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megspk
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  Quote megspk Replybullet Topic: FeAr FaCtOr!
    Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 1:12pm

How does one learn how to harness this beast or kick its ass?!  Any insight would be awesome!

 

“A strong person and a waterfall always channel their own path.” -Unknown

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  Quote PaddleGirl Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 1:50pm
i'm sure i've said this to you before, but paddle within your limits. when it's time to step up, it should feel right.
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  Quote BurningDaylight Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 1:59pm
My opinion on this is firstly, fear is a usefull beast, granted it may scare you to the point of creating a frozen zombie with a paddle in your hands, but this is the far end of the spectrum.  Fear is a bell curve, if it isn't there you won't get the adrenaline going. You perceive it as easy and possibly become complacent. Is this as bad as too much?, Well, accidents happen to experienced paddlers on class 2. Up the fear factor a bit, you perceive a difficulty, get stressed, and feel the need to perform. How you perform is based on your experience, and how you cope with the stress. Too much fear....or ones PERCEIVED  inability to cope with the stress, ends up in various ways (frozen zombie being one example). Paddling is a process, not a destination. Get all the experience you need on something that gives you that "middle ground" of fear, upping your difficulty level will be a more natural progression. Try to be honest to yourself and others you paddle with regarding your abilities. You are a kayaker, you are less fearless than most people out there, remember that too. Fear and respect go hand in hand as well, one need not fear a thing, if one shows the proper respect.   Legal Disclaimer: I still get scared!  Hope to see you out there some day.  Cheers
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  Quote BrianP Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 4:06pm
Have you read any of Doug Ammons stuff? If you haven't, you could start there.

My other piece of advice-and what's worked for me-is to surround yourself with people better than you. Almost every run this last season I've been with solid class V paddlers. Sometimes it was easy class III and some hard IV/easy V (definitely my first season in that realm). Being around them will teach you more than you'll learn in any class. If they're taking you out on runs, they probably think you have the skills. That should say something in the first place, but just listening to them while you scout can be really informative. For instance, I ran this sweet little creek this summer, mostly class III+/IV- with a 3 waterfall sequence in the middle. An off vertical 20 footer, 50 foot pool, clean vertical 20 footer, hundred yard pool and another 20-25 foot off vertical. The lead in to #1 was technical and the thought of being upside down between #1 and #2 was terrifying. But my buddy just said, "Yeah if you flip after the first one you've got plenty of time to roll up". For some reason in that moment it clicked that, "Yeah, I have a solid roll, its just a pool. If I flip I'll roll up in time to boof the sh*t out of that 20 footer."
   The other thing that worked for me.. There was a rapid I looked at every time I paddled for well over a month this summer. It's the last rapid on our home run and you can either run it or take out right there. Finally one day I told my buddy I was ready for it. We got there and he asked if I wanted to stop and look. I said no, I've seen in, so we blue angled it and it was incredible! I guess maybe what I was trying to say is the same thing as Jen..when you're ready, you'll know.
I'll have to reread this later to see if it makes sense..trying to chase a 1 1/2 year old, make supper, and type at the same time is harder than kayaking.
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  Quote Dale Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 4:21pm
Beer.
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  Quote Mr.Grinch Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 5:44pm
What are you affraid of?

Edited by Mr.Grinch - 05 Dec 2013 at 5:46pm
nnln.
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  Quote megspk Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 9:01pm
All this advice is awesome!

It also sounds like I should go find a run I'm familiar with and just find all the holes and spots that will knock me around a bit to make sure I'm ready to go on something a bit harder. I have been getting this advice a lot :) Right now I wish I boated in the land of WARM waters.

