Ideas to Spice things up in 2016


Happy 2016! As we start the New Year with resolutions to eat less junk food or run three times a week, we can also focus on different resolutions that will help improve our kayaking. Goals aren’t just for life maintenance or careers, but can also help us become better kayakers or find new passions. By getting out of our comfort zones we push ourselves to our limits, and a lot of the time find those limits are not what we thought they were. We surprise ourselves by trying new things.

This year, try some new disciplines or types of paddling and find out where your limits truly are.

  • Attainments: Paddling upstream not only builds muscle, but also helps you learn how to read whitewater water and use it to get where you want to go. Find a stretch of class I-II whitewater and paddle upstream. Use eddies to take breaks and scout your next move. By hopping upstream from eddy to eddy, you improve your boat scouting skills, water-reading skills, and learn how to use current to your advantage.


  • Slalom: Find a plastic slalom boat and some gates and practice your river running skills in a high-speed environment. Slalom will help you with rotation, looking where you want to go, bracing, quick eddy turns, peel outs and S-turns, and boat control. Take your river running skills to the next level by getting in a slalom boat.
  • Flat-water workouts: A long boat on a lake is a great way to end a long day in the office. Paddling on flat-water is a great opportunity to focus on technique, such as body rotation or blade angles. Bonus points if the lake has a gorgeous sunset view.


  • Playboating: A lot of creek boaters don’t like to playboat, and this is a real shame. Playboating will increase your comfort level in and around holes, and help dial in your roll under pressure. By spending time just surfing and flipping in holes, you will improve your head game the next time you are on a river or creek with significant holes. You can learn how to react to the hole and have a plan instead of simply reacting when you miss a boof and wind up surfing.

If you are looking to step up your kayaking or just find a new way to enjoy the sport this year, try a new discipline. Local slalom or racing clubs like the Nantahala Racing Club sometimes have plastic slalom boats you can try. Flat-water workouts and attainments are easily done in a town with a nice river, and can be a good way to help the workweek go by a little faster. Playboating is much more enjoyable in the summer, when its warm enough you look forward to flipping.

Whichever you decide to try, make 2016 a year of exploration and pushing limits!

The multi talented Annabell Plush is a contributing writer for Canoe & Kayak magazine, a kayak instructor at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and the owner of the blog, The Shoestring Vegan which chronicles her love for kayaking, traveling and writing.