Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

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Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by SimonMW » Fri Feb 09, 2018 9:45 am

Seems to be a running theme. It could be a coincidence, but all the best paddlers I have ever met, as well as the people who seem to learn the fastest, always seem to be really good at climbing and skiing. Those two activities seem to stand out amongst people who seem to be far better at picking up, and becoming good at ww kayaking.

Anyone else noticed something similar? Just a coincidence, or is there something about these two activities that correlates well with what we do in a boat? It would be easy to suggest things like balance etc. But I haven't noticed the same thing when it comes to someone who is good at, say, martial arts or mountain biking.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by GregS » Fri Feb 09, 2018 10:36 am

In two cycles of British Canoeing's "Girls for Gold" programme, girls with a Martial Arts background (a) got through to being part of the final half-dozen who got funded places on the programme; and (b) made the initial running in the high-kneeling boats ahead of girls with outstanding backgrounds in sports with more routine movement patterns. Of course, that's not a meaningful sample size... and Sprint is monotonously routine once you get the hang of it... but I have encountered others elsewhere and the composure under pressure and adaptability has often stuck me as outstanding.

In truth, I've also encountered many youngsters who have played team sports at a decent level who have, within a VERY short timeframe, overtaken stacks of others without such a background... and one Triathlete I worked with was doing stuff most "veterans" would find challenging pretty much from day one - and for a lot of these individuals making big decision under pressure where there's a risk of significant adverse consequences has been "normal" for many years!

In sum, I don't entirely buy the "exceptionalism" arguments for Adventure Sports as it's a little too self-congratulatory... but sure, those who get into one adventure sport tend to change as characters and develop in outlook in ways which make stepping from one adventure sport to another seem quite natural - and the familiarity with the outdoors (culture, environment) can obviously be advantageous.




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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Adrian Cooper » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:55 am

Without a proper study and with minute sample sizes ...................

I know someone who is excellent at freestyle kayaking who picked up snowboarding really easily (at a young age)

I know someone who is an excellent open canoeist who picked up mountain bike racing really easily (at not such a young age)

I think you have to consider the extent to which the sports have transferrable skills but I agree with Greg that there is also a mentality thing going on.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by SimonMW » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:04 pm

All great points guys. Though if we stick to kayaking, it does seem that the best always seem to consistently be good at things like skiing and climbing. Of course it could be a mindset thing of being able to deal with things under pressure, or the fact that they are some of the best might be because they are simply naturally good at these sorts of things anyway.

As a personal example though I've done martial arts for over 20 years, and one of the main aspects of the particular art that I do is remaining totally relaxed under very intense close range pressure, as well as having very fast reactions and being extremely precise. However I have found that my ability to remain relaxed under that sort of pressure has not transferred well to kayaking situations when the pressure is on, and instead I tense up meaning that I'm not performing at my best.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Cabbagepatchkid » Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:41 pm

Both sports require good strength to weight ratio and good balance and a willingness to push yourself so would assist you in learning to kayak.

I don’t think that the correlation though, what else would you do in the mountains apart from kayak,ski,climb and bike. Just being fit and active is a good pre cursor to being a good boater

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by GregS » Fri Feb 09, 2018 1:57 pm

Of course it could be a mindset thing of being able to deal with things under pressure, or the fact that they are some of the best might be because they are simply naturally good at these sorts of things anyway.
Curiously, those who have taken opportunities and practiced effectively over extended periods seem to end up appearing "naturally good" at things... and quite bizarrely, the harder they work, the more "naturally good" they seem to get.

Then folk who can't be bothered play the "she's just talented" card to explain away what is actually a learning curve many could match.

Ok, there's a limited amount you can do about having not taken past opportunities... but anyone has the option of eating healthily, keeping active and training regularly... and with a bit of application, most folk could become quite reasonable WW boaters!

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by SimonMW » Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:42 pm

Then folk who can't be bothered play the "she's just talented" card to explain away what is actually a learning curve many could match.
As someone who spends every possible moment I can to practice, and practice methodically, analysing, re-analysing, and modifying to constantly try and get better, and who doesn't play that card, there does come a point where natural talent does play a part. Because of my background of other activities I did previously I was perhaps able to pick up the coordination aspect and mechanics of the movements of kayaking faster than others. But it's the fine detail of all the parts that make up a good kayaker that is the differentiator.

