itself was tremendously rewarding) has slowed/stopped.

Clearly others have had similar challenges. I guess either you do overcome or you don't. Gotta try to be ok with either outcome.

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Old 09-27-2013   #23
Hood River, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2163
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 295
fella- My advice would be to get out there and take lessons. Even most people who are really good paddlers haven't thought that much about their technique or how to communicate that technique effectively to others.

Everyone says just to paddle a ton and it will come to you, but paddling a ton doesn't do any good if you are enforcing bad habits on the daily.

So go take some lessons if you don't feel like you are reaching your goal. And not just from your average instructor, go learn from the best. If you are truly committed to improving, save you skrills and go to a place like Otter Bar in Northern Cali where the instructors really know their stuff and can help you take your paddling to the next level.

In tennis or golf, no one who takes the sport seriously says "I'm just gonna buy some clubs and see what happens if I play a lot." Even the pros take lessons to work on their swing. So why would you take kayaking any less seriously when your life often depends on your bow draw or roll being just that tiny bit better.

Also- there is class III and IV water everywhere and the rivers are beautiful around the world whether you're paddling class I or V . Many climbers who travel the world and have epic trad adventures in the alpine are climbing 5.7 and 5.8. There is no mandatory skill level that one must reach in order to dedicate their life to an experience.
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Old 09-27-2013   #24
Hood River, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2163
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 295
Originally Posted by Phil U. View Post
Interesting thread. I frame my greatest potential as being as present as possible and really enjoying the moment and the run I am on. And yes, running the cleanest, sweetest lines I can. I'm not trying to progress anymore. I'm not paddling the class 5 that I could. I've found my sweet spot for now and that is paddling within myself, within my relatively comfortable skill set.

My feedback would mirror much of what has been said already. Paddle frequently. Take a lesson. Don't get attached to how hard the run is. Paddle stuff that reasonably challenges you. But remember that getting on most any river is a wonderful thing. Appreciate the skills you have and the access they give you...
Should have read this before posting. Agreed.
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Old 09-27-2013   #25
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 505
A lot of good advice in here.

Obviously you have to paddle a lot. But you also have to practice your kayaking, and there's a difference there.

Where I'm at, when I'm paddling a river I can do most Class III+ - IV rivers just fine... taking the standard lines, staying upright (never rolling), and maybe hitting some eddies... but I notice that when I do so I'm not really practicing much and I'm certainly not challenging myself. I wasn't rolling into and out of eddies, practicing my technique. I wasn't paying attention to what paddle strokes I was taking, or keeping my knees engaged. I wasn't taking alternative lines, or hitting as many eddies as I could. I wasn't hitting every hole or rock in the river just to see what would happen. In other words, these rivers became easy because they were comfortable and predictable to me.

I like the earlier advice about not being afraid to swim. Many of those I started paddling with are paddling North Fork Payette now (I'm not) because they weren't afraid to get on the river and, if it happens, swim. They challenged themselves more on other rivers, and they certainly swam more. I might be a better paddler than them, ability wise... but they blow me away in experience and taking risks, and they paddle harder rivers because of it.

Playboating has helped me get extremely comfortable in a boat, with my roll, in holes and waves, and with a lot of body technique. Some of these skills can translate to running rivers, but there's also a world of difference in being able to read the river, react quickly, adjust on the fly, etc.

In short... you have to paddle more, you have to practice kayaking more (work on technique, balance, breathing, etc.), and you have to challenge yourself and take risks in doing so.
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Old 09-27-2013   #26
doesn't need a fake name
leif's Avatar
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 481
Here's my story: I'm a pretty solid paddler, paddling since 1996, and I've been having these same issues. I'm about to graduate, so big changes are coming, but lately I've been feeling how much school/work cuts into my paddling. I'm getting older, and I'm not at the skill level that I want to be. I worry that I may never get there. I'm improving by inches, but I feel like there are miles left to go.

Sounds the same, right? Well, I currently paddle about 2.5 days per week, and train flatwater about 4 days a week. I can run most runnable rapids that I encounter, and although I don't usually win, I compete in the pro class at freestyle events. The next level that I hope to attain is paddling full time, for a living. I think that really these issues don't ever go away, no matter what level you're at. This has been a really great thread to read through. Pretty much everything I read really resonated, except that thing about trying rafting.

