5 Tips for a Better Paddling Experience
Paddling is a great activity with many opportunities to enjoy the sport. From exercise to sight seeing, dynamic water to flat water, multi day excursions to just floating, the options seem endless. Hopefully you have already had a great paddling experience or two. If you’ve been paddling for a while, you may have had an experience that wasn’t so great. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. And often times just a simple adjustment is all it would have taken to make that experience better. Here are five tips to help set you up for a better paddling experience.
Sometimes your plan is fairly open, sometimes your plan is more specific. No matter how basic your plan, you should always plan ahead and think about what you will need with you. What will the weather be, how are the water conditions, what are the access options if something goes wrong, are there amenities where you are going? A little bit of planning ahead can help reduce surprises that arise along your trip. Depending on your planning, minor inconveniences can become catastrophe. Having a plan and a few contingencies to fall back on help reduce stress and allow you to enjoy the experience.
Know Your Gear
You don’t have to own top of the line equipment to have a good time, but knowing what you have, how it works, and making sure it fits and operates properly can have a huge impact on your experience. From dry suits that haven’t fully zipped to forgetting to put your drain plug back in after emptying your kayak of water, gear that isn’t working properly can lead to a less than ideal time on the water.
Paddle Within Your Ability
When you first start paddling, this might mean visiting rental location on calm bodies of water and more controlled environments instead of rivers with currents or areas where changes in weather or other conditions can significantly impact the paddling environment. By planning ahead and knowing your gear it is easier to know if you are paddling within your ability. Classes can be another great gauge of where your ability is and be a confidence booster. Realize just because you have paddled somewhere before doesn’t mean it will be the same when you return. In our area, rivers are a great example of how your experience can change based on the time of year. Spring time snow melts keep water temperatures cooler for much of the spring. There is also more water in the rivers which can mean stronger currents. It can also mean obstructions that are visible during the summer’s lower water are now just under the surface.
Because you spend so much time planning there can be a lot of personal pressure to “just do it”. Calling off a trip last minute can be a hard decision when the conditions are more than you are prepared for. Having a good idea of your abilities and sticking to them are the prudent choice. There are so many paddlers with that “I thought I was ready…” story. If you are lucky, the mental scar heals quickly. If not, it can be a major road block to overcome.
Find the Right Group
Paddling can be an odd sport. I once heard it described as the most team oriented individual sport around. You have your own craft which you are responsible for, but between carrying your paddle craft to the water, getting in or out of the gear, and rescuing after a capsize, paddling is easier with a group. But finding the right group to paddle with can be tricky in the beginning when just finding anyone to go with can be a challenge. Juggling different schedules, abilities, and similar interests can be very hard. In the end it is worth the effort, and your bond as a group is only strengthened by your shared interest and experiences on the water.
Paddling is all about the journey. Nothing ruins a good time on the water faster than trying to rush through it. Make sure you give yourself ample time to enjoy the experience. Plan a solid block of time so you are not rushing to get back to a meeting or to make dinner. Take your time learning and progressing as a paddler. If its getting “boring” find ways to challenge yourself where ever you are: Find obstacles to paddle around or practice maneuvering both forwards and backwards. However you paddle, be present in the moment and you will better enjoy the experience.
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