Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cross Sport Pollination?

When I started sea kayaking fifteen years ago I loved the ocean. When I found the river a decade ago I loved it, too. From then on I split my time between the two, with the occasionally dalliance with kayak polo taking me away from both. But I've found relatively few people who participate in both aspects of kayaking on a serious level.

Paul Kuthe - multidiscipline boater
Sure, most sea kayakers have tried the river, maybe in a whitewater boat. but the learning curve in whitewater is harder than on flat, so many folks bail out after that first attempt, or they just don't want to go all in for new boats and equipment that are necessary for a different sport (and they are very different sports).

Occasionally you can get a hardcore river boat to try to ocean, but most think it's just flat water and they have no interest. If you do get them out in the rocks and waves they're normally a little overwhelmed by the randomness of it all and retreat back to familiar ground.

Jeff Laxier - multidiscipline boater
Lately, though, I'm starting to see more folks who are taking both sports seriously. Mostly its been skilled sea kayakers who are learning that the river helps develop their skills and is a lot of fun in its own right. As more sea kayakers get into rock gardening I hope the changed perception of what ocean paddling can be will also attract the whitewater set who want to challenge themselves.

I've never been one to preach what others should do, but I like to think I've been a pretty good example of what benefits come from opening yourself to variety and pursuing each course to its fullest. So whichever side of the equation you're coming from, I encourage you to try the other side. Don't just sample, dive all the way in. It's the only way to experience the water.

When I paddle for fun and want to push myself I still need to choose between my whitewater friends and my ocean friends. They're each a great group, but I look forward to being able to enjoy all my paddling with the same great folks.


  1. I have to say, I have recently experienced cross-sport pollination. As you know, I began my paddling career in whitewater (which I enjoy immensely). A couple months ago, I stumbled upon a group of ocean kayakers playing in the river on a couple of standing waves. They had a completely different style of paddling, a much more laid back, relaxed style. They were all obsessed with the coveted "greenland" paddle and their boats were twice the length of mine. After they watched me surf a few times in my playboat, they offered to let me try one out. I took them up and slipped into this awkward, new boat. It was very different at first. There was no using your hips to help turn your boat on a dime, certainly much more planning ahead for your move. So, I lined up for my wave and powered ahead. Once in the wave, it was a matter of using the knowledge I had learned in whitewater to balance the boat and stay in the wave. I was hooked. I dont think I gave Tom his boat back the rest of the day. I've since learned a Greenland roll with a Greenland paddle. It certainly seems that the transition to ocean kayaking would be much easier having come from a whitewater background than visa-versa. The next step will be paddling some ocean waves and rock gardens and I look forward to it.

    1. Good to hear you're trying the long boats. On the river they're really just a novelty. You definitely need to get out to the ocean to experience what they are made for.

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