My first paddle today ...

4 months 2 days ago - 4 months 2 days ago #35288 by Crab Stick
A friendly local ( Thanks to them! ) offered to meet me at their local 'put-in' in Brisbane today - I took my Spec Ski down, having never sat in a Ski or this one before. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive, knowing nothing and having zero experience. I had been warned that some Ski's may be very tippy for a beginner - and the one I just purchased rather cheaply, may not be right for me at all. So how was my first paddle?

We got down to the ramp - I edged my bum into the bucket and before I could even sort myself out ... PLONK! I tipped straight over into the shallow water and river mud ... soaked, muddy but determined. The boat was steadied for me to sit in for a second time ... in I go ... PLONK! Over I go again into the river and now with mud all up my side, drenched and feeling like there is NO WAY I can get this thing to balance. Another paddler cruised in to put -out ... called out to my experienced friend who was helping me ... "First time in a boat?" ... I looked around in near despair ... "Oh no ... I'm a professional!" ... chuckles all round.

It was quickly decided there was no way I was going to keep my Spec Ski upright at my level ... so ole mate offered for me to try his Hayden, which we did. I sat in the Hayden PR3 and with my legs hanging out I felt immediately more stable, but only slightly more. I was able to take off for 50 yards into the river keeping balance with my feet hanging over the edge ... and for a short while felt I may get them into the boat and onto the pedals. Nope ... PLONK! Now I'm in deeper water and for the first time experiencing what it's like to have a paddle in my hand and reclaim the boat for a remount. I also managed to inhale part of the Brisbane River up my nose - the taste and smell of which I couldn't get out of me for the rest of the day!

After two attempts I managed to actually get myself mounted into the bucket, side mount, but as I tried to swing my legs across ... PLONK! In I went again. My friend walked up the river to the next ramp and saw me struggling and I offered to put in so he could get his own day started without having me take up all his time. My first paddle in a Ski lasted no more than 10 minutes tops ... and I felt horrendous ... I felt useless ... I felt utterly out of my depth and a little deflated as I pulled my now dirty, muddy carcass out of the water. My friend suggested this was all pretty normal ... I'll admit, I went home and was happy to just lick my wounds. I'm sore ... body sore with a few aches picked up from the short effort and I completely got my backside handed to me.

I'm a 47 year old ... with an athletic background and grew up on the ocean - I felt like a child today, boy ...My friend has suggested I try an Epic V7 next weekend, which is apparently a far more stable boat and I am really hoping I can do better on the next attempt. I drove home after tying up my Ski, staring into the void ... what the HELL did I just do for 10 minutes that beat the hell out of me? Deflated, but not yet dissuaded ... I'm going to try the Epic V7 next week and take it from there - I mean surely NEXT week, can't be as bad as today? ;-)

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4 months 2 days ago - 4 months 2 days ago #35289 by Watto
Replied by Watto on topic My first paddle today ...
Poor bastard, go google rule5.org.

I know you have that attitude anyway but just a reminder. Honest of you to be so up front, however not too many here on this forum who haven't had to face personal deeply challenging moments of some sort or other.

I've owned a range of boats over the years, some very tippy, however certainly relegate myself in the average stability ability. These tips while not coming from a master, do come from someone with plenty of time in boats, also plenty of experience getting others into the sport. Others may have a different take but these from my experience.

1.  Balance in a boat while coming more naturally to some than others, is counter-intuitive. If you feel like boat tipping left, easy says your brain, just lean upper body right. Wrong! In twisting upper body to the right to counter-balance, your weight is transferred to left sit bone in the boat which is in fact pushing the boat to the LEFT and in you go. To counteract this, swivel your hips instead and move the boat under you. (You need to have some contact with the boat rather than swimming in the bucket). Learn to swivel your hips.
2. The paddle is your best friend. Learn how to use it to brace, both forward and reverse.
3. Despite some saying not to do this, I have found it worked for me in really unstable boats and works for newbies. Instead of following best practice of using legs for power - left paddle stroke, left leg straightening, body swinging and left leg pushing into the footbrace - instead keep both feet firmly into both footbraces and push you backside back into the seat. You can actually still vary leg pressure doing this. Reason is that you become part of the boat, you are a counter-levered platform at one with the boat and much more in control. The need to do this disappears over time as you become part of the boat without having to 'lock in' both legs. 
4. Paddle out wide from the boat (start close to boat then paddle swings outwards), not down the gunnel line and paddle gently! Blokes tend to want to rip that blade however disaster awaits if other skills aren't in place. 
5. Start paddling in a boat matched with your ability, who cares how wide. (Ditch the ego bro!) 
6. Learn how to remount effectively and keep at it.
7. Rule#5. Mastery will come.
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4 months 2 days ago - 4 months 2 days ago #35290 by Crab Stick
It's all good mate - I took it in my stride but was shocked at how my skill level did not match the ride at all; remember I have zero experience at this so the learning curve was a big one. I just found out how much goes into the skill set of paddling and how the tools required also need to reflect the individual. No ego here - I'm all too happy to share my first time shambolic experience - apparently I'm not alone and have just become part of a world wide fraternity of first timers who tipped in!

