There is more to learning rodeo than time on the water. And although we don’t paddle everyday solely for improvement’s sake, we always wish to come off the river feeling like our paddling is progressing. This article should help.
Achieving Your Goals
“The difference between the amateur and professional; the amateur focuses on the tactics, and the professional focuses on logistics.” – Winston Churchill
Rodeo Kayaking competition is a fun, rewarding way to show off how much you have been playing. Those who play the hardest tend to do the best in rodeos. You can take it further by saying: You can measure somebody’s rodeo success by the amount of fun they had paddling. How successful you will be depending on your desire to learn, your love of the sport, and how often and intense you play. Luckily, a hard day of rodeo training is also an awesome day of playboating.
Becoming Proficient at Individual Moves
Learning to be a good playboater requires different phases of development. Becoming proficient at individual moves is a process of layering skills on top of each other. Each skill requires other more basic skills. For example, to front surf requires ferrying. To cartwheel requires positioning yourself on top of a foampile, using initiation strokes on demand, leading with your head and body, and maintaining edge control.
While doing this, you have to focus on the new moves you’re trying to learn. You only have a certain amount of RAM, meaning you can only focus on a limited number of things at once. Learning a splitwheel will be impossible unless you can enter the hole, set up and initiate the bow without much thought. You’ll know you’re ready when the waves or holes you’re surfing slow down and become manageable. Playing the same spot over again is the quickest way to see this process in action.
Easier moves will become automatic, freeing you to focus on new techniques. For example, if it is easiest to spin to set up a cartwheel in a particular hole, you won’t be successful if you need all of your RAM to focus on the spin. If the spin is automatic, you can then focus on timing your initiation for the cartwheel. If you want to do a five-point cartwheel into a split, you can forget it if you have to first focus on the spin. To catch up to the best boaters requires a systematic approach to learning the basics, then layering upon those skills. Look at Rusty Sage, who at 18 won the Pre-World Championships in New Zealand against the best boaters of the world. How did he catch up? By practicing the basics.
Following are a few kayaking rules that will ensure you have the basics to grow your playboating skills. These rules are designed to prevent you from trying to break the laws of physics and get frustrated.
Lead every turn with your head and body
Your head and body position is the single most important factor determining your success with today’s moves. Here’s why: By leading with your head and body, you double the time you can see your target. Your boat wants to follow your head, and it will only go where you have pointed your upper body. You also have more leverage on your strokes when your body is wound like a spring. Your strokes are in proper position when head and body are leading. It also places you ahead of the move.
Keep your weight over the boat
Your body weight should be supported by your butt. Bracing keeps you from falling over, but you can’t do rodeo moves when bracing. The need to brace comes from intentionally throwing your weight around. Any body movement that gets you off balance should be avoided. Pay attention every time you brace. Almost all braces can be avoided by keeping your weight centered over the boat.
Examples: Sidesurfing a hole – can you keep your paddle out of the water or do you have to brace on it? You need to be able to sit flat on the water without bracing (weight over boat, boat flat to water) to progress.
Get a good rodeo kayak
Nothing will hinder your ability to learn playboating moves more than equipment that can’t perform them. Some say, “I’ll get a new rodeo boat once I start learning how to do more moves.” This is wrong. Rodeo boats progress so quickly because we are trying to make the moves we are now doing, easier, and moves we want to do, possible. See you on the river.
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.