Catching Waves with the Big O

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 09:37
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A few days after winning "Ze Caribbean Race", here's Oscar coaching a couple of paddlers (including his boss) on downwind technique.

I've had the enormous pleasure of paddling a number of times with Oscar in doubles on our beloved Miller's Run downwind route here in Cape Town, and I can say with all honesty that it's been a revelation and inspirational every time.

As you can see (and hear, as he barks at his pupils!), Oscar's basic mantra is to paddle early and stop paddling early and work with the energy of the waves.  On many other occasions (although he doesn't mention it in this video) he's described taking a couple of "explosive" power-strokes to get onto the run.  

Don't try to catch every run

When I paddled doubles with him, I was astonished at how many waves he didn't take: he has an uncanny ability to feel whether the wave is the right one or not.  If not, he lets it roll under him, taking the next one (or the one after that).  But more often then not, he then pops back over the one or two that he discarded, making up the distance and more.  This kind of skill takes time in the boat to acquire - at the beginning of a downwind career, the novice tries too hard, fails to get over too many runs, using too much energy - but you learn over time how to use the least amount of power to catch the run and then to milk it for all the energy it contains.

Scanning

Another of Oscar's mantras is too keep scanning 45 degrees either side of your course, looking for the next dip in the water, or the next shoulder of the wave in front.  Frequently he'll steer a kind of S-curve, turning left or right, keeping the speed up, before turning back onto the wave.  

If you ever get the chance to ride doubles with Oscar (or any of the other top downwind elites), don't hesitate!  You'll learn more in five minutes than you can imagine - and you'll be inspired to get straight back out to try it for yourself.


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