Four-time World Surfski Champion Dawid Mocke explains that when paddling on the open water one is exposed to uncontrollable conditions.
“It is therefore vital that you have gear that is comfortable, allows freedom of movement and is, most importantly, safe,” states Mocke.
Below are a few tips from the founder of Mocke Paddling, to ensure you have a comfortable and safe paddling experience every time you hit the water.
Paddling requires constant full body rotation through the hips with leg drive. Mocke says, “your shirt should not cut into your armpits, or have a tight seam. If the shirt chafes, it will start immediately, and paddling will be unbearable. If it’s too tight around your shoulders it will cause resistance in your arms; your forearms will blow up and breathing will be laboured”. According to Mocke, the perfect shirt matches the conditions. Base layer type shirts offer a bit more warmth and are tight fitting. In warmer climates or conditions, you want to have a loose-fitting shirt that can keep you cool. Both versions should offer ultimate sun protection.
Mocke suggests investing in double-lined slip down shorts, without a centre seam. “The extra layer in double-lined shorts allows you to rotate freely while the outer layer grips the seat. Seams, whether it runs down centre of your shorts, or beneath the thigh area, is a recipe for chafe,” says Mocke. Pro tip: Shorts with a high-hem back will also result in a more comfortable paddle (i.e. no having to pull your pants up mid-paddle).
Sun exposure, regardless of the air or water temperature, should be avoided at all costs. Mocke explains that the perfect visor or cap sits high off the ears, feels light on your head and doesn’t squeeze. A dark visor underside will minimise reflection and glare from the water. The perfect paddling hat also takes wind, waves and capsizing into account providing a string or retention cord to avoid losing your favourite cap.
Research has shown that the primary cause of Surfski related paddling emergencies is ‘capsizing’ followed by ‘loss of craft’ resulting from a craft not being tethered. “A problem I believe most people on the water have encountered at some stage, says Mocke. “A double-swivel, high-performance leash with stainless steel buckle is what I would recommend.”
Wearing a lifejacket is a non-negotiable – “you wouldn’t see a cyclist without a helmet, and you should never venture out onto open water without a lifejacket,” explains Mocke.
The perfect paddling lifejacket should be officially tested and legal. Pro tip: Check the label for International Standards Regulations (I.S.O) or the Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.) to ensure you are buying a quality product.
A lifejacket should also be comfortable, unobtrusive and have enough space for goods and gadgets, like a hydration bladder and safety phone. Mocke comments, “I noticed that when competing I felt as though my lifejacket was restricting my performance, which is why Mocke Paddling designed the PFD (personal flotation device) to ensure users are safe and comfortable.”
Always make use of a cell-phone in a dry bag. Mocke also suggests using SPOT tracking device which can send an emergency signal and pin-points your position. “Finally, have a flare or some kind of signalling device on board,” concludes Mocke.