The Kayaking Learning Curve–Find Your “Zone”

 Darcy sliding a fun boof on the Cosanga

Blog Miester Liam is at it again and he’s come up with a doozy on finding your perfect learning zone in kayaking.

 Josh enjoying a sunny day on the Oyacachi

   ” Make the easy stuff hard and the hard stuff easy”

This is a great mantra to help you improve. Try practicing catching tiny eddies, small boofs, controlled lines,  etc…on a rapid/drop that your very comfortable on. Then when it comes to the harder stuff just focus on getting down the rapid.

For optimal learning, you need to discover your own comfort zones, learning zones and panic zones on the river

In your comfort zone you are able to think a lot more clearly then when your in a state of a anxiety/fear.   You’ve probably experienced that things “really slow down” when you finally get comfortable/familiar with a rapid or a stretch of river.  Conversely, everything is moving almost uncontrollably fast when you are out your comfort zone.   

 The Jackson Family Mini Cooper has nothing on Beth and the Sprinter!

 How does this work in practice?

 Alex with a nice self-portrait on the last rapid of the Oyacachi

 Fine tuning your boof on a two foot clean ledge with a large calm pool you may well be in your comfort zone and allowed the luxury to think this:

* I’d like to aim at that dip in the water.
* I’d would like to crank the boats over onto a hard edge as I approach the lip
* Reach with my right arm towards the “fall line”
* Extend my left arm
* Bring both legs up towards my stomach.
* Transfer my edge so I land flattish
* Drop my left blade into the water as to stabilize myself on landing.

Devan enjoying week 2 of paddling in Ecuador!

Now compare this to a must make 8 foot boof over a sticky hole with no collection pool below.

Werner on the entrance of Aprodesia.  He’s lining up the approach so he can nail the boof over the nasty hole at the bottom.  You want to be spot on here as there is only a 15 foot long pool and then another stout rapid below.

Fear and Anxiety might take over and you are left with a less useful response that most likely sounds like this,

“shit on a stick I need to make this boof or I’m going to swim!”

 Natascha practicing on a tricky lead in to boof on the Oyacachi

Your brain now responds to this challenge by looking back into its catalog to find the information it needs to make this boof. Your best hope the information is there!

 Jessica looking calm and collected as usual

By practicing on the the smaller, less consequential drops we can build up a resource of information for our brains and bodies to store and for us too call upon when we need it. Our responses to the environment (in this example the boof lip) will become more natural. The mechanical motions your body needs to go through will no longer be in a cognitive stage but autonomous.

 Manfred, maintaining his focus on the Cheesehouse section at a pushy level

Enough rambling!

January 12th-20th brought us an Intro to Creeking IV- trip and an Advanced Creeking IV+ trip so there was plenty of opportunity for learning in Ecuador this week!

After a week of Class II/III instruction Klaus made a last minute decision that he didn’t want to leave quite yet and so on Sunday he joined the new group to step it up a notch. We kick started the week with a stretch that’s sits on the door step of our lodge.

Throw bag games.  Little did Liam know that his own creation would later cause him some sore balls…

With so many people keen to learn this week we planned clinics/discussions for before or after the water. So on day two we kick started the day with a throw bag clinic. To add some fun we had a throw line obstacle course competition, The top prize was free beer so as you can imagine it got quite heated. Alex, Devan and Joshua won their round but I was quite unwilling to give Devan his beer as he managed to tag me in the nuts with quite a spectacular under arm throw line shot.

 The construction workers wondering what the hell the crazy gringos are doing now

 After a couple days more paddling in the Quijos valley both groups headed over to Tena.

We sat on the porch with a cold beer as larry led his land based discussion. I snuck into the group for this one.  Larry’s been boating hard stuff longer then I’ve been alive so I’m trying to sponge as much info, knowledge and experience out of him as I can. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got a invoice for coaching on my last day.

 Emma enjoying the calm before the storm on the Rio Quijos
I owe a big thanks to the group who were very very cool about twice getting to the Piatua to find it too high to paddle. They were solid paddlers who went with the flow and appreciated that there are no certainties when it comes to jungle paddling.  So after a longer than normal bus ride—that we took advantage of by having a snack and nap like little kayaking toddlers—we headed to the bypass section of the Quijos.

Damian trying to thread the needle on the Cosanga
In a crass attempt to work her way into TWO of our blogs Jessica joined us for the day. We named a rapid on  this trip “mad dogs and Englishmen.”  Not one to duck out of a challenge, I told fellow Brit Alex that the most exciting line was on the left.  30 seconds later he was grinning wisely but swimming to the side after ‘his deck popped’. All credit to him though as he front crawled to the side fast and immediately suggested his own punishment of a bootie beer.

 Alex paying his dues

More cracking days of unfamiliar hot weather in the Quijos valley helped us wrap up the week.

 A nice view of the city life in Quito’s Old Town

 As always a big thank you to the team.

 Nice jungle AWAY from the city life!
Meanwhile, the Advanced Creeking crew was busying themselves with ticking off many of the classic IV+ runs of Ecuador–Upper Jondachi, Cheesehouse section of the Quijos, Oyacachi and Bridge to Bridge.  They busied themselves with running rapids multiple times, fine tuning “advanced boof strokes” and enjoying porch side talks each evening.

The Advanced Creeking crew scouting on the Upper Jondachi

Small World Adventures

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