Author: theimperfectpaddler

Why don’t paddlers improve?

Why don’t paddlers improve?

Barriers to learning are interesting, and hard to pinpoint at times.  Many paddlers never pursue any instruction, certain their skills are up to par.  Some paddlers go to endless classes and symposiums, but seem to never get any better in their skill set.  Curious, right?

There are a lot of barriers to learning-fear, misunderstanding, lack of a prerequisite skill set, inappropriate gear, pre-conceived notions etc., but in my experience the single biggest barrier is the idea that the student already knows what is being taught.  And I have to confess, I’ve been guilty of it myself.  I remember the day I was taught I needed to open my mind.

I spend my days as a teacher in a juvenile detention facility, at the time I was teaching science and math to the worst kids society has to offer.  As a military vet I was probably more of a hardass than I needed to be, but for the most part it worked.  At this facility, the population changes daily as the police bring in the freshly arrested every day, and those who’ve been there go home, to juvenile jail, or real jail.  Hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.

I had a student on the “oldest” kid unit, pushing 18 years old.  Unfortunately, I’d had him since he was 11 or 12.  Always in trouble, always getting in trouble and violating his probation.  In general, a firm hand kept him in line as he needed constant attention.  But one day, things escalated-I don’t remember the particulars, but at the end of the conflict he was put out of class and locked up in his cell.  I won, again, because he still didn’t understand he had no chance of winning.

It’s always been my personal policy to touch base with a kid who I had problem with the next day, ensure he or she understood my rules, and move on.  In retrospect my approach was MY approach, there wasn’t much middle ground. I went to the unit where this kid was housed the next morning, and pulled him aside for a chat.  Basically I said to him, “You know it doesn’t have to be a train wreck every time we’re in the same room” and extended my hand for a shake.  To my surprise, he grabbed the hand and followed through with a hug and “I’m sorry.”  Powerful.

I realized the flaws in my past approach right away.  He didn’t need an ass-kicking, he needed a little understanding, a role model, some space to vent, some time to process-

I had known exactly how to do my job,seriously I was certain of it,  but pursued big adjustments right after that.

And that translated to my paddling as well.  Whatever I know, will change.  Best practices will evolve, and I’ve got to evolve with them.


The Mocke Life Vest

The Mocke Life Vest

Almost every surf skier is wearing a Mocke life jacket, and there are good reasons for that.  It is definitely one of the most comfortable life jackets around, and all three size S/M, M/L, and XL have a great deal of room for adjustment.  The XL will even fit over a wetsuit and paddle jacket on a guy with a 50 inch chest. I know, I’m the guy!   The fit is easily adjusted with the straps on both sides.

The high-vis orange makes it probably the most easily seen jacket on the market as well.  During a recent downwinder on a dark, drizzly day my crew got spread out a bit, but it was easy to find that blob of orange somewhere in the waves.  At night the reflective tape really pops out when hit with light.

The rear pocket of the vest is a great place to keep a water bladder, and the optional Mocke 1.5L fits perfectly.  The front pocket is cavernous, with plenty of room for all the necessities you might need on a paddle.

It’s very popular with the competitive crowd, and they’re in stock at Virginia Beach Paddlesports.



The Imperfect Paddler comes to grips

11807635_904756926229487_6570856213164732811_oI’m a mid-50s guy who has been paddling professionally since 1993, and racing since 1996.  Primarily I race surfskis, but have also raced sea kayaks, marathon canoe, K1, K2, K4, OC1, tandem surf ski, OC6, and even high kneel canoe.  In addition I can frequently be found in a surf kayak or on a SUP.

I have been race director for countless races, have run a couple of paddling businesses, achieved paddling certifications through the ACA (L1 SUP, L3 Surf Kayak, L4 Sea Kayak), been president of the local racing club (MAPA) and run the local paddling meetup.  Currently I run Virginia Beach Paddlesports.   The company sells Stellar surf skis and kayaks, GPower and Orka Paddles, Mocke life jackets and various other paddling accessories.  Instruction for standup paddleboard, surfski, sea kayak, and surf kayak is offered through the store as well.

I train a lot, help other people train, and love paddling.  But I’m only a man.  I drink beer and whiskey, love Snickers, chips, and ice cream, and naps-whenever possible.  I work a day job, run a paddling retail and instruction shop in my spare time, and am chapter coordinator for a national non-profit that takes wounded warriors paddling. My kids are technically adults but require my attention at times, and I try to keep my yard looking halfway decent as well as do the more minor repairs on my fleet of 4 aging vehicles.

This blog will be about paddling everything, racing almost everything one can paddle, the products I use and sell, and other fun stuff along the way.

So I am in the pursuit of balance.  I need to train more, eat better, lose some belly and get faster-all while Father Time is breathing down my neck.