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How to Train With Paddlers of Different Abilities

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Do you have a diverse group of paddlers with different abilities? Perhaps they are even paddling different craft? Can you still train together and have a great time working out together? Heck yeah!

The scenario above mirrors the training regimen at the Lanakila Outrigger Club on any given day from November – April when club members are training for the OC-1 racing season. We routinely hold intense workouts for paddlers of different abilities. There are also times when there are different paddle craft, typically standup paddleboards (SUPs), all participating in the same workout together.

For sprints between 30 seconds to two minutes in duration you can have everyone paddle at once. An elite SUP racer can hang with or out perform many outrigger paddlers for this length of time. A 30 second to two-minute sprint is also not so long that there will be a massive separation between paddlers of different abilities. Sure, better paddlers will pull away over the course of two minutes, but for 30 seconds, there simply isn’t enough time for anyone to be left too far behind.

Going long? Most training sessions involve intervals and intervals are perfectly suited for working with paddlers of different abilities. How? Simply stagger the start of each session by allowing slower paddlers and/or craft to go first. Wait 30 seconds (or whatever amount of time is appropriate for your group) and send off the next batch of paddlers.

During our large OC-1 workouts it is common to have four or more groups of paddlers. Simply stagger the start for each group and your off! Experienced paddlers can get in a great workout and less skilled paddlers will benefit from the opportunity to paddle with and learn from others in a group setting.

You can also mix it up by having a faster group paddler for a set period of time in the opposite direction before turning around and chasing the group.

Another technique is to have everyone start together, but require the fastest paddlers to loop back towards the group at a certain time or way point.

There are a number of benefits from paddling in a group setting and incorporating paddlers of different abilities helps those with less experience improve their skills. Over time paddlers will “graduate” from one group to another giving them a sense of accomplishment. Their improvements will be measurable and you will all have fun as your group slowly achieves greater parity over time!

See you on the water!


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