The way you feel about your skill level is actually probably independent of your skill level. If you're not content with where you are, there's a pretty good chance that your attitude will stay as it is while your skills slowly change. I like to think that I've come to terms with this desire, and hopefully I'm using it to motivate myself rather than letting it frustrate me.

So basically, you're not alone. Enjoy what you can.
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Old 09-27-2013   #27
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 26
Originally Posted by Anchorless View Post
A lot of good advice in here.

Obviously you have to paddle a lot. But you also have to practice your kayaking, and there's a difference there...
I am surely the most amateur paddler involved in this thread, although I was, for quite a while, a really dedicated guitar player, and I think my experience with guitar is analogous to kayaking. I spent a great deal of time "playing" my guitar (for nearly ten years) without spending much time beyond my first year or so actually "practicing" my guitar. I eventually had to make a definitive discrepancy between "play" and "practice." I realized after years of playing that I had spent too much time just fooling around with licks and learning songs without really developing myself as a player. I certainly learned a lot and developed as a matter or course, but I really didn't go right after what was important to make myself the best. I was just "playing" around. Eventually, I broke it down, analyzed my style, went back to lessons and pinpointed what I really needed to work on to become better. I had to "practice" instead of "play." Scales, modes and theory took the place of just belting out "Over the Hills and Far Away" for the thrill of it. It was a lot less fun, but my playing developed tremendously. I had to regiment myself so I practiced for quite a while before I allowed myself to play for fun.
That said, I think that my ten plus years of playing for fun with no direction really hurt my development in the long-run. I have so many bad habits deeply ingrained in my playing that I don't think I will ever be able to stamp them out and replace them. I am just beginning with a kayak and I am going to focus, first and foremost, on developing in the right way so I start out with the best habits... which is somewhat ironic because I really just want to paddle for kicks and I wanted more than anything for a long time to become a rockstar. Oh well. I'm sure I'll have a great time out on the river!
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Old 09-27-2013   #28
Pine, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 37
You're a badass for makin us 50ish newbs look good!

Here's the wrong way to progress, but it worked for me. My west slope fiends said "You're 49 Years old, you've got no excuse, here's some gear, let's go".

Day one: The Milk Run on the Ark at high water, swim 1/2 mi for eddy.
Day two: Billy Creek on the Uncompaghre at high water, swim twice.
Buy Dry Suit, Full Face Helmet and Elbow Pads
Day three: Gunny Gorge at 2,900 cfs, swim parts of all rapids.
Day four: Shoshone at 4,000 cfs, one swim on each of 3 laps.
Day five: Go to Ecuador, Quijos class III warm-up at high water (big 4+ really) Swim twice, logged a one mile swim, saved all gear, walked out. The walk of shame there, is a one mile uphill thrash through the jungle in a dry suit. Paddled first Class V, blow the line, combat roll in the meat, (which it turns out is easier than walking through the freakin jungle), go home.

It was a five day program three years ago with some sick Montrose Paddlers that changed my perspective. I was lucky, without the strong Monrovian safety I could never take those chances, repeatedly screw up so badly or get chundered when throwing down in a foreign fucking country.

Paddle onward my good man! Get your ass in the boat and your mind will follow. I hope to paddle for the rest of my days with the Army of Darkness and guys like you!

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Old 09-27-2013   #29
4CRS, Durango, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 295
The best part of paddling is that there is always something more to strive for. Don't we all dream of running that river we see pros paddling in the latest/greatest video? Would I like to be the first person to hand paddle the Stikine? Hell yea! Will I ever do it? Unfortunately no. Am I ok with that? Kinda. Progress by inches, don't jump into situations where you know you're going to get destroyed, it will set you back years. Have fun paddling and own your favorite runs, try new lines on them, practice new ferries, boofs and eddies. These things will make you a better paddler and when you step it up on a new run you will be prepared. I am 40 years old and still trying to explore new rivers, find new challenges and become a better paddler. It is the never ending challenge that keeps me interested in paddling. It's the people I meet that keep me coming back to events like Baileyfest, Gore Race, Ect. Paddling is a great way to explore the world and meet great people, except maybe CasperMike, no matter what your skill level.
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Old 10-01-2013   #30
Kayak & SUP Lessons
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 15
Originally Posted by sarahkonamojo View Post
Ummm... instruction? Everyone could use a fine tuning now and then.
Well said Sarah. We also really enjoyed reading your insights Leif and Tony. Great thread.

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