Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

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Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Sir Adam »

Reading Kimmie's post, and taking a clinic from Eli (The Canoe Guru) yesterday, I started thinking - why DO so few CBoaters pay for instruction? I'm a perfect example - mostly self-taught, try to get insights from fellow paddlers (many of them who still use two blades), and I think I've taken exactly 3 clinics in all the years I've been paddling - first a clinic with two instructors as part of the C1 Concordia (that this forum was created to support by Scott W. and Dave M.), then from the excellent Beth Kennedy as part of the Single Blade Symposium, and finally from the awesome Eli Helbert yesterday.

Looking at individual sports...
When golfers want to step up their game... they pay a golf pro for instruction...
When tennis players want to step up their game... they pay for instruction...
When skiers (downhill and XC... I'm an XC instructor..)... they take a lesson.
And if you want to get water related... look at all the fly fisherman who take lessons (and need them too from all the line we see in the trees sometimes :roll: ).


So why on earth do we think canoeing is any different?

Not really ranting, just trying to figure out why, as in the past I've leaned toward informal instruction (free or very, very cheap), and after taking a clinic from Beth and then Eli I really see the value of paying someone who not only knows how to paddle, but how to pick apart what you need to improve and relay that to you. And that is tough from someone as "frugal" as I am at times.

Thoughts? Experiences? Other great instructors you know of? I know that is often one of the challengers - when you are paying for instruction you'd like to know you'll get something out of it... and we all know some instructors are better than others (and some work better with some folks than others do). I've named the two I've not only taken clinics from, but found to be great instructors.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Wendy »

I think the small classes that Eli teaches are fantastic as was the private instruction at NOC years ago by top canoe instructors. Since I have paddled for over 40 years I have seen so many changes in style and technique. There is always something to learn, especially if you paddle short boats. I believe false ego and being cheap keeps many people from paying for instruction. Carole Westwood did a trip with some SE women that was wonderful on the Upper Green.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by milkman »

Canoeists just want to have fun.

Actually, I improved a lot from coaching classes by Bob Foote back when he would travel around the country, even making it to Oregon, to do clinics. It's great to have someone with an extremely experienced eye spot what you need to improve and help you work on it. I think the last class I took from him was 6 or so years ago and I'm still working on some things he showed me and improving my technique on them. Other times, I just go out and have fun.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by VTBoater »

I have on several occasions heard canoeists vehemently bash paid instruction as fit only for chumps. It may be that this sort of macho chest-pounding deters boaters who don't want to appear "uncool". If so, it's a shame.

I recently took a 5-day, small-group clinic at MKC that was fantastic. I booked it as a fun little outdoor vacation that would hopefully kick-start my paddling season, but I got more out of it than I imagined. Five full days of drills and practice under the watchful eye of a great instructor (shout-out to Stephanie McArdle) really locked in some good habits and broke me of some bad ones. Plus, I had a blast the whole time.

Also, if I'm having fun and learning skills, I'm more than happy to pay for a service that allows talented people to make their living on the water teaching and promoting paddling.
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Bobbing

Post by Einar »

In golf or tennis the ball is in the water, in the trees or in the net and other than lying and enabling other lairs it's a plain truth.

In paddling you can self teach yourself to Bob down a river, just surviving becomes a goal and the
accomplishment. Some lying is involved, and enabling, but it is amazing how you can get thru upright on moderate skill

But for me to progress past the Lying and Bobbing plateau I took professional paid criticism and instruction from Lyle Dickieson and others.
It involved money. It also came as a package; a willingness to practice, to seek out better paddler partners, to run harder rivers, and to deal with lots of initial failure. Just instruction wasn't enough, it's not a blue pill.

I support good paid instructors and recommend paddlers to them. If it is not your thing and you do well great but I got a lot out of good professional instruction.

Of course Smurfs unpaid comment on my roll was worth it too.
e

(edit addition: I seem to be back at another plateau, just a higher one)
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by truckeeboater »

I too have made good use of some paddling instruction. Courtesy of Neil Rucker at Canoe West in Northern California, I had two days of one on one a few years back to help knock some rust off and get some beta on a section of river I've never seen. What a wealth of knowledge! The guy's been a canoe instructor for something like 37 years, and it turns out that he's retiring next year. I'm glad I got the chance to paddle with him when I did.

