Humbled by 11 year old boys


After an amazing couple of days in the desert of Cochise, Arizona where we put on our annual Thanksgiving Retreat; Jason, Daniel, Paul and myself headed to SanDiego to wash off the desert dust and get some paddling time in.  

For the last couple of days we've been paddling double surf skis twice each day in an effort to sync up as a team and hone in on our skills. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until our  paddling coach, former Olympian Chris Barlow, invited us to join in on  the 4 o 'clock workout session where there would be about 30 kids between the ages of 7- 16.  Barlow paired us up with Evan and Noah, an 11 year old and a 13 year old  saying,  " hopefully you won't fall to far behind these two.  If you do we can  pair you up with the 8 year old girls..."

The workout:  10 x 4 minute intervals with a minute rest inbetween. While Evan and Noah didn't totally smoke us, they had us working pretty hard to barely keep pace with them. To make ourselves feel better we kid to ourselves that  they must be national champions. Turns out we were not far off.  The duo had just come back from competing in the National Championships the week before, earning two podium spots with 2nd and 3rd place finishes. 

Collectively, the age of the two boys was not even that of our youngest team member (Paul) yet their total years of paddling experience was more than double all four of ours put together.   It was humbling, awesome and hilarious all at the same time to be getting worked by kids half our size and age! 

On our final all out sprint, Paul and I were sure our power and endurance would triumph over techniqie, but as we crossed the line we were nearly a boat length behind.  At least both boys were breathing a little hard...

The next morning we got up for our paddling lesson with Chris still freshly inspired by the boys, and excited  to hone in on our technique!  For the first hour we talked and drilled our paddle stroke on land, then he put us in double Epic surf skis ($5000 race boats).  After being in older leaky surf skis for the previous couple of days, these felt like smooth creamy butter!  We did another 4 x 10 workout with him shouting out reminders, "Open up your chest, twist from the hips, drive with the legs."   

He kept pace with us in a single, continually reminding each of us to work on our individual challenges - 

"Jason, keep your hand at eye level"

"Paul, snap the stroke out earlier"

"Dan, sit up tall and lean forward"

"Chelsey, breathe..."

Although we still have so much to learn, it was fantastic to see some of the techniques we've been training sporadically over these last few years finally start to make sense.  

Back on land, Chris gave a demonstration on the kayak ergometer, showing how the fusion of power, cadence, and proper technique can combine to create olympic level performance.  It was awe-inspiring. Maybe if we practice alot, next year he will put us next to the 14 year old girls....