Change season. 9-man season. Whatever you call this amazing time of year for outrigger paddles, it marks the best part of the season in our opinion. And so we wanted to express our enthusiasm for all of you entering in to the dungeon of awesome because this part of the year is what truly makes you a bad-ass paddler.
Why? Because everything is fluid and you have to adapt and overcome. Traits that the best paddlers find themselves tackling better than most. In these races, you have to be a pro out there and roll with whatever happens. What you might ask it so unique vs. sprints or the long distance seasons? What makes it so dynamic, so fluid? Glad you asked!
The water is fluid
Chase boat wakes out of nowhere, as boats zip around and you fight messy water to get to your crew as they tread water and call out their seats. Makes finding clean water harder than ever. Not to mention finding your rhythm as a team.
Your seat is fluid
Sure you might have been told you will be primarily in a certain seat(s). But that all goes out the window as the elements of a change race take hold. So rest assured, when you ask your change coach if they really meant "seat #" they will say "yes". You will have to own it and adapt. Expect to sit every seat and you won't ever be shocked. Remember after all, any seat is an honor. Even if the seat pads, and spray skirt zipper cut into you a little more in seat 3 than they did in seat 4.
Your crew is fluid
Oh, we paddlers love the idea of 'gelling' and 'blending' with a set crew. And it really can make a difference in how a canoe runs. But solid paddlers need to be able to gel or blend with all sorts of lineups. You might have some folks who prefer a higher rate. Or lower. Some crews might have a tendency to rush you as they get tired. Your crew might be something you have paddled with all year, or completely different by the 4th change. A chatty steers-person one piece giving helpful feedback to each person. Silence the next. All of these are normal possibilities. And your ability to roll with it makes you better.
Your paddle is fluid
Sure you usually paddle with a 49" blade. And maybe it is a double bend all carbon. But guess what? Chance are you will jump into a seat at some point and you will be handed something totally foreign. 47" all wood? No problem. 52" hybrid straight shaft? You got this! Jump into your seat and find some plastic+aluminum summer camp canoe paddle? "Well, this should be interesting!" At the end of the day, your ability to make the best of any paddle you have is what you need to do. And if you get in there and see something that resembles a soup spoon, you must just silently chuckle a little bit, and then get to work. Doing so will make you the team asset your canoe needs.
Your strength is fluid.
We love how iron season taught us to pace ourselves. And sprints teach us what all out exertion means. But in change season, you get both. Together! And you have a whole new opportunity to get familiar with your body and how it feels for sometimes 6-8 different mini races. Each one feeling different than the last. You might be all hopped up on Gu packs and rearing to go on your 6th change. But boy oh boy did that 5th change feel like you were all done in and ready to quit the sport. Or how about the 3rd change where you felt good and strong but the crew just wasn't there with you with the same level of enthusiasm. You have to match that power band and make it blend, no matter how you are feeling. Your body and strength will be fluid, race-piece by race-piece. Buoy-turn by buoy-turn.
So, as you can see, change season, is all about adapting. Fluid like, similar to the water you glide across. To succeed you have to be ready to roll with whatever circumstances get thrown at you. And your ability to do so, will make you that solid paddler you want to be for your teammates.
Good luck. Have fun. And remember, if it was supposed to be easy, they would have this at the beginning of the season.
(Addendum: Please take a moment to review these important safety articles and links as thoughtfully pointed out in the comments by Bud Hohl. Without proper safety, the season disappears!
SCORA Steersman Study Guides - http://www.scora.org/scora-steersman-study-guides/
Canoe Safety & Information - http://www.scora.org/canoe-safety-information/
[Much gratitude to Cody and Chris Silvester. Their photos shown here are perhaps the greatest gift to outrigger paddlers who yearn and crave the chance to relive their races for eternity through their pix. Thank you also to the paddlers shown here from clubs like Hokuloa, Tahiti, Lanakila, Nahoa and Rincon OCC. You make our sport look good! Final credit to Photo RJP for the awesome cover pic featuring Juju and Erika. ]
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, Surf-ski and Dragonboat and pretty much loves them all.
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!