Monthly Archives: January 2014

Want Surfski Training Input/Coaching?

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Hey Pacific Northwest Surfski Paddlers!

After my 7-week training camp in South Africa, I am so fired up about the 2014 season and about surfski in general. I’ve been thinking a lot about training and racing over this past year and what it takes to train optimally for a sport like surfski. How do you approach an event, which looks like a strait forward endurance event on paper, but requires speed and accelerations bursts throughout? You need endurance to paddle hard for the whole race, balance, technique, and experience to handle the ocean, and the ability to accelerate during a race to take advantage of waves and drafting opportunities.

While I was in South Africa and throughout the past two years, I have had long conversations with everyone I could. Picking their brains about training, racing, and what surfski requires of them specifically.  I came into this sport with an extensive training background in whitewater slalom and over the past two years of inquiring, exploring, and experimenting, and after this trip to SA, I feel like I have the experience and information needed to develop an ideal training plan and make 2014 my best year yet.

If anyone is interested, I have also started to develop an archetype training program, distilling what I think are the most fundamental element of my training plan. Given the specifics of your goals, your personal training measurements, and regular updates via email, I believe I can help optimize your training and share my training research with you.

I am seriously pursuing surfski racing this year. My big goals are top American at US Surfski Champs in San Fran and return to SA for the Cape Point Challenge and improve on my result from 2013. I am excited about the sport and eager to share my passion and expertise. Please contact me if you are interested in receiving a training program and weekly training check-ins. The programs and coaching will be donation based and all coaching funds will go directly towards training & race expenses.  Please donate if you feel the help you are receiving is worthwhile – I would like to have the opportunity to help improve your ‘A-game’!

If you want a training schedule, please send me a set of information to help me personalize and trailer your training program.
•    What is your next major race you would like to train for
•    How long will this race take you to complete (Ideally)
•    What is your maximum paddling heart rate
•    When is your goal race
•    What will the conditions (or most likely conditions) be for your ideal race
•    How many times will you be able to paddle a week (including erg time, if you have one)
•    What is your main technical focus or element of your paddling that you would like to work on this year.

I would like to personalize every training program and keep up with you weekly via email. If you have time, I would like to hear from you once a week at the end of your training. Updating me on how you felt in your workouts, what went well in your training, and any concerns you may have about the program or workouts specifically.  Also, I plan on making trip to Bellingham throughout the year to paddle and race with the PNW crew & hope to be able run some surfski specific clinics during these trips.

Please feel free to contact me with any training or surfski related questions and hope you are having a blast on the water!

Austin Kieffer

or please contact me through FACEBOOK

For your viewing pleasure –

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Below: Example of Training PlanPicture 2Below: Consider these tips for your next structured warm-up

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WANT MORE? – Please feel free to contact me!

The ‘Cliff Notes’ from a racing trip of a lifetime!

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Austin recently spent nearly two months in South Africa training & racing with some of the best paddlers in the world.  He was able end the trip with an impressive result of finishing ninth overall in the Cape Point Challenge, considered by many in the sport to be the most grueling single day surfski race on the international circuit.  Enjoy his reflections on his amazing trip!

Things I have learned about Surfski in Fish Hoek, by Austin Kieffer

•    Cut in front of people’s line of sight
It’s totally a dirty trick, but if possible cut in front of someone when surfing. I’m not talking about cutting them off or anything, nothing that douche-y, but crossing their line of sight a wave ahead is a surprising rhythm ruiner. Jasper did it a few times to me when doing training intervals and I was shocked at how I totally lost my rhythm and awareness of the waves.

•    Always cheat at the start!
– There are no gentlemen in Surfski racing and if you see an opportunity to get ahead, take it! This is most notable in the start, where you always want to be just in front and sprint off the line one second early.
– I’m a little submissive naturally and training by myself hasn’t allowed me the practice to stay just a beat ahead of the competition, but Japser keeps telling me in racing and in practice that if I’m not pushing the pace I’m just going to get left behind.

•    Be trained and practiced enough to start hard.
– I need to work on my starts. Racing with the SA guys starts fast and guaranteed within the first two minutes there is going to be a “second start” where they take off again.
– The key for me is to incorporate that fast start into my training. Almost all of my training before this has been threshold stuff, but I need the high-end speed to not get dropped right off the start.

•    Race as much as possible.
– The athletes in SA are lucky. They race twice a week. I’m not talking about their workouts, which are all competitive; I’m talking about time trials. Line up, 45min-75min all out race simulation, with a race start.
– You need more than one week to recover from a huge block of training.
– Even if you are doing almost nothing that week. Heavy training should be finished at least two weeks before a big race (better if three) and heavy pre-race training should never be more than you have done in weeks prior during that training year/cycle.

•    Never give up. Charge hard always.
– Mentally bank on people blowing out. It rarely happens, but you will never be able to capitalize on it if you have backed off the pace in defeat. Even if you are dropped off the lead pack.
– Never give ground expecting to make it up later.
– Even if you are feeling horrible, ground lost is almost impossible to gain back, especially in downwind conditions. Gut it out stick together with someone you want to beat. If you lose them you will lose drafting/pacing opportunities and even if they blow distance is hard to reclaim if you are both paddling.

