Alright, so you might have given playboating a go, but you’re still not sold on it. The boats can’t run class V like a creek boat, the tricks are hard and take countless hours of practice, and not to mention the Bomb Flow guys don’t seem to be doing it. On the contrary, they do play boat, and it has helped form them into the class V boaters they are today. All tricks aside, there are some huge and immediate benefits you can get from play just from starting, and they don’t take as long to master as the phoenix gorilla or the flying barking dog. Check it.
1. Rolling – you’re going to use it a lot, and the play boat gives instant feedback if you are simply getting lucky with your roll or if you truly are using good technique. To execute any skill proficiently you must demonstrate two things as a pre-requisite; comfort and orientation. Rolling takes both of those to an all new level. Getting stale with your rolling practice, time to hop in a playboat!
2. Balance – have you ever noticed that when you stepped up to harder, more continuous class III, the forgiveness of that creek boat or river runner isn’t nearly as forgiving anymore? That’s because a boat can only do so much for you before skill actually has to be applied! A lot of this skill can be simple balance, and play takes balance to an all new extreme. If you feel like you’re flatlining on class III-IV and just getting worked, it might be time to add some class II-III play in to your routine.
3. Bracing – almost every stroke you take in a playboat when surfing waves and holes are back strokes. To be exact, very low, sweeping back strokes. These back strokes not only have a stroke quality to them, but a bracing quality to them as well. Most of my strokes for play, whether I am ruddering in a front surf or initiating cartwheels or blunts are some form of low brace. Learn it, one of the best things I have ever taken away from play.
4. Awareness – I have a friend who used to teach students the golden rule: Be cool. I think what he meant was be calm under pressure. One of the ways to stay calm is to know and understand what is happening. Hopping into holes is a great way to build that paddle/body awareness. Once you start, you will no longer avoid features and instead use them to your advantage on the river.
5. It can be fun – ok, so I know this can be a hard sell, because until you get to a level of proficiency, you won’t look nearly as cool as the pros doing this. But aside from the looking cool part, just playing in the helical flow of the river is an abstract experience which will teach you a lot, if you let it. I can cite countless times where I did something kind of weird or by mistake and was left blowing water out of my nose and left wondering, “how did that happen.” Take it in stride and enjoy.