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Old 07-01-2010   #1
Rifle, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 4
Nervous Beginner

Hello all! I need some help...I am a beginner kayaker and I am having troubles dealing with nerves. I took a class where I had 3 days on the river and 4 in a pool. The only thing I can't nail right now is rolling. Everything else I know I can do, yet my nerves get the best of me and I freak out before I go. There is one 3 mile stretch that I did recently that I actually made it through twice and was starting to love it, but when I was signed up to go on a different stretch I couldn't get over my nervousness. I don't know if it is just cause I can't roll yet, or I am just freaking myself. On the snow it seems like I have no fear, in a sailboat no problems, but kayaking is getting the best of me. SO to make this incredibly long story short, how can I get over these nerves? The places on the river I have done, I really loved it! Anything new right now is still freaking me out. I am not looking for a solution, just some advice for beginner THANKS FRIENDS

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Old 07-01-2010   #2
Airborne2504's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 420
Sounds very similar to my first season, and im sure there are quite a few others out there that felt the same during their first season.

What helped me:

- Continue goin to pool sessions on a regular basis to work on your roll(s), the different paddle strokes, edge control, finding your limits of your boat as well as the limits of your skill set right now. Working on everything and anyting you can think of in the pool will pay off the next times you hit the river. Getting your roll solid and building good boating habits/techniques in the pool will also help build your confidence. Thus, also building your comfort level and confidence being in your boat and on moving water.

- Stick to the easy runs that you know well and feel comfortable on. Gradually start making those runs harder, catching the more difficult eddies, practice your ferrying, practice rolls in moving water, going backwards down some of it/through a rapid, etc. Take your time in progressing, and building your skills. You'll begin to feel more comfrotable with the more you get on the river and just get out there paddling. You don't want to have a bad experience on something that causes you to scare the sport outta ya, which in turn causes you to quit before you gave it a formidable chance. You'll know when you're comfortbale and competant enough to start moving out of your comfort zone.

- Paddle with a crew with at least 1 or 2 other MORE Experienced paddlers that are willing to take the time and patience to help you progress and share their knowledge of skills with you. This also helps in boat and gear retrieval in the event of a swim.

- You're profile says that you're located in, Rifle. Glenwood in close to ya, so, maybe go down there with a few experienced paddlers and try surfing in the play park/G-Wave. Also a great spot to practice your rolls in a "rapid-like" sceneario. (I'd only try this once you have your roll technique pretty solid in the pool.)

- The Grizzly and New Castle runs are in that area too, supposed to be in the Class II range, might want to hit that as much as possible being that it it farily close to you. I've never done these runs, but sounds like a good beginner training ground.

- NERVES; I used to jump out of planes and choppers for a living back when i was in the army. I was a little nervous before each jump, before each mission while deployed to the sandboxes, etc. EVEN now, in my 3rd/4th Season of kayaking, I still get a little bit nervous before getting on the river, no matter how easy it is, or if ive already ran it thousands of times. having a bit of nerves on the river, and/or beofre getting on the river is a good thing in my opinion, it keeps you mentally alert/focused, but it can become a problem if you let your nerves/fear consume your head, and allow it to impair your ability to make decisions and continue paddling.

- Also, I started a thread awhile back when i kinda first started (~ 2nd season i think) asking about river nerves too, if i dig it up, i'll post the link here too.

- Take care, and be safe.

- Alex

If you're going to stick it out there, don't be afraid to get it cut off.
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Old 07-01-2010   #3
Airborne2504's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 420
I don't think you're quite her yet, but there's a lot of good advice here that people posted that helped me.

Losing your edge; River Nerves
If you're going to stick it out there, don't be afraid to get it cut off.
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Old 07-01-2010   #4
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
You are not alone, almost everyone goes thru this type of thing ever so often

I know I have several times. I have been boating for decades and it just happens.

My solution, is to get back on easy runs where I know the worst thing I can do is take a swim. Then I find safe water features where I can make harder moves but if I screw up - no big deal. Get a bud to go along as well, for the safety factor or more confidence or maybe they want to work out as well.

I just keep on this routine till my confidence on making the moves comes back, then start stepping it up run by run until I get the confidence back up to do the harder runs.

I hear this all the time and agree 100 percent. At a certain level of runs, it is a lot more mental than expertise. This can be class 2,3,4 or 5 - depends on the individual.

Hope this helps
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Old 07-01-2010   #5
LaPorte, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 33
You are in good company

What you describe is a very common experience for new kayakers, although there are some fearless folks out there.

