Jo's tips for Paddling The Coast: A first timers guide
When Johanna Ditmer first applied for a job at Further Faster & Long Cloud Kayaks, little did she know that she would find her self racing the Coast to Coast! Here is her story, a short guide to help other newbies into the Multi Sport world.
When I first considered entering the Coast to Coast, I thought it would be tough... I knew I could bike and run, but there was this whole kayaking thing that I had never done before… but I entered anyway.
I started by joining my local kayak club, Arawa and began with a few sessions that they run. With aching arms after 20 minutes it was evident early on that I had a lot of work to do if I was to get myself down the Waimakariri Gorge. But after some effort and help in the training leading up to the race I made it on race day!
I have put together a few points about what helped me throughout the year to get the strength and skills required to tackle my goal of completing the Coast to Coast, I hope it helps you too.
- Get some technique lessons. I went and saw Rosie from Freedom Fitness and coaching and it was the perfect start to getting my paddling looking and feeling somewhat efficient! She helped me with the different stages of the stroke and her advice and coaching was incredibly valuable to improving my technique.
- Spend some quality hours on the water over winter. You may not be able to get through the gorge during the winter months but it is still crucial to get time out in the boat working on your endurance and technique. Yes the Avon can be the most boring stretch of water ever… and yes it is often freezing cold (but we have gear for that!) and you have to paddle in the dark for most sessions… but this is what it’s all about (so I’ve been told!). I also joined in on Rosie’s weekly sessions which were at 6.30am and had a huge bunch of keen paddlers. This was a great way to keep the motivation up over winter and to ensure I was still pushing myself against others and improving.
- After you have completed your Grade II River Certificate, go on a guided river trip! I went with the boys from Topsport and it was the best way to go through the gorge for the first time. Firstly they’ll be there to to rescue you when you fall out, but more importantly you learn about different lines on the river and how to approach different sections. They have so much knowledge about this race and the river so you are guaranteed to learn a lot! It is also a good way to see the course before you have to do it in a race environment.
- I then raced in the Classic River Race, this was the perfect build up race to Coast. It’s more low key that Coast with less people on the river and there is also a huge team of safety kayakers and jet boats there to help if you need it. The race also gives you a fair idea of how fit you are in regards to paddling the whole course and what you may need to improve on for your last couple of months of training.
- Get your gear sorted early and practice with it!! How you set up your boat/hydration system is such a personal thing so spend some time working out what works best for you and try not to compare what you are doing with others. For sure listen to people’s advice and take it on board, but I found that every person told me something different and in the end I found it best to stick with what worked for me.
- And lastly, have fun with your training leading up to the race! There are so many fun adventures to be had over the summer months while the weather is warm so take advantage of this time. And train with other people when you can. My most memorable training sessions were with friend’s I had made along the way and it felt less like training and more just like a fun day out on the water.
I know first hand that gearing up to paddle down the Waimak can be a little intimidating but if you put in the training, seek some good advice/coaching and work on your skills, you’ll show up on race day as prepared as you can be and you’ll have an amazing day out in a spectacular part of the country!