× Tips and techniques for getting the most out of surfskiing.

How to get faster - Technique or fitness or both

1 week 5 days ago #33701 by manta
Hi

I am hoping someone can help me as perhaps I am missing something.
I have been paddling for 18 months in a Fenn Bluefinn. My average speed over 10km is between 9.5 - 9.8km/h and no matter what I do I cannot seem to get it higher. This speed means back of pack if not last in most races or paddling sessions.

I paddle on average 3 times per week. I usually do 2 interval workouts, 1 short one (1min on 2min off) or longer intervals (1km on, rest 1 minute then repeat) . I will also do a Long Slow Paddle about every 10 days where I try and paddle in excess of 2 hours (building towards 4 hours incrementally). I also surf my ski at a beach break whenever the mood grabs me and I downwind when the wind and my work schedule align. I hit the gym twice a week, one strength session where I try and lift as much as possible and one building session where the weights are lower but I do more reps.

My question, is speed an effect of technique, fitness or both? I have been for coaching and my technique although not world class is considered okay. I am not super fit by any stretch (elite athlete level) but I also do not feel I am unfit. 

My problem seems to be centred around not being able to maintain the boat speed higher than what I have mentioned. I can paddle faster than that on intervals but those are not sustainable. I know there are many factors that play into this but perhaps someone has been where I am and they have some sage advice. 

Lastly 45 years old in excellent health and a little fitter and trimmer looking than the average dad bod middle aged dude. 

How do I get faster?

M

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1 week 5 days ago #33703 by robin.mousley
Hmm...  When I complained about the same thing to one of the coaches, he said, "intervals"...  Obviously technique and fitness are part of it, but he said that intervals are the way to increased sustained speed.  I also think interval training gets a lot more sophisticated than simply 1min on/1 min off. 

Talk to Pete Cole and maybe join his training squad for a few months.  I think he caters for all abilities and the training takes place on Sandvlei aka the Swamp.

You could also contact one of the online coaches - Michele Eray, Hayley Nixon, Sean Rice.  

Oscar Chalupsky is in town too - you could at least have a chat with him.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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1 week 5 days ago - 1 week 5 days ago #33704 by uk gearmuncher
Finally, a post I can reply on with full confidence. I can't comment on technique but I've 25 years experience with your issue in general.

Training can be complex but it's ultimately about several basic needs. One is overload, then supercompensation and finally progression. In other words, going out and banging out the same design of intervals week in week out is pointless (you'll likely max out your gains in around 6-8 weeks). You need to keep things changing and primarily identify what your physiological limitations are and then design a programme to supplement that. Copying what others are doing  (such as a training group of diverse athletes) is not the way to get the best from yourself. Likewise its hard to answer your question without knowing your background, training history and typical training load. Without this, the answer to your question is always 'it depends'.

Hypothetically speaking, intervals are a great way to create training stimulus and overload but bearing in mind these can vary in length from mere seconds to long blocks of an hour or more, it really does depend on what you need and what you're trying to do. I compete as a cyclist and much of my current work is a range of intervals and steady state work. 

There are some good books on triathlon, cycling, running or others that you can adapt to your needs and I'd strongly recommend reading some or finding a good coach.

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1 week 5 days ago #33705 by leolinha
I am 45 years old too, started paddling in 2014, when I was 40, in an Epic V8. In the beginning I only paddled alone, without interest in competitions. I first bought a GPS sports tracker a couple of years later and started working on my performance, and I can tell you: my progress was very slow. I estimate my average speed at around 8 km/h at that time.
I used to watch paddling technique on Youtube, but only in 2017 I started to get real coaching. It improved my technique a lot, but the performance gains were subtle. In the same year (2017) I started to participate in local races. My average speed in February 2017 was 8,9 km/h (first race). Then I increased my training load (3 times a week) and started weight training twice a week. By the end of 2017, I was finishing 15km - 20km races with an average speed around 10 km/h, but it seemed that I had hit a plateau.
In 2018, I upgraded to a V10 Sport (in a lighter layup). I had a lot of expectations about my speed increase, but the most I got out of it was an average speed of 10,5 km/h in a 15 km race. In my training routine, the perceived speed gain is even less than 0,5 km/h.

Once my coach said that my technique was good, then I asked him: if my technique is good, and I am training so hard, what else can I do to increase my speed? His answer: "you must train every day. That's the only thing that will make a difference". I was sad to hear that, since I cannot paddle more than 3 times a week. I recently bought an ergometer but I am still waiting for it to be delivered, that's the closest I can get to training every day.

