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Fast and slow Adidas Sickline

Fast and slow

Another great year of the Adidas Sickline race is over. The results are in, the final ceremony is over and competitors around the world are heading back home or on to their next adventure. After two weeks of training, racing, sleeping and eating with the world elite in extreme kayak racing I would like to share some of the thoughts, plans, ideas and routines we all had during Sickline. If you are planning to go to a race in the future, whatever ambitions you have, hopefully the guidelines in this article will help you along the way.

Choosing the right equipment

The most important thing you need to be asking yourself before going to a race is what equipment will you be using.

What clothing should I use? A thumb rule I always like to stick to is picking the lightest and most maneuverable clothing that will still keep you warm. If you have a dry suit or a dry top with a latex gasket make sure it is not too tight and that you can breathe properly without discomfort.

What paddle should I use? The size, shape and length of your paddle really comes down to personal preference, but if your paddle is too short for you with too small blades you will find yourself wasting your energy overpowering the paddle, and your paddle will fall short of your own strength.  If it is too long with bigger blades then your strength will simply not be enough to make your paddle do the strokes it is able to do. A little trick to test this is to do 100 forward strokes at full sprint on flat water and if your last stroke is as powerful as your first but you are too tired to do many more then your paddle suits you fine.

What kayak should I use? The choice of kayak is going to be your most important one. The first thing you need to know is the length limit on the kayaks at the competition you are going to, usually between 260-270cm. Before choosing a kayak I would like to discuss a few facts about speed, length, shape and weight. What makes a fast kayak? There is a big difference between a fast kayak on flat water and a fast kayak in whitewater. What makes a kayak fast on flat water comes down to how much friction you have between the kayak and the water, and how much water has to move out of the way to let your kayak go forward. A pointy kayak with a round hull and little rocker will slice through the water with great speed, while a stubby kayak with a big rocker and a flat bottom hull will be pushing more water in front of you making it slower. What makes a kayak fast in whitewater (only while going through waves, holes or drops) comes down to staying on top of the water as much as possible, keeping your speed through drops and holes. A stubby kayak with a big rocker and a flat hull will do this with ease while a pointy round bottom kayak will tend to get submerged and pushed back by holes and waves making you loose valuable speed. When it comes to the weight lighter is always better but in the end it doesn’t make much difference. Let’s say we have one kayak that weighs 18kg and one that weighs 24kg. That’s a 6kg difference. Then we have a kayaker that weighs 75kg plus gear that weighs 5kg. That makes the whole package on the water 98kg with the 18kg kayak and 104kg with the 24kg kayak. 98kg and 104kg is not a big difference. However you will notice a difference every time you are carrying your kayak to the top of the course again. Then which kayak is the fastest one? There is a perfect kayak for every person and every racecourse but it will differ depending on the size, length and weight of the kayaker and the style of the racecourse. Though, something I always like to stick to is having a fast flat-water kayak for easier courses and more full on creeker for harder more technical courses. In the end the best kayak for you on a specific course will only help you if you have a perfect line. If you make mistakes then it doesn’t matter how fast your kayak is.


If your goal is to go all the way to the win or battle for those top positions in a competition then training is essential. You need to make yourself familiar with the racecourse and know every line and paddle stroke in detail. A minimum of 7 days of training on the course is essential to get you in top shape. Here are a few tips on how to spend your days leading up to the race. Put everything in a morning and afternoon session with at least 3 hours of rest in between. Make no single session longer than 3 hours. If you are too tired you won’t learn anything new. It is good to spend your first 3-4 sessions only trying and scouting different lines. Divide the racecourse up in different parts. Race them individually and get plenty of rest in between. A very good tool I use is the Go Pro helmet camera. Have it roll through every one of your rides and watch it all later and compare what lines are the faster ones. On your 5-8th session (day 3 and 4) it is time to start doing race runs. Race like it is your competition run. It is essential to start racing as soon as you know your lines. Keep your Go Pro rolling. Here’s a little trick that will give you a goal for the last days before the competition. Compare all the footage from your training sessions and edit together all the fastest and most perfect lines to one ride of the whole racecourse. You now have your perfect dream run. Use that time as a reference and try to beat it with a single run in the days to come. For me during the Sickline race my dream run was 56.00 seconds and the closest I got to it on a single run was 58.10 seconds. If you nail that time in your race then you know you have done your best and after that you can just wait and see how far that got you on the ladder. If you completely mess your competition rides up then tough luck, it happens but it is still fun to see how close you would have been to the top if you had your dream run and how much work you need to put in to take the title next year.

For me this years Sickline has been very memorable and giving but now this season is over and all I can do is to start preparing for next season. With new thoughts and ideas I am now ready and have a working routine and a perfect setup of gear ready for a whole new season of kayaking and racing. I hope my ideas and routines have been helpful and that they will help you to prepare and perform your best in your next race.

Happy paddling and see you on the river.

Anton Immler

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