Training Camps Work for Everyone

Last weekend, just a few miles south of Vero Beach, Florida where many Major League Baseball teams come to shake off the cobwebs of the offseason, 14 paddle athletes converged to do the same thing. It was the first of two Paddle Monster spring training camps and paddlers from across the country – Portland, Denver, Maine and San Diego County – arrived in Fort Pierce for a long weekend of intense work with coaches Larry Cain, Sey Chelle and Victoria Burgess.

The striking thing about this group of folks was their diversity – some had considerable and successful race experience, some were interested in just being a more efficient and or stronger paddler, some want to do Chattajack, some just wanted to take their knowledge back and share it. Some were younger, but many, if not most, were older paddlers.

All of them came with open minds, open hearts and a fantastic, charging attitude.

And they all left better paddlers, and with non-stop, stoked up grins on their faces.

Thing is …no matter where we are in our paddling experience, there is always room to learn more. To improve. To push and challenge ourselves. And you don’t have to be a sup racer to benefit from the opportunity to do that with a professional who can improve your technique and boost your confidence. Being able to get out in water that is different from what you know with a group of people, all doing the same thing, with other more experienced paddlers who can help you, is invaluable.

Here’s why:
1. Improving technique and effiency helps protect your body from injury. That keeps you on the water longer.
2. Being with a group of paddlers in a learning environment in and of itself encourages you to try new things which you might not do on your own.
3. Listening, watching, and exchanging experiences and information broadens your perspective. You learn what really works for you and what doesn’t.

And most important, you make connections with other paddlers that will last a lifetime.

As an instructor, attending a training camp or clinic helps me improve my technique – both as a paddle athlete but also as a teacher. Every time I get to watch Larry Cain, Sey Chelle or any of the other pros I have been blessed to work with, I learn new ways to explain things, new ways to connect with students.

Paddle Monster’s training camp focuses on refining paddle strokes, learning to trim and turn the board and it features an ocean skills day. Between the morning and afternoon paddle sessions, there are great land based discussions on nutrition, strength training, warming up and stretching, interval training and more.

This year, the first day of camp featured a challenging channel crossing from the Dockside Marina base camp, into the protected mangrove cays where we did most of our work. The wind was howling, it was bumpy and choppy and there was boat traffic. Everyone charged across. At the end of the session, folks were tired but happy because they learned that they could indeed handle conditions that rough.

Similarly, on the ocean day, most participants had never been in the surf with their long, lean race boards, if at all. It was a perfect morning, with gentle rolling waves that offered up the perfect opportunity to learn how to read the waves and catch them. On the beach, before the session, you could sense a bit of apprehensiveness, as Coach Burgess explained how to get in and out of the surf. During the session, as the paddlers relaxed and got into their first waves, they started hooting and hollering. And at the end of the session, every single one of them had grins that may still even be on their faces now.

As an instructor, seeing paddlers work past their fears and doubts and get into the ocean and have that much fun…well, it’s the best thing ever.

So, if you want to improve, learn, push yourself as a paddler, and make great friends, keep learning. Take the clinics, take the training camps, start logging a variety of experiences. You will not regret it. I promise.