For example in the last Olympics there was one of the javelin throwers who admitted she wasn't a natural at it, and although she had reached a high level (she was in the Olympics after all), she couldn't match the naturals because where she had to think about things almost as she was doing them, some of the others right at the top tier just did things more on instinct. And that's where the difference can be made.

To go back to kayaking, despite my time on the water, and despite my time in martial arts, I still have to consciously 'think' about keeping my hips/waist loose while in the boat. This was highlighted in a big way recently when I finally went out to the White Nile. While I have paddled in the Alps a few times, this was my first time on truly big/large volume water. And it was an eye opener. The 'rules' of kayaking I had previously gone by pretty much went out of the window. Huge wide eddy lines that are almost as wide or wider than many British WW rivers that you have to physically work to get over, all the while with random boils, surges, and whirlpools appearing all round or under your boat. Waves (not stoppers) that stop you dead in your tracks, mixed in with other features that seemingly randomly appear out of nowhere!

In that scenario all the business of normal edging down stream went out of the window in favour of sitting much flatter (thanks to Mr Westgarth for the heads up all those years ago!), but importantly relaxing and letting the boat do its thing, something that I have always found difficult to anyway, but found doubly or triply difficult in that sort of environment, leading to many more upside down moments, and even swims than I would have liked.

(Caveat, I do not ski, so forgive my interpretation of it if it is wrong) But with something like skiing you need good posture, you need to allow the ground to undulate beneath you, absorbing the bumps through your legs and lower body. I would imagine that if you are tense while skiing you would not be able to do this, and would lead to more crashes? With climbing too, with the very little I have done under tuition, body isolation would appear to be a part of that too. I guess mountain biking to a degree, but not the same sort of body area isolation I think you need to do in the other two. Although I'm open to being wrong. With many martial arts you try to involve the body as a unit to generate power, so again there isn't the same sort of body part isolation going on. Although in Wing Chun there are some concepts if an opponent is exerting force to be able to link and unlink the body. But most Wing Chun worldwide isn't taught this concept outside of the Yuen Kay Shan or Pin Sun versions. So many practitioners are quite 'stiff'.

So without these ideas of being able to separate or 'unlink', aspects such as keeping the lower body relaxed in the boat allowing it to go with the undulations of the water while the body is centred over the hull become much more difficult. For me the idea of being able to paddle powerfully while the lower body is totally relaxed is a bit like the rubbing your stomach while patting your head trick.

Apologies for another ramble.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by DaveBland » Fri Feb 09, 2018 3:36 pm

So a couple of thoughts on this...

Firstly my daughters water polo coach [an Olympian] encourages the girls to do other sports saying that it's a benefit to the main sport. I'm confident this theory translates across any sporting discipline. Plus there will beefiness benefits – paddling generally isn't an everyday thing, but a blend of say, paddling and biking or climbing or whatever can be.

Secondly, you know that line up at school when they were picking the sports teams in PE class? There were always those kids that were good at everything. Then there were us mid level losers – not the totally crap chess club ones - but the 'normals. Well we are generally the ones that fall into paddling as we are not the natural 'sports team' types.
But... sometimes, one of those super athletic types discovers paddling and they are just so good at it. But then they are good at any sport they do - giving the illusion that other sports must be helpful in making you a good paddler.
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by gp.girl » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:21 pm

DaveBland wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 3:36 pm
So a couple of thoughts on this...

Firstly my daughters water polo coach [an Olympian] encourages the girls to do other sports saying that it's a benefit to the main sport. I'm confident this theory translates across any sporting discipline. Plus there will beefiness benefits – paddling generally isn't an everyday thing, but a blend of say, paddling and biking or climbing or whatever can be.