Anyway, onto the topic of why or why not... Being an instructor/ coach myself almost 20 years (outdoor ed, snowboarding, staff trainer and guide for a small raft company) I've seen many folks who need instruction and don't seek it out, or don't need instruction and are always paying for lessons. I think it has to do with A) income, B) available time, C) willingness and determination to improve, and finally D) the person's inherent perception of their own performance.

While instruction of any kind is not cheap, most of us heavily value our time and money. There is a small sect of people whom I have worked with for a few years who are fortunate enough to have expendable time and money, and also have a slightly deflated sense of where they lie on the performance spectrum. I feel these folks are needing more positive reinforcement and camaraderie than actual instruction. For the rest of us who don't have disposable time and income, we are more likely to seek guidance from whatever venue we can get it (usually fellow paddlers, friends, or kind strangers). We are the folks who have a decent sense of our current performance level and where we wish to progress to. We are the folks who will most likely seek out professional instruction as long as it fits into our schedules and won't completely drain our wallets. Finally, there is the small group of folks who will openly bash coaching or instruction of any kind. These are the folks who, like us, have limited time and/or money to dedicate to such an endeavor, but UNLIKE us, usually have an over-inflated sense of their own performance level. Discounting the value of quality coaching is their way of making themselves feel better about their performance, or maybe it makes them feel more hardcore. Who knows?

I personally love to receive feedback on my performance whether it's in something I'm relatively new to (like OC-1) or something I've been a professional coach in for many years (like snowboarding).
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Re: Bobbing

Post by Pierre LaPaddelle »

Einar wrote:. . . to progress past the Lying and Bobbing plateau I took professional paid criticism and instruction . . . It involved money. It also came as a package; a willingness to practice, to seek out better paddler partners, to run harder rivers, and to deal with lots of initial failure. Just instruction wasn't enough, it's not a blue pill. . .
Yep - what Einar said.

Our sport does include lots of folks who are happy flubbing down a river without the desire always to improveImproveIMPROVE. And, off course, everyone's learning styles are different -- some folks learn best by figuring out things for themselves.

But there's a place for 'paid criticism and instruction', and the need sometimes to spend a weekend working on skills, not just floating down a river, hoping to stay upright.

As per my usual rant, however, the frustration here in the west is that, although there are lots of instructors to put on basic-intro-to-moving-water courses, there aren't enough folks of Eli's or Lyle's expertise, to take us to the next levels.

(Say, Einar -- tell me more about those 'blue pills' . . .) :wink:

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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by hazardharry »

really golfers.tennis and skiers? those are sports that cost everytime you do them. those people have money. its free to put my canoe in any river anywhere. FREE. CANOEING IS FREE.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Sir Adam »

Have to disagree with you there Harry - I know plenty of folks who have set up both "serious" and "seriously rustic" (coffee cans) golf courses with a few holes in their backyards for fun.

And other than equipment purchase (like us.... though it is also just as easy to get dirt cheap or free if you watch for it) Cross Country skiing is typically also FREE. Yes, you can pay to ski on a groomed surface... but you can also pay to paddle at a man-made water park. I'd say it's far more typical to have a parking or access charge for rivers than for XC skiing too - though there are plenty of both that are FREE as you point out.

