Have you ever asked a paddler to follow another down a rapid telling them to keep two to three boat lengths behind? And how many times do you find that two to three boat lengths becomes five or six? I thought so!
Using boat lengths is a common measure we use across all types of paddlesport, but all too often is one that I find many aspiring white water paddlers have difficulty with. You can understand why – they’re just about to launch themselves down an unknown rapid, they want to focus on their line and their performance and we’re asking them to watch someone else.
This is where the 5 second rule can be useful. Instead of asking them to think about boat lengths, try encouraging white water learners to focus on their line, angle and speed etc and then simply count themselves down to that first stroke to move the boat out of the eddy. Counting down from 5 is something they will be familiar with and able to perform almost subconsciously while keeping their attentional focus where they want it to be. And if 5 seconds isn’t working on any particular stretch of river try 4 seconds or 6.