Secondly, you know that line up at school when they were picking the sports teams in PE class? There were always those kids that were good at everything. Then there were us mid level losers – not the totally crap chess club ones - but the 'normals. Well we are generally the ones that fall into paddling as we are not the natural 'sports team' types.
But... sometimes, one of those super athletic types discovers paddling and they are just so good at it. But then they are good at any sport they do - giving the illusion that other sports must be helpful in making you a good paddler.
There's been research on top level athletes to strongly support the coaches view. As one of the mid to bottom level kids I'd totally agree with this. No idea if doing other adventure sports would improve my paddling as I've never done any of them except one brief and horrible attempt at rock climbing :) There is a definate top limit to someones ability at anything, some high, some mid and some low.
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by DaveBland » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:44 pm

OMG... just seen the autocorrect... "Beefiness". Funny.
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by SimonMW » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:51 pm

OMG... just seen the autocorrect... "Beefiness".
An undocumented benefit? ;-)

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by jmmoxon » Sat Feb 10, 2018 10:10 am

People who keep their head still whilst skiing & kayaking tend to be more controlled, as it allows you to focus on where you are going (just watch GoPro movies - could well be to do with "body isolation").

I know several climbers who really don't like the lack of control they feel when they get in a boat - it is a different headgame...

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Mal Grey » Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:02 pm

jmmoxon wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 10:10 am

I know several climbers who really don't like the lack of control they feel when they get in a boat - it is a different headgame...

That describes exactly how I felt on my first whitewater, having come from a climbing/winter walking/mountain biking background. Took a while to adjust. OK, maybe I still haven't adjusted!

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:33 pm

For me I think the short answer is "no", however having done the coaching training up to UKCC L2 (and other coaching) has certainly helped me snowboard better. I've also used the fundamental patterns of observation and feedback to coach other snowboarders. I would put knowing your headgame and posture under the "coaching" umbrella as well; some of the Freestyle and NLP coaching I did with Jacko has tremendously helped me with this.

For me, with both Kayaking and Snowboarding, I *really* fall short with the "Physiological" part in TTPP, so in terms of "doing another activity to make my kayaking better" I would say that doing strength and endurance training most certainly helps. I most certainly noticed the difference between my performance last month (where as a consequence of being so inactive I couldn't even do up my trousers) compared to three years ago when I frequented a gym.
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by jmmoxon » Sat Feb 10, 2018 8:55 pm

The only way to be a great at any sport is to spend lots of quality time doing it, however, if you can't be in a kayak then skiing is certainly similar in that you are making the best of a situation where you don't have total control, whilst the top climbers tend to be "control freaks". Having said that, to be a top climber you have to be dedicated & that transfers well to paddling - whilst kayakers may be happy surviving a river, rather than styling it...

Pete Livesey was a world class caver, climber & orienteer (he concentrated on one after the other), he was also a pretty handy kayaker:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obitu ... 50794.html

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Yew » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:13 pm

Being a freestyle kayaker who went skiing for the first time with other boaters, being able to understand edge, weight distribution and similiar certainly helped. However we do tend to lead with our heads, which did make for some entertaining falling over when I was trying to carve

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by morsey » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:00 pm

The biggest transferable skills for kayakers comes from canoeing, but kayakers get the hump when you suggest it! That, and those who are good kayakers are good because they dedicate time and effort to it, they'll also do the same in other activities and the get through the initial learning curves. Then they'll note the similarities and crossover skills and use the freshness of doing a different activity as motivation to amp their kayaking back up. Lots of psychological aspects and physical attributes at work when transitioning between activities.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by gp.girl » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:29 pm

morsey wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:00 pm
The biggest transferable skills for kayakers comes from canoeing, but kayakers get the hump when you suggest it! That, and those who are good kayakers are good because they dedicate time and effort to it, they'll also do the same in other activities and the get through the initial learning curves. Then they'll note the similarities and crossover skills and use the freshness of doing a different activity as motivation to amp their kayaking back up. Lots of psychological aspects and physical attributes at work when transitioning between activities.
I didn't get the hump much, it just hurts.

Time and effort improve things up to a point but that point can be very different for each person. If I go paddling with someone I don't know they will be told if I capsize I'll be out of the boat faster than Usain Bolt off the blocks. No amount of time and effort has changed that :) The 'naturally good' ones almost start just behind where I've finished.

