Waking on to the sounds of the river, I rush through breakfast and chores and chug coffee as I type because it’s almost time for 1st period – and I’m teaching it! I’ve been in Canada less than a week and already I’ve not only pushed the skills of 20 up and coming kayakers, but also pushed my own skills as a paddler and coach as well. Why? Because the ‘students’ are already primed and ready for new experiences because Stephen Wright, Nick Troutman, Eric Jackson, Joel Kowalski and others have scared the fear right out of them! We’re based on the Ottawa river where the warm water and strange lack of wood and undercuts lets us get REALLY aggressive with out methods – if you aren’t crashing you aren’t trying hard enough is the motto here and the coaches are more than willing to demonstrate.
To start things off every day we get to launch a 40′ ramp into the eddy – and ‘don’t do nothing’ is the rule. Since landing on your head is safer than landing flat (which hurts the lower back) we have kids who just learned to roll attempting airscrews and freewheels …complete with coaching on technique and lots of examples… Then after extensive warm-up and lots of flatwater drills (with 4 coaches) we choose between Corner Wave, Baby-face, Phil’s Hole, and LEft side for some freestyle action. As a coach, overcoming people’s fear is generally one of the most time consuming, energy sucking part of the day and here at Keenerville it’s no exception. The difference is that here it’s an understandable fear because we are doing big scary stuff!
For example, yesterday we sent the entire group of 20 kids into a narrow channel – and they all went under a log! OK, so I knew the log was there. Actually I put it there Stephen Wright must have been bored from making kids surf nasty pourovers, swim big boily rapids, or handpaddle in whirlpools because he had me intentionally insert a log into ‘the death channel’ and coach the kids on how to get under and over it. Coaches hold the log in place and can remove it at any minute but it’s the first training of this kind I’ve ever heard of and surprising how fast they kids catch on to challenge – and the danger – logs in rivers present. I can’t lie, the best part was watching the mistakes because it was just an incredibly unique learning experience to have so many probes willing to challenge a strainer – even when they knew they would be going under it next round if they made it this time.
Today we’re practicing our extreme racing, so we’re plotting a course where everyone can finish but the kids who want to win might swim… This is the best challenge a coach can ask for and it’s no wonder so many Keeners become great kayakers and how many Keener Coaches get to be some of the best at that as well.
Signing off – time to start class…