Paddling Life Lessons – Paddle Yourself Out of Trouble

seadog 29 jan 3

What life lessons can paddling around a buoy teach us?  Dawid Mocke shares some of his coaching and racing experience.

sea dog race start

One of my favourite Surfski School coaching sessions is “10x Around-the-Buoys”. Lining up in shallow water the group races through the waves, around a set of buoys, and back to the beach. It is timed and paddled hard. This session improves your fitness, and critical skills when paddling, under pressure, out and back through the waves.

An unexpected challenge

One assumes the biggest obstacle during this training session (barring fitness) is the surf zone. You have to navigate the waves twice, either way! The waves certainly present a fair amount of testing; however the biggest, and most unexpected, challenge is still coming: getting around the buoys!

All of the paddlers are heading to exactly the same point and there is a frenetic pile up of Surfskis and clashing of paddles trying to get around the buoys. The boats all end up next to each other with zero space to paddle and lots of bumping. It becomes very intense and requires every bit of concentration to not crash, clash or cuss! Sometimes, tempers may flare!

seadog 29 jan 3

The best way around and the typical response

The best way around the buoys is to take a wide arch around, and to be in front! But the time will come when you do neither of these and end up in a turn-buoy-pile-up! Every paddler will one day experience this; you must be prepared for it. The typical response being caught up like this is to stop paddling and sometimes even reverse paddle. Doing that makes it worse as you lose your steering, can’t navigate the choppy water and more skis join the throng. You become truly stuck!

Paddle your way out of trouble

There is only way out of this kayaking quicksand and that is forwards. You must make every effort to keep paddling forward. Find that tiny sliver of water for your paddle, and use it! By going forward whatever it takes, you maintain steering and of course get out of trouble faster. By stopping and reverse paddling you are only making the situation worse.

Life Lesson?

What Life Lesson can we learn? It is inevitable that in our lives we will end up with unexpected challenges. Things in life are rarely simple. The challenge might involve a sudden slowdown in business, or it may involve some interpersonal friction, and our response will be to try avoid it, to stop trying to fix it and to backtrack away from it, and this only makes it worse. During this time we must remember what our first goal was: It was to get around the buoys, to get through this, ALL of us! And the best way is FORWARD, doing what YOU can do. Find that tiny sliver of possibility and that little bit of common water, and paddle forward.

With relationships intact?

Whenever I have been in a tight tussle around a buoy, I have only experienced post paddle anger when there was malice involved (mostly perceived, sometimes real); but NEVER when all paddlers were just trying their best, no matter how piled up we were. It is tempting in a race to gain advantage by disadvantaging someone else. While this may get you around the initial obstacle or problem, you will face a different issue later on, and now it won’t be about paddling around the buoy, but what you did to get around it.

In life we will always face tense relational or professional moments, but by focusing on our common goal, by moving forward together, we will make it though.

Be sure to paddle your way out of trouble!

~ Dawid Mocke


I love to motivate! Please contact dawid@mockepaddling.com if you have an opportunity where I could share and motivate at your company or with your team, perhaps even take them paddling.

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