Group: Super Administrators
Joined: Jan. 2004
||Posted: Sep. 19 2005,05:35
This will not be the last post in this series, but I'd like to summarize what it's like to convert to the Mako XT surfski. Keep in mind this ski is like a number of others that are considered good entry level training skis, like the Futura, etc.
These are shorter and a bit wider, 19 x 19 in the case of the XT. Unlike some of the others, the XT can the potential to be raced as an intermediate racer.
All the experts say it's simply water time and miles. All suggest you start in calm waters, gain confidence and work yourway into more textured conditions. Here's a short list of learning advisories that I found helpful:
|1. Use 1/16 bungie tether|
2. Issue of reaction/response - tense, overcorrecting - leads to fatigue, which exascerbates problem. Better to end session.
3. Relax, trust the ski
4. Relax, let hips ride independently with the ski
5. Intentionally rock hips, find the edge
6. Do some leans
7. Don't try to keep it perpendicular, let it go. Worst - light to med chop
8. Speed helps
9. Fall gracefully
10. Sight ahead, keeping vision stable keeps body stable
11. Drive blade deeper
12. A paddle in the water keeps you stable and safe
13. Let it glide - brace at the ready - as long as possible
14. Full stop - balance with paddle like a high wire act
15. Paddle with hands
16. Feet in water adds much stability
17. Practice tight turns close to shore
18. Practice graceful falls and reentry in shallow water, then deep for confidence. Find the edge, try to recover
19. Consider hip pads, seat belt
My discoveries: It's all about relaxation, but especially the lower back. It's not that your hips are completely loose, but more a factor of just "sinking in" to the ski, finding a low center in your lower abdomen. Focus ahead (not on the ski), and on keeping relaxed. Relax, relax.
I practiced an intentional lean with each strong stroke (like the old days with the Skua); this helped find the edge (but this is a bad habit, not too much as you'll have to break it). Then slower, even cadence, relaxing into the ski, driving smoothly through the chop, not being too loose, but more just relaxed, going with the flow. The yak wants to be stable. After awhile you start being able to add more power, but with a smooth powerful drive through the water.
The ski does in fact have a center - you simply have to "relax" or "sink" into it. Think of the XT as big banana, the bow and especially the stern stabilize as the ski leans - a bit like downhill skiing. I find it useful to focus ahead but not too far ahead, not on the horizon.
Ultimately it's all about relaxation, and the Key Advise I'd like to pass along is from Brent Reitz, well known and published instructor:
|My guess would be that the Initial Stability is the culprit causing you grief. This is something that you can get used to by "lowering your alarm level". By this I mean that you need to RELAX and let the boat "wobble" a tad and get confident enough to know that the Secondary Stability is there to "catch" you. When we paddle boats with low Initial Stability we get "Up-Tight". This in turn forces our center of gravity up higher in our bodies and locks every little movement to the boat hull. NOT GOOD! The result is a ride that is way too much work and can end up being fairly WET as well!|
Be sure you are as relaxed as possible in order to "absorb" the little wobbles. The learned relaxation will allow you to apply power to the stroke. Concentrate on your breathing and lowering your "center". Be sure you are focusing your power from a point "down low, below the spray skirt" on every stroke you take.
When we are up tight or nervous, and sometimes that can be imperceptible to us, we are unable to apply good forward power with our stroke. This is because we need to be comfortable to have balance, and balance is necessary for power in order to get the most out of each stroke we take. That's why getting comfortable in your boat will not only make the overall ride more enjoyable, but will also greatly improve your power, speed and endurance.
On my last paddle I had one of those Zen breakthroughs. I had launched on Sunrise near the bookstore to encounter some ski boats and lots of chop and was starting to tense up, so headed north into calm waters.
It was here I decided to stay in calm waters, slow down, relax my lower back, and let myself sink down into the ski. To trust the ski. As Reitz puts it, to "lower your center" and allow yourself to simply "absorb" the little wobbles. Not uncontrollably loose, but simply relaxed and trusting the ski.
It is amazing!
I found the XT staying level, sliding smoothly through the ripples, then wakes, then chop. I moved into rougher waters and maintained my focus. I trusted in the XT and it came through. Even chop and wakes from the side, as I allowed the XT to simply ride with them. Kept my focus not on the ski, not on the horizon, but somewhat ahead. Again, not floppy loose, but solidly relaxed into the ski.
The difference was palpable. Without tense interference from me the XT became a different creature - powerful, stable, slicing through and over the surface. Reliable and relatively stable. I actually found myself beginning to enjoy the ride and appreciating the smooth responsiveness that the XT offers.
This of course is just the beginning of a grand experience, but it does represent a breakthrough. More later....
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