Originally Posted by deepsouthpaddler
...My advice would be to spend lots of time in the playpark dialing in the roll. I would also recommend a variety of runs at a given difficulty at reasonable water levels without getting in over your head (moving up too fast) got really round out your skills.
Focus on building the key skills of catching eddies, peeling out, ferrying, scouting, selecting a line and then running it, hitting holes and diagonals. A good path to progression is skill based progression more than run based progression. Do the list of skills ad naseum on runs you are comfortable on until you are very comfortable and in control. If you run rapids down the middle without a move, you are missing opportunities. Catch an eddy at the top... ferry over to the slot on the other side... punch a hole... catch and eddy in the middle of the rapid... peel out... try to surf a wave. You get the picture. If you do this type of work on a run well within your skill level, when you move to the next level, you will be well prepared...
Skill-based progression is a more robust approach, I agree.
Another way to add variety to a known area and to really work your depth of skills is to paddle BACKWARDS. Try things in both directions, plus left and right sides, different combinations of things, etc. When you have to edge while backpaddling across eddylines, it'll feel like a whole new spot at first.
To make it clear, I don't mean just hop in and run the entire stretch backwards and hope for the best. I mean work each little tiny chunk every way you can think of. One instructor phrased it as "Make easy stuff hard. Use different angles, speeds, degree of edging, starting points." Also, if you can't repeat something you did well, then the depth of skills still isn't there yet. Luck doesn't always make up for it.