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Paddling Life Lessons – Remember Your Rudder

Paddling Life Lessons – Remember Your Rudder

Nov 2015

Words Dawid Mocke, pics Owen Middleton and supplied

What life lesson can we learn from the rudder of a kayak or surfski? Turns out our values are also our steering.

Remember your Rudder.

One of the first things I teach new paddlers is the rudder and how it works.  It’s important because the rudder is not only used to steer your boat, it also gives you directional stability.  You use the rudder to make your kayak or surfski turn to the left or right, and once it’s turned, the rudder helps to maintain direction.  Once you’ve turned, you can keep going that way.

Anyone that’s paddled a rudderless kayak knows how hard it is to paddle straight.  You are continuously correcting your course while paddling.  It’s intensely frustrating and very slow!  Without a rudder you paddle in circles and it’s very hard to go where you want (or need) to go. You most certainly can’t ride waves or paddle downwind.  And did I mention being slow!

A rudder takes some getting used to, but once you’ve learnt how, it becomes second nature and you don’t think about it at all. Now you can focus all your energy on paddling hard, allowing the rudder to do its directional work.

But there’s one problem.  Rudders get snagged, bent or broken, and when that happens your paddling trip becomes a misery.  A rudder that has snagged some plastic, a fishing line or some kelp creates intense resistance, slowing you down.  A bent rudder keeps pulling you to one side or making you unstable.  And a rudder that is broken off is useless; you have zero steering ability.

This can happen when paddling into shallow water, over rocks, near fishing lines or not taking precautions like sticking a weed deflector in front of the rudder. Ironically, the reason a rudder gets snagged, bent or broken is almost always the fault of the paddler.

Here is an interesting fact:  in my career as a professional paddler, in every race I’ve ever competed in, at least one of the other competitors has experienced rudder issues.  It’s that common. It happens to everyone, including myself…and more than once!

Life Lesson?

Our rudder in life is our system of values.  We use that system when we need to make “left” or “right” decisions and it helps us maintain consistent direction.  It also helps us to turn around when we realise that we’ve gone the wrong way!

As there are many types of rudders for varying conditions, people’s values also differ.  This is reflected in the decisions they make and how they live.  There is a diverse range of values, neither wrong nor right, but there is one set of values, which, despite beliefs, I think everyone can agree with.  Paul writes in Galatians 5:22 that the fruit of the spirit is:  “Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control”. And caps it brilliantly:  “Against such things there is no law”.

I agree with him.  Who would argue against a set of values like that?

Rudder Problems?

Perhaps your rudder has got snagged on jealousy, bent on rage or broken on selfish ambition?  Or maybe some other vice is making your rudder directionally un-stable? Perhaps you took a wrong turn and where you’re paddling now is not good?  I urge you to centre on a set of values, a rudder, which will steer you to your ultimate purpose and set you on the right course.

Dawid Mocke is a world champion paddler from Fish Hoek, South Africa.  He has represented his country in many paddling disciplines, but it is in the daring world of Open Ocean Surfski paddling where he has set himself apart, not only as a World Champion, but also as an entrepreneur, leader and mentor.

Dawid’s enthusiastic storytelling highlights pertinent and relevant life lessons relating to finding purpose in one’s work.  He sincerely and candidly shares his most terrifying moments on the ocean, and regales with relevance his most exhilarating victories and losses and the valuable lessons they have taught him.

Contact [email protected] if you would like to have Dawid share and motivate at your company or with your team, and perhaps even take them paddling.

Source: Mocke Paddling

Mocke Paddling