Luuka Jones and Speed
How did you get in Canoeing?
I got into canoeing when my folks moved next door to a canoe park. I started spending a lot of time there. It was sort of destiny I guess. I love canoeing, in particular the challenge of it. It’s always different and changing, and requires you to adapt with it, and overcome fresh challenges. There is so much thinking involved – in particular, critical thinking. I love the feeling of being out on the water. I loves that feeling of power when I get good speed and explode out.
Why does speed play such a huge part in Canoe Slalom?
You have to speed and efficiency in everything you do. You have to go around poles as fast as you can. You’re looking for the fastest lines through the course – the fastest water. You’re also looking to use the least amount of space. Sometimes when you’re going around a pole, your head with be 2cm away, because you need to have the shortest line possible.
How do you prepare for a race?
On race day the course and gate sequence is set, so the first time you race is when you first experience the course. On the day you’ll have a plan, but you just have to do your best. I will study imagery of the course prior, so I know what my lines will be, and how my boat is going to react. Experience helps a lot in this, because I know how my body/the boat is going to react in certain situations, and what you need to do to compensate for this. You have to train every kind of technique, so that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. You have to be able to think on your feet quickly. You do have a plan, but things can change. You might make a mistake, and have to react as quickly as possible. Often if you make a mistake at the beginning of the course, you have to do quite a lot of work, and make quite a lot of split decisions to get you gradually into the right place. It’s very much a mental thing – staying composed is crucial.
What does your body go through physically?
In terms of the physical side – the legs do a lot more work than you think. Often when you’re going back up the course, you’re leaning back, and so your lower body is doing a lot of work. Having good core strength is crucial, as this holds everything together. I do a lot of gym work, which helps with core control. I also do a lot of resistance training as being powerful is key. You have to explode out of each gate. You have to constantly work to keep the boat moving. This is key. If the boat loses momentum, you lose so much speed.
Tell us about representing New Zealand?
I love competing for my country; there is a huge amount of pride that comes with representing New Zealand. New Zealand is a small nation, but it does particularly well, and it’s great to be a part of that – representing a cool country that does these amazing things. Knowing I’m inspiring others is one of the coolest parts. Knowing that kids are sitting at home watching TV and being inspired by what you’re doing. And knowing that you’re not just inspiring them in sport, but in anything, for me is the coolest thing.”