Why is “Old School” the “New School” of Thought? A Case for Old School Renaissance

Why is “old school” the “new school” of thought?

Aside from the fact that Pat Keller might simply be running out of ideas with his backyard run on the Green River Narrows, there is no doubt that when he took his Dagger RPM and splatted “The Notch,” that he sparked a re-revolution in paddle sports. And although bold exploits in old boats have been accomplished before, there is no doubt that something special happened the day the photo started making its rounds on the interwebs through social media.

But aside from a suggestion that one influential player has over an industry, what has made more folks seek out old design in recent history and explore designs of past? My argument is that there is a lot to be learned through old design and how it has impacted modern design. Modern design has taken what was great from the past, and made safer and more forgiving designs for us to take down rivers, and may have well been a big cushion to many peoples learning curve. But this begs the question, what gives the old boat intrigue and what does it offer that modern boat design does not, and now has left many seeking out to pad out their quivers with a pile of old polyethylene relics?

They’re fast. Heck, even the playboats were fast!

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Ok, maybe that quote is misattributed, but Ricky Bobby had a frickin’ point! If everything seems under control, then you’re not going fast enough. Still to this day, nothing is more exhilarating than an exceptionally quick eddy-turn or peel-out, or just cruising downstream riding pillow currents.

And there is a good reason they’re fast… waterline (click for a more academic explanation). That might not make a whole lot of sense in the age of “rocker.” One of the biggest selling points for kayaks now a day is how much rocker it has and how easy it is to turn. But back in the day, it was all about hot, nasty, badass speed.

It might not be an old-school boat, but this Dagger Green Boat pays homage to boats of past.

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They’re specific. Some of the best learning occurs with very specific goals and feedback in mind (read more about learning specificity here). Former design really was fundamental and rudimentary if you look into the specifics of each design, as they had clear-cut, defined goals for each. With each kayak design, a new skill could be learned, or a new possibility was discovered. The “old-school” boat being specific, also taught specific technique to handle it appropriately, something that I feel is lost on kayak design today. That being said, an industry that doesn’t appeal to the masses is in great danger of not being an industry much longer!

They were by and large, unforgiving. The magic word in kayak marketing. Forgiveness may have been our greatest leap forward in what is possible and our biggest step backwards in the early stages of learning. The river environment is inherently dangerous to an untrained, under-experienced mind. A prime example is what I like to call “Wal-mart rafters.” Essentially, a craft enables them to access an environment that their lack of knowledge deems unsafe. The same can be said of kayaks of the ultimate forgiveness. Those kayaks enable quicker access to harder and more dangerous runs and give what can be called “false-success.”

The older boats simply did not have that built in. You spent more time flipping on eddy lines and working on rolls. The boats gave immediate feedback and therefore the learning was more bump and grind, but more impactful. Think of how an infant goes from crawling to walking…it’s not without its crashes, but it is radically fast in terms of new learned motor skills.

Here are some great reads on why failure is a better teacher than success, 123

And this time a real quote…

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

They’re cool! Why else would we see a renaissance of the long-boat, the revival of multi-color swirl patterns, and a resurgence of splats and squirts?

They’re affordable and readily available. There are still so many used boats that are currently residing under decks, in attics or fading in the sun out behind somebodies shed. In this case I allude to an old but handy quote, “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.”

Here’s some more “old school” boat love on Wilson Creek.

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And when freestyle tricks looked like tricks!

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  1. Pingback: 21 Things I’ve Learned about Kayaking from Running – H2o Dreams

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