“A strong person and a waterfall always channel their own path.” -Unknown

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  Quote megspk Replybullet Posted: 05 Dec 2013 at 9:23pm
https://vimeo.com/80065970#
“A strong person and a waterfall always channel their own path.” -Unknown

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  Quote water wacko Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 6:44am
Megan, consider the harder moves, eddies, boots, etc. in the rapids you are already comfortable in and know well, at a variety of water levels. Boulder Drop is a very classic example. Been boating long enough that you've hit all the boots, eddies and seam moves, no problem... add some flow and watch the features change. Play boat!! It will give you the additional core strength and "practice" being upside down or tossed in a hole that will develop instinctual muscle memory and effortless confidence, in less consequential environs (unless your name is Robert Mckibbon). Because in the end... it's all about class FUN!! Forget the term stepping it up and certainly don't bother with an attempt at getting balls deep. Paddling scared, consistently, will only develop your instincts of looking at how scared you are, not the river that is directly in front of you. Paddle scared long enough and you will be left with a pile of bad habits and hate white water. Slow it down a click and begin noticing the individual wave, holes and features of the river. When you can consistently see those you are paddling within your comfort zone. Great! Have fun, keep going and you will continue to improve at your own pace. Richey Rich's dad sent him to Swirl Class Academy when he was 14 and now at 17, young Rich just hand paddled of a 98 footer! Good for him. Two different worlds. My point is, we each have our own path to get to our continually upgraded 'happy place'. Don't fret. Be SOLID in YOUR path and you'll be the best paddler YOU can be... and I think that's the whole point anyway. To feel good most of the time, renewed, scared or nervous once in awhile. Actually scared, but still able to see features while paddling. Take your time, you are the only one on your path. Good thing too, that means there's no one else to try and keep up with. Learn from others' mistakes and triumphs. There are lots of great paddlers here. For a good chunk of my paddling career I never thought I would ever be a creek boater, let alone run something as sick as the Top Tye! For me, my path, there was just too much risk for the reward. It was just too scarey. I was certain EVERYONE paddling class V would die sooner than later... again, my path. I've been on this path longer now, have learned things, developed skills and came up through the ranks paddling with people I liked, respected, and who I knew always had my back. Critical ingredients when one "steps it up" ;)

Anyway, have fun! Stepping it up will happen naturally. I mean, you have a roll right? Did you always have one or did you develop that skill? How did you look at kayaking a year ago, like "what am I doing?" Now you're looking at it like you wanna step it up. Sick. Keep having fun and developing technique that will serve you in a "stepped up" environment. Each new river is a little like a job interview. Be prepared, overqualified even. Did I mention fun?
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
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  Quote Scott_H Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 9:36am
The Powerhouse has a couple holes that have a little "hold" to them.  Good place to practice the moves in a low consequence environment.
 
From time to time I come back to the 2:10 mark in this video for a little inspiration.  That boater has the skills and confidence that I strive for.
 
 


Edited by Scott_H - 06 Dec 2013 at 9:38am
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 12:51pm
This is basically just a repackaging of what Jen and JP said, but here goes.

-Focus on taking hard lines on rapids that are easy for you, in rapids where taking a swim won't put you at significant risk. The MM has a ton of these. Time tested, proven, and much safer and more enjoyable than white-knuckling it through rapids you have no business being in.

Focus on making ferries and catching eddies that barely seem possible, and link several of these moves together when possible. When you flush out, flip, or what have you - it'll provide valuable practice for recovering from blown lines in harder rapids.

-When you're feeling like you want to "step it up," consider paddling a river that you've got dialed and know you belong on at slightly higher flows (use this approach with caution).

-Find relatively un-committing runs that are either pool-drop, or have long recovery sections between sustained rapids, and have easy portages...and portage the harder rapids and watch other people run the business. Try to follow their lines on the rapids you don't portage to get a (very) rough calibration of what their skill level is like compared to yours.

-When it's clear that you are paddling with someone better than you and you're in a rapid you've got dialed, have them fire off the most demanding combination of moves they can think of and play follow the leader.

-Find a play-hole for a fun way to get infinite roll practice.

-Log some time in a pool and develop a strong roll on both sides, with and without a paddle. You'll probably never use a hand-roll, but knowing that you can hand-roll on both sides can definitely help you keep it together when you're upside down and need to clear your head, focus, and roll up again.

-Focus on paddling with style instead of paddling rapids that are as hard as possible. Focus on whether or not you were able to put your boat exactly where you wanted it with as few extra paddle strokes, braces, and wobbles as possible.

