Lean on me

My passion for Sea Kayaking was starting to grow and I was chomping at the bit to learn more. Though I knew I needed more Sea Kayak training. I still didn’t have my own Sea Kayak though. So continued with my paddling progression with river and lake paddling and passed my Level 2 Coaching qualifications. What I needed was some coaching, to guide me along the right path. With my nearest Course Providers in Cumbria, I arranged to drive up and have a few hours tuition from Lisa Greene on Lake Ullswater.

My first training session

I had my own paddling kit but needed to borrow one of Lisa’s kayaks, a drop dead gorgeous red Atlantic. I had never paddled one before and I have to say it was a beautiful bit of kit.

A photo of me sat in a beautiful red Atlantic Sea Kayak with a huge smile on my face

This was my first ever Sea Kayak training session. I knew I needed to correct my paddling technique. Having been so used to paddling on the rivers, where I don’t move my hands from the paddle shaft, I was now encouraged to move my hands up or down, nearer one blade, allowing me to turn and use the full length and arc of the paddle. Had I done that on a river I would have been told I’m paddling wrong. It did make such a difference.

We paddled our way up to the cake shop near Glenrhydding for a cuppa and chat about navigation. Again something I had never been taught. Once back on the water it was a steady paddle back down to the island opposite Glencoyne car park for some work on leaning into a turn. Lisa demonstrated the required technique for a low brace turn, leaning and turning with complete ease. My turn to do a turn! Well to be fair it wasn’t a turn, it was a very wide arc that would have taken up 4 lanes of a motorway at best.

Leaning… or not

To help me understand my balance point Lisa told me to lean onto her boat, I rested my elbow over the bow of Lisa’s boat and leant until I thought I could hold it.

“I’m just going to back away from you now Lynne so hold your balance there”

“What? No Lisa, don’t go, please stay there”

Nope, she gently reversed. I just froze there, as you can tell from the look on my face!

As I try to lean you can see how rigid my body is and face does not look relaxed

Was I comfortable, no; Was I doing it right? no, because it just hadn’t clicked. I’m one of those people that has to keep trying things until it registers in my head. Once it clicks I’m OK, but until then I just have to keep practising. To be fair that’s fine. I’ll never claim I have mastered a skill until I actually have.

For me personally it does come down to confidence, a lot of things do. I may never show that I am particularly nervous, but those close to me can tell. The mind is a very powerful tool, it can convince you that you are right or wrong, both of which can be potentially dangerous. I always air on the side of caution with my own paddling, my automatic mechanism is that I know when something feels right. I don’t need anybody to tell me, its just a feeling I have when I am honest with myself.

Keep practising

With 3 other paddlers joining us at Glencoyne Car Park, we had a quick leg stretch then back on the water for another couple of hours working on basic skills. Turning in a figure of eight, reverse strokes, stopping, I was fine with all that, but get me to lean and you soon saw the tension in my body and face. I thought I was leaning, it certainly felt as if I was. I had an image of myself at a graceful angle in this beautiful boat. Nope. This was not leaning and I knew it.

An image at the end of the day's training. I had enjoyed my day but felt disappointed in myself for not achieving all my aims

Many many trips later and it clicked, yes it had taken that long! I am paddling in Scotland with Mark, and picking the old remains of a jetty in the water, I keep my focus on it, and as I turn I lean over and pressed down onto the blade with my arm extended. This was my Eureka moment.

Why the hell hadn’t I done it sooner. I instantly knew I was doing it right, I could feel the difference immediately. It felt smooth and easy, it was better the faster I went. I keep going until the sun goes down and have to be practically dragged back off the Loch by Mark

I posted some photos of the trip once we got home and received a message from Lisa, saying “Now that’s leaning” It just took time that’s all, but I got there in the end just by persevering. So I would recommend some formal Sea Kayak training for anyone, it really does make a difference.

The great outdoors and my loving family are my medicine and therapy. As I continue to fight Crohn's Disease; Auto Immune Disease; Pulmonary Fibrosis; Arthritis. I hope you enjoy reading my blog on the trials and tribulations of enjoying the rest of my life on and off the water.

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