At the recent Sea Kayak Expedition Gathering we ran some Incident Management training sessions.
Here are a couple of videos showing some of the work we did with the RNLI.
Here are a couple of videos showing some of the work we did with the RNLI.
The ability to ‘trim’ a canoe appropriately is a fundamental skill for any canoeist who wishes to paddle efficiently. However, it can sometimes seem to be a bit of a ‘dark art’ as conflicting factors such as wind, direction of travel and flow of water all need to be balanced and trim adjusted accordingly. In this article, we’ll look at basic trim and how to use it.
What is Trim?
‘Trim’ simply refers to how level the boat sits in the water when viewed from the side. An empty boat will often sit level, and it is useful to think of this as a see-saw. If we put a weight into one end of the canoe, that end will sink lower and the other end will go up. If the weight is towards the back of the canoe we have trimmed the canoe ‘stern heavy (or ‘bow light’). If the weight is toward the front of the canoe we have trimmed ‘bow heavy’ (or ‘stern light’).
The weight can be people or kit and equipment. The important thing to remember is that as soon as we put weight into the canoe, we will almost certainly have changed the trim.
Why is Trim Important?
When we paddle, some of the canoe is submerged in the water. The rest of the canoe is exposed to the air. At any time water can either be still (for example when on a small lake) or moving (like on a river), and air can be still (no wind) or moving (windy).
Of the two ends, the end of the canoe which is deeper in the water will be affected more by the water. The end which is higher into the air will be affected more by the air.
Depending on how fast the wind and the water are moving, one or other will usually have a greater influence on the canoe. With appropriate trim, we can make use of this influence to help us steer towards our destination rather than get blown or washed off course.
We need to be careful not to ‘over trim’. Usually, we’ll be able to achieve what we want with one end just a few centimetres (an inch or two) higher than the other end.
On still water and with no wind, we want the canoe to glide over the water. To do this we can raise one end by just a few of centimetres (an inch or two) and point the high end towards where you want to go. I call this ‘standard trim’, because it is the trim I use 98% of the time. I’ll usually maintain this until either the influence of the wind or the influence of the water makes the canoe turn away from where I want it to go. I then ask myself, “is it the wind or the water which is influencing me most?”
The Influence of Wind
As the wind increases, as long as the boat goes where you want it to go in general terms we can maintain standard trim. At some point, you may find that the canoe starts going off course or is not as easy to control. This is usually because the wind is now the more significant factor and the high end is being blown down wind. When this happens, imagine which way you want the canoe to go. Then, with the canoe pointing in this direction, move the weight in small increments along the canoe towards where the wind is coming from (or towards the middle if the wind is coming from the side). You only need to adjust the trim just enough to counter any negative effects of the wind until the desired effect is achieved.
The Influence of Fast Moving Water
Again, start with standard trim. At some point, you may find that the canoe starts going off course. This is usually because the water is now the more significant factor and the low end is being pushed down stream. If this happens, imagine where you want the canoe to go and when pointing in this direction move the weight in the canoe towards where the water is going. Again, adjust the trim in small increments until the desired effect is achieved.
What about a Combination of Strong Winds and Fast Rivers?
If the wind is strong and the river is fast, they could still be of equal influence so try standard trim. However, if the canoe turns away from where you want it to go you may need to adjust trim. If the strong wind is having the greatest influence, move the weight towards where the wind is coming from. If the fast water is having the greatest influence, move the weight towards where the water is going.
As we become more skilful we can make trim adjustments more often –sometimes even changing trim several times within a particular manoeuvre. If our trim is well adjusted, we can use subtle body weight shifts forwards and backwards to ‘micro trim’ our canoes. For example, when we eddy out, we might be bow light as we approach the eddy line, then shift to bow heavy as we cross the eddy line. This will cause the bow to ‘dig in’ to the water in the eddy. The increased resistance will slow the front end down and the back end (now light) will skid sharply as is tries to overtake the bow and we should end up stalled nicely in the eddy.
Trimming the canoe can be thought of as a tactic we can use to make our journey easier. There are other tactics we can use which can help keep the boat pointing where we want it to. We can paddle on the left or the right, we can apply the stroke further forward or further back, we can make the canoe move faster or slower, we can tilt the canoe over more towards one side or the other. We can use different strokes and select different routes.
