Applying these six racing strategies and training tips will help you become a better, faster, and more efficient whitewater kayaker, no matter what speed or distance you paddle.
- Time your strokes
- Test and repeat what works well
- Focus on bow placement
- Don't hyper-focus on the big drops
- Maintain a smooth consistency
- Build up stamina
Time your strokes
Most of racing is keeping your bow dry.
If you skip out of a drop, the river gives you a burst of speed that can only be achieved through clean lines. If you take a wave over the bow, you lose whatever speed you had going into the wave. It only takes one well timed stroke to boof and skip out of a feature, but can take 5-10 strokes to get up to speed after you take a wave to the chest.
Test and repeat what works well
Repetition is key.
Clean lines through the less memorable parts of the course are crucial to posting a good time. Without repetition figuring out which lines work for you, it's easy to lose time on something small. Try that one boof with a right stroke, and next lap try it with a lefty.
Which one keeps your bow the driest? A/B testing different moves will teach you a lot.
Focus on bow placement
This one seems obvious, but bow placement corrections are tough and inefficient in a longboat.
Eddy lines are out to get you. Keep your bow in the water moving downstream at all costs. Spinning out will cost you valuable time.
Don't hyper-focus on the big drops
Don't feel like you have to run the big stuff every training lap.
You want to feel comfortable going into something like Gorilla during the Green River Race, but ultimately this isn't a spot that will make or break the race for you as long as you keep it straight. If you're not feeling it during a training lap, it's smart to walk Gorilla and really focus on the rest of the lap. It's always best to stay out of the carnage reel.
Maintain a smooth consistency
Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast when racing.
You can get under 5 minutes on the Green by paddling casually and having clean lines, or you can be over 5 minutes by paddling fast but messing up one rapid.
On a similar note, races are never won in the flat water. Keep it consistent, but make sure you are paddling at a pace that leaves you enough energy to keep your bow dry in the rapids.
Build up stamina
Intensity cardio is important.
Most of the time we go kayaking, we are only ever paddling hard for 10-20 seconds at a time. It's good to get used to consistently paddling for 5-10+ minutes at a time to make sure you have the stamina to paddle well at the end of the race.
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