It’s no secret that kayaking is a mental game. I’ve watched solid kayakers walk off rivers well within their ability level and I’ve also witnessed some scary near misses from people who overestimate their skills.
I used to really struggle with my confidence; always praying the next corner would be the take-out and only enjoying the river in retrospect. A few years back I broke my shoulder whilst kayaking in New Zealand and had one of the scariest swims of my life. For some bizarre reason that seemed to sort my head out and since then my confidence has been pretty good. I still have good and bad days: sometimes I won’t feel like running a rapid or river I’ve successfully done previously, but I still always have fun!
I find it amazing how quickly things can change. Only last month I was in America feeling totally on form and solid paddling some amazing rivers, some of which were pretty pushy for my ability. However, since arriving in Canada I have not quite managed to find my groove. On Saturday I helped rescue someone from a horrendous pin, which left me very shaken and brought back some difficult memories. I then proceeded to run the entire of the first rapid of the Neilson race on my face and hit all of the rocks.
My attitude towards kayaking has definitely changed over the past few years. I no longer want to survive a rapid, I want to style it. Don’t get me wrong…. I am by no means perfect. I still mess up a lot, but I want to be reasonably confident before attempting something. However, in the past couple of weeks I have had more beater moments than I’ve had in the past few years. It’s left me battered and bruised, both physically and mentally, and I have been questioning my ability and decision making.
It’s become very evident how much I rely on my boat. I wish I was a good enough kayaker to be able to pick up any boat and paddle it well, but I am not. The 9R is easy to boof, easy to roll and I am used to how the edges work. Since arriving in Canada I have been beg, borrow and stealing whatever boats I can get my hands on, and I’ve struggled to feel really comfortable in any of them. I am not trying to make excuses for my mishaps. On the contrary, I am trying to identify the weaknesses in my paddling so I can work on them.
I’ve been asked why I still kayak. I’ve always struggled to justify an answer to people who aren’t kayakers themselves. Kayaking can be scary and dangerous, but it also makes me feel more alive than anything else. I get to go to incredible countries and explore remote areas which you would otherwise never go to. I also get to meet some of the most interesting, outgoing, friendly and awesome people in the world. The kayaking community it one of a kind and I love being a part of it.
Canada has been no exception and I’ve been made to feel very welcome here, despite there being a language barrier (my French is very slowly improving). This afternoon I’m going to pick up my 9R, which has finally made it into the country, and go for a nice chilled paddle in the sunshine. This weekend is the Rouge Challenge where I hope to redeem my performance from the Neilson race on my super fun back-yard run. I’ll try and get some photos and footage from the rivers up soon!