Often, to make the canoe perform at its best we need to apply a combination these tactics, and the exact combination will depend on the equipment we use, our skill level and the environment we are operating in.
One of the best ways to become skilful is to use as many different combinations in as many different environments as possible. And remember, appropriate trim makes a good starting point which can make any other adjustments even more useful. So if you are ever having trouble controlling your canoe, perhaps one of the first things to think about is trim.
Towlines are one of the most important pieces of kit when leading and coaching on the sea. I use a waist mounted line which gives me the flexibility to pass it on to other group members and keep me ‘out of the system’. As I frequently paddle different kayaks it is a system I can take from boat to boat too.
There are an increasing number of waist mounted sea kayak towlines available now, and the one I use is the Peak UK 15m line. One reason I like it is because of the large size of the bag and the opening, which makes re-packing in rough conditions so much easier. However, as with every line I’ve tried, there are a number of adaptions I make to an off-the-shelf line to make it even better for me.
The new line comes like this straight out of the packaging-Opening the bag reveals a stainless steel clip, and a float-Pulling the line out further reveals an extra clip which is used to capture a bight of line to secure a daisy chained section. The idea of this is so the length of the tow can be changed to make it shorter than the full 15m of line held in the bag.There’s also a short length of bungee on the rope where it’s tied into the bag, to provide some shock absorption. The bag itself also has a number of plastic D-rings on it, both inside the bag-…and outside-
So now to turn an already well designed towline into an even better piece of kit! One of the first things I do is strip the line down, removing the daisy chain clip, the float and attaching the main clip to the line by stitching and whipping the line-One reason for this is to make the line as ‘clean’ as possible (ie no knots or snagging hazards). I find that having a large float near the clip, and a bulky knot can prevent the line running under decklines efficiently and gets in the way when setting up some rafted tows and releasing the tow.
The next step is to saw a cut through each of the plastic D-rings-This means that I now have attachment points to house the clip when not in use. However, when I need quick access to the clip, a sharp tug pulls it through the split D-ring without having to fiddle around and unclip it.I also have a similar split ring on the front shoulder strap of my buoyancy aid. If I’ve used the towline and think I might need it again quickly, I’ll often coil it into my hand then stuff it down the front of my buoyancy aid with the clip attached to this split D-ring. Again, a sharp tug releases the clip and the line can be quickly deployed.
With the daisy chaining removed, I need to have a way to set up a short tow quickly. To do this, I slide a metal D-ring onto the belt.This captive ring can be used to set up a tow half the length of the tow rope. To do this, I pass the clip through the decklines of the boat to be towed and clip it onto the metal D-ring.And that’s it – I now have a clean line that’s easy to manage, quick to deploy, adjustable and ready to go! Make sure you start out with a great towline that’s well made and designed and it doesn’t take long to make the adaptions needed to give even more flexibility in use.
We all know that confident leadership can inspire the rest of the group and help canoeists and kayakers perform at their best – but what can we do to come across as being confident?
We need to be confident in our decisions, and confident in our instructions. We need to have clear aims and objectives, and communicate them effectively to the group. And there’s a simple way for us to achieve this – we can do what great leaders do and eliminate the word “try” from our vocabulary.
When we use the word “try”, we introduce the possibility of failure. We plant seeds of doubt in the minds of our group. And yet “try” is a word I so often hear when assessing leaders for their 4 or 5 star awards.
“We’ll try to get that eddy”, “I’ll try to hit the line”, We’ll try not to capsize” – these are all common phrases, but they don’t inspire confidence in either the leaders or the groups ability.
In fact, “try” does not exist in the real world. We either do something or we don’t – there is no try. Many people think of Winston Churchill when we think of great leadership. For him, trying didn’t exist either. Imagine the effect on the morale of the people if he’d broadcast this speech before our ‘finest hour’-
“we shall try to fight on the beaches,
we shall try to fight on the landing grounds,
we shall try to fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall try to fight in the hills;
we shall try not to surrender”.
-the effect’s not quite the same is it? It’s almost as if the word ‘try’ gives us permission to fail! So when you’re out paddling, let’s stop trying – let’s just “do”.
One way to remember and check you have covered everything is to use the acronym My ABCDE.
M.Y.A.B.C.D.E. stands for-
Me – Introduction and a bit about me.
You – Introductions from the group.
Area – the plan for the day, the water we will be on, and the ‘type’ of trip we will be undertaking.