-Be patient. Remember that it's way easier to build skills you need to run hard whitewater than it is to develop the wisdom and intuition that can help you make the really tough calls and stay out of trouble.

-Get used to the idea that you'll have plateaus in your skills and confidence over time and learn to roll with them.

-When you do step up a river class and the consensus-lines on the harder rapids consistently feel easier than the lines you've been contriving for maximum difficulty in easier rapids - that's a good sign that you're where you need to be to run rapids at that river class safely and in good style.



-Jay
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  Quote tiziak Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 4:27pm
I think the best statement on this thread was "Boat with people better than yourself".
 
They can look at your paddling without the ego getting in the way. If they say "go for it" then you should go for it. Unless you're gripped. In that case: do the spit test. If you can summon enough moisture to spit, maybe give'r hell. If your mouth is so dry you choke on your tongue trying to spit: pick that boat up quick! Ha!
 
Everybody is a little different. I personally do much better when I boat with people that are better than myself. You "rise to the challenge" I think.
 
Surround yourself with sick people and sick results will be had!
If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.

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  Quote not-very-clever Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 5:24pm
im scared right now just thinking about whitewater
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  Quote WhiteWaterWheat Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 6:11pm
Meg, so much of controlling that fear factor is feeling confident in your abilities. Choose runs that you have fun on. Spend so much time in the pool that your roll is second nature. We all have mental battles to fight, and unfortuneatly, they never quite go away. Like Slickhorn said, boating is a lifetime sport. Enjoy it, have fun!
You only get the chance to run a drop blind once.
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  Quote BrianP Replybullet Posted: 06 Dec 2013 at 7:27pm
The other thing I wanted to say about boating with other people might be obvious, but it really helps to be able to watch someone run something in person before you do.

When you're getting to the edge of your comfort zone, that means that you're going to be paddling water that has characteristics which you've never dealt with before. Looking at a drop you might think, "What is that going to do to me. Should I brace into that? Lean into it? Away from it? It looks like it'll just swallow me. etc." Watching someone deal with it first has helped me a ton.

Like people said above, you have skills like your roll. But don't forget about all the other skills you have because those are the ones that will keep you from needing a roll. I'm guessing that when most of us have fear, it's not so much a fear of not being able to roll, but being afraid of the flip in an ugly situation/drop/rapid.

I think a big part of certain rapids is being able to deal with what happens. You might know your line, but sh*t still happens and having the confidence in your turns, bracing, eddy catching, and ferrying makes it possible to feel comfortable stepping up. I'm far from being a great paddler, but it seems to me that running class IV and up requires a lot more "dealing" skills. You probably already have them, but you may not have used them a whole lot yet.
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  Quote Reina Replybullet Posted: 07 Dec 2013 at 12:24am
What a great topic- I am curious of your answer to Grinch's question- the fear- when do you most feel it? Is it with just certain runs/drops/or classes of rivers? Is it of messing up your line and getting worked? Drowning? Do you notice it more boating with certain people rather than others? Because working through each of these may have a different answer.

Heather Herbeck teaches a great Girl Paddle with a focus on the Mental side of kayaking and harnessing that fear, and discusses the differences in the way men and women approach rapids and differences in how we approach stepping up our skill levels. You should check it out this spring!!

I do agree that whatever you're feeling, boating with people who are better than yourself is always good-- Caveat: people who are not only "good" but also Experienced is important. Some people get good quickly without a lot of river time, or working out problems, seeing accidents or practice getting out of sticky situations... so you might be able to follow their line, but the learning side of it is lacking. Mentors are important.

One of those differences Heather talks about is that women in general, of course there are exceptions, like to break down the rapids and learn them well, understand the lines and be able to finesse them and perfect them and get comfortable and confident before stepping it up... guys can white-knuckle something, get through it, be stoked and ready to step up to the next harder thing... again, there are lots of exceptions of course (and great advice above that can attest to that!), but it's a basic difference in how we analyze things sometimes. Women in general think about things more... it's natural we feel that fear more. No guys, I'm not saying you don't think!!!!