6 months to grade 4 versus 18 months to a T-rescue in a pool is a big difference to explain!
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by morsey » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:07 pm


The factor of dealing with suppressing anxiety and focusing on path/line and technique is transferable. I've used it many times after recovering from injury to get out on the bike or in the boat to raise the alertness, awareness of the environment and movement within it and ramp the reactionary skills back up.

There is also genetics and personality. Of course it's not a one size fits all, but there are cross overs, and experienced paddlers, skiers, climbers etc often look outside of their fields for tools of progression and inspiration.


Local woods doing sessions on ramps and jumps, the very same as smashing laps in a boat. Cognitive reinforcement, comfort zone building, fitness gaining, muscle memory dialing. They all apply at all levels.


Personally I don't worry about what other people are doing. I've done enough racing in various sports to know that focus on improving my own fitness and game play is where the dividends are found. Worrying about how you are in comparison to others mostly means you are assessing by their standards, and you'll unlikely know their inner motivation of training. Is where the expression Secret Training comes from, those who know and really want to progress they get out and make use of every opportunity, even if that involves getting up at 5am and smashing laps in the dark before work. Also, to be fair, some people are quite happy bimbling around on low grade rivers their entire time, if the progression curve is too steep, why continually stress yourself trying to gain, why not just enjoy where you are and go with that? But not the Barle, don't stay at that bench mark!

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by gp.girl » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:37 pm

Barle looks about right to me, although I've not tried it yet. Grade 2 is about my standard. At G3 I'm purely a surviver trying to get to the bottom upright! My progression curve is only steep when it's going downhill rapidly., normally it's a wobbling flattish line.

Biking, skiing etc all look just dangerous to me. I can see the idea of challenging yourself like that but no way can I see me doing it. I know I'm going to fail before I've even started as all of them need a certain level of commitment to have any chance of success.

Really should do something about my fitness level though then I can pull the deck even faster :)
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Chris Bolton » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:01 pm

if you can't be in a kayak then skiing is certainly similar in that you are making the best of a situation where you don't have total control,
That's an interesting way to look at it. I've always aimed to maintain control in both paddling and skiing - I regard any loss of control as a failure (I'm not saying it doesn't happen). The similarity for me, in paddling, skiing and mtb, is picking the best line. I find skiing on smooth flat piste quite boring, even if it is steep enough to be at the edge of control.

One odd commonality that I suspect is not coincidence is that I paddle C1 and ski a monoski. I have not, however, ridden a unicycle.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by C1pete » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:52 am

I think learning to learn is a big factor as well as what Yew said about understanding edges etc. Decent kayakers (and particularly us C1 paddlers) become very self aware of what is happening to the body at any given moment, allowing you to change it if it doesn't work (is that call proprioception or something like that?). This might be from taking on board coaching (absorbing and implementing), video review, watching others or just trial and error. I think my point is you rarely see a good paddler repeat something that doesn't work. You may see them get their head wet multiple times in a row but it is usually because they are experimenting with different approaches until they get the correct one, which can then be applied in other situations)

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by DaveBland » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:54 pm

If we are talking adventure sports, the biggest factor is pribably the mental aspect. Staying calm and understanding how to analyse water/terain etc on the fly. Plus the ability to make split second decisions and fully commit to them without doubts. These will inevitably transfer to skiing, mtb etc and visa versa
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by jmmoxon » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:11 am

Chris Bolton wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:01 pm
I've always aimed to maintain control in both paddling and skiing - I regard any loss of control as a failure (I'm not saying it doesn't happen). The similarity for me, in paddling, skiing and mtb, is picking the best line. I find skiing on smooth flat piste quite boring, even if it is steep enough to be at the edge of control.
I didn't mean you are out of control, just dealing with factors that are outside your control...

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Alec » Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:08 pm

gp.girl wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:37 pm
I know I'm going to fail before I've even started as all of them need a certain level of commitment to have any chance of success.
You need to be able to see yourself succeeding to be able to succeed. Often called visualisation. Imagine yourself doing the activity successfully and think about what you'll need to do to succeed. If you do this you're far more likely to succeed.

