Let’s Get It Straight

Getting to where you want to go can be difficult. And getting there in the most direct way is also challenging.

What you will notice when you standup paddle, especially as a new paddler, is that your board will not track in a perfectly straight line as you paddle. With each stroke, the nose of your board will drift away from the target, and the more you paddle on one side, the more you will see the nose of the board shift slightly away from the side you are paddling on.

For example, with repeated paddle strokes on your left side, the nose of the board will move a little to the right with every stroke. As you get up to six, seven, eight strokes, your board will no longer be pointing directly where you want to go, but to the right of it. Sometimes the leeway is imperceptible, but it is happening, and you will have to shift to the right in order to stay on target. Of course, when you start paddling on the right, your board will begin shifting left with every stroke. And on and on it goes. So, instead of heading in a straight line toward your destination, you zig and zag along your way.

If you can minimize the zigging and zagging, and paddle straighter, you will shorten your distance to the destination, and you will get where you want faster. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help with this ever-present problem. One is modifying your fin setup, which can your help your board track straighter, and minimize the leeward movement caused by your paddling.

But another more fundamental step you can take is to make sure your paddle enters the water vertically. In other words, if your paddle is entering the water at an angle, and the shaft of your paddle is not straight up and down when you plant it in the water, your paddling will not be as efficient. See the amazingly detailed, and I must say, Picasso-like sketches below.

As you can see with picture on the left, if you are paddling on your right, but the shaft is at a 45 degree angle as you paddle, you will be forcing the nose more to the left as you go. On the other hand, if you paddle like the odd-looking two-fingered person in the drawing on the right, who had the sense to keep the paddle shaft vertical when he planted it in the water, you will paddle straighter.

Paddling straight is not easy. In order to keep the shaft vertical, you have to lean to the side you are paddling on, past the width of your board, with sufficient distance to permit your body to plant the paddle straight into the water. You have to really lean over which is not easy, and bend at the waist and reach out with the paddle, which disrupts your balance. It takes balance and strength and much practice. But when this approach is mastered through repetition, you get stronger, the paddling becomes more efficient, and you get faster.

As you have probably gathered, paddling is a lot like life. First, you have to know where you’re going. As they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, then any path will take you.

So, the first thing to do is to get absolutely crystal clear on where you are going. Do not think generally about some vague notion of success you want to reach someday. Instead, focus like a laser on a specific goal you want to reach. E.g., I am going to run a marathon by X date, or I am going to save $50,000 by December 2021, or I am going to win the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest next year. Once you have that specific goal in mind, write it down and look at it every day. Once you do that, you’re halfway to your goal.

Once you know where you want to end up, you can start thinking about how to get there without getting sidetracked. You will need to strengthen the daily habits which are most likely to get you there. Taking our example above, if your goal is to run that marathon, well, you better strap on the shoes and start training for it three or four months ahead of time. Get a calendar and write out every single one of the training runs on your calendar. You now have a plan to follow. Protect those little steps toward the goal as being as important as the ultimate goal itself. When you do not want to run, fucking do it anyway!

It is those repetitive strokes that get you to your destination. Lean in to those little actions you deem most productive to the ultimate prize. Do not get side-tracked from your goal. Do not zig and zag all over the place. Don’t look left and don’t look right. Don’t get enamored with another goal; stay committed to THE goal, whatever it is.

Eyes on the prize. Every day. You got this.

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