How to Be an Expert Paddler: A Graph Depicting an Expert’s Progress

I came across this graph on “How to be an Expert” a few years ago and it stuck with me. Of course, this graph can be applied to anything in life, but I really liked it in the context of paddling.


We have all seen new paddlers come out, try the sport, and never come back. Why? Because they got frustrated and didn’t have the perseverance to continue past their first training session. We’ve also seen the paddlers who come out for a month or so, aren’t happy with their progress so they don’t ever really get that spark of passion and then we never see them again. Those paddlers are in the “Struggling/Frustrating” zone and never cross that “Sucks Threshold.”

But, once a paddler passes the “Sucks Threshold,” they start seeing improvement. They manage to get their timing down, they have some rotation, they get the idea of leg drive, and they start actually moving the boat across the water with some speed. At this point, they have a real choice to make. They can either sit back and rest, knowing that they have the basics of paddling under their belt, or they can keep pushing themselves to get better and cross the “Kicking Ass Threshold.” If they choose to sit back and rest, they often become un-coachable because they feel that they know enough about paddling and frequently their ego gets in the way. They aren’t interested in new developments in the sport, despite the fact that such developments may make them a better paddler, because they feel they are “good enough.” They are looked up to by the newest paddlers, which typically goes to their head, and they are intimidated by those who are better than them because their egos can’t quite handle it.

If, however, a paddler recognizes their own shortcomings and keeps looking for ways to improve, they are pushing themselves to cross that “Kicking Ass Threshold” and become an expert. They seek out ways to improve, they consistently ask for feedback, they attend clinics, they don’t shy away from video reviews, and they take the time to consult with those who are better than them. They do not let their progress become impeded by their ego. They are worthy of being looked up to.

What category are you in? Why? If you want to be a better paddler, set the goal to be worthy of being looked up to.

Puff Head On 2

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3 Discussion to this post

  1. Richard L says:

    The graph clearly shows our mental attitude and level of commitment.

  2. Sam Young says:

    Hi Paddlechica, could I use your diagram on my blog to illustrate a post?

    • Paddlechica says:

      Sam, I’m sorry I didn’t see this comment sooner for some reason. I truly appreciate you asking permission to use the diagram. I did not create it, however, so I would suggest contacting Kathy Sierra for permission to use the diagram.

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