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

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

Post by Shep »

At the NOC slalom nationals, I got to chat with Carole Westwood a couple of times. She mentioned that they (often, sometimes, occasionally?) come down to run a clinic on the Dryway. I would LOVE to take that clinic!
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by jakke »

Waw, interesting thread! I only drop in now, because I was away coaching ;-).

I guess I'm a bit of an exception here, I've come across 10 different coaching, and I regret none of them. It just becomes harder to find coaches who can step up your game, unless you're lucky to find the right coach at once. But then again, you learn from every instructor, so passing by a few of them is a good thing!

Now, I should mention first that I'm at the conservative side of paddling. So I like to be all over the place before I step it up, being able to controll a rapid under any circumstances, not just controlling a line down. So I spend lots of time giving myself a hard line on easy whitewater. (and to be honest, I probably don't spend enough time on harder whitewater, due to long distances and having a hard time finding the right rivers and the right company).

The harder the whitewater is you paddle, the harder it is to receive instruction. But don't be mistaken, there are plenty of class III/IV/V paddlers who can still learn a thing or 2 on class II. Not everything of course, there is a lot more to it, but technique and tactics wise there is an awefull lot you can train on class II. So I think it's not smart to look down at any class II venue where instruction is organized. Given the right location and the right instructor, you can learn a lot.
As mentioned before, practice makes perfect. But practicing bad techniques, makes them perfect. So I think it's worth investing in solid foundation skills, both timewise and training wise.

And that's exactly what we did in Norway in the past 2 weeks. These guys were having good times on rivers that were actually too hard for them, paddling skills and rescue skills wise. We've spend a lot of time on the lake, training the foundations, giving each other feedback to go for a good understanding of what should be done. We've increased the "stress" every time bit by bit, by moving to a bit of river, back to the lake but in harder boats, ... . By the time we ended up at class II, it blended all together and new paddlers were born. Enjoying easy rivers because all of a sudden new lines and moves appeared. New training venues for both paddling technique and rescue.
We've spend a lot of time on the lake, because I considered it important to get these foundations up to a certain level, and I wanted them to be able to coach themselves up to a certain point. They have no easy access to coaches up there in Norway, unfortunately. They're up for some good paddling times, but in a safer way now. And we've already started planning for e next trip, pushing the technique, tactics and level of whitewater a bit further. But first they need practice now, and I'm conident they'll do that and have a good time while doing that.

I do realize I probably have a somewhat different approach than other coaches here. I guess that's because I don't have to make a living out of coaching. As an instructor, you don't know everything there is to know, so you might learn from an absolute beginner. And with the right approach, you can progress any paddler at the right pace, and have him/her accept that pace.

Crash down and take the beating is also part of learning. That's how you become a more confident paddler in the easier environments, so you can paddle more technical and clean. Every paddler should find that balance, enough technique training in easier environments and stepping it up to boost your confidence and mental peace. And I think many paddlers could benefit from instruction, as long as it's the right venue and the right coach. And personally, I haven't been doing a coaching session yet, where we did not go back to the lake for some foundation skills.

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Coaches and mentors and attitude

Post by Einar »

Great thread, the best.

To me finding a good coach and mentor is a key to moving beyond gr 3. I agree with Gnarlz, there is a "wall" there in canoeing.

My best mentor/coach was a 3 x Worlds competitor and the most relevant advice he gave me was after the days paddle when he discussed mental preparation, focus, and commitment.
"It's just rocks and water Einar"
I'm always working on technique, picking it up from here and there, but my game attitude came from one good coach. When faced with a tough decision I touch back to "what would Lyle see and then do".
Paddling is easy, organizing shuttles is hard.
Not misplacing all your crap in somebody else's car seems to be even harder
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by RodS »

Shep wrote:At the NOC slalom nationals, I got to chat with Carole Westwood a couple of times. She mentioned that they (often, sometimes, occasionally?) come down to run a clinic on the Dryway. I would LOVE to take that clinic!
That's a bit misleading...the Westwoods have conducted a clinic on the Deerfield at least five times in the past 6 or 7 years. I've participated in 4, and as a repeat customer have managed to learn something new each time. I recently joked with one of the organizers that we should get them down for a "beyond the 2x4" clinic. Don't get me wrong, I think the 2x4 is a brilliant instructional tool, but it'd be nice to host them for a group that's already been through the drill.

Anyhow, my original point was that in all those years, to the best of my recollection there was only one run of the Dryway. Otherwise moving water portions of the clinics were on Fife Brook.

PS, as a repeat customer I cannot recommend them highly enough!!
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Jim »

Great thread- I have enjoyed the discussion. I have always appreciated value in mentors on the river and I was fortunate to have some great ones along the way. There was a discussion thread about instruction vs. coaching and I recalled a great example of coaching. I have only been on the New River once (early ‘90s, it was at 8’ and I was in an OC). Staring way downstream I picked a line for the Keeneys and Jim Michaud picked another line. When he heard my plan he told me “okay, but when that wave train kicks you over to the other side of the river that is where I will be” and that is exactly what happened. That was COACHING, and Jim greeted me with a wave and a big grin.
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by Eli »

I think one of the most difficult challenges to progressing one's skills is recognizing the existing weaknesses in our form. Breaking bad habits is much more challenging than trying new techniques.

I have benefitted greatly over the years from both paid instruction and a stubborn belief that I can paddle anything a raft or kayak can. I am grateful to my Father and the Boy Scouts for getting me started, the Coastal Canoeists, Canoe Cruisers, Riversport, Warren Wilson College, the IBWWW and the NOC for helping me to continually hone my skills. These groups helped me continually evaluate my form and challenged me with a variety of fun games to change it. However, my regular paddling buddies give me the encouragement and desire to attain the level I am currently paddling at.

I think video review is invaluable to see how I look, instead of how I think I look. Your peers can definitely help you, but sometimes reaching out beyond your circle allows you access to additional/conflicting ideas. Cboats, the Internet and various armadas allow a plethora of knowledge to be shared. Sometimes though, we must consider whether we are teaching things because that is how they have always been done, and we must be open to new ideas for new times/designs. Having an instructor that can vary their instruction to fit your learning style is invaluable. A dogmatic instructor that doesn't listen to your experience/queries can be detrimental.

I find that a day or two working with someone normally gives them months of skills to practice before they fully progress to the next level. Obviously time available plays into this progression. I encourage paddlers to really focus on their form once they are tired. This is the time that we typically fall back into our old habits.

Shameless Plug Time: I am grateful to be able to live my childhood dream of being a professional canoeist and I enjoy traveling around the world sharing the skills I have learned.
I am available for Canoeing, Swiftwater Rescue and Wilderness Medicine instruction year round. I recently purchased a Toyota Micro-Warrior Camping Truck and am homeschooling my kids. I would love to drive it to your local river to help with your progression. You can learn more about me at" onclick=";return false;.
I look forward to being with Esprit in Costa Rica this January. I will be in the Southeast in the Spring. I will attend the Open Canoe Slalom National Championship in Missoula, Montana in July. I have already set up a course before the event, but would love to set-up additional instructional opportunities before and/or after the event in the Western states and mid-West on my drive home.

My schedule tends to fill early, so please contact me with as much lead time as possible.
Thanks and I look forward to canoeing with you...
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Re: Canoe instruction... why do so few of us pay for it?

Post by CaliCanoe »

What dates will you be in Costa Rica?
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