Sea Kayaking Skill Fade

How To Reduce Skill Fade in Sea Kayaking Top Tips

During periods of enforced inaction due to injury, winter storms, illness or at the time of writing Covid 19, here we put down some ramblings on How to reduce Skill fade in Sea kayaking with our Top Tips.

1 Visualisation, Mental Imagery, Mental Practice, Mental rehearsal

From our perspective these all refer to the same process an advance level of day dreaming.  Using your imagination to create a paddling imagery in your mind’s eye, not watching like a video or computer game but as if you were actually paddling yourself.  This is called the “Internal Imagery Perspective”.

Top athletes in all sports and kayaking use imagery to keep up motivation, enhance skills, to rehearse particular difficult routines, regulate arousal levels and to help keep the motor neurones firing for their specific sport when rehabilitating from injury.  It is true for elite performers and recreational paddlers “Never put your body where your mind hasn’t been first”.

In our instance Visualisation can be used to help keep our skills up whilst on dry land. If you want to give it a go try this.

Pick your favourite play spot, rapid or a technical skill you want to keep polished, and choose a memory you want to replay, make sure it’s a pleasant one. 

Sea kayaking skill fade

Great, find somewhere where you can close your eyes and begin to imagine yourself playing on that wave, etc.  Take a deep breath and now see the kayak in front of you, feel the water on your hands, splashing on your face, hear the waves crashing around you or the see birds calling, taste the water as it runs onto your tongue, the temperature as it hits the back of your neck.  Feel the tension in your feet, …….. relax, what is your body doing? 

Okay you get the picture, continue with this exercise using all of your senses and making the imagery as real as possible and see/experience yourself surfing that wave, running that rapid, completing that roll, or whatever you have chosen and be in complete control.  Importantly picture yourself finishing the rapid, surfing off the shoulder, or breaking out of the tide race smiling with glee and enthusiasm from the successful session.  Now run it again and push yourself try something different.

Once you get the hang of visualising you can carry out the exercise whilst on the move.  Using imagery of yourself rolling for real in a big tide race, beach break, or the quick acceleration in paddling to catch a wave and then edging to ride it out are all examples that can be visualised whilst jogging or cycling and have the added advantage of your heart rate being inflated.  Experiment and see what you can come up with and when your back on the water you will be surprised at how your skills have remained, if not improved.

To Take it forward Holmes and Collins 2001 developed the PETTLEP model which generally states imagery should be as realistic as possible including the Physical, Environment, Task, Timings, Learning, Emotions and Perspectives.

For further information take a look at this article in Podium Sports Journal:

2 Vicarious Learning, Observational Learning

This is a great one and a direct follow on from Mental Imagery. Vicarious or observational learning in our setting is the practice of learning a skill from observing and then generally copying that skill. We have all been there when a friend or coach has made a feature look easy and then watched them again before giving it a go ourselves and to our surprise nailing it.  Being on dry land we cannot quiet achieve this but taking the Mental Imagery from above we can now have some fun.

Choose a video clip of one of your top kayaking films or a specific rapid you would like to run/tide race play on. Press play and enjoy the view but this time actively look at the technical and technical aspects of their paddling.  What is their body doing, how far is it rotated, where is the head looking, what is the paddle angle, how much edge is there, what is the cadence of the paddling, how has the kayak speed changed, where is the kayak positioned, what strokes are being linked and when etc.  Try to see if you can anticipate when the changes will occur or what the outcomes might be?

Skookumchuck Sea Kayaking by fishermanjones Minute 16/18 is pretty sweet.

For more fun picture yourself in that kayak. This is called the “External Imagery Perspective”.

Whilst watching as before, feel yourself in the kayak, use all your senses, move your hands, rotate the body, immerse yourself in the action and replicate those technical and tactical skills and if you can fully engage let those emotions of Adrenalin kick in and of course euphoria as you paddle your chosen play spot..

Go on have some fun and develop those Psychological Mental Rehearsal/ Visualisation skills and Reduce the Skill Fade in your Sea Kayaking with these Top Tips.