Paddling Life Lessons - Downwind paddling
Words & pics Dawid Mocke
Downwind paddling is unique. Despite similarities, surfskis are the only kayaks that you can paddle in any water and in any conditions; and nowhere is this best displayed than when doing downwind paddling. It’s what surfskis are designed for.
As the name suggests, in downwind paddling you paddle in the same direction the wind is blowing. By paddling hard, at exactly the right moments, you can surf on top and down the front of wind generated waves and swells.
It’s like an open water roller coaster. The feeling of being hurtled along the face of the waves, in wild, open water, sometimes miles from shore, is absolutely exhilarating. And, you go fast! Faster than on any other paddling craft. It’s the fastest you can go with a paddle in your hand!
Needless to say, downwind paddling doesn’t come naturally. It requires hours of focused practice. If you attempt downwind paddling without the necessary abilities you will NOT be exhilarated! You will be terrified, or, in the very least, tremendously frustrated. Obviously, it can also be extremely dangerous.
So how do you do it?
To a novice, the water’s windswept surface looks like a complete mess. It’s just peaks and troughs, white water and relentless chop. But then you learn what to do, you surf your first swell, and the magic happens.
First: Paddle forward. To catch a swell you need forward momentum. It sounds obvious, but for most, this is the first obstacle to overcome.
Second: Look ahead, not behind. Waves have peaks and troughs, high points and low points, and you are trying to find the trough that’s nearest, and in front of you. That indicates that there is a swell coming up that you can catch. Point the nose of your surfski into the trough.
Third: Paddle hard, paddle early. If you hesitate for just a second, it will pass before you get up to speed.
Fourth: Use your momentum. By catching one swell you greatly increase your ability to catch another one using your speed. Keep looking ahead and use your speed to the next trough.
Finally: Stay focussed. There is so much choppy water around you, it’s easy to look at the swells you aren’t catching, or would like to catch. You lose focus and lose out on the one right in front of you.
Perhaps in your business (or personally) you are in a wild, windswept stretch of open water, miles from shore. It may look like a complete mess: terrifying, frustrating, perhaps dangerous. However, from the eyes of a skilled downwind paddler with each swell is not a challenge but rather a potential opportunity! What are you going to do?
First: Get moving. Don’t mope about, you need forward momentum. I once thought the chances of following my paddling passion professionally were non-existent, but I decided to just start. The Surfski school was the result and 14 years later it’s still going strong.
Second: Look ahead, not behind. Your best opportunities are the ones that are right in front of you. Don’t look to the past, rather use it to focus on what’s next.
Third: Commit – “Paddle hard”. You won’t catch the opportunity unless you commit to catching it. When we first designed the MOCKE lifejacket it took a firm investment to get it off the ground. I’m so glad we did it.
Fourth: Use your momentum. There is a business proverb: “Staying ahead of the curve”. It means continually being prepared and ready to take opportunity that comes your way.
Finally: Stay focused. As we get better at navigating our windswept waters, we can lose focus right in front of us, and begin to look to other swells, that, while still in the realm of possibility, steal our focus. We end up losing the swells we were on.
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