Jackson Kayak Tip of the Week by Crystal Gustin

When you want to up your kayaking skills, many think you need to go bigger. My thoughts are just the opposite. Kayaking is a sport where we can’t control the elements but we can do our best to put the odds in our favor. If my game gets shaken due to a lull in paddling, a beat down, or seeing something scary, I return to the basics. And to hone those basic skills, I go to a river that will limit risk while still challenging me. Next time you head out on the water, think of applying any or all of these techniques to challenge your current skill set:

Make yourself uncomfortable by switching up your boat. Each boat will react differently. Learning to react in as many situations as possible will only help you when things go awry on the river. Take out a little playboat if you are used to a creeker. Jump in a long boat. Whatever you are comfortable in, get out of it. Learn something new.

Be on the lookout for small or hard-to-catch eddies. Maybe if you miss it, you will head right into a hole that will eat you and your boat. Catching eddies is a critical river skill to develop and master. As you run harder rivers, being able to get into those eddies becomes more critical.

If you aren't a playboater, go playboat. Not only will it sharpen your roll, it will also get you used to being in a hole or in a spot you wouldn't normally be comfortable in while in your creeker.

Make everything as technical as you can. Find the hardest line you can, work on transitioning your edges to glide around rocks, practice snapping into eddies, and boof everything you can. If you are stronger with a right boof stroke, only take left boof strokes.

In every rapid you go through, pick a line and hit it dead on. Not two inches off. Work on perfecting every line you take.

When you head out to work on your skills, be okay with messing up. After all, this is what practice is all about and why you set sail on an "easier" river: to push yourself without adding unnecessary risk.

Finally, remember to smile and have fun while you are out there.

Crystal Gustin is a frequent contributor to Jackson Kayak’s blog.

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