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Slow down to speed up

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I know, what the hell is that supposed to mean, slow down to speed up. A few years ago I stumbled up an interesting discovery when training for a really long OC-1 paddle ( approx. 250 mi.). At that distance your pacing becomes one of the most critical factors in your success, besides hydration, nutrition and rash control. Part of learning to pace for that distance is being really, really efficient. Which means maximizing absolutely every glide. How do you maximize every glide? By learning to read every bump in the water that’s within 30 yards of you and your craft. In fighter pilot terms, everything in your 7:30 to 4:30 radius.

Now for everyone looking for the secret to gliding, pay attention: There is none. Yeah, sorry to let the cat out of the bag, but here’s the skinny. You have to spend a lot of time on the water, and it has to be quality time. Pay attention to all the bumps, try to see how they move, and experiment. It’s sort of like trying to learn how to fly a plane and play chess at the same time. First the plane part, you are essentially learning to soar, using each bump to propel you along. Next the chess part, here’s where the experimentation comes into play. You have to learn to anticipate what is going to happen because the bumps you see are history, the only efficient way to get to them is to catch the bumps you can’t see yet. The only way to do that is by experimenting. Simply put, you have to screw up a lot before you figure it out. The one thing I can tell you for certain is that going straight towards your target is rarely the fastest line when bump running. The bumps aren’t going straight, so you can’t either. Most the time it’s fairly chaotic, so you have to weave back and forth to maximize the bumps.

So back to the title, how do you slow down to go faster. Most of the time we paddle, we paddle in small groups, which lends itself to friendly competition. No one wants to be last, myself included. We push pretty much as hard as we can thinking that will make us the fastest we can be. Unfortunately, pushing yourself really hard starts a downward spiral in your attention and ability to read the swells. The only way I know to combat that is to “slow down” your intensity, which allows your senses and decision making to be more acute, thus increasing your ability to learn how to glide better, and finally making you “faster”.

Riding bumps is really sort of a rhythm thing. Sometimes I start slow and find a really good rhythm along the way and just go with it. The minute I find myself struggling though, I’ll back way off the throttle and be patient until that rhythm comes back and then go for it. Sometimes it comes right back, other times it never does.

Now I’m not saying to always go slower, because that’s no fun, but maybe every few runs keep it under a hundred so you can effectively work on your gliding skills. Very much easier said than done, but if you want to get faster, you’ve got to do it. And when you’re pounding away trying to be first to the beach, if you find yourself struggling to catch bumps, throttle back, take a breath, snag some of the little ones to build momentum, and then build speed again.

Of course all of this applies to down winding not flat water. Flat water is a matter of conditioning and technique. We’ll cover that later.

For now lets just all keep sweeping we’ll have this place cleaned up in no time.