The Kayaker's Code to Race Training

The Kayaker’s Code To Race Training  


by Bobby “ZoneDogg” Miller

“It never gets easier, you just get faster.” - Greg LeMond


“Training is like fighting a gorilla. You don’t stop when you get tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.” - Greg Henderson

  1. Live your life by The Code!
  2. The road to success is always under construction. Strive to be the strongest version of yourself! Always work to get better and faster. Be a model of physical conditioning, proper form, and intestinal fortitude. Do all you can to help others to do the same. Keep a positive attitude and let the endorphins flow!
  3. Size matters! Going fast begins with the kayak. Paddling a boat less than 11 feet in length will seriously inhibit your ability to prepare yourself to race, be a part of a training group and compete with the big dogs. If you want to go fast, treat yourself to a fast machine! Leave the half slice at home. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight!
  4. Free your mind and your arms, shoulders, and torso will follow. A troubled mind can be a detriment to a full and enriching workout. Leave all of your worries behind you on the bank. Once your blades start to turn, immerse yourself in the exhilarations of the paddle – the smell of the air, the sound of the river, the velocity of your kayak sprinting across the water!
  5. Suck It Up, Milquetoast! Harden the F Up!
  6. Training sessions are measured by quality not quantity. Push yourself hard! You get out of training what you put into it. Paddling downstream is not for recovery. Go just as hard on your way downstream as you do on the way up! Training, attaining, and racing are supposed to be hard. It’s the hard that makes them great.
  7. Embrace the suck! Stick to your schedule and get out there regardless of weather or water level. If you are out kayaking in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period. 
  8. Your paddle stroke is your best friend. Keeping your hands high, with the top hand traveling along your forehead will give you more power and engage your torso more. Your body’s natural tendency is to drop the top hand but, as you build strength and endurance, you will be able to keep the top hand high and stay in the power zone for longer periods of time. Timing your strokes properly will also help you to be successful, a powerful stroke is ineffective when taken at the wrong time. Your strokes will not only be used to propel you forward but also to get you over features to keep you moving fast toward the finish line.
  9. Paddle smarter and harder! Use the river features to help you. The river gives you a great amount of help in going fast but you need to learn to use it. If you are going up, use the eddies to gain speed and use waves to help get you where you want to go. If you are going down, keep out of eddies and slow areas, stay in the fastest current, and try to avoid the tallest waves. Using waves, rocks, and drops to keep your bow on the surface will allow you to maintain your speed and control.
  10. Smooth is fast but fast and smooth is even faster. Timing, speed, precision, and power need to work in harmony. Holding back and slowing down can help make sure you run the rapids well. Practice on the course and dialing in the moves will allow you to make the moves at race pace. Attacking the river features aggressively with well placed strokes and the ability to put your boat where it needs to be will make you faster and more efficient.
  11. Love your kayak. In order to control and get the most out of your long boat, you must spend lots of time to get yourself in tune with it. Paddle nothing but your long boat for at least a week or two before a race. Your body will adapt to the boat’s tendencies and you will be able to put your boat where you want it more consistently.
  12. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail! Practice and know your race course. Lack of knowledge and certainty can cause subconscious pauses in your paddling. Know where you need to go and be confident that you can put your boat there. Learning the fast lines in the rapids can make a big difference in where you finish in a race.
  13. You gotta go up to get down. Downstream travel should be earned by paddling upstream. Shuttles are reserved for long paddles (10+ miles) only!
  14. Take care of your paddle and it will take care of you. Having a full blade on your paddle can make a huge difference in how fast you can make your kayak go. Attaining can be tough on a paddle and can eventually wear it down to the size of a Q tip. If you are able to, get yourself a beater paddle for attaining and a different one for racing. When you show up on race day, you need to have an adult sized paddle! A longer paddle can get you extra leverage to go fast. Depending on your height 200-204 cm is a good all around race paddle length.
  15. Don’t skip leg day! Cross training is a great way to improve your fitness, endurance, and overall strength. Running, biking, lifting weights, or even using an exercise machine are all healthy ways to get a workout that can rest some of the joints and muscles you use while kayaking.
  16. Unleash the fury! Creating your own fiction to get you  fired up can motivate you to focus and paddle harder. I often will convince myself that a boater in front of me that I’m chasing is the worst beater in the history of kayaking and have gone so far as mentally deciding to quit kayaking if I don’t catch that person. If I know I have a lead, I will envision the bow of the paddler behind me pulling up beside me to pass. I was passed by my friend Dave late in a race a few years ago. The image of Dave is always in the back of my mind! Refuse to lose! It can be extremely motivational to light a fire inside to keep you paddling hard and going your fastest. 
  17. When in doubt, focus your thoughts and understanding on Rule #5 and train more!


Works Cited

“The Rules”. Retrieved on March 12, 2022, from

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