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Here are 8 qualities for whitewater kayaking, hope it can give you ideas to try new things !


Eyes are leading your boat. The look should be looking forward to the line ahead of you, focused yet mobile. If you don’t look where you want to go, you will probably never make it there. If you fix all your attention in one place you might very naturally get lost before or after.

Here are some ideas to practice : close your eyes and visualize the rapid in your head before running it ; if you have a camera look at yourself and compare where you think you were and where you actually went ; give yourself some checkpoints on the river and hit them ; look where you want to go next, like on top of a drop you are already looking through the exit. Out of the kayak you may also train your pure vision by relaxing your eyes while covering them with your palm and visualizing black color and empty mind, or find out more about eyes training/ yoga (Bates method).


A correct posture in the kayak gives you stability. All efforts can then be concentrated into making an ideally fast, clean, fun and beautiful line. It also prevents from injuries of overloading some small desesperate muscles instead of generating strength from strong muscles of the core and transmitting it through efficiently.

8 whitewater qualities

The position inside the boat should be strong yet without tension. You want your back straigth, no rounded shoulders. The upper body is without weight, lifted. And the hips are connecting it all, the body to the boat. The neutral position is with shoulders slightly forward your hips, ready to navigate forward with anticipation and not backward in fear. The center of gravity is centered above the hips.

Here are some ideas to practice : look at other people and film yourself, you will see easily obvious mistakes in your body position ; running and cross country skiing or skating are good to make you use your core strength and deal with motion ; as warm up kayaking with closed eyes gives immediate feedback on your body positions and motions when brain becomes free from the often overwhelming sense of vision ; I also like to tell myself in my head that I am flying in my boat not falling – this gives me the rigth perspective ; at home you can sit on a ball and make the paddle motion while holding balance with your hips ; yoga finally give you better body awarness, coordination and flexibility, I like to do sun salutation every morning and yoga at the wall in evenings, and once in a while do some complete stretching sessions, this give me awareness on what part of my body are the most tensed. Having a right posture is healthy and can be trained out of kayaking – by seating well and straight at work or in the car, and keep your shoulder blades low and close to each others. Having the right initial posture in the kayak allows correct transmission and use of your full core power not only arms.


8 whitewater qualities

The sensation of speed, glide and acceleration is an addictive part of kayaking down rivers. And speed is not only fun, it is necessary- if you are too fast or too slow you will never make it where you want, speed is not rush! The speed of your kayak should match the speed of the river, and timing of strokes must be right. The goal is not to bring water back with your paddle but send the boat ahead. So here are some ideas to practice: try to push your boat forward, first on flat water and then on the river,  where you need to time your stroke too; train real speed, then stop and wait ; never hesitate ; try to go as fast and as slow as it goes, this will make you understand what is the necessary and ideal speed required for the move; try to get speed out of eddy, dont let yourself glide but wait for the moment and get your speed further in the next direction.


8 whitewater qualities

Social skills are important, like anywhere. It is fantastic in our sport that we meet so many different persons. It is so simple, be a good person to go kayaking with. Respect yourself and others, and give yourself the chance to learn from everyone. It is not always easy, but it is always worth it. And you never learn alone as much as you do together with the right persons, even if sometimes your ego may suffer. It is interesting to place yourself in different positions in teams, sometimes as a leader, sometimes as a member, sometimes as a follower with locals. Being aware of the other people is needed for everyone safety. Being aware of how other people make you feel is important too and teaches you about yourself, what you actually like and don’t like.  And then before you know it some random dudes and dudettes you runned into and shared some time with on the river become trusted fellows.

6 – REST

The resting time is the time when you memorize what you have learned in a learning period, it is a necessary part of training. Once you master a move, being physically and mentally rested allows you to be able to perform. Sometimes I was so happy and excited about next day that I wouldn’t be able to sleep much, I rarely perform at my best then! It may be a good idea to try different things and identify what relaxes you most : taking time to eat some good food, see people that give you positive energy, be alone, switch to a different environment, listen to music, have a hobby, go for a walk, doing nothing. During kayaking you should stop when you can’t focus any longer, and start repeating mistakes you normally dont make. It is then time to do some recuperation routines, watch for other people and take a break. How demanding is the task defines how long you can hold, you can be explosive for 10 seconds, full on for less than a minute, solid for up to 20 min. On longer trips it can be nice to alternate focused moment and relaxed one when you enjoy floating and looking around, playing and chilling with the crew.


It is important to know yourself. Even if you dont want to be world champion, you probably dont want either to repeat eternally the same mistakes, and to forget the good things.

Writing is a good way to formulate things that would otherwise stay blurred in your mind, and realize what you learn as well as what affect you. It is also a good way to follow up what you did when you look back in time. First I was writing about rivers, how the rapids look like, then I wrote about what I learn in kayaking technic, now I like to write a daily journal of few lines with what I did, and the best and the worst thing of the day.

I like the idea of river kayaking as a positive circle, you feel good, you become better, it makes you feel good, etc. But sometimes I face moments of doubts. Then it helps to not take myself too seriously. Instead of being annoyed, I smile and play it as a game, curious about how it will evolve, and thinking as well as asking around how to proceed.

And finally, sometimes when it just doesn’t work and it is hard to carry – when I can’t make the perfect line and when I can’t get along with some people I let the dark thoughts pass without letting them overtake my behaviour, and I wait for better time to come.

And then ideally you know what you want, and what you can do. And from there you can make safe decisions on the river, and ask to get the help you need to improve in your weaknesses.


Practice safety once in a while with your buddies. Safety is also part of every trip by staying aware, have right equipment and make necessary decisions.

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Practice is everything so discover what works for yourself, and find people to padle with. Good luck.
Thanks for reading !