failing

Beat downs suck! I know from experience there are different levels of beaterings but today I want to talk about the extremely painful, full on terrifying and mind altering ones which might only last a few long minutes but let me tell you the memory doesn’t fade as quickly.

Note I’d take this kind of beat down any day of the week…

When you’re pushing your paddling abilities beatdowns are surely an inevitable part of this process, but at what point do we stop?  Do they keep on getting increasingly worse and more beatery until you aren’t around to beater anymore? Am I being really dramatic about our water based pastime?

My latest beatdown on a 0.9 Falls of Leny which was, in short, a lapse in judgement followed by a complete freeze up, resulting in a 40 second pin on the right hand side with water pouring over my head, thankfully able to breathe.  I had time to look into the concerned yet calm faces of my pals before I started to unpin, dislodged and hurtled into a violent cartwheel out on my head, hitting it so hard I saw stars and my vision started to get dark.  Having never been knocked out or fainted before I don’t have any point of reference but I knew I couldn’t afford another knock to the head so pulled the deck believing in that moment being unconscious out of my boat would be better than inside upside down.  I ended up clinging to some rocks again wondering what the hell I’d been thinking about while my excellent safety crew came to my aid.

 

Almost knocked out but awesome cartwheel Bro…

I think it takes your brain a little bit longer to catch up after, going to work on Monday in a sort of numb shuffle, but amongst all of the emotions of disappointment, vulnerability and frustration are other feelings.  Feeling lucky that I can keep myself relatively calm in these situations, feeling proud that I have such amazing friends who will always have my back as best they can in these situations and feeling thankful that I’m still here to sulk over my beaterings!

 

I do, however, always try and take the positive out of situations and this is no different.  Right off the bat myself and my crew found out first hand that hey, if you completely fuck up and go down the wrong line on the falls with zero speed…you can pin!  I have still so much more to learn and sometimes being reminded to make better decisions, work harder to understand what you’re experiencing inside your head before tackling the rapid, whether you should leave it for another day, plan for the bad lines, freezing mid paddle stroke and think about your ability to get yourself out if shit turns nasty.

 

(c) Avid Liongoren

I think it’s important to get back on the horse in these situations and as usual I was out the next day, trying to put things into perspective and not to dwell on the what could have beens because Yes, I know it could’ve been much worse but it was bad enough thank you very much.  I choose to learn from these mistakes and make sure as I move forward with my paddling I’m building on the skills that will help to keep me safer and hopefully avoid situations like this in the future.

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Losing Your Mojo Jojo

No, not the monkey from the Power Puff Girls (but it’s really fun to say out loud!)

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This is about being on a river and kayaking like a boss.  Feeling like you got this.  Feeling like you may never swim again.  Feeling like you could Boof the s**t out of life.  Feeling like you’re the best kayaker on the planet!  Then one day, perhaps for no specific reason, perhaps after a bad swim, but whatever it is, something happens to take away everything you had built up and leave you a useless, gibbering wreck, wondering what you did wrong, considering that someone may have cursed you, blaming your paddle, boat, kit, beer…wondering if you will ever be good enough to get back in the boat!

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Ok, I am definitely being overly dramatic but I’m making a really good point!  Recently I’ve experienced this very thing and it was horrible, but because I am Danger King (winner at life), I talked to a lot of fellow kayakers about this and was comforted to learn I wasn’t alone.

For some it was a long swim, which left them initially very bruised or broken and when they get back in their boats hesitant, tense, with low confidence. For others, there wasn’t a specific trigger that they could identify to try to rationalise their dip in capabilities, which left them questioning their abilities and what they should do.

For me, I chose the technique below.

How to lose your Kayaking Mojo, including losing your roll!

Measure out the following:
2 x cups of water swallowed on big swims, frozen
7 x confidence crisis’, diced into a million tiny pieces
1 whole kayaking holiday, booked
Several rounds of blaming my boat, paddle, short useless arms and shoes
A few line choices – half baked
A sprinkling of witnessing everyone around you improving while you just hang around trying to catch up like a tiny, defenceless, baby sloth.
A splash of smiling all the time to try to trick your talent into reappearing

Method

Blend together slowly, over time and pour into a fresh drysuit.  Decorate with a sprinkling of back to basic’s YouTube videos and leave to stew for a few months.  And Voila!  You have your very own mojo losing kayaking episode to deal with.