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4 months 2 days ago #35291 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic My first paddle today ...
Fear not Crab, I took a very similar journey to you and have come out on the other side loving the sport.

I picked up a gen 0 V10 as my first boat, knowing it was the wrong boat to begin in, but it was so cheap its what I could afford at the time. The ooold v10 is a 43cm beam boat which is generally considered Elite, so obviously the wrong boat for a first time paddler like myself.

Well I bought the boat in November in the northern US, so spent the whole winter swimming in a freezing cold river (in a drysuit of course). It was humbling as you say, but did not break my determination.

The next spring I was able to sell my V10 for a profit and pick up a Stellar SR for the same price, a much more appropiate beginner boat at 48cm. Although 5cm doesnt sound like much difference, most beginners with average balance can handle a 48 to 50cm boat with no problems on flat to small water. (though mastering a 48cm boat in big ocean conditions probably puts you in the solid intermediate+ category).

Anyways, as you suspect you probably dont have a beginner friendly boat and you will be much happier in a proper beginner boat in the 48-52cm range depending on your natural balance ability.

We all promise you this is indeed a fun sport, but as the great oscar preaches - Stability Before Ability.

I think now you understand the wisdom of that phrase  :)

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"
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4 months 1 day ago #35293 by Arcturus
Replied by Arcturus on topic My first paddle today ...
Thanks for the entertaining report, complete with sound effects—though it probably was not entertaining to you, at the time.

I, too, had my first time on a ski only a few weeks ago, with very different results. I had asked to demo a newbie-friendly ski that I was interested in buying, IF I liked paddling it. To make a long story short, the first day (a one-hr lesson on flat water) I liked it well enough to go forth on the second day (a 90-minute lesson in some small bumps). On the second day, I started out a little apprehensive, but about halfway through, something clicked, and a few times it felt almost like magic, how the ski responded when everything came together. There was no capsizing either day, but I have been paddling sea kayaks for years.

Several days later, I kept thinking how great it would be to get MORE of that magical feeling. And so, like a good outdoor addict, I decided to buy that model of ski and keep chasing the sensation, though in a slightly heavier layup than the one I demoed. It will be a Nelo 520 S.

The above probably adds support for the Stability First argument. Anyway, good luck trying different skis. Maybe it’s worth trying the one you bought AFTER a few times renting or borrowing a more stable one. Won’t hurt, since you already bought it...and your ego already had its initiation rite!
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4 months 21 hours ago #35296 by RedBack
Replied by RedBack on topic My first paddle today ...
Hey Crabstick, - don't give up buddy!
You are a brave man attempting your first paddle in the Brisbane river!
Everyone falls out (usually several times) when they first start paddling, so it's best to choose a location where the water is clear and there's a nice, sandy beach to make the experience more pleasant.
May I suggest either the Sunshine Coast, or the Gold Coast for your next paddle?  Both have protected flat water areas where taking an accidental dip is actually enjoyable (as opposed to one that involves ingesting mud and attracting the resident Bull Sharks!).
There are lots of paddle groups on both coasts, but it's probably worthwhile getting a couple of lessons from professionals very early in your "journey".  They can teach you some balance techniques and exercises and make sure your stroke develops correctly from day one, rather than having to "unlearn" bad habits later.
Once you're confident with your balance and remount technique, you can return to paddling on the river.
I'll send you a PM with some further info.
Keep going.  It's more than worth the effort!
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4 months 20 hours ago #35297 by Craig M
Replied by Craig M on topic My first paddle today ...
Hey Crabstick, I feel for you because I remember doing this exact thing. My neighbor left a spec ski out for rubbish pick up so I nabbed it and made a few repairs and took it down to the local boat ramp thinking that I would get out for a few hours on the lake. Unfortunately for me there was a huge crowd at the ramp and lots of families bbqing. It's funny to look back on but I was so humiliated at the time, people laughing, kids pointing etc etc. Same as you, plonk, plonk, plonk packed it up and went home with the shits.