If you think you're going to fail before you start then you're almost guaranteeing failure.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Feb 16, 2018 7:24 pm

Mike wrote:I didn't mean you are out of control, just dealing with factors that are outside your control...
Thanks, understood now.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by gp.girl » Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:16 pm

Alec wrote:
Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:08 pm
gp.girl wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:37 pm
I know I'm going to fail before I've even started as all of them need a certain level of commitment to have any chance of success.
You need to be able to see yourself succeeding to be able to succeed. Often called visualisation. Imagine yourself doing the activity successfully and think about what you'll need to do to succeed. If you do this you're far more likely to succeed.

If you think you're going to fail before you start then you're almost guaranteeing failure.
If on form I can do this kayaking although it's normally more an outcome (alright mostly I'm not falling over) rather than a move or moves. If you can hear me there can be some hilarious commentary! Fridays includes some swearing as I realise I'm heading for the lefthand line which has a rock face 3 meters after the drop. Climbing - I get nervous standing on steps. Balance is a bit dodgy for skiing and mountain biking I'd be too worried about hurting myself. How exactly I ended up doing WW kayaking is a bit of a mystery.
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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by Jim » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:40 am

gp.girl wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 9:16 pm

If on form I can do this kayaking although it's normally more an outcome (alright mostly I'm not falling over) rather than a move or moves. If you can hear me there can be some hilarious commentary! Fridays includes some swearing as I realise I'm heading for the lefthand line which has a rock face 3 meters after the drop. Climbing - I get nervous standing on steps. Balance is a bit dodgy for skiing and mountain biking I'd be too worried about hurting myself. How exactly I ended up doing WW kayaking is a bit of a mystery.
I have been quietly watching this thread and thinking about something Amber Maslen blogged recently which I struggled to 100% agree with, but I think there is probably a lot in it, and has some relevance

Amber's blog was about talent as an outdated or misguided concept. The gist of it being that people who apparently have talent are people who have had exposure to a wide range of activities from an early age. For example if parents allow their toddlers to roam and climb and explore, encourage them to try cycling and boating etc. all from early age, when those kids reach an age where they can start doing adventurous sports properly they have already developed a range of motor skills, balance, confidence etc. which other kids who perhaps had a more sheltered early up-bringing with risk averse parents might be lacking at the same point.
The point of the blog however was that although this early exposure helps you get started, it is not essential and labelling it as talent is often unhelpful and can lead to people believing they have a natural ability that doesn't need as much work to perfect as other people need, and often those people get fed up and quit when it becomes apparent that they need to work hard.

Amber was told for years that she didn't have talent, but if she worked hard she could still do well, now that she is ranked 8th in the country people have started telling her she has talent, when she knows that what she actually has is a background of extremely hard work.

So my own thoughts are that there is some element of genetics which Amber's theory doesn't recognise, but when we look at top level kayakers and canoeists we see all genetic types included so it probably is much much less important than developing the attitude to want to succeed and training hard to achieve it.
Enjoying a wide range of adventurous sports will very obviously help develop peripheral skills/traits which might not naturally develop from paddling training, but which might be very beneficial whilst paddling - balance and control from skiing and climbing perhaps, endurance from cycling, water confidence from swimming and diving.

However whatever opportunities you have had to date, ANYONE can improve if they really want to, and are able to make time to do it.

One thing I would add to that, if you have so many fears/ confidence issues across a range of sports perhaps it would be best to really focus on one for a while, overcome those little problems in one sport, get some obvious improvement under your belt, and then revisit the others and see if your new found confidence starts to make it easier to progress in them. As a paddler I 'should' hope that you choose to concentrate on your kayaking, but have a good think about it, and if there is something else that you feel you could master more quickly then choose that for now.

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by dbpmagazineonline » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:06 pm

I would in general say that crossing sports generally improves your abilities. Confidence is a big part of many sports, and if you are feeling good in one it can cross boundaries. Plus doing a broader range of activities generally helps with fitness and 'knowing your body'

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Re: Are you better at kayaking if you do other adventure sports?

Post by morsey » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:40 pm

gp.girl wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:37 pm
just dangerous to me.
That's probably due to Massive Attack dropping bombs on the Doors. Now if you add gorillaz and bluebell woods, paints a whole different level of soft and fluffy.


Or I guess the difference between looking at grade four comparisons versus class two?

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