 Lets take a hole, for example. People say find a hole and go play in it! Ok, most of the guys I know would jump right in and do that! But most of the women I know have asked questions first- ok, so if I go sideways, what do I do? I brace how? Where? If I turn this way, do i want my paddle here or there? left or right? If I DO have to swim, how do I get out? What do I do? If I'm doing a rock splat do I want this edge up then that one? When do I transfer that weight? Don't be embarrassed to ask questions. And make sure you're asking someone who really knows the answer  and the why behind it, if that's what you need to get comfortable. Lots of people can do stuff automatically, but when we start asking questions, not all of them can answer the when and why. 

I'm glad you're aware of that fear factor and asking questions about it. Hope no one is offended at this, but men and women are different, and sometimes we gotta talk about that.
Cheers!



Edited by Reina - 07 Dec 2013 at 12:28am
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 10 Dec 2013 at 11:35am
Originally posted by megspk


How does one learn how to harness this beast or kick its ass?!  Any insight would be awesome!



 



For me it rears its ugly head from time to time. These days Im not looking to confront my fears too much, so I try to frame my paddling experience within a context where my fears aren't being triggered too much. Having explored the boundries of my fear and capability plenty of times in the past, lately I choose to just go out and enjoy boating. If that means portaging a crux rapid or two even if I have run it or know I can, sometimes I'm cool with portaging. Its a great way to tone down a run.

Other times my fears may kick in in an irrational way above some drop I totally know I should be able to enjoy. I do tend to deny this type of fear and over ride it with the confidence that my skills are more than adequate.

Then there are the other times when you are in the middle of running stuff and everything spins out of control. I try to stay focuss on what I have to do and paddle to make it happen at all costs. Try to shunt the fear in the moment, unless it is giving you the impetus to paddle harder, ect.

But it ebbs and flows, comes and goes. My dad used to say that if you weren't scared there was something wrong with you. There is a lot of truth to this, but there is also a spectrum. Good fear should be litened to, because it can keep you from making really bad decisions or plunging into that "roll the dice" kind of drop. Bad fear is debilitaing because it limits you from performing at your peak and enjoying experiences that are well within your abilities. Identifying which is which can be difficult and takes experience on the water, and experience pushing against your fears.

I liken this experience to exercising a muscle. You don't want to pull the muscle or destroy it. You want to gently tear its fibers so it will grow stronger. You can't do this by paddling the same class III run all the time and not pushing yourself. If you shelter yourself too much from the fearful side of paddling, sooner or later it'll find you anyway and you'll be unprepared. This is a sport of adventure and risk assessment, afterall.

I just try to listen to my gut each time I put on a challenging run and ask myself what I want out of the day's paddle. For me there is a push and pull where I engage my fears more or less like shifting gears on a manual transmission. If I haven't been paddling much or very strong, if I feel out of shape, I pull back. When I'm feeling dialed in after a few days or weekends, I push harder against that envelope. Sometimes I let the fear have its way and other times I squash it like a bug.
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 10 Dec 2013 at 12:30pm
Here are a few basic things that help me deal with fear on the river:

Scouting: ever since Nealy published the proverbial statement that the more you look at a rapid, the less you want to run it, I feel like people have used it to make scouting seem like some bad thing. Its not. Scouting is and always will be a valuable tool for overcoming the challenges and hazards a rapid contains. Way too many people are too impatient to allow someone who is afraid of a given run or rapid the opportunity to thouroughly scout a drop. It is an artificially imposed pressure that can create extra anxiety, stress and fear. That said, sometimes in a remote canyon there are real time constraints and its important to "keep things moving". But often if this is the issue, it means your group should have met at that Park and Ride at 8am instead of 10:45am. Now its 1:52pm and you are rushing to get to the take out before dark. So really, getting an early start on your trip, being organized, can minimize fear and stress when you want to objectivy evaluate your hazards and challenges on the run.
There is definitely a "sh*t or get off the pot" stage after you've thouroughly analyzed your line and the obstacles you need to avoid or confront. Here I am a fan of making a grey area into an artificial black and white decision. If I linger too long and am not confident enough about hitting the moves, I walk. Or if I feel pressed for time, sometimes I'll glimpse the drop and see that its suitably gnarly, and just start portaging to save time and keep moving.
   If the boaters who are better than you scout with you, sometimes they can point out alternatives you may not have seen on your own, and these can be game changers that allow you to triumph. Or they may point out a hazard you didn't notice that can be a deal breaker. I say live to boat another day, in general. Let the video stars huck themselves to oblivion, break their backs, ect. That Evil Kineaval sh*t isn't for me.