Boats and kit – safety checks and also who has what kit and where.
Communication – how will we communicate, what signals will we use.
Doctor – an invitation for anyone to let me know any relevant medical needs and a reminder for people to carry any relevent medication.
Emergency – what to do if an incident occurs – a swim brief and what the rest of the group should do.
It’s a lot easier to learn something new than to re-learn something and overcome bad habits or inappropriate schema. Coaches know this, and students know this too, so the very mention of ‘re-learning’ means an uphill challenge before we even start coaching. So how can coaches use this to their advantage?
We can reframe the situation, and utilise the curiosity and eagerness our students possess. Instead of going through the long and painful process of re-learning, invite your students to learn how to do things in a different way.
It’s a lot easier to learn another way of achieving something – and it gives us more options!
Have you ever wondered how really good leaders make the right decisions? How do they know when to stop the group and put them in a safe place while they paddle something or scout ahead? How do they know when to stop the group and change strategy?
One thing they do is unconsciously monitor where they are placing their focus of attention.
Evidence suggests we can only focus our attention on one thing at a time. However, we can switch focus from one thing to another quickly, with practice. What we need to decide is how much of our time we should spend attending to any particular thing.
There are so many things we could attend to, and they can be put into three general categories-
Good leaders are paying attention to these three areas in different proportions, and these proportions will vary depending on the situation.
If a leader is well within their own comfort zone, their focus of attention may look something like this-
Focus of Attention
Now, imagine that the group arrive at a challenging piece of water. The Leader decides that he needs to pay more attention to the environment – perhaps 70% of his attention. But that means the very most he can attend to the group is 30%, perhaps not enough. So the leader stops the group, puts them in a safe place, and no longer has to worry about them while he pays attention to the environment and his own safety.
Now, perhaps the leader decides that the challenges ahead are within the capabilities of the group, but when actually paddling the leader will have to concentrate of his own performance and increase the focus of attention on himself to 50%. And he’ll need to adapt his performance within the environment, so the environment requires 40% attention. Again, that means that he cannot focus on keeping the group safe, so he decides to run the water one at a time with those not running it safely out of harms way.
So next time you’re out with your groups, have a think about how much attention you are paying to these different areas at different times and in different places. Calibrating this can be a useful way to know when it’s time to change strategy.
Research shows that those who set goals have a greater chance of being successful in their pursuits. Yet very few of us set personal goals about our canoeing and kayaking. Here’s one way of doing this simply and easily – using the benefit of hindsight.
Find a quiet place where you can spend just a few moments going through this simple exercise.
Imagine that you have travelled forward in time. It is New Year’s Eve on 31st December 2011, the end of another year and you are in a reflective mood. It’s time to look back on all you have achieved and the progress you have made in the year just past.
As you look back over 2011 you might like to reflect and ask yourself:
Imagine you could go back to the beginning of 2011, what advice would you give yourself that will help you make the best of this coming year?
Come back to the present moment, the beginning of this New Year and consider everything you have to look forward to.
In March 2011 Bruce Jolliffe will be travelling by sea kayak up the west coast of Scotland from Largs to Stornoway. In doing so, Bruce will be raising funds for a range of good causes. In particular, Bruce is raising funds for organisations involved in cancer care and the RNLI.
I met Bruce at his 5 Star Sea Kayak training in September this year.
You can find out more about Bruce’s plans and how to donate, by going to his webite West Coast Kayak Challenge.
Join me in wishing Bruce the very best of luck with this project.
‘Questioning’ is widely used by coaches and has many purposes. However, questioning needs to be used carefully. Poor use of questioning can be a bit like shooting in the dark. I use a model of questioning to allow students to recover information from autonomous (unconscious) actions and bring it into their conscious awareness. In this article, I will outline this model of questioning and give some practical examples.
This model of questioning is useful to us as it builds intrinsic feedback loops within our students, moves their performance up the improvement cycle from “unconscious competence” to “conscious uncompetence” (necessary to move from competence to mastery), allows us to coach skilled performers (who may be technically more competent than us) and encourages reflective practice by our athletes.
The model borrows techniques from Neuro Linguistic Programming, utilising aspects of “clean language” linguistic patterning. A sound understanding of this model of coaching will allow you to use a style which can unlock an athletes performance and take their learning to a new level.
What is Clean Language?
