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  • Kayaking at Level 1.

    June 8th, 2020

    Well done New Zealand!
    Today (8th June 2020) Government has reported that there are no active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. Because of this we will move to Level 1 at midnight tonight! That is a great achievement and the “Team of 5 Million” deserves a big pat on the back for pulling this off!

    The restrictions on group activities are now lifted, and life can essentially go back to normal. However, let’s be mindful that some fo us may be out of practice, so take it easy-don’t go throwing yourself at Class V because just because you were paddling like a legend at the end of the summer!

    Also, let’s try and make sure we learn from this pandemic experience:

    Play it safe.

    Be kind!

    The Government is still asking us to be mindful of washing hands, good hygiene, cough or sneeze into your elbow and try to keep a track of where you go and who you see (for clubs, pleas just keep a record of who goes on the club trips).

    Importantly, we all need to be conscious of helping to support local businesses who may have been economically hard hit by the lockdown. So, what can we do as kayakers? Get out there and go kayaking!!!! But it’s more than that-make sure that you stop for fish and chips on the way home or buy a new sprayskirt or a new throw-bag at your local kayaking shop!

    Thanks to everyone for playing their parts in this pandemic response.

  • A Quick Guide to River Safety

    June 7th, 2020

    A Quick Guide to River Safety 

    Our collective efforts during Alert Level 3 and 4 has enabled New Zealand to do what many other countries have failed to do and flatten the curve. With a move to Alert Level 2 and an easing of restrictions all of us now have the ability to return to the water!! We figured this is an opportune time to refresh some basic concepts of river safety.

    Unlike many other sports, white water kayaking does not conform to a rigid structure. Like the environment we are in, the risk assessment and analysis procedures we use must be dynamic and we must always be aware of the risks and react accordingly. The following information outlines some basic principles that can be applied to help minimise the risks.

    Principle 1

    This first principle is is incredibly useful in helping rescuers to remember that the first priority is to themselves then to their team, then the victim and lastly to equipment. People are always incredibly proud of their equipment they may have just bought the latest or shiniest boat/ paddle but it can always be replaced.

    Principle 2

    This principle is about encouraging rescuers to consider the risk to themselves when deciding on which strategy to use when undertaking a rescue. We have all seen Baywatch or Bondi Rescue and want to jump in the water and be the hero but there are a number of different options. Think about simple things first, like encouraging victims to swim to the shore or using a paddle or throw bag to reach them without getting anywhere near the water. The last resort should always be to enter the water and should only be done with sufficient knowledge.

    Rescuer in a good position with a rope and paddle at the ready.
    Photo credit: Kev England. Paddler Greg Nicks and safety by Dave Kwant. 

    Principle 3

    This principle works really well in the dynamic environment of a river, it is great resource for using on your local club river trip or out with a group of friends.

    Communication – Before any trip down the river all group members should agree signals in advance and should use the KISS Principle (Keep it Short and Simple)

    Line of Sight – On an ideal trip everyone within the group should be able to see each other and endeavour to keep it this way. Ideally every paddler should have two attainable eddies between themselves and the river going out of sight.

    Avoidance – This is always better than finding a solution to the problem, create an atmosphere within the group of mutual support. If you want to walk, walk!

    Position of Maximum Usefulness – When protecting a rapid, paddlers should position themselves so as to cover the highest risk. This usually means covering the problems that are most likely to occur, rather than the most dangerous hazard.

    When whitewater kayaking there will always be the potential for something to go wrong, we recommend that you always paddle with a strong team and that you keep your rescue skills sharp by practicing them regularly.

    These safety and rescue articles are put together by Matt McKnight.
    Matt is professional canoe slalom coach and a keen whitewater paddler. 
    Keep an eye out for the final article in this series – looking at gear and mechanical advantage systems.

  • Fitness for Kayaking – Developing the ABC’s of Movement

    May 11th, 2020

    Our collective efforts during the Alert Level 4 Lockdown period have led to some easing of restrictions. For lucky paddlers they have been able to get their white water fix since moving to Alert Level 3 but for many this will only occur after the shift to Alert Level 2.

    Continuing on from our previous post which focused on improving core strength and stability this week we will be focusing on developing the ABC’s of movement which are Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination.

    Why do I want to develop my Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination?

    Research has shown that the athletic ability of any individual is based on their foundational development of their Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination. These three things are the cornerstones of athletic development and physical literacy. If we want to do anything from catch a ball to run our local river with style we have to develop the basics to do so.

    Photo of Tutea Falls on the Kaituna River by Mike Robertson. Showing all of the ABC’s in action.

    What does Agility, Balance and Co-Ordination mean?

    Agility is defined as the ability to move in multiple directions at speed. To be able to change direction and also having the ability to accelerate and decelerate as quickly and efficiently as possible. We know as a white water kayakers that when moving from one place to another we need to be agile. The stop, start and change of direction for the body is critical for paddlers to move into different positions. This could be going from a bow rudder into a forward paddle stroke, from stern rudder into draw. The ability to stop moving to hold position and then move again is critical for us to be agile.

    Balance is defined as the ability to control your body in its own space. We could go more scientific, but for me, it’s better to keep things simple. When on a river being able manage your balance while paddling will undoubtedly aid you in your development, as the water changes we need to be able to stay upright whilst being able to move through a range of movements. By being able to change how we sit then we can work to have our centre of gravity over the base or by use of the paddle or more importantly using the stability that we get from moving and by adding in positive connection points we maintain our balance throughout a manoeuvre.

    Coordination is when all parts of the body are in agreement to perform a skill or a task. We are continually using multiple parts of our body to help achieve / maintain our balance. Think back to the critical move that you must make on your local river and how you must coordinate upper and lower body movements. If these movements are correctly coordinated with the necessary agility then we can maintain our balance and will normally have a successful outcome.

    How can we develop our ABC’s?

    This may all seem very complicated and you mightn’t be sure exactly what how you can develop it but it is pretty easy. It doesn’t matter whether you are a young up and coming white water kayaker or seasoned pro you can still work on developing these skills following the programme below:

    Start out with a gentle run for about 5-10 minutes to get yourself warmed up:

    Sled Pull

    Push Up



    Single Leg Deadlift

    Medicine Ball Rotations

    To complete these exercises you don’t need any fancy equipment, instead of using a sled just hook your kayak up to a throw rope and drag it across your garden and if you don’t have a medicine ball a stone will work just as well just throw it across your garden instead of against a wall.

    How many how long?

    Depending on your level of base fitness you may want to start off slow aiming to complete around 6-10 repetitions of each exercise or between 20-30 seconds and aim for 1-3 rounds depending on how it feels.

    Once you start to feel more comfortable with the circuit you can start increase the reps by 2-4 of each exercise or increase the length by 10-20 seconds or aim to complete more rounds.

    You want to try and complete this circuit anywhere from 1-3 times per week to really try and improve your agility, balance and co-ordination for when it is time to get back in a boat!

    Make sure to check in next week when we will be releasing an article looking at how you can brush up on your safety skills during this Lockdown.

    These paddling fitness articles have been put together by Matt McKnight, Matt is professional Canoe Slalom coach and a keen whitewater paddler. 


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