It’s clear to anyone that has been on a training program that “training works”. If you’re training to race you see a big difference in your performance as a result of the effort and consistency you put into your daily workouts. If you’re not a racer but just like to paddle for fitness, you see concrete evidence of improved fitness that not only leaves you feeling physically fitter and stronger but makes your paddling more enjoyable.
That said, my 42 years in competitive paddling has taught me one really important lesson: training, and the fitness that results from it, is only part of the puzzle. If you want to be really successful and maximize what you’re able to do in any sport or activity it isn’t just a matter of doing physical training and getting in great shape. There are other factors involved:
How you paddle matters. You can train physically harder than anyone else and be in phenomenal shape for paddling, but if you don’t paddle well you won’t be going as fast as you should be and won’t be using the edge your superior fitness should be providing you. If you’re not a racer but enjoy paddling recreationally, you won’t have as much fun or be able build your fitness as much.
The ability to remain calm and focused in stressful situations and in important events makes a huge difference. You can have superior fitness AND technique, but if you can’t remain clear headed and focused enough to draw upon your fitness and skill in a race or in challenging conditions you’re certain to underperform and get less out of your paddling.
When I was 15 and just starting my rapid ascent to the National Team and two Junior World Championship titles, I realized that I needed to be complete in terms of physical, technical and mental abilities if I was going to realize my dream of standing atop the Olympic podium.
I used to liken myself to an F1 race car. If I was going to be successful I was going to need to be strong and powerful, not unlike the high powered, huge horsepower engines in F1 cars. I’d need to have great endurance, analogous to the fuel-efficient engines that can keep a race car on the track and out of the pits. I’d need to be able to optimize my connection with the water through sound technique and do so at high stroke rates, similar to the manner in which the gear boxes in F1 cars allow the driver to transfer the power of the engine, and its incredibly high revs, to the rear wheels pushing the car around the track. I’d need the balance and skill to be able to handle different conditions without it affecting my speed, similar to how F1 cars are set up with their chassis and suspensions to optimize their handling in corners. Lastly, I’d need to get really good at performing under pressure when it counted most so in races I could maximize all of the fitness and technical ability that I’d worked so hard to develop. I likened this to the nerves of steel required by the F1 driver.
The simple truth is that training gets you a long way in paddle sports. You can’t win without the fitness it develops and, if you’re racing people who haven’t put the work in that you have, it alone can often be enough to get you across the finish line first.
However, if you’re racing others who have done their homework in training as well you need another edge. If all things are equal in terms of fitness, you need something else to give you an advantage.
It’s not uncommon to see people looking for a new, narrower or lighter board to get that advantage but in my opinion, equipment should always be the last piece of the puzzle. Long before you consider getting a new board you should be asking yourself whether you’re paddling as effectively as you can. Is it possible that you could do a better job of capturing your strength and fitness in your paddle to move your board faster and more efficiently?
SUP paddling has grown from the early days where people raced and just relied on talent without really training properly. At Paddle Monster, we’re proud of the fact that we’ve been at the forefront of bringing well structured, properly periodized, professional training to the everyday SUP paddler. Whether it’s paddlers that we’ve been training, those training with another coach or those working hard on their own, we now live in a world where it’s the people who train who win races. But most of the focus has been on the physical side of training – the work that you do in your various training zones, the time you spend in the gym developing your strength or the knowledge you gain about your pacing in high intensity work and race simulations. Unfortunately, none of that really focuses on the development of technique and skills.
It’s hard to address the technical side of any sport in training if you don’t have regular access to a coach who can work with you in person, teaching you, providing you feedback, helping you correct your mistakes, and letting you know when you’re starting to get it right. In my sprint canoe career, I got that kind of coaching from a very early age from outstanding coaches and former Olympians at the canoe club. When I was a member of the National Team I had coaches working with me daily, helping me refine my technique in great detail. These coaching environments are extremely rare in SUP.
We can provide paddlers with information about technique and the fundamentals of good paddling that helps them self-learn and troubleshoot what they’re doing. We can provide drills they can do on their own. Unfortunately, we can’t be there with every paddler to make sure they are doing drills properly or have properly understood the information we’ve provided.
We can meet paddlers in clinics and provide them with instruction and feedback. In virtually EVERY clinic I’ve done there are paddlers that, with a few simple adjustments to their technique, make substantial improvements in their performance almost immediately. These improvements regularly show up in the next day’s race results. The problem with clinics is that they are basically one-off encounters. Imagine if the learning dynamic of the clinic were repeated regularly and the paddlers continued to get the same feedback and instruction on an ongoing basis. They’d continue to grow technically and continue to see the improvement in performance that growth brings. Clearly, for all their benefits, clinics fall short of truly effective, on-going technical coaching.
At Paddle Monster we’re committed to helping paddlers improve so we’re excited to introduce two initiatives that we think can go a long way towards providing the technique coaching that is too frequently the missing piece of the puzzle.
PADDLE MONSTER MARCH TRAINING CAMPS
In March 2019, we’ll be offering our first Paddle Monster Training Camp in Fort Pierce, Florida with Seychelle and myself coaching. While that camp is sold out, our coaches are going to be offering more camps around the country so stay tuned for more information. These camps provide intensive training in which paddlers can work closely with coaches on technique.
PADDLE MONSTER VIDEO ANALYSIS
To this point we’ve offered video analysis as a way for people to get feedback on their technique. We’ve taken the videos you’ve sent us, loaded them into Coach’s Eye and done an analysis with complete feedback and explanations about what you’re doing well, what you aren’t and what you can do better. We take the video you send us down to a frame-by-frame review, can draw on the video to illustrate more clearly what you’re doing or should be doing, and give you a prescription of drills and technique exercises that can help you paddle more effectively.
This is the most underused service we offer and though it is valuable, it is limited in that it assesses your technique at one particular moment in time. What’s really needed is technique coaching that provides paddlers with regular feedback as their paddling evolves week to week and month to month. To that end we’re launching the Paddle Monster On-going Technique Consultation Program.
STEP 1: IN-DEPTH PADDLING TECHNIQUE VIDEO ANALYSIS
This program starts with a full in-depth video analysis from the coach of your choice. We’ve lowered the cost from $125 to $100. Getting an in-depth analysis done grants you access to getting on-going technique consultations done by submitting video clips for analysis as often as you’d like.
EXAMPLE OF FULL VIDEO ANALYSIS
STEP 2: ONGOING TECHNIQUE CONSULTATION VIDEO ANALYSIS
You can submit as many video clips as you chose for further analysis for only $20 per video. You can choose to submit videos weekly, biweekly or monthly. You can choose to submit video of your stroke or of technical skills like turns and beach starts. Your coach will provide you with written feedback and help you track the evolution of your paddling, helping you move from technical goal to technical goal, always improving and paddling more effectively.
I’ve been doing this already as a test program with a few paddlers and their technical development has been dramatic. It allows us as coaches to do the ongoing technical coaching necessary to help paddlers develop and refine technical their skills.
Paddling is a complex sport. While it’s fitness demands are many, varied and more than those in many other sports, it is also extremely technical. If you’re not addressing technique there’s a big gap in your preparation. We’re looking forward to helping you do something about that.