Thursday, July 21, 2011

Breaking the plane

For the last week the midwest has been, "hotter than a two peckered billy goat", as a friend of mine succinctly puts it. I had lunch at my favorite Vietnamese joint yesterday and my favorite server, Lan, told me it was hotter in Minneapolis than in Saigon. I told her that I planned to cool down significantly around 6:30pm at our first SKOAC kayaking skills session of the season on Lake Calhoun.

I heard someone say that boaters liked boats and kayakers liked the water. I have seen a lot of kayakers that seem afraid to go over and get in that water however, and that's a real problem. It's a water sport people, and a lot of the fun is playing in the water. One of the attractive things about the Greenland style is breaking that air/water plane (OK, OK, I stole that line from Kelly Blades.....beware of his 'kayak games' unless you have a plastic boat!) and spending a lot of time moving your boat around on its three basic axes of, pitch, yaw, and roll. Last night was rescues and playing with your boat. I will admit that I was the first one to go in the drink as I was moving around to get in a side saddle position on my back deck. I will also admit that a very large part of my brain wanted to go over in the high 90F heat and humidity. We spent the first part of the session just crawling around on the boats, paddling from the rear hatch, attempting to crawl up and kiss the front toggle, trying to stand up, and other crazy stuff. We all took a couple or more swims. Which presents the perfect scenario to try a paddle float self rescue, cowboy self rescue, and a number of assisted rescues. Heel hooks, T rescues, scoops, and a couple injured and/or unconscious scenarios were played out. We were a bit distracted by what appeared to be the Budweiser Girls Stand Up paddling class (wish I had the camera) and all of us were alert for possible rescue scenarios if they went over, but it added nicely to the theme of the instruction. They were tipping over, falling in the lake, and seemed to really be enjoying it. More kayakers need to 'become one' with the water and have some fun in it.

Going over just means practicing your techniques for getting back in the boat. The reason we practice a whole bunch of different rescues is the same reason people have a bunch of different clubs in their golf bag or a half dozen shotguns in the gun safe. Different situations require different techniques and skills. We even had a debate on hand placement while stabilizing the swimmers boat. Do we grasp the cockpit coaming, thumbs out, or grab on to the deck lines? Cockpit is more stable but you can get your fingers kicked. Maybe cockpit when things aren't rocking and rolling too much and the deck lines when there is big water and quick scrambling to get back in. There is no hard and fast rule, paddlers just need to have the skills and think about which one will work best in the scenario they are faced with.

At 9pm it was still an oppressive 90 plus degrees. The heat is supposed to break today and I personally will take 10F over this crap anytime. But now is the time to play with these balance skill and rescue scenarios. The lake and air temps just ain't gonna get any better than this and we all need to commit this stuff to muscle memory before we need it. We don't need to enjoy the heat but we kayakers really do need to enjoy the water. It won't be all that long until Lake Calhoun and all our midwestern lakes look like the image below. I can't decide whether that's a good or a bad thing.

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