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November 15, 2004

Greg Runyon (a.k.a. “Mad Scientist”)- contacted
me about 20 times this spring and summer to attempt to organize a clinic
with me for the CCC. My answers to him on each request, is “yes,
I would like to do one, but no, I can’t give you a date.”
If you look at my calendar since April, you will realize that I haven’t
had a free weekend yet. Finally, on Greg’s last attempt at securing
a date, we settled on November 13-14th. This is getting late in the season,
but here in the Southeast, the weather this time of year is usually quite
nice. Greg organized everything, beyond me showing up. He made a list
of interested people, broke them down into groups by the subjects they
were interested in, and collected the money for the clinics. At the end
of the day we had 22 people for four, four hour clinics. Saturday 8:30am
to 12:30 pm, and 1:30pm to 5:30pm. We did the same on Sunday. The four
clinics were: EJ’s Playboating Basics (yes, like the DVD), Whitewater
Kayaking/ Strokes and Concepts, a second Playboating Basics, and finally
an Advanced Playboating.

In the Playboating Basics class in the Morning I had
one student, Bridget, who I called Dominique during most of the class,
I hope she wasn’t too bummed out from that! We focused on getting
the boat vertical in every way possible. On the bow, stern, by endering,
double pump, squirting, plowing enders, etc. We also worked on rolling
and bracing, and some strokes and concepts as they apply to playboating.
Greg was in this clinic and planned on doing the afternoon class as well,
but ran out of steam. Ben, the chemical engineer designing some of the
world’s most advanced medicines, by inserting genes into Chinese
rat ovaries to produce proteins to cure such diseases as MS, and cancer
was also there. Ben is about 50 and has one speed, full speed. It was
funny trying to get him to do strokes slowly when learning. If you were
to take him golfing, I’ll bet he would do great off the tee, then
when within 100 yards he would continue to hit his driver with a full
swing, never able to get himself to slow down and put. Pretty cool issue
to have with a guy his age. Leslie was in the morning class and was the
sleeper. She pretended to be a little wimpy in the beginning, but by the
time the afternoon class came around, she was back for another 4 hours!
She also went from eddy flower to leader when going from the first to
the second class, very cool. (of course she switched to a Fun for the
second class, inspiring both comfort and confidence). Finally, Jim Farthing,
my biggest fan (winner of the first person to buy my playboating DVD’s,
and owner of every EJ instructional piece I have) was in the morning class,
with his lovely support crew, Catherine cheering him on. I must admit,
I was very proud watching Jim show off the skills he has learned with
my Rolling and Bracing DVD, as well as Strokes and Concepts. He definitely
was the rolling king of that class.

The weekend continued on like this with a great group
of individuals making up what appears to be a great club, the CCC. I understand
that they have 800 members which means that they are doing something right!
I have also been told by numerous students in my clinics that they are
hanging on to old outdated ideas about rolling and bracing, and other
skills so key to the kayaking experience. I was even told that if you
didn’t “conform” to the way it has always been done,
more often than not you would be told that you are doing it wrong and
need to come back to they way things were. This is not uncommon among
any kayaking group, including schools, clubs, or a group of instructors
that have been teaching long enough to span the evolution of whitewater
kayaking. The most important thing for any kayaker to know, is that most
skills taught by most organizaions, including certification programs,
teach the skills like a religion. “This is how it is, I believe
strongly in it, and that is how you should learn it.” The best way
to grow and not find yourself as an example of how people used to do it
before we found a better way, is to treat every kayaking skill as an evolving,
improving entity that is still less than ideal. This way you will have
an open mind and be more likely to only except instruction from anybody
that can be proven and compared in a factual way. I learned this lesson
the hard way in 1992. I was on the US Olympic Team for Barcelona and was
at a training camp at the Olympic Course in March of ’92. We were
doing video review of a workout. Scott Shipley was trying to convince
our coach Bill Endicott that his way of doing an upstream gate was better
than the “status quo” the way I did it. We did video review
and my upstream gate was faster by .2 seconds. I had John Lugbil and Bill
Endicott on my side and we all said, “see, EJ’s way (standard
accepted way) was faster. I never looked back at Scott’s way after
that and was smug in my “belief” that also shared by others,
was better, because I had an example to prove it. Well, I was also the
top American in that Olympic games in kayaking beating Scott and Rich
and that pretty much secured my “belief”. One year later,
Scott beat me all season, using his newly developed upstream technique
that he had perfected over the winter and was faster than more efficient
that the status quo. Scott went on to win the World Cup that season. This
was a wake up call and a good slap in the face for me. I immediately became
a student of the sport again, no longer taking any “accepted”
technique as the right way to do it, but instead questioning every technique
ever dictated to me from coaches, from instructors, from books and videos.
What I learned is that my paddling went from a fun recreational and sporting
activity to a dynamic exciting adventure and development project. Imagine
if the medical industry accepted what was once a great breakthrough as
the accepted treatment and stopped trying to prove a better way? Ben from
my clinic says that in 5 years Chemotherapy will go the way of a hole
drilled in your head and be the bad joke of the medical industry. (yes,
many people have lived because of taking poison that killed the cancer
before killing them, but not exactly a great solution). I started developing
my “EJ’s Strokes and Concepts” program in 1993. It has
been developing each year since then and the evolution of the kayak has
made the program the only one that currently factors in kayaks that are
under 13’ long properly. Rolling and bracing is so far advanced
over what was once taught that I can’t tell you just how much of
a factor the “old guard” has on holding the sport back for
individuals who just want to learn to roll confidently so that they can
enjoy their day on the river. OK, so this is off topic, sorry, but not
really. Of course, the question remains, “Hey, EJ, who made you
the expert to tell everybody else what is right or wrong?” The good
news is that I don’t pretend to know what is truly right or wrong,
only that I know what is the currently the most effective techniques as
of 2004. I can only promise that I will try to stay current and learn,
if not develop, the latest techniques that will make a beginner’s
entry into the sport easier and more fun, as well as the advanced boaters
progress. Who knows more about the best method of treating MS or cancer-
the best hospital in your state, or Ben or Greg, from my clinic who have
already developed treatments that replace the “accepted tried and
true, and the ones known by the average doctor”. I bet on progress,
even if it isn’t available to the public yet.

This has been my number one secret to success as an
athlete in the sport. Why try to learn a new move invented by somebody
else when you can be a step ahead of the competition by inventing the
moves yourself. (of course, I have to learn other’s moves too, because
there are lots of inventive boaters out there) I have applied this to
my strokes and concepts, my rolling and bracing, my river running, and
my playboating.

Alright- enough about this. The rest of the clinic
went great and I made lots of new friends in people like Milton who has
“never gotten vertical intentionally” and did. Knut from Germany,
now in the USA who did some great boating.

I am off with Kristine





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Demonstrating the cartwhee

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