How to Outfit your boat!
Some lad called David McClure recently finished up 5th in the world at the ICF Canoe Freestyle Kayak World Championships in Sort, Catalonia.
David has been off galavanting across Europe for the last few weeks but he took some time out from his busy schedule to put this togther for us.....
What are the Key aspects to outfitting your boat for the best performance while getting the most comfort!?
I should start by saying I tend to be one of the most under-outfitted person's you'll find on the water, I just want to paddle, and I don't really care once I'm dry.. ish and tight...ish.
But there are a few occasions where I get fed up and try to blame my boat for not being good enough. But we can't just go and buy a new boat each time that happens. If you look a little closer, there are several key areas to outfitting your boat that will make a huge difference to your time on the water.
Alright I'm going to work up! Do you know how much effort comes through your lower body in a paddle stroke? If you don't and no one's ever coached you through it, I recommend making sure your feet have a firm base in the boat, Make sure you can press your toes off the footrest and dig your heels in. For freestyle this is really important, It allows for better control over the direction your boat takes in the wave and it provides a base to be extremely technical with your edging, The same applies to whitewater. Your foot control will allow you to balance your edges and provide a better base to create power in your paddle stroke. If your footing isn't right, it's going to build up to you losing speed, strength and control when you paddle, that makes a difference for everyone, from beginners and weekend warriors to paddlers competing in the North Fork Championship in the US.
Where else? Your knees!
Alright so it's very hard to move your knees if they're pressed into the boat but all the pressure you apply through your knees controls SO MUCH movement of your boat. If you haven't yet learned cartwheels, splitwheels and loops for freestyle you might not yet know just how much work your knees do to pull moves off.
If you want to up your game, make sure your knees are pressed into the boat, I'd advise getting a little more foam to put in the boat over your knees, it'll give you a little more comfort and control. Travelling down chilled whitewater sometimes makes me want a little more room in the boat around my knees but if playboating or paddling fast whitewater for long sections getting my knees tight in the boat make's all the difference in getting the lines right and not running right into walls. (Paddling into walls might be a problem that only I have).
Get your damned hips tight to the boat and get them comfortable, there can be a line between control and comfort, if your hip-pads are pressing into your hips and causing them to cramp every 5 minutes then you probably need to stretch more, I have that problem right now and I'm debating whether it means I'm too tight in the boat or if I'm just being a 'lil bitch.
I would recommend though for long term betterment go for a little more comfort. If your hip pads aren't big enough get some thin pads of foam and stuff them in behind your hip pads. The problem with having the hip pads too loose, especially in freestyle can mean you slip out of your boat on loop moves, taking away that little bit of control and power you need. It also doesn't help to be sliding around your boat in a rapid!
In freestyle hip movement is essential. Possibly more so than knee control, Every move requires holding the boat on or off edge, which always comes back to the hips. If you want to improve your freestyle skillz, add in a hip flick to some of your moves. It will move the boat a lot easier.
Backrests should be tight!
It might feel uncomfortable when you sit normally in your playboat but when you start doing moves, that backrest is important to keep you in the boat, Too many times I leave it loose and my backside slides up onto the backrest, and it's not easy to control the boat from there.
If you're gonna swim, put them in!
They are also one of the best pieces of equipment for making freestyle fun!
But, you don't need to spend a fortune on Jackson kayak thrusters, find a cheap bouncy ball to squish into your cockpit, it just needs to be big enough to keep your spraydeck up a little. Space hoppers are ideal.
I hope this helps, I feel like my suggestions might be a little unorthodox but I've found they are key to getting set up for a good day on the water.