Clean Language is the use of questioning in a way that allows the athlete to explore their own experience and recover the detail of specific unconscious actions taken within their sport – be it to develop technique, tactics, strategy or mindset. This allows the athlete to develop a model of their own performance and once recovered, skillful athletes will often ‘self coach’ and identify ways to improve themselves without imput from the coach. It fits well within the current thinking and use of the ‘Fundamentals’ within paddle sport as it directs the athletes attention towards ‘feel’ with direct links to posture, connectivity and power transfer.
Aims and Objectives
The process starts with the athlete stating the intention to change some aspect of their performance in a beneficial way (goal setting and deliberate practice).
The next stage is for the coach to ask questions designed to allow the athlete to gather information and assemble a model of their performance. Very often, the athlete can provide a model of their behaviour in general/macro terms, and the quesions are used to recover the specific subtleties, actions and sensations which the athlete is unaware of at a micro level.
In their simplist form, the questions are designed to illicit information from the athlete about three things- a description of what they do, a sequence and order of event and a location of where things happen.
A description – We direct the attention of our athlete to a particular area and ask questions to allow the athlete to become more familiar with their actions by describing them.
The questions are -
“And x, and what kind of x is that x?”
“And x, and when x, x like what?”
A sequence – we direct our athletes attention to the order in which events take place. The questions are -
“And when x, what happens before x?”
“And when x, what happens next?”
A Location – we direct the attention of our athlete towards specific locations. The questions are -
“And when x, where is that x?”
“And when x, whereabout is x?”
There is no set order in which to ask these questions, and some time will be taken following leads and perhaps going down blind alleys. The aim is to gather enough information to allow the athlete to construct a detailed model, bringing information from their unconscious to conscious awareness. If the athlete does not know the answer to a question, you can ask them to go and find out.
Using the information
The information is now reviewed, examined, explored and probed for relevent connections and detail. The experience of the coach and the response of the athlete will help guide this process.
At some point within this process the athlete experiences the ‘lightbulb’ moment, and wonders how they ever missed something so obvious. This leads to an adjustment in the athletes model and the role of the coach is to now guide this adjustment and help explore how appropriate it is.
What is meant by ‘Clean’ Coaching?
The ‘clean’ aspects refers to the fact that the questioning directs the athletes attention within themselves and is not contaminated by presuppositions made by the coach. In all of the questions the first part (” And x, and when x…”), the x is the use of the athletes own words feeding back their own experience to them. This is particularly important as many people answer the questions using metaphor. Metaphor has particular meaning to an individual, and even a small change to this metaphor can change the experience considerably. If the coach uses their own words rather than those of the athlete they can ‘contaminate’ the athletes experience – using ‘dirty’ words!
For example, clean coaching would be ( ‘A’ denotes athletes words, ‘C’ the coach’s)-
A “I want to improve the wind up and my power stroke”
C ” The ‘wind up’, and when the ‘wind up’, that’s ‘wind up’ like what?” (seeking a description)
A “Like a coiled spring”
C “And when a ‘coiled spring’, whereabouts is that ‘coiled spring’?” (seeking a location)
A ” In my torso”
C “And when a ‘coiled spring’ in your ‘torso’, what happens next? (seeking a sequence)
A “I take a breath”
C ” And when you ‘take a breath’, then what happens?” (seeking a sequence)
A ” I drive out of the eddy”
C ” And when you ‘drive out of the eddy’, what happens just before you ‘drive out of the eddy’?” (seeking a sequence)
A “Uuuur, oh, I’m not sure….”
C “Ok – go and find out and come back when you know.”
After finding out
A “I feel for the paddle gripping the water”
C “And what kind of ‘feel’ is that ‘feel for the paddle’? (seeking a description)
A “It’s like a jerky check – I know, I need a more solid pull, I need to pull more steadily”
C “OK, let’s do some exercises to experiment with how to pull more steadily…”
So the athlete has ‘filled in the blanks’ and developed sufficient self awareness of their skill to be able to self coach and identify a useful change in their performance.
This style of questioning is particularly useful when coaching skilful performers who have the knowledge to decide how to change their performance. I am now increasingly using this model with cognitive learners too (relative beginners). I find that these people do not have the ‘eureka!’ moment, but the quesioning style develops feel within paddlers very early on in their learning.
For more information or training in how to use Clean Language please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.