We have had such varied weather on this course it’s really shown all sides of Indian Arm and tested our paddling – this week it was pretty windy and so we had to contend with a decent amount of chop, which meant more of a core workout keeping balanced as waves are hitting your boat from all sides.

We started out with a warm up to Grey Rocks, which was definitely testing stability. Here I want to talk about what to wear – amongst the group there’s a full range of clothing between full dry suits, to paddling tops and Farmer John/Jane wetsuits, to various combos of wool, fleece and neoprene. It’s always a challenge to dress for the cold water, but also knowing that you’re going to be working out and getting warm. I found that my combo of Vaikobi pants, wool base layers and Mysterioso fleece top worked pretty well…and while I got pretty wet with the waves, I didn’t fall in. However, for next week I’m going to take the plunge and get a lightweight paddling suit. I just feel like I will be able to push myself more if I know that even if I fall in I’ll stay dry. For layers underneath I’ll be going for wool. Lucky we’ve got such a great store in Deep Cove Outdoors to keep us supplied!!

Person in a bright coloured drysuit

Anyway – back to practice. Once we got to Grey Rocks it was pretty protected, and it was there that Wes took us through some buoy turn drills for racing. Now I’ve never been in a position in a race where I’ve had to think about tactics for beating someone around a turn…usually by that point I’m by myself (ha) so it was all new to me. Seeing how the guys more familiar with these things did it was really cool though, and hopefully with all this training I’ll get to try the theory out in a real race some day!

Carter Johnson taking a corner at the CSC

After starting off with just aiming for the buoy and turning, we tried an overtaking drill where one person started on the outside of the turn, relaxed slightly to let the other person get in front, and then cut in the inside to take the inside of the turn. This seemed somewhat easier said than done but Wes and Shane made it look so easy!

We also tried in bigger groups of four or five, where the two outside paddlers would slow down to take the inside line – when trying to corner in a bigger group it can actually be quicker to slow down as you then don’t have to paddle around three or four other boat lengths in a pinwheel type motion.

Wes taking a corner at TNR
Coach Wes showing how it’s done

Wes Hammer cornering at TNR

Next was getting comfortable about paddling super close to the person next to you. With the caveat that if you don’t want your boat banged TELL THE OTHER PERSON we went off in pairs. The key here was to match the other person’s stroke so you didn’t bang paddles, then get the boats close enough so you feel comfortable intimidating them around that corner!

Lastly, we paddled back to the Cove for our workout – paddling hard for 70 seconds, resting for 20 seconds, for 15 reps. What with the wind, waves and trying to paddle hard this was super challenging but also awesome. I felt really strong during this – definitely helped by the fact I was paddling a nice and stable V8 Pro, and it always helps to feel confident when you’re paddling with a group of competent people in those conditions as you know there’s going to be someone watching in case anything happens.

All in all a hard, cold, wet afternoon, but the skills are building and I’d say that the group as a whole is really feeling the benefit of these sessions. Only two weeks left now!

Ask Coach all about turns

Q. Is it faster to keep paddling on both sides and use the rudder, or to paddle on one side only to get you around quicker but lose momentum?

A. If you have a strong sprint it can be quicker to slam on the brakes on one side, paddle hard on the other to turn and then to sprint off. It usually turns you quicker than paddling equally, but just be aware that if you’re trying to beat someone around the turn that you do need to then sprint out.

Q. How effective is edging your boat to make the turn more efficient?

A. Edging can help, but the trade-off is that you then can’t paddle fully on both sides. It is more effective to paddle hard on both sides and fully utilise the rudder.

Q. What about different rudder sizes?

A. When talking about rudders, there are always compromises. A bigger surf rudder for sure helps around the turns, but creates extra drag. A tiny rudder will help you go fast on the straights, but your turns will therefore be harder. A standard rudder gives a bit of both. Try out all of them and see what works for you!