Longboat Season is Here - Tips from Pyranha's Chris Hipgrave

We got a minute to chat with "Longboat Legend" Chris Hipgrave to share a few tips going into race season!

Longboat Season is Here!

With Yough Race this Friday, Ocoee Race Sunday and with the Russell Fork and Green Race all just a few weeks away, we were stoked to get with Chris Hipgrave, a longboat veteran and Director of Sales for Pyranha Kayaks for a few tips and tricks on how to sharpen the knife, smooth the lines and go a bit faster this Fall.

Could you give us a brief synopsis of your successes in a long boat? Brag on yourself!
I’ve been privileged to have had a long paddlesports racing career and have been on the podium at an early Green Race, multiple times at the Chattooga, Russell Fork, Gauley, Ocoee, Southeastern Whitewater Championships, was on the USA Wildwater team for over a decade and got several National titles over that time too. I’m sure I am forgetting some, but I just love racing of all kinds. Racing on whitewater is the ultimate test of your fitness, technical prowess and mental fortitude.

If you were to give one outfitting tip to the team of longboat go getters out there, what would it be?
Everyone has personal preferences, but for me, the easier the whitewater the looser I want to be, within reason. I personally like the boat to be active underneath me rather than tight like I might be in my Ripper for example, where I want to throw the boat around. This allows me to really activate my core and legs and drive the boat aggressively. If I am too tight, I find my efficiency declines and speed comes down. However, in more technical whitewater like the Russell Fork, I will be a little tighter to get a little more control of of my boat. After all, it doesn’t matter how fast you are if you are in an eddy, pointed in the wrong direction or upside down.

Races like the Ocoee and Yough are a bit longer. What types of training are you implementing to carry the stamina to run away from the pack in the flats?
Aerobic fitness is key for these longer races. The Ocoee and Gauley races stand out as painfully long endurance races where you simply can’t back down. While cross training outside the kayak with things like running and biking is good for developing overall basic fitness and aerobic development, you do need to develop sport specific endurance in the kayak. Without getting too gecky here, Google "zone 2 training" and you’ll find a mountain of information out there. Accumulating a lot of paddling time in zone 2 develops the foundational pathways for a strong performance in these longs races. Zone 2 is roughly the pace at which you could say a handful of words but then need to breath in quickly.

If you were to give one "Forward Stroke" tip, what would it be?
Doesn’t matter how fit or strong you are, a bad forward stroke just won’t translate that advantage into forward speed. The forward stroke is basically the act of creating an “anchor” with our paddle blade and then “pushing” the boat past that anchor with the big muscles of your core and legs. So if I could give just one tip, it is to involve those big muscles and focus on driving that boat forwards rather than using the small muscles of your shoulders and arms to pull the paddle back.

Let's talk seat position, we know you dig the 12R. Where do you have the seat position and how many seat shims do you use?
The 12R is incredibly well balanced right out of the box, so I don’t move my seat from the factory centered position. Moving the seat 1/2 inch in a 12ft boat does so little at that end of the day. You can better manage the a 12R's center of balance by your power inputs. Accelerating the boat moves that center of balance behind you, maintaining steady power keeps it centered under you and decelerating will move it ahead of you. I don’t use any seat shims … but I am built like giraffe.

We heard you knocked out a "Double, Double Marathon" on the Gauley this year, what type of food, nutrition regimen did you consume to pull this feat off?
That was a big weekend. 100 miles of that sweet Gauley whitewater over two days. I ended up burning over 5000 calories a day! Being married to a professional nutritionist, you’d think I would have some nutritional magic to share here, but honestly, breakfast was a calorie dense egg biscuit up at the local diner, Clif Bloks available in my pfd if I started to crack on the river, and then between marathons it was Coke and a Snickers bar. Please don’t tell my wife.

Where are you racing next and who do you think will be the top competitors this year against you?
The Ocoee race is just a few days away. The training is done and the 12R is ready. I’ve won this race a bunch now and I have a target on my back for sure. Last year we saw a bunch of folks bring fringe fast boats to the race like a double sea kayak, slalom boats and a composite Wildwater boat. I was able to hold them all off in my trusty 12R but only one by a single second. I am sure the pressure will be even higher this year. I’ll be racing the 12R again, but do have a secret weapon for my second run if I feel I need it.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with CKS Online, Chris! Good luck this season.

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