The Secrets to Calm, Confident Whitewater Kayaking - Mind Body Paddle

The Secrets to Calm, Confident Whitewater Kayaking

The Secrets to Calm, Confident Whitewater Kayaking

Want to feel more stable and confident in your kayak in whitewater? Try sinking your weight down into your butt. I know it sounds weird, but it works!

Placing your focus on your kayak and hips gets your attention away from doing too much with your paddle. Too much paddling actually leads to instability. That’s why when you watch really good paddlers they take fewer, yet more powerful and timed strokes. When we focus on feeling ‘grounded’ in our kayaks we create stability and confidence. Here are examples of what I mean.

In this first video, Sandra, a newer paddler wobbles ever so slightly on her edges as she enters a slide. This leads to a feeling of uncertainty and stress. She has a good line off the drop, AND we can also see how her stability as she enters and turns the corner could be refined for greater effortlessness, stability and confidence.

Sandra was telling me that when she watches more experienced paddlers they look very calm and steady in their kayaks. That’s because they feel grounded – they don’t let every movement of their boat throw them off.

Let’s watch Adriene Levknecht’s run through Gorilla during Green Race 2018. She is the first woman to wear bib #1 and start first! There are plenty of times in this run where she could get knocked off balance, but she is so grounded in her kayak that she never loses stability. Her strokes are powerful, well timed and well placed.

Obviously this stability and grounding come with experience in your kayak, AND there are some things you can practice to cultivate steadiness and confidence. Here are my top 4 tips for cultivating stability and calm when whitewater kayaking:

Ferry with your Eyes Closed

I love to have my students practice this technique! They look at me like I’m crazy at first, but once they start they really get the benefit. Closing our eyes forces us to pay attention to what the water is doing to our kayaks and how that feels. Too many boaters intellectualize river reading and paddling. It’s just as important to get a good feel for how your boat and your body respond to the water. Ferrying with your eyes closed gets you in touch with the movement of your boat and promotes greater confidence and stability.

Take as Few Strokes as Possible

Challenge yourself to take as few strokes as possible when you’re running a rapid, boofing, ferrying and practicing ‘s’ turns. Focus on your timing rather than speed and see what happens. Chances are you’ll feel more powerful, stable and confident in your boat.

Hit Rocks

Stop being afraid of rocks and practice running into them, boofing them, shanking off of them and getting stuck on them! The more you practice loving rocks and having fun with them, the more stability and response ability you create.

5 Points of Contact

This may seem too obvious, but outfitting your kayak so that you fit snugly with 5 points of contact is very important for stability. These 5 points are feet, hips, butt, knees/thighs and back band. I’ve had several students over the years show up without a bulkhead or footpegs for their feet. If you don’t have anything to press your feet with then you have less power. I’ve seen too much hip padding and too little, and back bands that are used as back rests instead of back support. Kayak outfitting has come a long way from when I started paddling in the 90s! Take advantage of the ease of use and quick set up. It’s worth it in stability and confidence.

SAVE ON PRIVATE INSTRUCTION AND CREEK WEEK!

Get better and build confidence with a day of private instruction or, if you’re ready, join the only class IV creek week for women in the world! I’m currently offering savings on both through December. Click here for private instruction and click here to get the early bird special for Creek Week!

From the blog

How to paddle less and pause more

Do you know the power of the intentional pause? This is an important skill that I coach my paddling clients on a lot. Especially because it has unfortunately been drilled into so many people that good paddling means paddling harder and faster. Great paddlers subtract strokes rather than add them. When you zoom out and

Read More »

How to work smarter

Do you feel like you’re working really hard to reach your goals, and you wish it didn’t feel so strenuous? You’ve heard the statement ‘work smarter, not harder,’ but what does that mean? If you’re a river paddler who has a good relationship with the river, you already have a unique perspective on how to

Read More »
anna levesque leading a group of whitewater kayakers down the pacuare river in costa rica

How to Practice Hard Moves on Easy Water

Are you feeling nervous or overwhelmed about taking on a new challenge, skill, practice or habit? If so, it’s time for you to practice hard moves on easy water. This is good advice in the world of whitewater kayak instruction, AND it’s good advice in life too. Practicing hard moves in easy water means to

Read More »

Get in touch!

Do you have a question? Would you like to connect and have a conversation or learn more about an upcoming retreat? Fill out the form below.