Monday, August 30, 2010


This blog will slowly be transitioning from a purely instructional to a purely story driven enterprise. I am planning a trip for next summer, and currently I am spending a fair amount of time paddling with the young team that will under take this trip. All have some experience paddling, a couple of others are paddling driven like myself. But it is interesting to see the people with little experience - day trips only - thinking about what a month in a kayak will feel like. I am coaching on basic skills, the diamond of four strokes and a skill that I talked about earlier. But hearing things like - I have never worn a spray skirt - make me think. I know that all the members of the group are capable of doing a trip like this. It will be more perseverance than hardcore skills. But even perseverance can be a challenge. It will be interesting in the next year to see this group of relatively inexperienced kayakers grow with their skills and confidence and take on an amazing challenge.

It has gotten me to thinking about the physical aspects of long distance paddling. I really have very little patience for a two hour paddle. I do them. But they don't drive me. They are more a way to keep my skills sharp, and my mind clear. But give me a coast line, and a campsite twenty miles away, and that is where I shine. I am not fast, but I have the ability to spend 16 hours in a cockpit, cold and wet, with out a moments thought. It is a zen experience for me. It is as close to being in the moment as my far to active brain can handle. It is my meditation.

Recently I have been fielding a lot of questions from students about hands. Hands, and gloves. Hands and gloves in cold weather, and warm weather. and blisters. Which really are probably more likely calloses. Here is what I have to say about hands.

I have three pairs of gloves, A fingerless set which live in my pfd chest pocket. A thick neoprene arctic glove, and a set of pogies. The fingerless gloves come out on two different types of occasions. A very sunny day to protect the backs of my hands from sunburn, and very long days where I am planning on paddling 20 plus miles. But they aren't for blisters or callouses. They are simple to protect the patch of skin between thumb and index finger. Paddling for a long day particularly into the wind where my paddle is feathered, that piece of skin gets a lot of wear. So it is just an added piece of protection. The thick neoprene glacier gloves I despise. I bought them for my first Alaska trip. I thought they were amazing until I used them. They tend to get wet on the inside, and once wet are very hard to dry. Also once wet they are very hard to get on or off, and once you get the first one on, it is particularly difficult to get the second one on. I bring them on trips but they are generally my loaner gloves for the person who can't locate - or neglected to bring - theirs. Finally pogies. I was very skeptical of pogies. Until I tried them. When using them I still have good solid contact with my paddle, as well as protection from wind and rain. But if I need my hands it is very quick to get my hands out of them and to the task at hand. Try and put a spray skirt on with thick neoprene gloves, it isn't easy.

Hands are important. They are our connection to the paddle, which is our connection to the world. You must take care of them. Feet similarly so. The primary reason that I made the investment in a dry suit was to keep my feet dry. I tried many options and the things that kept my feet dry didn't give me the feedback from the foot pegs that I wanted, and the things that gave me the feed back I wanted left me with cold wet feet. Which for a little while is manageable, but for an extended period of time is difficult, if not down right dangerous. In the summer I wear small neoprene booties that is actually designed for whitewater play boating. In the winter I wear the same booties over my dry suit socks. It is important to not only have a good connection with the boat physically, but if you are cold you are distracted. And distraction leads to problems.

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