Most probably you are not missing anything. You are paddling since 18 months only, started in a beginner surfski like me, you are a dad too, same age as me... Actually I think that you are already doing much better than I did. If you are finishing last in some races with na average speed of 9,8 km/h, then you are just unlucky (or lucky?) to live in a place with lots of good paddlers. Where I live, an average of 9,8 km/h almost guarantee a safe place in the midpack.

I guess that the muscle groups directly involved in surfski paddling develop slowly (even more so at our age), after some more years you will probably notice a visible change in your back and abdominal muscles. Technique is another thing that requires time as well, it is a thing that you will work on for the rest of your life - there is no such thing as a perfect technique, every paddling form can be improved in some way. So If I were to summarize all this in a single phrase, it would be: keep training hard and looking for a better technique, but avoid frustration and forget about the idea of being missing something.

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1 week 5 days ago #33708 by robin.mousley
Hey Manta,
There's some great feedback in these last two posts and I think they're right - for the amount of experience you've had and the ski that you're paddling, I don't think you're doing badly at all.

Thinking back to when I started - I was on an old Brian's Kayaks Wedge and a good race was when I only fell off once!  I well remember the feeling of coming in last - after dark - in Hout Bay.  

Are you able to get to the Seadog Races in Fish Hoek?  They're really great - there's always someone near your ability to dice with, no matter whether you're elite level or raw beginner and I can tell you that you wouldn't be coming last there.  

Do you have a copy of Oscar Chalupsky's technique drills?  

Cheers
Rob 

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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1 week 5 days ago #33709 by RedBack
Hi Manta,
I agree with Rob's comments that for someone who's been paddling for just 18 months on a Bluefin, you're doing OK.
To answer your question, - speed is definitely a function of fitness, strength and technique.
What was the nature and duration of the coaching you received? 
Even the best coaches will need significant time with you to ensure your technique is technically correct, powerful and efficient.
If you can only train 3 times per week, then each session needs to be "quality" (preferably with a rest day after each).
Try mixing up your interval sets. 
Pyramids are good.  For example, 10km of 2, 3, 4, 3, 2 minutes with 1 minute "light active recovery" between efforts, repeating the pyramid as often as required to reach 10km.  Efforts should be at a sustainable but "uncomfortable" pace - around 85%.
Other sets may be short duration, high intensity (90-100%) with a long rest periods.  Mix it up, - but have a plan to increase total workload incrementally for 3 weeks, then drop the load back for a week, before increasing again.
Prior to the main part of any session though, make sure you do a good warm-up.  The older we get, the greater the  importance of warming-up correctly.  Warm-ups should "hurt"!
A good warm-up may consist of 500m at 60%, concentrating on technique, 500m "build" from 60% start to 90% finish, 500m repetitive surging 60%-80% and 500m of 15 second rolling starts at 70%, 80%, 90% then 100% with 45 seconds rest between each start.  (Note: there is no rest in the first 1,500m of the warm-up.) Once this is complete, you then rest for 2-3 minutes before commencing the main set.
There are some good books around that provide training tips and even sample programs for mature athletes.  "Fast after Fifty" by Joe Friel is good.
Anyway, - all the best with your paddling and whatever you do, - don't stop!  It's the best sport in the world!

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1 week 5 days ago #33710 by Henning DK
Technique first! 
Otherwise, you will just train to "practice shit technique better"  as Oscar says, and it will become even harder to improve your technique at a later stage.
The good thing about better technique is that it doesn't feel harder, you get more fun and motivation, and in the end, you will become fitter as well!

Just my point of view ;-)

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1 week 4 days ago #33711 by manta
Hi

Thanks for all the replies so far.

Do you have a copy of Oscar Chalupsky's technique drills?  

Yes, I have been using the drills almost since day 1. My warmup routine starts with about 10 minutes of the drills. I actually find that if I start paddling without having done the drills it seems to take me a while to settle. I have a dodgy shoulder and I start my warmup on land with a theraband. I do pull parts and face fulls for about 5 minutes before I even get on the water.

I have changed my intervals slightly over the last couple  of sessions. I read in a coaching article that the interval should end once your speed on the interval drops by 0.5km/h all things being equal. The reason stated is that this is when you can start to use poor form as the muscles have tired. I've been trying it and it seems to be a self correcting exercise. On the first interval I may go 90 seconds before the speed drops and then after a 90 second rest the next one may drop after 80 seconds etc. I noticed that the body kind of figures it out and when you get a bit more rest the next interval lasts a bit longer and then a subsequent one may be shorter. What I liked about it was I was able to work really hard but my technique and body position did not suffer thus ingraining bad habits.

One of my problems is a very tough work schedule. I run a software development business and it is quite time intensive. The result is I can usually only train alone as I cannot seem to fit into anyone else's schedule. I will just have to keep on keeping on.