In the eddy:
Once I determine that, yes I can and should run this drop, I skirt up in the eddy and depending on how nervous I am I take a deep breath or several before I peel out of the eddy. I like to point upstream and visualize my line based on whatever I scouted or ran before. I really like to feel my heart rate slow down. Then I peel out with solid strokes, and when the current brings my bow around, a switch is flipped and that fear is in a box. Now its all focus, muscle memory, and breathing. No real room for fear or letting it have undue influence.

Other ways to mitigate fear is by doing research on a run. For some people, if they have knowledge about where the crux rapids sit along a run, they are more at ease pacing themselves and not under the grip of "what happens next" apprehension which can be paralyzing. But this is a double edged sword. You gotta take each rapid as it comes and not be concerned about the monster looming several miles downstream because it may ruin your performance or even wear you down prematurely. But doing your own homework on a run can be empowering if you are with people who aren't knowledgeable of it or won't take you under their wing, or don't have the skill set to be your leader or hero. Puts you in the driver seat more than just following the lemmings.

Anytime I let fear get out of control, it stiffens me up snd I boat sh*tty. It creates a feedback loop and I get more scared and boat sh*ttier. So I try to avoid conditions that foster that kind of feeling.
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  Quote WA-Boater Replybullet Posted: 10 Dec 2013 at 12:51pm
Don't worry about what can happen - or it will happen!

Once you decide to give 'er - be all in and only focus on the line or whatever's required for success. The time to evaluate whether you are prepared (mentally, physically, emotionally, skills, conditioning, etc) is before you snap your skirt on. If you're stepping up your game or getting out of that comfort zone - think about why you're doing it. Hopefully you are doing it because you want to - and if so you will have a drive to pursue it. If I'm heading towards something that has me jazzed up, I'll spend a bit of time thinking about it on the drive there - then try to put it out of my head after I've assessed the risks vs. skills/rewards. No point dwelling on it. Most of the time it's pretty easy to realize when you've crossed that line from 'covering the bases' to 'fretting' about if it's going to work out.
Figuring out the risk vs. reward part is probably one of the most important skills to develop if you are going to push yourself or paddle class 5. If you can answer the reward part (ie justify it in some fashion) you should be able to put those mental fears in check. In order to justify it: it's not all about reward - a huge part of the equation is you abilities - mentally, physically, & skillfully - to succeed at the proposed risk. If you are lacking any or all of the reward or skill based facets your brain is going to know it and make you freak out.
If you are freaking out don't run it - save it for another day. Meaning that you have failed, or have yet to accomplish one of the skills or rewards - or maybe you have all that stuff dialed and you just haven't put it all together mentally to know you are OK. In which case it doesn't really matter, because if you are freaking out you are not going to have much success. Those tight tense hips are going to have you upside down swimming in no time.
Which brings me back to the first point - Don't worry about what can happen - or it will happen! It's very important to take the time to scout and access your abilities to fully understand what can happen. But once you decide to go for it - you should be confident that you will succeed. Obviously that's not guaranteed - but that's why the sport is what it is and we are faced with these deep emotional wrenches that make it great. And it's why we boat with friends, carry a throw rope, take a rescue class and paddle within our means.

Have fun, be safe, hopefully it makes some sense?

