Three simple areas that may help improve your boat speed. How are you doing them?

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You can take your paddle and attack the water with it, straining every muscle in your body, throwing up rooster tails behind you.

Or you can slice your blade into the water, anchoring it solidly and using your entire torso, pulling it smoothly and evenly with much better results.

This is an excerpt I came across years ago when I was studying on the waka ama course with Matahi Brightwell in Gisborne.

It really stood out to me and made sense.  I was trying to damn hard!

Like with anything new, you go hundy because you are just so excited and in to it, so I get that.

If you are wanting to improve your paddling, before you start trying all the technique tricks under the sun or buying a lighter more streamlined canoe here are a couple of things you should check first.

  • Are you getting a good catch?

I talk about getting a good catch a lot! It’s the start of your stroke, and if you don’t got that you got nothing.   What is a good catch? Making sure you enter the blade nice and clean, anchoring your paddle at a positive angle.  There are two angles you can use, 45 or 90. Obviously a 45 degree angle will give you more of a power phase.  It will help you to lift the boat. But, then you need to think about maintenance once the boat is up and running and that’s where the 90 degree angle can come in handy.  Just when you thought it was a one stroke fits all huh?  The kind of strokes you use will all depend on your fitness, body type and what you can maintain.  But I won’t go there right now as it’s a big enough topic on its own.

  • Are you holding the catch?

Now you have the catch, you are supposed to hold that pressure through your stroke. A catch on its own is not enough.  Don’t let it slip.

  • Are you getting a smooth exit?

Once you have released the pressure on the blade (this should be once the paddle is by your hip usually, just before it moves to a negative angle) you need to pull it out in a way that does not disrupt the glide of your canoe.  Many will just rip it out, but you want to let it pop out on its own, effortlessly.

Check these three things, adjust accordingly and your boat speed should definitely pick up.  Always try working on yourself before jumping into the easy option, and often more costly options for improvements.  This is where the real stuff is and will make the difference on the line when you decide you are all in.

I am by no means an expert, but I am the Master of my own journey and the information I share is based on my own personal experience and improvement in paddling, guided along the way by my mentors and coaches.

As always thank you for following my page and if anything in this blog has given you an ‘aha’ moment please jump on my Facebook page and leave a comment.  You never know how many other people feel the same way you do or did.

Hiria x

#imagine #believe #achieve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give yourself permission to make mistakes – lessons from Aito Tahiti

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Tui and I on the finish line Aito Tahiti 2017 Open and Master Women.

As I positioned myself on the start line I was overwhelmed with feelings of fear.

It was in that moment I realised I hadn’t thought about my race plan at all, I felt pretty dumb for missing that important part.

The race start felt like forever.  That time from when the red flag goes up and then the green.  There was lots of pushing and shoving going on with paddlers trying to get the best start they could.  I remember hearing Hinatea Bernadino yelling out “given me space, give me space”.  She ended up paddling out and right around to the side to reset.  I know there was at least one other wave of paddlers behind me.

After one paddler had pushed her way through she grabbed my ama in an attempt to better position herself.  My first thought was that I wanted to slap her upside the head but my better self showed up and thought I would show her in the race whose boss.

It was a gnarly start, kind of like dodgems with canoes crashing right in front of me.  I had a feeling to just stay back because I didn’t want to flip, it proved to be the right thing to do as a gap opened up in front of me after the carnage.  However it meant that I had a lot of ground to try and make up.  I took my opportunity and booted it out of there.

By this time I knew I was a wee way back from the front pack and lost my bearings.  I decided to just focus on me and making every stroke count.

I pulled away from the pack I was in and was making small gains picking off paddlers one by one.  I had two other paddlers flank me for most of the course.  It was a head wind on the way up to the first turn marker, but there were little bumps that I was able to capitalise on pushing me in front of the other two.

As we neared the half way mark I started to notice some of the other paddlers, our top NZ paddlers, I could see Vesna, Mari and Marama and I got all excited.  I realised then I had to try to make up as much ground as possible before the turn as once they round the marker it’s all downwind and trying to catch someone on a downwind is pretty hard if they are on a roll.

I passed one more paddler before the marker and then the whole race changed.

As soon as I got around the turn marker the water was heavy, and all over the place.  I realised I hadn’t had much to drink either.  I didn’t want to risk stopping and have someone pass me.

Just over half way back down the reef my thoughts wandered to the paddler in front of me.  It was Marama Elkington, one of our top NZ junior and opens paddlers.  I could see her getting closer and closer but then I started to feel like crap.  I had made up a little refuel drink for me to take about 6 kms from the finish but again I couldn’t bring myself to taking it.  The internal chatter started.  I was thinking about all the stuff I should have done, had I done enough, who was I to think I should be there, and be up there with these other awesome paddlers.

I started to feel tired, but not my body, my brain, and then the two paddlers who had flanked me most of the race were gaining on me and ended up passing me.  We were at the end of the surf run by now and rounding the last turn, I took the inside right along the reef and it was the heaviest feeling ever.  To my right, Tui MCCaull had taken a wider line and she just zoomed by.  My brain was so tired by now I wasn’t quick enough to make any good decisions so just kept paddling hard to the finish line which was only about 500m away!  Within 10 minutes I had gone from being in 7th place to 9th!

I was just grateful I made it over the line and that I managed to come in where I did.  And that was 9th out of 36 paddlers in my division and 16th overall out of 80 women paddlers.

In reflection I had so many what ifs but since then have come to recognise all the learning in the lead up to the race and after.

The week leading up to the race was pretty stressful, in the sense I was in a different country, it was hot, and my baby was really sick.  I had spent most nights sleepless trying to comfort her through the night.  There was also a lot of stress around from having my whole whanau there and whanau expectations.  More lessons that I will share later on.  These are all important things I know I need to share because these days there are more mama taking on the challenge of being an elite athlete and we are faced with a whole other set of challenges that will only make us stronger.

So many things I could have done better but I’m happy in knowing I went out there, did a pretty good job and are now hungry for more.  Its given me a taste and glimpse of what is possible and I am now on a mission to make that happen.

And that is to be the best paddler I can be because I know by doing that it will create a snowball effect of so many health and wellness benefits for me and my whanau.  It’s unlimited potential! Who knows where it may lead?

Thank you to everyone who supported me to get to Tahiti and gave me words of encouragement, hugs, kisses and butt-kicks along the way.  I am blessed to have so many awesome people around me.

Hiria x

NB: Aito Tahiti is the most important individual va’a race in Polynesia with a distance of 15km with a downwind surf leg.