Desperately seeking stability: thoughts on getting stable.
Excellent question! This is something that every one of us asks when first we make the decision to leap from Touring to Racing..."yikes, this thing is TIPPY!"
I can relate, as I still remember climbing into my first Wildwater Boat on the Roaring Fork River, in Aspen Colorado. Wildwater boats are similar in LACK of initial stability to that of Surfskis. Wildwater Racing is basically the "Downhill Racing" version of whitewater kayaking. Point A to Point Bfastest racer wins. No Judges. No Gates. A Wildwater Racer simply uses the features of the river and his or her own skill and conditioning to go as fast as possible down a specific section of river. Fastest person to the bottom winssimple.
Wildwater boats, like Surfskis, are VERY tippy. I had been racing Wildwater in the recreational /novice-class for most of my first & second seasons. The boat I raced was a real stable lake-touring boat made by Prijon, that I bought at a garage sale for 100 bucks. I was winning all the "novice/touring" events cause this thing had a keel. Little did I know when I bought it, that having a keel is exactly NOT what a whitewater play-boater wants in a boat cause it didn't surf worth a darn! So, after a lot of frustrating river surfing days, I entering my first Wildwater race. Wow, I figured out, (by accident), that I had purchased a real killer of a "Novice" RACE boat!
My racing buddies who were in the Expert Division, using Spec Wildwater Boats, (much narrower, much tippier) began to give me grief for "sand-bagging" after several first-place finishes. Finally after I got "razzed" into to "moving up a notch" by my buddy's WIFE. I don't have a problem getting grief from my training partners, but when their wives start to call me a "wimp"...well now, that's a different story! (I guess I should send Ann Anderson a great-big "Thank You" for embarrassing me into a really wonderful life!)
Next I bought a used Wildwater Racing Boat. I slipped my new "pride and joy" into a real quiet piece of "flatwater" on the Roaring Fork River. I remember being very excited to take my first ride in "an official racing boat"! When, to my horrific surprise, I couldn't even get the thing to sit flat enough in the water to get my sprayskirt on! At that moment, I was convinced that it would be impossible to paddle this thing anywhere. Oh no, what a mistake I had just made!
Well, I went on to paddle these tippy designs for a decade on the U.S. National Team. I have been in love with fast and "tippy" boats ever since. Who in the world wants to paddle a Slow and Stable boatnot me, and it sounds like from your question, youre moving in that direction too!
Okay, back to your question. (Sorry for the short trip back to a time long ago). How to get more stable in a tippy boat...? One answer, MILES....lot's and lot's of MILES! I really wish I had some highly technical secret I could impart here, but it's all about the amount of energy you are willing to devote to the cause.
Now, Duane, your question is especially interesting to me as I usually do not have the pleasure of meeting the folks who send in my questions. I have however, just worked with you in San Diego two weeks ago at the South West Sea Kayak Symposium. I know that you are doing wild things in your Touring boat, like paddling 50 to 100 mile trips! (Some of us would consider that clinical evidence that you need serious counseling....but I won't go there just now!) So you, of anyone out there reading, are no stranger to MILEAGE! (See Duanes article on page 5)
My guess would be that the Initial Stability is the culprit causing you grief. This is something that you can get used to by "lowering your alarm level". By this I mean that you need to RELAX and let the boat "wobble" a tad and get confident enough to know that the Secondary Stability is there to "catch" you. When we paddle boats with low Initial Stability we get "Up-Tight". This in turn forces our center of gravity up higher in our bodies and locks every little movement to the boat hull. NOT GOOD! The result is a ride that is way too much work and can end up being fairly WET as well!
Be sure you are as relaxed as possible in order to "absorb" the little wobbles. The learned relaxation will allow you to apply power to the stroke. Concentrate on your breathing and lowering your "center". Be sure you are focusing your power from a point "down low, below the spray skirt" on every stroke you take.
When we are up tight or nervous, and sometimes that can be imperceptible to us, we are unable to apply good forward power with our stroke. This is because we need to be comfortable to have balance, and balance is necessary for power in order to get the most out of each stroke we take. That's why getting comfortable in your boat will not only make the overall ride more enjoyable, but will also greatly improve your power, speed and endurance.
All this will take TIME & MILEAGE to develop. One drill we did at the Olympic Level to get used to relaxing and dealing with a tippy Olympic K-1 boat, was to "Take a Stroke and Pause". The drill went like this: Get the boat going a bit, and then take ONE stroke - go to a fully rotated position with your torso - (the blade is poised out of the water, and over the deck of the boat, and ready to take that next stroke) - HOLD that position WITHOUT taking the desired stroke on the other sidefor a REALLYREALLYlong time! You just "hang-out", and let the boat run until you are one tick away from tipping. Right as the boat is feeling unstable - you are allowed to take the next stroke. You repeat this exercise each day for a few minutes at a time, until you begin to feel more relaxed and stable in your new boat.
I hope I have shed some light on how to really tap into the speed available in your new boat. Relaxation will come with Miles. Power will come with Relaxation. Speed comes with Power.
See ya on the water,