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I’m going to put the drama to the side for now and talk about how we deal with this and ultimately pull ourselves back up.

If you can figure out when or why you started to feel your ‘A’ game slipping away, it will help in deciding how best to move forward.  It could be a combination, like above, in which case you need to start attacking the issues one by one.

Remember, the key in a survival situation is never to think of the big picture as this equals certain death!  (Sorry – I thought I’d put the drama away!)   I choose to apply this fact, which I learned on a Ray Mears survival programme, to any situation where I start to feel overwhelmed or unsure of where to start.

Take Charge

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It’s tripped me up more than once on a river, where I’ve got into trouble and instantly expect someone else to get me out of it. “Oh, I’m stuck in a hole – someone will pull me out…” or “I’ve just capsized but the team are right there – someone will flip me up…”, which is, of course, COMPLETELY INSANE!!!  On a river, being able to rely on yourself and have the belief in your own abilities is hugely important and will help keep you and those in your group safer.  Another element I’ve found amazingly effective in keeping in control when on a river is grabbing eddy after eddy.  Not only does this calm me down if I’ve started to feel out of control, it lets me see the river from a different perspective.  Since I’d started to lose faith in my kayaking, eddy hopping has played a major role in restoring this.

Give Yourself Time to Progress

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Pushing yourself is a brilliant thing; it can build your confidence and give you a huge sense of achievement.  However, you need to listen to yourself (and sometimes others!) when your decisions are having a detrimental effect to your paddling.  Personally, I was equating pushing myself out of my comfort zone with getting more experience which would ultimately make me a better paddler.  I discovered, however, constantly pushing  myself out of my comfort zone was making me tense in my boat, leading to some very silly capsizes and/or swims.  I also wasn’t always using skill to get myself down the rapid.  To me, just ‘surviving’ a rapid doesn’t fill me with the sense of accomplishment I look for.  I need the down time in the middle to hone my skills, improve my boating abilities and allow my confidence to catch up.  I decided to take a step back, catch my breath and start to regain control.  I now often go on trips with my pals and look at rapids more closely, choosing my lines down more carefully or sometimes walking them.

Adrenaline vs Enjoyment

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A friend recently put it into words when he mentioned this to me when I had started to feel ‘weird’ after a rapid I’d just attempted to run, which hadn’t gone quite to plan.  Once I had emptied the water and was back in my boat I was feeling dizzy and a bit sick, due to the spiking adrenaline.  In this case I had enjoyed the experience regardless of the after effects but understood that this can be a bit of a balancing act and something to perhaps take into consideration when unsure whether or not to run the next rapid.

Talk, Chat, Moan!

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I touched on this before, talking to others helps us identify what the problem could be, ways to get through it and reminds us it’s really not the end of the world!  It seems like every single person I’ve talked to have been there, often several times and could totally relate to what I was feeling.  We all know our harshest critics are normally ourselves and talking to friends can remind us to stop beating ourselves up (as much) over something we ultimately do for pleasure!

Having a Game Plan

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Setting goals helps to keep focus and actively acknowledge our achievements.  I know we’re not all in kayaking to formally challenge ourselves, but this approach could work to get you back on track, even for a short spell.  It could be long term aims to regain the enjoyment you once had kayaking like choosing rivers based on how much fun you’ll have rather than worrying about negotiating Grade 4/5 rapids on every trip, getting that boof, training for a trip or holiday!  Or shorter term goals like grabbing as many eddies as you can on a river, surfing waves, playing in holes.  Whatever it is, the act of thinking about what you want out of kayaking will never be a bad thing and could help get you back on track.

Although I wouldn’t have thought so at the time, this experience has left me better off.  I have new kind of love for kayaking now, feel far more connected to the sport and feel closer to those who have helped me through this episode.