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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Contact.

There are a lot of little pieces to a correct paddle stroke. So many little pieces it can be infuriating. Just when you think you have one section down perfectly you will realize that there is something else to add or tweak or perfect. This same observation was made in the book Zen in the art of Archery by Eugene Herrigal. He wrote, and I am paraphrasing:

The zen archer doesn't focus on the bullseye. In fact he never looks at the bullseye. His focus is on his breathing. He focuses on drawing the bow correctly, and notching the arrow correctly. He concentrates on his stance, and his balance. When it is time for the arrow to fly, he doesn't think about releasing it. It releases by itself. He should be surprised by it's release. If all of these things occur correctly a bullseye will just happen.

if we do all the little things in our stroke correctly a fluid, natural, powerful paddle stroke will just happen.

But unfortunately we have to begin with something that is painfully boring. Sitting. In order for anything we do in a kayak to work the way it is supposed to, we have to be sitting correctly. And that is where we will start.

contact

We sit in our kayak. Our bottom is in the seat. The balls of our feet rest on the foot rests (or rudder pedals if you have them) our knees are bent, and are pressed firmly against the thigh braces inside the cockpit. Our back is straight. Our head is up. Imagine a thread coming out of the center of your head, pulling your head and spine straight up into the sky. If our back is straight our lungs can expand the way they are designed to, we get a good breath when we need it. Our shoulders are relaxed, our arms are relaxed. In fact our whole body is relaxed. We contact the boat in at least five places - bottom, feet, knees - but we also connect to the boat at the small of our back where the seat back touches us. Depending on the type of Kayak we are in we may even be pressed gently, but firmly to the sides of the cockpit at our hips. We should be snug, but not tight. The reason we are going to put this much attention into the fit of our boat, is so that our body and our boat are one. When we lean to the left, the boat will go with us. when we push with our feet, the boat will respond. when our boat is lifted by wind or water, we will feel it occur, and respond naturally. Our body and our boat are one. That is a very important concept. This is why we don't name our kayaks. because when we are on the water our kayak is an extension of ourselves. Our body, and our boat are one. think about that.