Our friend and fellow ecuador traveler John has made some significant breakthroughs in his paddling this summer.  This most recent revelation is one experienced by every kayaker: the moment that a particular rapid/river starts to slow down enough that it is possible to look around and see your line and some of the scenery at the same time! Here is how it came together for John:

“I just got back from a couple of days on the New River Gorge.  And after talking with my friend, I realized that something started happening to me as I made my way down Lower Keeney and Fayette Station, etc.  I think I first recognized it on my way down Tablesaw a few weeks ago, but it definitely hit me this week.

I realized that running a rapid – any rapid, even something as fast & furious as Lower Keeney – had completely slowed down for me.  There was some sort of time dilation that occurred when I ran these rapids.  Features of the rapids were unfolding in front of my eyes at a much slower pace, and my ability to react to them came at a much faster rate.

I’m sure a lot of that stems from the fact that I have, with 33 days of paddling this year, pretty much doubled my output of paddling days in any given year since I first picked up the sport.  And, though football season draws near, I’m not done yet.  I still have some mid-week paddling to do and, of course, 3 or 4 days of Ocoee Drawdown with some Texas paddlers.  40 days is a reasonable expectation.  50 is not out of the picture though would require some serious effort.

But I was just curious – this notion of time slowing down – is this a common phenomenon that you have found as paddlers continue their progression?  To me, these felt like fairly significant moments…I was just wondering if this is a development you’ve seen before.  Talking to a few of my lacrosse players, they have experienced the same thing at times – where time slows down and they are able to execute their moves in what seems to them to be slow-motion (while for those of us watching or filming, it seems like the most explosive maneuvers in all of college athletics!).

Anyway, just wondering if you had any thoughts on the matter.”
Cheers, John

You are definitely on to the idea of things slowing down as you progress/get more comfortable on the river. It happens for two reasons:
1) you are more comfortable with the rapid/river you are on. Familiarity.
2)  your skills are improving so you are beginning to do things proactively instead of reactively. You are paddling smarter, so your strokes are more efficient, your boat control is better…so you have “more time” to look around 🙂
and the last thing that makes a big difference is the type of water you are on.  Believe it or not, bigger water is easier to slow down on than steep/technical water. When I would transition from the Futaleafu to Ecuador paddling, I would find myself really behind the 8-ball the first day or so and my fellow-guide Doug would have to remind me to switch gears because of the switch from paddling the Futa’s big water to Ecuador’s creekier type rivers–usually after watching me do something entertaining somewhere!

This was such a good observation you had– let’s share it with paddlers.