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  Quote Ellingferd Replybullet Posted: 10 Dec 2013 at 2:47pm
There is always a lot of ambiguous talk about fear in kayaking. Some say you should have some fear, others say you should have none. The reality is fear can be a healthy thing, and it can be an unhealthy thing. True fear is debilitating while healthy fear is more like a feeling, for me, that lets me know I need to be on my game. I don't think I can, honestly, remember a time when I was truly, debilitatingly, afraid on a river. This is not to brag, but is more about the fact that I really evaluate my feelings about a specific rapid, run, or even river level before I commit. I honestly think about my skills, how I am feeling, how the people I am paddling with are feeling, and that indescribable thing called "instinct" that is developed with time and experience. As an example, I walked by Spirit Falls on the Little White many times before I ever ran it and, one day, I told myself that I would take an honest scout if I had perfect lines up to spirit. So, I did, and during the scout I felt like there was absolutely no reason I couldn't hit the line and paddle through Chaos in control. So, I ran it, and it went fine. This is not to say I wasn't nervous sitting above the drop, but I gave it an honest assessment and my brain and body agreed. I snapped the skirt, visualized the line, and peeled out of the eddy. Ironically, most times I have ever been off line on a difficult run are when I least expect it, not when I have consciously assessed the situation. With this in mind, if you are experiencing a great amount of fear and doubt, this would be an indicator that you might be boating above your head. If this is happening in relatively safe circumstances, like rolling in class II or, just being upside-down in a boat makes you uncomfortable, it may be time to take a step back and really focus on developing bombproof skills so you can be confident that you will perform on the river.

Another thing, which I feel is really overlooked in our sport, is fitness. For some reason, and I really dont know why, kayaking is not viewed as a sport which requires a good level of fitness. Maybe because of its tertiary association with rafting, but it certainly isn't like road biking where individuals actually train to participate in the sport. Despite the lack of fitness as an apparent requisite for the sport, fitness is KEY to confidence. You must be strong enough to execute the proper technique, and when you have a high level of general strength and conditioning, you WILL feel more confident no matter what kind of boating you are doing. I focus very hard during the "offseason" to train for kayaking. Not only does it boost your confidence and ability, but if you focus in the offseason, you are in shape right when the water starts to melt, not after a month of being back in your boat regularly. So, instead of "getting back in boating shape" the first part of the melt in the spring, you are already in shape and ready to handle whatever the river throws at you. Preparation is almost as important as skill, in my opinion, when dealing with fear on the river.
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  Quote JayB Replybullet Posted: 10 Dec 2013 at 4:51pm
Originally posted by Ellingferd



Another thing, which I feel is really overlooked in our sport, is fitness. 


Agreed. I think that this is true at any level of difficulty, but particularly when you happen to be paddling in circumstances that are on the difficult/committing side of what you are capable of paddling.

The mental and physical sides of this sport are so interwoven that once exhaustion/fatigue really start to kick in a general deterioration in performance and confidence can follow and things can spiral downwards pretty quickly.


-Jay
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 14 Dec 2013 at 10:08pm
I enjoyed everyone's posts on this go round, but probably Ellingferd's the most. Very coherent summary, Jonathan! Fitness is key, and truthfully what ultimately holds me back the most. I tend to make up for my lack of fitness with my accumulation of a bag of janky tricks. But usually when I am up against my cardio limits is when my confidence really ebbs.
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  Quote jP Replybullet Posted: 15 Dec 2013 at 12:35am
I'm gonna keep this going, if that's cool-

It gets mentioned a lot to boat w/ paddlers who are better than you. Good simple advice for sure. There are a lot of facets to this as well, though, so maybe it is important to outline some of it and how it pertains to managing the FeAr FaCtOr.

Just boating with someone who is "better than you" isn't in and of itself enough. The reason is that just because they can grease a given run, or every class V in Washington doesn't mean they will look out for you or help you when you get into murky territory w/ your fears. Some really good boaters sometimes do some loose sh*t that can leave you feeling less secure about how the trip is unfolding. An unrelenting pace when you might want to stop and scout more frequently, or eddy out to catch your breath are prime examples of little things that can pile up and erode confidence in "the weak link" of a group, leaving that "weak link" more vulnerable to screwing up and swimming or having an epic ect.

Rather than following good boaters I think its better to follow good leaders. And being a good leader involves more than firing up the sh*t, because good Trip Leaders are empathic on some level. They watch each boater on the trip early after putting on and can evaluate skill levels while most of the so-called "good boaters" are bombing downstream boating only for themselves. Knowing you are following someone who truly cares about how your run turns out can be an incredible confidence booster. Without about 50 great paddlers who helped me early in my career, I woulda crashed and burned, injured myself, and quit this sport a long time ago. Instead, these truly great people took me under their wing, taught me how to assess risk, and proved they could rescue me and others.