It took me a year or so to have another go. I found an older beginner ski and it was still tippy at first but not crazy and it didn't take me long to get the hang of it. I'm still ordinary but I'm at the stage when I can think about my stroke rather than staying in the thing. The difference between the spec ski and my Dorado is night and day. I'm still on the lake but I look forward to the rougher days and progressing toward the ocean.

I think you will be surprised by how much different the V7 is. It should be more stable and better than mine and I love mine.

Good luck with it.
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4 months 16 hours ago #35299 by SpaceSputnik
Crab Stick, sorry to hear about a dishartening experience. This is not a reflection of your ability. These boats are tricky and sometimes we just need to try for ourselves. 
You will do fine in a V7.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7
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4 months 9 hours ago #35301 by manta
Replied by manta on topic My first paddle today ...
When I decided I wanted to paddle a ski I went for lessons. The only place I could get lessons was on flatwater in a K1 kayak. Although it was a beginner K1 it was as tippy as all hell. The problem with a k1 is when you fall out, it fills with water and you need to go to the side, empty it out and then try and get it in and do it all again. 

I decided to learn in winter so falling out was not pleasant. I still liked paddling enough that I bought my first boat (which I still have) a Fenn Bluefin. After the K1 I got in the Fenn on the ocean and was able to paddle it without any issues at all. The coach helping me in the K1 had taught me how to paddle and the little K1 time had helped get my balance point slightly developed. 

So 2 things
  1. Get a stable boat (V7 will be plenty stable)
  2. Have a few lessons by someone that can coach (worth every cent)
Lovely sport and once you get the hang of it you will be well and truly hooked. Then the quest for speed starts, a never ending quest but fun none the less.

M
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4 months 8 hours ago #35302 by Henning DK
Re. "2. The paddle is your best friend" - well, that's the issue, to begin with it's not!

But you got to make it your best friend, and that's what you need a stable boat to practice - or flat water at least.
Once the stable boat has helped you make friends with your paddle, your paddle will help you make friends with more unstable boats.

Stability first ;-)
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4 months 6 hours ago #35305 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic My first paddle today ...
Practice and practice the skim brace by sweeping the paddle backwards on the back of the blade. This gives you the confidence that you have a tool to prevent/reduce tipping. Practice climbing in. Once you have these two things down pat then the anxiety of falling out disappears. Often it is your own anxiety that causes you to over react/ do half arsed strokes which cause tipping. Strong confident strokes with a who cares if I fall in attitude really helps.

As mentioned a nice shallow beach that is only knee deep is great to learn on as it only takes seconds to hop back in again. The less effort spend getting back in, or even worse swimming it to shore the better so it doesn't undermine you.

My first go on a ski was a non branded equivalent of an epic v10 sport and despite having 6 years or so of paddling a couple of times a week, I looked like a rank amateur who had never sat on a boat before, I thought it near impossible I would get the hang of it. I think however having the sense of achievement of finally becoming some shade of comfortable on a ski is part of the challenge and appeal of the sport.
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4 months 6 hours ago #35306 by SpaceSputnik
A couple more thoughts in addition to the advice already given.
V7 is a stable boat for sure. But it's also heavy. If it's the only option available certainly go for it, but if you can get your hands on a used V8 I'd go for that instead. After one season in a V7 I just couldn't lug it around anymore and sold it.
V8 is something you can keep as a 4x4 boat for big conditions even when your skills progress (same as a V7 less the heavy lifting)
There seems a lot of demand for used V7 and V8 so you could probably get your money back when you decide to upgrade. Same with Nelo 520, Think Eze and other stable skis.