I will definitely need to explore the coaching avenue more. I have had a few individual sessions and was given homework which I did. Perhaps I need to be on a more structured program and perhaps that can help as well. 

I think the frustrating thing for me is that I live in paddling heaven and the standard here is very high. I was hoping that my progress would have been a bit more linear and upward as opposed to small bumps every now and again. I am determined to crack it though. My ultimate goal is to get to a place where I can maintain a good average speed over a long distance. Good is relative I know but I was thinking around 11km/h should be possible but it seems that may mean many more years of training.

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1 week 4 days ago #33712 by Hacker Mike
Hi

I agree with what has been said above, regarding training and technique. There is another factor that you need to consider and that has to do with the hull speed of the boat you are paddling. Achieving 10km/hr ave on a 10km flat water paddle on a Bluefin is not bad at all. The effort required to up that average to 11km/hr (or even 10.5km/hr) is huge in the "stable boat" category. So don't feel discouraged, you are doing well. Focus on getting you technique right whilst on a stable platform. 

In time, once you have developed good technique and improved your balance, you may consider getting an intermediate boat, where you may find that you are doing 10.5km/hr to 11km/hr with similar effort and you are no longer at the back of the pack.  

Now before I get flamed (stability before ability blah blah), I am not advocating that you rush out and buy a racing snake boat that you can't paddle in order to go faster. I am simply saying that the BF's hull speed is a limiting factor (more apparent on flat water). Don't get too discouraged. Most of the guys I paddle with who are on Blue Fins are averaging in the 10-10.5km/hr bracket. Use the time on the boat to focus on good technique and skills and the speed will come. 

All the best 
The following user(s) said Thank You: Steve Hansen

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1 week 4 days ago #33713 by Impala
Hi,
to the post opener: it also depends a lot where you paddle what boat.
If you are a surfski novice, you will get kicked ass by fat, unfit but experienced ocean paddlers. There, neither flatwater technique nor fitness will help. I myself have so little exposure to real DW conditions that - once I am there - I hardly manage to get much faster than on flatwater, perhaps 0.5 kph more.
If I paddle on the flat, it depends a bit on water depth and hull whether I get dropped or not. The bluefin with its considerable rocker suspiciously looks like a terrible sucker in shallows, whereas it might be a decent marathon boat in deep water. 

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1 week 4 days ago - 1 week 4 days ago #33716 by uk gearmuncher

Hacker Mike wrote: Hi
Don't get too discouraged. Most of the guys I paddle with who are on Blue Fins are averaging in the 10-10.5km/hr bracket. Use the time on the boat to focus on good technique and skills and the speed will come. 
 


I have to agree. I had a bluefin for a year. It was such a dog of a boat on the flatter days it was depressing. I'm not a great paddler by any means but that boat really was hard work to get any pace out of (although my technique was much poorer back then). Sure in big stuff it would be great but for where I live, those days were few and far between and I was happy to sell it. I then drifted into SUP for a few years and when I came back to ski's I bought a V8 pro. Night and day and miles of smiles.

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1 week 4 days ago - 1 week 4 days ago #33717 by SpaceSputnik
It's funny. I would be completely happy with 10km average at 9.5 - 9.8km/h. I am currently much slower. Been told it's all technique.
I do, (or rather have been up to this point), paddle a 50 lb V7 and I don't even want to mention my averages here because they are laughable.
48 yo, been lifting weights consistently for a few years and consider myself stronger than average: reverse row at 200ish lb for several reps, squat in similar numbers. Decent core.
Still pushing it at 8 km/h feels like a pretty significant muscular effort even though I rotate and leg-drive. That needs lot more work of course, but I just can't imagine getting whole 2km/h sustained by just optimizing things like catch angle and power distribution during the stroke.
Something is not working in a pretty big way here....9.5 km/h would be heaven.

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1 week 4 days ago #33719 by tve

I run a software development business and it is quite time intensive.

I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but what I would recommend is that you break up the problem into discrete pieces and analyze each in turn. Kind'a like you do every day in your business ;-) What is the limiting factor with respect to your speed? E.g:
  • cardio, e.g. you can go faster for 6 miles and then fatigue sets in?
  • technique, e.g. are you engaging the big muscles at every stroke? (I find that 10 second all-out intervals are great to practice that)
  • technique, e.g. is all your effort turning into propulsion or is it squirting out elsewhere, like rocking the boat or lifting water at the end of the stroke? (best for someone else to look at you paddling and point these out)
  • muscle strength, e.g. do you still have energy to spend but pulling the paddle doesn't work anymore?
I'm sure others have additional items for the decomposition. If you go through these items one-by-one in your mind and then test yourself a bit I'm sure you can do a pretty good job at narrowing it down to where you can get the biggest bang for your buck...
Hope this helps.

