Zen and paddling
Developing paddling skills is all about attitude. Making paddling an ego trip is a cul-de-sac. An egoistical approach can of course initially create enthusiasm and perseverence, but is desctructive in the long run. Every quest aiming to glorify the self is doomed, sooner or later. The paddler who paddles far, fast or in heavy conditions just to show off, will seldom achieve anything worthwhile. Even reaching the goal it is a hollow triumph. To maintain the glory you have to prove yourself over and over again - ever farther, ever faster, ever bigger waves or higher falls - constantly forced to live up to a basically flawed self image and constantly afraid of being exposed.
It is not about physical strength. Strength and stamina can initially compensate for and cover flaws in technique. But that path is not very long. Not even the most persistent work in the gym can improve your strength for ever. But most of all - inefficient paddling is mentally depleting, be it fast or not.
It is not about motivation either. Motivation often becomes a kind of arrogance, where the water, the kayak and the paddle is used for selfish purposes. The self is the end and the paddling is reduced to mere means.
The self supportive mental training that athletes often rely on in periods of setbacks is a kind of sophisticated self-deception - a shortcut to maturity - that in the long run is counterproductive. One step forward and two steps back. Like other forms of addictive manipulations it must be repeated in increased doses and with shorter intervals to have the intended effect.
The difference between ego paddling and egoless paddling may seem minute. Both dip alternately left and right paddle blade in the water. Both breathe in and out in about the same way. Both take a break when tired. Both continue when rested. But still the difference is huge.
The ego paddler is like a fine instrument that is slightly out of tune. He puts the paddle in a fraction too soon or too late to get the best out of the paddle. He paddles a fraction too fast or too slow to use the rythm of the waves. He waits a fraction too long before taking that break. He does not see the light playing in the spray. His thoughts are at the next point or the next island. He is here but still not here.
His here is without quality. He wants to be there. But when he gets there he is still impatient because the there turned out to be just another here. What he yearns for is all around him but he does not want it because it is all around him. He is toiling, physically and mentally.
He does not understand that the goal is within himself and the satisfaction here and now. He does not see that if the paddling is to be more than a shallow showing off, the mind must be emptied of all self-absorbed thoughts and emotions. He does not realise that he must forget all he has learned - meaning that the skills and knowledge is there, but he is consciously unaware of them. First then, the paddling can be automated, effortless, free of the paddlers busybody control. First then, the barriers vanish.
This achieved, when all knowledge is secluded, when the conscienceness is unaware of its activity and the self is not interfering, then there are no limits. Then the paddling can be perfected.