It has been 3 weeks since I flew into Barcelona with my slalom kayak. Dag Sandvik (NOR) and myself stay with team Portugal in a nice appartment, and share training sessions with them. It is great for us to have good examples on the course – so I guess they are getting the worse end of this deal!
The course in La Seu d´Urgell is cool – I really like it because of its fast water and tricky eddies. Now, there is also a flatwater course and a natural course in the nearby town of Arfa that I spend half the sessions on. Obviously my primary goal is to improve my technique, and to eventually get faster also in competitions.
We average 22 hours of training pr. week, and the first two weeks I was struggling. Constantly sore, without energy and feeling very tired. This week is better though, and I can feel that I can pull more on my paddle. My up-streams are in general better as well, but I am still not paddling properly down the course – too much to think about still. Gates, angles, speed, anticipation, trajectory etc etc…
This weekend we have two races here in La Seu and my goal is simply to try and stay clean. We will see. After that I still have 1.5 weeks of training left before I head back to Norway and plan the rest of the season. I will also do a World Cup ranking race in Ivrea, and one in Merano (Italy), and hopefully I get to race the Worlds in London in September. We will see.
Now, if you are a whitewater kayaker like me, wanting to get into slalom for the fun of it, here are five things to think about right away:
1. Anticipation is key. Always, always turn your boat before the gate, and turn it according to the following gate. To be late for the next gate in slalom paddling is like missing the last eddy when creeking. (minus the consequences except from a bruised ego)
2. Forget about the fancy pivot turns through the upstream gates. Only the good ones do that, and believe me, it will take a while to get good. Instead you better focus on keeping the boat flat and smooth through the upstream gate.
3. Slowly into the gate, fast out of the gate. This is the drill my coach is trying to hammer into my head. Slow down to get the timing and strokes right, give yourself enough space in the gate to be able to paddle out of it close to the exit pole, and with enough room to pull proper strokes.
4. Avoid back strokes! I am still at the point where I need to sometimes pull a brake stroke to correct the angle of my kayak – which again usually comes from being a bit behind through or before the gate. BUT – try do drive the kayak forwards, always forwards.
5. Do not give up! Switching from the freedom of the river to a course full of gates that require precision and drive is not easy. Even when you think you will never stop hitting those gates, remember that it is all for fun and personal gain. Take a break – re-assess your errors and challenges on the slalom course, then keep on trying. Even if you do not notice it yourself – you are getting better. Promise.
And most importantly: Have fun!