The learning curve of a paddler is steep. And slow.
In the beginning stages, it is not uncommon to feel one or all of the following:
Lack of control
Uncomfortably bound to your kayak
Like embarking upon any challenging activity, paddlesports has a few important elements of your boat, the water, and safety to understand before pushing away from the shore.
But, the initiation of becoming a paddler and navigating rivers is less about words and “how to’s.” It is much more experiential. An important part of a paddler’s development happens through error, discomfort, and repetition. Then, we start to activate a feel for and touch upon the water.
When a beginner takes to the water for the first time, certain elements immediately stand out to me.
Sure, it’s easy to notice the person who comes out with a blazing paddle and frantically pulling hard through the water. There is a sense of doing something with force before force opposes them.
Or, tentative, gentle, and carefully calculated paddle strokes through the water calmly observed by the new paddler. Go slowly and manage mistakes more easily.
But, on this first voyage, one element instantly communicates more about readiness and core attributes of a paddler than all others. That is posture.
In noticing posture, the question I seek to answer is:
How can we position ourselves to better leverage large transfers of energy between ourselves and unexpected and uncontrollable forces of power?
In a kayak, sitting upright and slightly forward moves us closer to the boat’s centering point. Small changes in our posture can dramatically influence how we connect — or fail to connect — with the river current.
An oncoming obstacle, fatigue, or the even a desire to increase comfort affect the quest for better balance, most commonly shifting our posture and body weight behind the centering point… which is the fastest way to lose our balance.. and ultimately give away our valuable energy.
On or off the river, to align with our centering point sounds so simple. But, the moment that an unexpected or uncontrollable circumstance arises, which strengthens the volume of uncertain river currents, alignment with our centering point is immediately threatened.
No matter how forcefully or softly a paddle is pulled through the water, the degree to which a paddler retains their posture signals a disposition to collaborate with the river, not fight against it.
This is the first step in working smarter, not working harder.
A balancing posture extends far beyond the beginner. Attend any elite training session in the sport of whitewater canoe slalom and you will see Olympians and World Champions constantly adjusting and re-adjusting their body positioning when they are at rest with one goal in mind — to position themselves to capture more energy from a source that will always be stronger than they are.
Whether running a kayak school for new paddlers or coaching top-tier athletes pursuing Olympic excellence, posture awareness is the first step of the technical progression that I teach. In this progression, posture draws a clear line between capturing energy we can use to our advantage or… energy given away as a consequence of losing our balance.
When the River of Uncertainty brings us before conflict, negativity, polarizing issues, or other challenges, its desire is not to knock us over. However, such river currents are forces of energy that simply exploit our lack of attention to balance.
Staying centered is not the goal.
The Pursuit of Contentment is the awareness to come back to our centering point after being caught off balance… again, and again, and again.
With gratitude, — Joe
Balancing Posture is a part of my continuing Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty. Subscribe to Sunday Morning Joe HERE.
Connect with Joe:
I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.
My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.