Tuesday 22 April 2014

The Benji Factor

I read with interest this morning about a local legend in Rugby League, Benji Marshall, deciding after a six month switch to the alternative rugby code, that it was time to head back to the game he knows best.

He said he realised that he probably wan't the outstanding rugby union player he had hoped he might be, but wasn't disappointed with having made the switch. The crucial thing for him was that the change in discipline had reinvigorated his desire to be a top sportsman. He's deliberately made the journey back to being a learner for the sheer challenge of it, & enjoyed the experience, even though he hadn't succeeded to the extent that he'd hoped. He's said he'll now return to rugby league a lot hungrier, & with a greater appreciation of how hard he needs to work to maintain his standards.

I personally think it's important to keep on having a crack at new & different stuff, for much the same reasons as Benji.

I think the 'gaining of a reputation' in a sport like sea kayaking can sometimes be an albatross around the neck of the esteemed 'paddler of note'. I cheered loudly when I saw a Facebook post from top UK paddler Jeff Allen late last year of him emerging from the surf on foot, having previously been swimming through the wash after getting a trashing good enough to see him perform a humble wet exit.

It was a far cry from the 'what goes on the expedition stays on the expedition' rule that often shrouds the 'swim that Herby had on this landing' or the 'tow that Stevo needed around this rough headland', etc.
Mercer performs the 'Arsovertit' manoeuvre. 
It's also the reason we always put in the capsizes & mess ups on our surf & ocean paddling video adventures, because we're forever getting knocked over & knocked off in the process of having a decent go. There is no greater truth than the fact that you won't fall in unles you're giving it a decent crack!
A typical Epic fail.
I'm grateful for an upbringing that saw several severe & very public humiliations on the sporting field. Dropping a bomb in the last minute of the game that leads to the winning try, or getting out ducking a slower ball that you thought was going to hit you in the head, but instead hits your middle stump, and the following howls of delight from your opponents & spectators, make the self esteem consequences of falling out of a kayak in the surf seem pretty tame by comparison.

At a recent paddling event I asked one mate why a local paddler-of-note wasn't in attendance. He shrugged his shoulders & said, 'I think he's worried about being exposed as a bit of a talker, but not much of a doer'. I thought that was a pretty sad state of affairs from someone who clearly loves his paddling.

Looking a lot better than I'm feeling on my new K1
My latest attempt to keep fresh has centred around the purchase of an old racing K1. For a couple of hundred bucks spent through eBay, I now have something capable of inflicting all sorts of core-torture. It began with a loud boast to Steve & Joel that I'd easily be able to paddle one of their silly flat water boats, knowing full well that they'd both had their own moments in them when starting out. Steve & Kate then took me down to the local river & set up several cameras to capture my demise, only to be disappointed with a performance laced with subtle bracing strokes & a well thought out strategy on keeping the bloody thing upright by using speed. A picture of sprint paddling beauty it was not....

I heard the joy of paddling a K1 described as 'sitting on a floating water melon, whilst doing pilates'. Sounds like fun right?

There is no commercial reason to take up this challenge, we won't be rushing into the world of sprint & marathon racing anytime soon. Instead it brings a purity of form & shape that allows no scope for poor technique. Like the GPS, the K1 is brutally honest about how good you are - one slightly slipped arse cheek & you'll spend half a dozen strokes keeping yourself upright, let alone paddling with any efficiency. It's revived that feeling you get as a beginner where you're forever anxious about a mis-timed stroke, which has got to be a good thing for someone often in charge of beginners.

The reward comes from an amazing feeling of glide when you get it right, and extrapolates to my ocean racing ski. When I hop back onto my V10 for a run in the ocean it suddenly feels like an ocean liner.

Good on Benji for setting the example, it doesn't mater how good you think you are, it never hurts to go back & hang out with the beginners, & you should never be afraid to fail publicly in pursuit of the thing you love doing.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Mark! no swimming the first go is a merit but the kayak has the last word :-) wait and see.


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