Paddling

Garry Boater X – why you should be there next year!

This is my third year at the Garry Boater Cross (X) second year competing and I’m here to tell you why you should be signing up for next year’s race!

The Organisers

Before I start talking on anything else, big shout out needs to go to everyone who helps make this event a success.  Daryn Hubbucks and Kev Barclay have been running the events since 2012 (I believe), supported by Gavin Miller and Howard Aspinall. The amount of effort they put in clearly shows in the smooth running and excellence of the event.  There is so much work put in behind the scenes from t-shirt’s ordering to organising running order, ferrying about podiums, arranging prizes and trophies, ensuring everyone is looked after on and off the water and about a million other things, as well as, competing in the event itself!  The guys’ whole families get involved and without these wonderful people events like this would not be possible.  Thank you!! 

It’s thanks to Kev, Daryn, Howard, Gav and friends that these events are such a success.

The Location

The past few years’ people have stayed in Cumbernauld’s Campsite in the town of Fort Augustus. It’s a beautiful town with only a few pubs and some really quaint wee shops including a wee jewellery shop called Iceberg Glass where they blow stunning glass creations like the Jelly Fish pendants I’m currently coveting.  People are very friendly and it’s not too far from the Garry.

The Set-Up

The setup is perfect.  If you arrive Friday afternoon as a lot of folk do you will congregate somewhere on the campsite to help draw names from a hat (plastic bag!) to see who you will be racing in the first heat.  Depending on how you place in the first race will determine your placing in the next race until your final where there is everything to play for because everyone has the chance to place on the podium for your heat.

Male champions Michael Brown, Gavin Miller and Ewan Campbell took 1st, 2nd and 3rd at this year’s event

The People and Atmosphere

This year there were 17 women and 42 men racing and it was glorious.  I was feeding off the energy that everyone was exuding, trying to calm people’s nerves and generally having a great time with everyone I met.  Everyone is honestly so supportive and the atmosphere is addictive.  When you’re nor racing you spend some time on the ‘cheering rock’ in the gorge of the bridge at the finish line, shouting words of encouragement to your fellow participants, inspiring them across that finish line!

Mulling around between heats (c) Linda Stewart

The Race

The race starts at 12 and is every hour after this.  When I took part in the race last year I was sh**ting myself.  I always seemed to put pressure on myself to do well, despite not having trained or even having the desire to race competitively.

Ride that wave (c) Linda Stewart

Coming back a year later I had managed my own expectations and had two ambitions.  To go as fast as I possibly could and to stay upright because I knew a capsize would place me out of the race.  Of course it is competitive as it’s a race but everyone plays fair and I’ve never had any problems myself with any of the other racers.  As soon as the whistle or shout ‘Go!’ is sounded everything else turns off and you race your wee heart out as fast as you can, trying to avoid a tussle that could slow you down!  Once in the gorge you use the flow to catch your breath before powering it down the rest of the course to a cheering finish line.

(c) Linda Stewart, GBX 2017

The prizes

Everyone who enters of volunteers on the day recieved a goody bag with a Garry Boater X t-shirt, stickers, juice, packet of crisps and a chocolate bar.  There is always a raffle of some kind at the end using bibs to choose a lucky winner and most of the podium placed winners receive a small prize of some sort.  This particular year the trophies were out of this world created by Jennifer Hartnett and I am beyond stoked to have one sitting on my sideboard at home!

Stoked and disbelieving Danger

The After Party

This year’s after party was not as legendary as previous years as the council have upped the licence costs of local businesses in the area and the Campsite staff couldn’t afford to open the Campsite Bar/BBQ as before, however, that didn’t stop most of us having a boogie and beer underneath a gazeebo in the Campsite grounds, with some attempting a mini pub crawl around Fort Augustus.  Hopefully we’ll be back to normal next year but safe to say the people make the party anyway.

Well deserved pints in our GBX 2017 tees

If you are having reservations about entering please don’t! This event is completely accessible to everyone no matter how long you’ve been paddling. An example of this at both Garry Boater X and Tully X this year was Andreana Caldwell entering and competing after only paddling a couple of months. She felt supported and energised by the events and would also recommend to everyone!

Andreana crossing the finish line at Garry Boater X 2017

Remember you can do your bit by sharing the Garry Boater X and Tully X events, offering assistance to the guys (as I’m sure there are numerous jobs they’d love help with) and simply signing up to give it a bash, ensuring it’s continued success!  See you all July 2018 

Hugs aplenty! Suzy and Danger (c) Linda Stewart

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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.