Lots of good advice has already been provided, so I will just add two things that have helped me.
1. Practise on dry land (see Mandy's dry land kayak Eskimo rolling tips (Creative Pursuits LLC)). Its a great way to develop muscle memory. And you can do it in the living room or on the back lawn with having to swim.
2. Sometimes it is useful to remember that once you have been frightened by something, you are unlikely to "get over it", more likely, with time and practise, you will learn to use the intellectual part of your brain to override the instantaneous panic and take the preferred action - expecting that you will not be uncomfortable/scared/nervous just sets you up to think that you are not going to cope or are not coping. Practise a useful pattern of thoughts, for example, when you flip over, tuck up and set up as you think "I recognise that I don't like being upside down, but I have the skills to self-rescue, if I take a couple of extra seconds to set up properly, check my paddle angle and keep my head down, and use my hips, I'll be out of here in a jiffy - and if it doesn't work the first time, I'll get a breath and try again, I could keep doing that all day ..."
Good luck
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Old 07-01-2010   #6
dillon, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 281
Read the serious injury in Black rock thread...that should help. But seriously I think most people have that just have to roll over and over until you know you can nail it. Once you have got the roll in the river(a nice easy stretch like pumphouse), head to a play park and get worked in a relatively safe hole a bunch of times and then maybe you will have a solid roll.
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Old 07-01-2010   #7
SummitSurfer's Avatar
Summit County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 435
I was you 2 months to do pool sessions, but go because its fun. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Find the love for the sport in the pool......go often, its all good. Then find a good forgiving class 1 or 2 and ENJOY it til your bored and wanting more.
In the end, if your in your boat and HAVING FUN you are good, whether in a pool or in an easy class 1 or 2. Take your time, build your roll, esteem and last but not least...YOUR JOY FOR THE SPORT.
Next year, do 2's and 3's.
Best of luck....
Do it for the love.
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Old 07-02-2010   #8
rockinRio's Avatar
Thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 231
very good advice all, I'd add a couple of things...

Figure out what exactly you are afraid of.
Is it that you don't have a roll?
Then practice your roll a lot.

Are you afraid of swimming?
Get some decent gear, and with some safety set, go for a swim in a rapid.
We do this on occasion just because we love the river. But it helps build confidence that you know what the river will be like WHEN you swim.

Are you afraid of getting caught in a hole?
Go to a playpark and get used to getting in and out of holes.

Basically once you figure out what your foundational fear is, attack it, make it your strength. Then wait for the next fear to come up, because it will, and do it again.

As you can tell, almost everyone continues to be nervous getting on the river. It is a sign that at least part of you recognizes your putting yourself in a plastic tube, and purposefully putting yourself in an environment that we as humans aren't really equipped to be in.

So at the very least, part of you is aware of how stupid the other part of you is. That's comforting right?
You ARE a soul, you HAVE a body.

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Old 07-02-2010   #9
SYOTR, Tennessee
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 79
As others have said, get the roll down and then wear the playpark out. Work on ferries, peelouts, etc at the playpark. Your skills will improve quickly and you will bombproof your combat roll.

Join a club and get to know some good paddlers. Most are more than happy to show newbies the ropes.

Take the 2 day Swiftwater Rescue course. CPR as well.

I quit paddling 10 years ago because of the people I was paddling with. They would paddle anything no matter what the level and were high pressure. They didn't have good skills either. Bad news waiting to happen.

I restarted 2 years ago. Greatest thing ever. I still get nervous. When I get on the river the first thing I do is roll a couple of times. Then I do easy ferries, peelouts, and eddy turns. That really loosens up the mind and improves confidence. Try this and I bet you'll have a big smile after the first rapid.

Most important, never be afraid to scout or walk. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have good and bad days. I refer to it as being in the zone.
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Old 07-02-2010   #10
hojo's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,234
Those nerves are keeping you safe. Pool's and lakes are great. For every hour of river time try to rack up a few hours of pool/lake time. There are plenty of lakes and flat water around Rifle though a lot are littered with fishing hooks/line. Being upside down in moving water should make you nervous.

As far as practice is concerned, get some paddling friends and go to a safe-ish spot and surf into a few waves. Flip and then roll or swim. Like the directions say, "wash, rinse, repeat." Have safety setup, when you swim keep ahold of boat and paddle. It exercises your friends in rescue and exercises you in staying calm under pressure (and self rescue). The river right side of the GWood play park is manageable right now for a swim. The left isn't very good and the eddy is not as well defined as this level. As airborne says, the Grizzly Creek to wherever is a great run for practicing and in most spots you can flip and get t-rescued before swimming provided your friends are close. Be aware that some parts (mostly from Glenwood down) get to be only a foot or so deep as the summer progresses. A good rapid to swim (with safety) would be the south canyon wave as there's an easy eddy to catch and the whole thing is deep. Check it out as the water drops and you and your friends can practice rapid swimming/throw bagging. Plus it's great exercise!

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