To everyone who is a novice outrigger paddler...you have no doubt received countless months of attention from coaches and thoughtful open paddlers. You have broken down paddling barriers you previously thought impossible ("you want me to paddle HOW far?"). You have pushed your limits and done so for your teammates, your team, and yourself. You have become a paddler!
And yet, in the future, you will be expected to join the rest of your teammates as open paddlers. Race longer distances, 9-man races, and be taking on sprint turns that look impossible to pull off, novice or open. No more racing with, and against, those at your experience level. No more bunny slope. But don't worry, the next steps will be just as fun.
So, as your novice season gets close to completion, my advice is:
To really, really soak it in.
There will never be another novice year in outrigger paddling for you. Your novice teammates you have bonded with are special. You walked up to your canoe at that first race, determined and steadfast...arm-in-arm, doe-eyed, nauseous and scared. And then? You conquered it together. Followed by holding each-other up from collapsing after the race on the beach as your open paddling teammates greeted you with hugs and cheers. You and your novice teammates were warriors, brothers, sisters, friends, and most likely drove each other nuts at times during the season. This bond you have formed will never go away. Ask any veteran paddler, even those with 20+ years of paddling under their belt, and they can name off those that were on their novice crew. Its that special!
Kapenas - whenever your last novice race is...pull your crew aside for a quiet moment before your race and share 'the moment' together before you embark on the final novice journey. Bestow upon each paddler a chance to share how they are feeling at that time. The bond is real. Absorb it. Embrace it. Share it. Whatever you do-don't waste it! Then walk in solidarity to your canoe, place your hand on the gunwales of your canoe, feel its pulse, and push off for your greatest journey yet.
Novice coaches - you watched your little ducks leave the beach that first race as fledglings and see them now with strength and the confidence of paddle-ninja-swans. Embrace how proud they make you out there. Enjoy that hoarse voice after cheering your head off as they battle another canoe to the finish line. You have done your job. They are ready to be open paddlers now. Thanks in large part to you.
In the end novice paddlers, know that the change to being an open paddler is part of the sport and its progression. Change is hard and you will be tested and pushed again. Such is paddling, such is life. You will blend in and learn from the open paddlers and forge new bonds. But soak in these final weeks, days and minutes of your novice year. They are the foundation of your career. These are your ground-floor comrades. Your brothers. Your sisters. Your novice teammates.
Soak it in. And don't look back with regret that you didn't fully appreciate how special this first season and journey was for you.
Dedicated to my novice teammates and my novice coaches - I remember you all!
- 'Pineapple' (still a novice)
Photo and Paddler Credits
- Thank you to Allison Kearney for showing what it looks like to seize the moment after finishing a race. Congrats on that first place finish to her and her Santa Barbara Novice Women's crew. Photo credit: Chris and Cody Silvester.
- Thank you to our ducklings for leaning left during the photo-shoot.
Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone and can't wait to hop into a dragon boat and surf-ski for an extended length of time.
One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!