•    Kill yourself in the start of a downwind section
– Get the first possible wave and gain your surfing speed/momentum
– Don’t think of the first wave you catch as the time to catch your breath after a hard upwind/race start. The first few minutes on the waves can really dictate your pacing for the downwind and also a lead gained here is very difficult to make up.
– Scramble for that first wave and really work for about 1km to set a fast surfing pace. Then settle into your rhythm and let the waves do the work.
– I often see the first wave as a chance to rest, but you always want to lead in the surf so rest after about 1km

•    Never lead a race.
– Even if you are feeling great, never take the lead. Stay with the leader, let them pull you or mark them. Only take the lead if you are confident you can make a break/ drop the competition. Any extra energy spent pulling a competitor is energy they will use to beat you.

•    Don’t just surf at one speed
– Make sure to train at different downwind speeds.
– For a practice during a workout, work as little as possible and really feel the waves and let the ocean do the work for you.  This can be good to learn when to push and capitalize when going hard
– For practice during another workout, paddle at long distance race pace. Race like you were in a 3-hour surfing race. By that I mean work hard, make sure you capitalize on every opportunity, but have the mentality of conserving as much energy as possible
– During another downwind workout, kill yourself on the downwind. Borderline on idiocy. Not necessary up and over waves, but if going over a small hump means a better wave, go over that damn hump. Rest on a wave only long enough to see the next opening.  This is a big one that I had never practiced. I had always seen surfing as a skill/using the water paddling. Talking with the Jasper Macoke, he said that when going for a good time on the Millers Run he his gasping for breath and paddling way harder than he would on flat water.

•    The key to downwind racing is to start fast (as already mention – but it’s important!).  Start like you were doing a 3km downwind and then see if you can start holding that pace with more rhythm and waves pushing you for the remainder of your downwind.
– Think about having three speeds for downwind racing (psycho fast sprint, fast, gliding) I think training at all these different speeds will help you learn more than just having one downwind speed.
– For ground swell particularly, wait till your nose is pointed down before you start gunning it.  I started out by always charging the back of waves and getting in the trough, knowing another big one was behind me. As a result, however, I always got some speed, but lost the big wave. I also discovered that I was wasting a huge amount of energy charging the back of waves. Instead, wait for the moment when the ski tips forward (you are on the face of the one behind) then put in an explosive spurt and I was surprised by how fast I surged forward and how that momentum allowed me to stay with the big wave longer.
– Paddle in a sprint and rest fashion when surfing. Avoid steady paddling!
– I have been really surprised to discover that steady paddling, even hard ‘getting after it’ paddling equates to slow surfing – don’t get caught in this rut!
– My best surfing has always come when I SPRINT then absolutely do nothing (paddles down) and surf. The faster I sprint/ the faster I surf, but if I don’t use the surf to rest (aka sprint the whole time) I am inevitably slow.  It’s a fine line, got to have gas in the tank & know when to use it.
– Sprint as soon as I see an opening, as early as possible, and stop as soon as possible.
– Look for openings vigilantly, and as soon as you see one hit the gas full throttle, immediately, and then stop at the first opportunity. Often this means stopping a little before you think you need to. Don’t sprint all the way into a trough, but sprint till you are just past the tipping point of a wave. Sometimes stopping even before that and letting your momentum carry you to your destination.

Enjoy the ride – Austin

Goodby 2013…

I owe a quick thank you to the entire paddling community for helping to make 2013 an outstanding year!  The year started out with a bang as Kristen and I welcomed our son, Hank, to the world.  He’s now an energetic eleven month old and it’s been fantastic watching him grow and become incredibly mobile.IMG_0330

Surprisingly, this also has also been my most fulfilling season in a surfski.  I entered the season with the mindset to enjoy the process of training & only selected a couple races to focus on. The depth & strength of our local community and the US Surfski community keeps getting stronger – everyone seems only to be getting faster, so watch out for the pace to bumping up a notch in 2014!

There were many paddling highlights from last year that made the season memorable.  Our Wednesday night drag races are always fun midweek burnouts, the local downwind crew was always eager to hit the bay for mild-to-mild conditions, enjoying a bit of Gorge downwind time & teaming up with Austin again for Wildside has become a summer tradition, and being part of a solid PNW crew at US Champs was good motivation to keep the boat moving throughout the year.  Looking forward to doing it all again and more next year!

The Ocean Paddlesports product line-up only continues to grow stronger and it’s been fun teaming up with them for the past three years.  The Fenn Surfski flotilla only continues to grow stronger with the addition of three new designs.  The Elite Spark & Elite Glide have the top end market nailed and it’s been impressive how these designs shine in all conditions.  Also, the new Blue Fin offers new paddlers the opportunity to hit the water and chase waves on a sleek comfortable ride.  The quality of the Fenn products speaks for itself and continues to goes unmatched.  We kept the boat transport company busy last year making local paddlers happy and look forward to doing it again next year.  Also, check out the new Mocke products that are uniquely designed specifically for surfski performance.  Look for the new Gara wing paddles that have taken over the South African surfski scene, new Jantex blades, and more exciting products to be hitting the water near you soon!

2011-08-12_12-51-37_88Big thank you to all local paddlers who have continued to support Ocean Paddlesports and we look forward to continue to offer quality surfski products & service at the best value on the market.  It’s been rewarding being a part of our paddling community and exciting to watch it continue to grow.  Hope to see you on the water soon!

Happy New Year,