More Efficiency Equals More Fun – Scott Fairty

Being an efficient paddler is about two things; using the environment to your advantage and applying the right amount of power at the right time.

When I was just beginning my paddling career, I had the very good fortune to have trained with Linda Harrison, a whitewater paddler and slalom racer (she won a bronze medal at both the ’77 and ’79 World Championships). We were working on ferrying across a particularly swift current, each of the students windmilling their way across using dozens of strokes to make the move. Linda slides out and makes it in 2.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that if you could make that ferry and others like it, in 2 strokes and not 20, you’d be a whole lot less tired at the end of the day (or make 10 of those moves with the same energy we were using to make just one). So began my quest to become the most efficient paddler I could be.

There are lots of ways we can quantify our relative efficiency. Counting strokes, like I did with Linda, is one of the most common.  Paddlers are often surprised when they discover they are able to make the same move with half as many strokes. Self-imposed (or coach imposed) limits on the number of strokes you can use to perform a particular maneuver forces you to really think about each stroke and plan for its maximum usefulness. It can become a game similar to the old “Name That Tune” show; Jim says “I can make that ferry in 4 strokes” Dave Says “I can make that ferry in 3 strokes” Jim says “Dave, make that ferry!”

A similar concept is the “stroke allowance.” You are given an allowance of say 50 strokes to use any way you want and there are 100 yards of rock gardens to play in. Once you’ve used your 50 strokes, you have to leave the rock garden and sit and observe the rest of the group. Some paddlers will blow through their allowance in a couple of minutes while others will take 10. Most of us tend to take more strokes than are necessary to do what we want to do, placing an artificial limit on those strokes forces us to get the most out of each one because we don’t have an unlimited supply.

If you want to have the most fun on the water and derive the most satisfaction from it, it pays to plan your maneuvers, to utilize paths of least resistance, and to make the most of every stroke you take.

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