If instruction is not available in your area use YouTube. There are several videos of Oscar's classes that are pretty comprehensive. Some of them I made.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7
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4 months 4 hours ago - 4 months 4 hours ago #35309 by Arcturus
Replied by Arcturus on topic My first paddle today ...
When I was learning to x-c ski, I stumbled onto a little exercise that helped me make friends with the skis and the stride:  I skied without the poles. Then when I added in poling, everything worked together much better. The poles became my friends instead of something additional to fret over. 

Totally agree with manta’s advice to take lessons from a good coach. If I had not had one for my trying the ski, I would have been muddling about despite the sea kayaking experience.

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4 months 2 hours ago #35312 by SpaceSputnik

Arcturus wrote: When I was learning to x-c ski, I stumbled onto a little exercise that helped me make friends with the skis and the stride:  I skied without the poles. Then when I added in poling, everything worked together much better. The poles became my friends instead of something additional to fret over. 

Totally agree with manta’s advice to take lessons from a good coach. If I had not had one for my trying the ski, I would have been muddling about despite the sea kayaking experience.


I find that sea kayaking experience does surprisingly little to prepare you for a ski. 

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 months 4 weeks ago #35313 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic My first paddle today ...

SpaceSputnik wrote:
I find that sea kayaking experience does surprisingly little to prepare you for a ski. 


Particularly if you used a flat blade and learned to let it sweep behind you using it for stern rudder, sweep strokes and other fancy techniques. Try those manoeuvring and correction strokes with a wing blade on a ski and you are swimming, unless you are gifted.

As often said unlearning inappropriate techniques can be a big hurdle, hence the value of early coaching lesson. First thing I was picked up on was asymmetrical paddling due to being used to edging and countering weather cocking in an unruddered touring kayak.

At the end of the day the buzz of finally being able to confidently put full power down and experience the acceleration on a tippy boat is a huge sense of achievement. Makes paddling anything more stable feel like a huge chore

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3 months 4 weeks ago #35314 by SpaceSputnik
For me the main difference between sea kayak and a ski is the relationship with balance. Sea kayakers seem to derive a lot more stability from the boat. Their bracing seems pretty heavy and more or less a disaster recovery tool. I.e. there is a big difference from a normal cruising stroke designed for propulsion and recovery actions.
You can sort of get away with that in a super stable ski but switch to a more advanced boat and it falls apart.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 months 4 weeks ago #35315 by Arcturus
Replied by Arcturus on topic My first paddle today ...
I normally don’t brace much in the sea kayak anyway. The ski instructor focused on forward stroke and I remember bracing once on the second day. I am not gifted, just used to keeping balance more from the hip/butt than from bracing. My sea kayak actually IS an inch narrower beam than the ski I tried, though overall it is more stable. 

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3 months 4 weeks ago #35316 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic My first paddle today ...
As Sputnik says, in a tippy boat, every stroke is a 'brace' in the sense that the stroke provides stability. Quite a lot once you know what you're doing.

I've always thought one of the most impressive feats is Olympic K1'ers sitting at a stop. WIth nothing to brace against, its quite impressive to me.

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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3 months 4 weeks ago - 3 months 4 weeks ago #35317 by SpaceSputnik

Arcturus wrote: I am not gifted, just used to keeping balance more from the hip/butt than from bracing.


That may work to a point in a stable ski, but intermediate and high performance ones are too tender to balance like that. Even an intermediate like Evo can be difficult to hip balance.

I like watching Wesley's videos, they illustrate the balance so well. This one for example: 

Fast forward a few minutes and see how solid his upper body in relation to horizon and how small boat twitches don't phase him. Hip balancing that narrow beam would be pretty wasteful.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 months 4 weeks ago - 3 months 4 weeks ago #35318 by Crab Stick
My thanks to everyone who has contributed their suggestions and knowledge to my initial post - I'm learning a great deal. From a layman's perspective, could somebody explain to me why all Ski's are not made stable right across the ability bell curve? Wouldn't Boat stability be something any Pilot of a boat would want out of the gate? Why are the entry level Ski's made stable but not the Elite level Ski's? In other words, what are the reasons for wanting a Ski to be inherently tippy or unstable, that makes it better than a more stable Ski? Is it that the shape of the hull makes the boat faster, the more rounded and tippy it is? I am assuming it is something in that department ... ie the narrower the line, the faster the boat, but then the more unstable it becomes.

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