The Pressure System endurance range of paddle boards are an amazing thing. I have spent a hell of a lot of time this year using my PS storm front race for training. The main reason was that we had the Pambula surf club’s pub to club race back in September, but I also became extremely addicted to the fitness side of things and the ultimate feeling of achievement when completing a long-distance session. Another attraction has been that I have noticed a massive improvement in my sup surfing. The reason for this improvement, I think, is because 1. the race boards are so narrow that they really improve your balance 2. During a session you’re paddling in all conditions, strong wind, strong currents etc. and you need to be able to adapt to all conditions quickly, thus helping to develop your resilience. 3. As you are consistently pushing yourself to improve your time, you focus more on your stroke technique and over time develop a nice efficient, flowing rhythm which enables the board to surge through the water with greater force (in the surf this makes it easier to catch waves and allows you to paddle through larger conditions). But by far the best part of my winter training experience has been finding the zone. For those of you who don’t know what or where the zone is, it is a magical place that I would love to be permanently positioned. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of hard work to find it and it can disappear as quickly as it arrived. You find this place when everything around you, including you, is working in the same perfect flow.
Let me explain a little more about this. If you want to reach this place, it requires a hell of a lot of practice. Firstly, you need to perfect your stroke technique and get your body very comfortable on the board. You enter the zone when you’re flying along, and your stroke just feels like the natural movement of your body. There is absolutely no splash when the paddle enters the water and even less when it exits. The board is sliding through the water producing a powerful surge of curling waves off the bow on every stroke and the tail of the board is producing a fan of perfectly lined wake. But ultimately, it’s what’s going on inside your head that really counts. During this period, you are completely focused. You have no idea what is going on around you and your body is functioning like a well-oiled machine. Time appears to stand still. Your senses are performing at 100%. Dopamine and serotonin are flowing and it’s a pain free blissful ride. Welcome to the zone.
The zone is like any good thing in life, it does not come easy, but the reward is amazing and horribly addictive. Endurance paddling is like everything else in life it has its peaks and valleys and we have all heard the saying that life has its ups and downs, well that is one of the laws of the universe and this fact will never change. The zone usually appears right after the hard bit. The bit where it really hurts. The bit where the little voice inside your head is saying “I must stop now! You don’t have to go the whole 10km every time you hit the water big fella! Come on the car is just over there let’s call it a day”. Its when you push through this hard bit that the zone will appear. The tough bit is you never know how long the hard part is going to last. Anyway, I have gotten to a point where I have developed a way that I can find the zone more often and stay there for longer. I carry my phone in my pocket with my headphones on playing the album Come with Us by the Chemical Brothers, I found this music works a treat when loud! I also have my GPS tracker on so every km a voice cuts into the music and gives me a time for the km I have just completed plus a total distance time. This technique really helps me to maintain focus and gives me time goals every km to beat.
The trick in developing stamina is to remember that if you do the hard yards you will reap the rewards when you enter the zone. The mysterious thing about the zone is that it sneaks up on you very quietly and you’re usually deeply entrenched in it before you even realise it is upon you. Finally, yes, I have tried a few good drugs in my younger days, but I have to say you cannot beat a good hit from a natural high. A good session in the zone can leave you sitting on cloud nine for many hours and in some circumstances even days. The best part is that it is free and extremely good for you! All it costs is a hell of a lot of hard work and commitment!