The Long Haul

 Campers prepared for their epic paddle to Fort Myers Beach. 

Campers prepared for their epic paddle to Fort Myers Beach. 

We recently hosted a camp for teenagers that included an epic paddle – from the Causeway Park to Ft. Myers Beach. That’s quite a distance for young teenagers who are new to paddling.

I was driving the chase boat, providing a safety net if necessary, along with water and words of encouragement. I spent most of my time with two young ladies who were determined to complete the five-and-a-half-mile paddle, but realized that it was going to be hard.

For these two, the paddle was probably close to 5,000 paddle strokes, and all after they had spent the night on Picnic Island, sleeping fitfully while avoiding bugs and coping with heat and rain.

Very quickly, they developed a cadence and began to realize that their success was a function of how efficient they could make each paddle stroke. From their experience, we can learn and think about paddling efficiency.

With each stroke, try a few things. First, pretend your arms are as soft as cooked pasta. This helps you use your larger and more efficient core muscles. At the end of every stroke, relax your bottom hand as you bring the paddle back to the forward position. Never grasp the paddle with a tight grip. Think about inserting your paddle into the water, then pulling yourself past it. Work diligently to make every stroke as silent as possible. A noisy paddle is an inefficient paddle.

I am a dedicated paddler, and I focus on form and cadence to maximize my speed and distance. Most of the time, I paddle for aerobic exercise and a little quiet time with the ocean. I’m not suggesting that you must do that, but if you spend some time on every trip focusing on paddling techniques, you will find that you will soon be able to more easily explore a larger area of the ocean with less effort.

And, the two young ladies were successful in their long voyage and earned the pride that comes with a hard challenge well accomplished.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.