KAYAKING: Engaging your core
The distance for the AdNews Challenge kayak leg lends itself to a flat out sprint. You will have seen our Olympians in the K4's and other kayak classes blast it out over 2,000 metres, so half that distance shouldn't be too hard... much.
If you've never paddled before, it's a really good idea to get a kayak or a surf ski and get familiar with the movements required from your body to get the most speed and distance out of it with the least amount of effort.
Many beginners make the mistake of thinking kayaking is all about arms and shoulders. While gold medallists Tate Smith and Murray Stewart do look like they have shoulders and arms that are carved out granite, it's only part of the picture as those muscle groups are comparatively small when compared to the muscles in your core. Leg drive, pushing your leg to provide greater propulsion on the catch, is also crucial.
When brought together, the ideal stroke is a synchronised effort between the paddle blade hitting the water near where your feet are located, keeping your arms and wrists as straight as possible, the body rotating and pulling through the stroke, removing the blade at the hip and resetting for the next stroke in one fluid movement. Sound easy? There's guys who've been ocean racing for 20 years who still practice drills every week to get this combination right.
Balance is another crucial factor. While many kayaks are inherently stable, there are varying degrees of stability, and the thoroughbred of the paddling world, the ocean racing ski, is the least stable. Leaning slightly forward in your seat and getting a strong catch are the two easiest ways to help keep your momentum moving forward. Whatever craft you're paddling, they actually travel the fastest when the blade is out of the water, and pulling the blade beyond your waist only serves to slow you down.
Like all sports, the more practice you can get in a kayak prior to the race the better – all the fitness work in the world, while absolutely making you fitter and stronger, won't actually prepare you for the technicality of paddling competitively. There are a number of kayak and surf ski hire venues in the Harbour and along the beaches and hiring a craft isn't expensive.
Failing that, look me up at www.sydneysurfski.com and we'll find you something to paddle, or put you in touch with a professional coach who can give you a lesson.
Sydney Surf Ski
*Nat is a director at DEC PR and will be doing the kayak leg for Team DEC.