Controlling fear is largely about building confidence and knowing where that line is, when to cross it, and when not to, as we keep saying. Since the social element is so integral (unless you boat solo, but more on that later), I really think that group dynamics can really play a critical role in how much that beast we call Fear can work itself into the mix. Clear communication in the car on the drive out, at the put in, ect, can go a long way toward nipping something in the bud. I'll try to provide examples in the following post.
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  Quote irenen Replybullet Posted: 15 Dec 2013 at 4:13pm
OK, JP resurrected this so I will chip in too. :)  Good comment by the way JP on good boaters vs. good leaders.  Sometimes the reason good boaters who could be good leaders just aren't that way on a particular trip is because there was no organization and the need to have a good leader and a particular person or two making sure the less experienced person knows the line (and definitely the 'don't go that way' line) was never discussed beforehand.  In other words, if you do a difficult run don't assume that you're in good hands just because you're with a bunch of really good boaters who are better than you are - no matter how nice or competent they are, if the trip hasn't been set up correctly for someone to be stepping it up on that day, it could become a flail-session.

Anyway, some thoughts on the fear factor thing you asked about, just my two cents:

Don't get in the habit of boating out of control.  I think it's good to push yourself to the point that you're still enjoying yourself and still learning, and I think with kayaking pushing yourself is almost never without fear or at least some nervousness.  But if you consistently put yourself in situations in which you are 'dealing with it' because you couldn't make the line or are in recovery mode, that eventually does more harm than good to your confidence level over a period of time, even though you may have "made it down" all kinds of stuff.

Don't self-critique all the time.  Women especially do this, but men sometimes do too.  I was talking with a really good Class V kayak instructor this summer and she voiced something I had kind of noticed:  "A guy can blow the line and brace their way down the rapid and at the end be like, "Arrrgh, yeah!", whereas a girl can have the same line or a decent one and at the end when everyone is saying "Great job", she's likely to say "Thanks... but I shouldn't have missed that one eddy, and I had a big brace on that one section, etc. etc."  Part of that attitude is just not wanting to become arrogant, which is great, but we (women, men, all of us who have a tendency to do this) should take a break from some of it.

Think of this:  I heard on the radio recently that negative memories are imprinted in our brains nearly 4 times as strongly as positive ones, which makes sense from a survival perspective.  So if you think about it, you don't need any help reminding yourself about what needs improvement with your kayaking, the river will do that for you.  Instead, you do need to try to make your positive reinforcement for the stuff you do right at least 3 times more intense just to even match the negative stuff.  So if someone says to you "Nice roll", instead of saying "Thanks, but I shouldn't have flipped", it is probably way better to say "Thanks!"  With a big smile.  And then repeat the words, "I am awesome" around 20 times as you head off downstream. :)

You'll notice the really good boaters on here are talking consistently about competence and your knowledge of your ability to make the moves you need to in relation to not having an unhealthy fear level.  That's why I think the advice I've heard on here before about practicing harder moves on easier whitewater is great - you can do Class IV and sometimes even Class V on Class III or easy IV runs depending on what kind of line you attempt, with much fewer potential consequences.  It's an excellent way to build skill and the confidence that goes with it.

Try to become comfortable swimming, meaning practice it in your kayak gear if you're currently bad at it.  Some people don't like hearing this, but I think it's unrealistic to not plan on swimming at some time if you are en route to a higher skill level.  If you're like me and a crappy swimmer then it can be pretty unpleasant and will add to your fear factor.  If you're someone like my husband Mike, or Joe Howard, who are basically tunas in life jackets who leave wakes behind them as they buzz towards the nearest eddy, it's no big deal.  Option B is way better.

Finally, this might sound a little odd, but don't paddle with judgmental people - they can end up taking the fun out of any river, no matter the difficulty level.  I think at this point I have more fear of people than fear of whitewater.  Which is really saying something.
It's all fun and games until someone loses a paddle.
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