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1 week 3 days ago #33721 by manta

tve wrote:

  • cardio, e.g. you can go faster for 6 miles and then fatigue sets in?
  • technique, e.g. are you engaging the big muscles at every stroke? (I find that 10 second all-out intervals are great to practice that)
  • technique, e.g. is all your effort turning into propulsion or is it squirting out elsewhere, like rocking the boat or lifting water at the end of the stroke? (best for someone else to look at you paddling and point these out)
  • muscle strength, e.g. do you still have energy to spend but pulling the paddle doesn't work anymore?
Hope this helps.


I think this is great advice.
I will look into what is going on in more detail. 
What I have found is although I am slow I can keep that pace for a long time. I seem to do a lot better with longer distances than the shorter ones but average speed is important. 
I wanted to change boats this year. I was waiting patiently for the Fenn XT-S to come out. I need to test it as the reviews I have seen have been mixed. It may be more of a surfy boat and not that good on flatter water. I will have to see for myself.
My balance is not good enough for a true intermediate boat like a Swordie.

M

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1 week 3 days ago #33722 by manta

Impala wrote: Hi,
to the post opener: it also depends a lot where you paddle what boat.
If you are a surfski novice, you will get kicked ass by fat, unfit but experienced ocean paddlers. There, neither flatwater technique nor fitness will help.
 

This is so true.
I have paddled downwind with guys that can read water so well it feels like they are on speed boats, not ski's.

One day with practice. I am still learning the DW thing and that can be almost just as frustrating as the overall speed thing. My water reading is improving though. I now know what I should be catching even though I might not be able to catch it. I recently had a really bad DW experience that I still want to write about but that is for another post.

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1 week 3 days ago #33723 by manta

SpaceSputnik wrote: It's funny. I would be completely happy with 10km average at 9.5 - 9.8km/h. I am currently much slower. Been told it's all technique.
I do, (or rather have been up to this point), paddle a 50 lb V7 and I don't even want to mention my averages here because they are laughable.
48 yo, been lifting weights consistently for a few years and consider myself stronger than average: reverse row at 200ish lb for several reps, squat in similar numbers. Decent core.
Still pushing it at 8 km/h feels like a pretty significant muscular effort even though I rotate and leg-drive. That needs lot more work of course, but I just can't imagine getting whole 2km/h sustained by just optimizing things like catch angle and power distribution during the stroke.
Something is not working in a pretty big way here....9.5 km/h would be heaven.


Hopefully some of the information on this thread can help us both.

I know for me my first big speed jump came after some small technique changes. I am currently working on my exit being by my hip each time consistently. It feels too soon but that is because I have already adopted a bad habit of a slightly late exit. A late exit is a speed killer and it also destabilises the boat. I have really felt it when downwinding, as the boat accelerates sometimes I am late in getting the paddle out and it feels like it wants to tip over. 

Anyway we're all learning as we go I suppose.
The following user(s) said Thank You: SpaceSputnik

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1 week 3 days ago #33724 by Henning DK
Since you are actually quite fast and strong, but "My balance is not good enough for a true intermediate boat" I would certainly recommend working on your technique with focus on stability. Stability is more than balance, a good and reliable stroke technique will support your stability and let you move to a faster ski.
My favorite technique masterclass is not about surfski, but very applicable:

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1 week 3 days ago #33725 by SpaceSputnik
Thanks Manta, looks like there is hope me me yet :)
I know what you mean about late exit, working on that.
I feel like my boat is a problem as well, it's heavy and dull. Switching to an intermediate ski for this season as my balance doesn't seem to be an issue. Doubt I will be using the V7 much. Just lugging that thing around is a killer.
Other things too. My regular mid wing feels too aggressive so I am going with a small instead.
But technique work is probably the most important. We are still in the thick of winter so I am doing pretend paddles at home while sitting on a swiss ball which I hope would help the balance as well. It certainly improving on the ball but how much that would translate to water I am not entirely sure.

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1 week 2 days ago #33732 by Dicko
Buy a Zeplin if you’re in SA. Half a k faster straight away. Goes like the clappers downwind. If you’ve been paddling 18 months and can’t paddle that you should probably buy a bike instead.

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1 week 22 hours ago - 1 week 22 hours ago #33736 by feeny
I am only speaking for myself, but when it comes to technique I am 100% dead set certain of two things:
(a) I massively over-think it
(b) I ain't doing it right yet --> [resulting in goto (a) ]

:-)

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