Congrats on finishing yet another 100-day challenge!  The first challenge of the year is always an interesting one, particularly for those in more northern climates as it sees you paddling through the cold, snow and ice of winter into the brighter, warmer days of spring.  There’s no better way to celebrate the seasons than to be on the water embracing them!

The new challenge is upon us and we’re going to take a slightly different approach to things.  While we’re still encouraging you to get out on the water as much as possible, we’re asking you to record your time on the water as opposed to distance.  Why the change?

  1. Time removes the effect of the speed of the craft you paddle in your totals, equalizing things for those on a 12’6 SUP, for example, with those on a surf ski.  It also helps more novice paddlers find themselves on an equal footing with those with more experience when it comes to their totals.
  2. In most things humans do, it’s time spent doing it that counts, not distance.  Consider flying, for example.  Pilots log their flight hours, not their miles flown, as a measure of their experience.  There’s also that “10,000 hours to mastery” theory.  There is no “miles to mastery” theory that I know of.
  3. In previous challenges logging distance encouraged you to do one thing – paddle.  Logging time means that other valuable on water activities can now count towards your totals, like technical drills, surfing, etc.  These are immensely valuable in the development of important skills which make you a better paddler.  We want to encourage development of these skills, so, in this challenge time spent working on them at slower speeds counts just as much as time spent grinding out the distance.  It’s up to you how you use your time, but it all counts.

We certainly encourage you to record your time spent doing distance paddling (working on your aerobic fitness) and time spent doing drills or surfing etc. (working on your skills) separately for your personal records.  But for the purposes of the challenge we’re interested in the total number of hours you’ve spent at your craft, not the distance you’ve traveled.

This might be a good time for me to share a quick story with you.  While I was flying to Maui recently I watched a movie on the flight called “Searching for Greatness”.  I recommend you watch it.  It featured extensive interviews with athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice and Pele, as well as featured discussions about a host of other all-time greats like Tom Brady, the Williams sisters, Michael Jordan etc.  One of the most interesting revelations in the film was the fact that all of these greats spent hours upon hours on “unstructured play” in their sport during their formative years.  This allowed them to not just learn skills, but be creative and find new, unique ways to look at their sports.  In the case of Gretzky and Rice this helped them overcome less than ideal physical attributes for their sport and be two of the best ever in their respective sports, capable of doing things better than anyone ever had before.  This made me reflect on my own experience as a young athlete and how my first coach had given me a key to the canoe club and told me to “go paddle” (unsupervised) at the age of 13.

The time I spent alone in my canoe going up and down the river as a 13-year-old helped me develop skills and a connection for the water that I might well have not developed in a more structured environment.  I could experiment and try different things in a no-stress environment and was never bound by convention because of what others were doing or a coach was telling me.  I was able to spend as much time as I wanted on the water, certainly more than today’s structured programs allow kids to spend now.  My experience completely paralleled that of Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice and Pele.  It also paralleled that of Connor Baxter, who told me when I got to Maui about his formative years playing in the ocean on his SUP, windsurf board, surfboard etc.  In essence, the ocean was Connor’s lab where he experimented daily trying new things and where he learned as a 15-year-old to downwind better than anyone else ever had at the time.

So what’s the connection between this story and our challenge?  Well, we want to encourage you to get out on the water and not just grind out the miles but also to play.  Experiment.  Try new things in a variety of conditions.  Stretch your limits and expand your skills.  I’m a firm believer that it’s not just young kids that benefit from this “unstructured play” but everyone doing an activity that requires a high degree of skill like paddling does.  So, by totalling our time spent on the water in this challenge and not just our distance, we’re crediting you for that unstructured play which is so important.

To help with your skill development every week we’re going to share a “tip of the week” from one of our Paddle Monster coaches.  These might be skill related, training related, race related or health/nutrition related and should give you some food for thought about your approach to your own paddling, training and personal skill development.

It’s going to be a fun summer and this challenge, starting on April 11 and running until July 20, is going to take us right into the heart of it.   So here’s to everyone enjoying the best moments of each day for the next 100 days on the water!  Let’s go paddle!