As for Tennis, plenty of free municipal courts to play on, and rackets can be much cheaper than boats are gear. I'll give you that tennis pro's aren't likely to frequent municipal courts though:)
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Todhunter »

I don't have the cash to pay whatever it costs for instruction. If I did have that kind of money, I'd buy a new boat or something. I've never had official instruction and have gotten along fine. My pace may have been slower, and my strokes may not be the most efficient, but I'm just getting out there to have a good time, not "be all that I could be." If I was interested in slalom, downriver racing, or rodeo, then I would get instruction. I just want to go run some rivers with my buds.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by DougB »

Getting canoe instruction is like asking for directions - most do not want to admit they need it. Plus, and most importantly, canoeists as a whole are cheap
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Sir Adam »

Todhunter - 15 years ago my thoughts would have been identical to yours - and I'm still in the "out there to have fun" not "be all that I can be" camp... but I've also reached the point that it is hard to progress further without a skilled, trained eye on what I'm doing. And that, I've realized, has more value than I placed on it years ago. I'm not recommending you do anything different, or run out and take a clinic from someone (I certainly wouldn't have 15 years ago... i would have bought another paddle instead;) ), just think about it the next time an opportunity comes up.

Reading all the posts so far I'll toss out an additional idea - most of the other sports I've referenced are more "social" than paddling - you play with a tennis partner and commonly golf in groups (I'm not a golfer though, so I could be wrong... I have far better things to do with my time;) ). I'm thinking on top of being "frugal" (as most of us are), we're also independent - another reason you see few tandems on the river. This may be part of the "ego" mentioned, or a reason for it.

I will come back to XC skiing (which is also a "solo" sport... and one in which though lessons are more common there is also a large subset of the population that has never taken (and sorely needs) one. Skiing rewards bad technique with fatigue... boating rewards bad technique with swims;)

It IS nice to see that more folks have actually taken courses than I would have thought.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by milkman »

I generally fall into the camp of just wanting to get out on the river and "milk" it for all the fun I can. The best $250 I've spent on the sport though was my first 3-day Bob Foote clinic taken with 5 other paddlers. All my skills went up a notch. I can say the same for telemark skiing. After being taught by a wife, an accomplished telemarker, I took a 2-day course on Mt Hood from some of the country's top telemark instructors. Like the canoe class, it raised the fun meter on skiing because I now had the skills or learned what I needed to practice to get even more enjoyment out of the sport.

As for canoeing being free, the initial price of admission can seem steep--canoe, paddle, air bags, outfitting, pfd, drysuit. But yeah, once you have those, it's free. Except for the new canoes you keep thinking you need ...
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Brendan »

This post makes me reflect on the many lessons I have had from fellow boaters. I started WW paddling (OC 1 - 16 foot) in 1981 and over the years I have had many mentors on the River- none of whom no longer paddle due to age, lifestyle changes, etc.. The lessons took the form of countless runs down moderate sections of WW with a focus on catching every eddy, ferrying back and forth and surfing waves. The cost was a cold six pack at the takeout. As equipment changed I moved to a smaller boat, then about 15 years ago to C-1. I rarely saw any C-1 paddlers and when I did was always impressed by the grace of the boat. I then attended the 1999 Concordia in D.C. and my education about C-boating took a quantum leap forward. I did follow that up by a day of private instruction at NOC.

In addition to instructors, the internet has provided a significant resource for boating- everything from paddling and rolling techniques to boat repair to seeing rivers that one might not have ever been aware of ( that video that Tommy posted from Delaware was a lesson to me in geography- I was not aware that Delaware had that type of gradient anywhere in the State).

I do know as a whole that boaters tend to be more than willing to help each other out. It is only our ego that tends to interfere with our willingness to be open to learning- this is true in all aspects of life.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by dafriend »

Looks to me like this tread has covered most of the "why not" pretty well. One other possibility is the lack of readily available instruction. If people cannot easily find instruction when and where they want it then interest is lost and forgotten. Only the most serious will pursue it further.

The lack of instruction is somewhat understandable. Instructors like Eli and Trevor (Yukan Canoe) and, back when he was active, Bob Foote work hard at promoting their services. Devising, organizing, promoting and running classes is a lot of work. The risk of not getting a worthwhile return is high. Compared to most other sports WW canoing has a very small population of active participants. Seems likely these factors would conspire to keep the number of training opportunities low.

True, lots of clubs offer instruction. But "club boating" may be unattractive to many of the rugged individualists that are likely to find running WW in canoes interesting. As the old joke goes these people wouldn't respect a club that would have them as a member.

I suppose my point is that more people might take instruction if more opportunities existed.
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