Shattered Whitewater Confidence - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-31-2010   #1
Missoula, Montana
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 10
Shattered Whitewater Confidence

This is my second season of kaking, and my abilities have been great. I like to consider myself a class III+ boater slowling getting into class IV. I'm confident dropping into rowdy play holes and getting chundered.

Just last week three of us were putting on for the Royal Gorge, I was nervous as usually and thought the flow was at a 1000cfs. We paddled through the first three rapids and I thought to myself "damn this is big." We scouted sunshine and I was going to run it but then we took too long looking at the rapid and I decided to portage. Well then I find out that we were actually paddling it at 1400cfs. I get back into my boat and I inform Glenn that I'm fucking terrified. We enter the next big rapid and I failed to see the huge hole and went straight into it. I was told I disappeared, I resurfaced and freaked out. Paddled into an eddy and wanted to hike out. I didn't flip, I was paddling fine, I was having the mental issue. Also, I didn't realize that was sledgehammer and that I passed the crux of the run.

After that incident, I've been a bit freaked out about whitewater. I know I have the abilities, but I'm having mental issues. Fractions I was having problems and I'm scared to put on browns. I'm posting this to see if anyone has any advice. I need to catch up my mental game to my paddling abilities.

P.s. I'm a girl so go easy on me. Thanks.

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Old 05-31-2010   #2
nmalozzi's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 330
I know exactly what you're going through. It happened to me last season which I consider my second season (if you take into account taking most of a season off 2 years ago).

I found year 2 really rough. You are at a skill level typically where you are starting to up your game a bit and get into some harder stuff. In addition, you've been involved long enough to understand the river better. My first year I felt like I was god, and that I could run anything. Mainly because I didn't fully understand what I was doing, and sometimes that false confidence is all I needed to push through gnarly stuff.

Last year though the knowledge of the river got to me, and I started over thinking. Combine that with the bad swim I had early on in the season and I was a mental mess. In all honesty, it took me most of the season to sort of work that out. I feel like you're always going to have ups and downs when it comes to the mental game. It is really hard to keep it fully in check.

The best thing to do is just keep running things you KNOW you are capable of and get your confidence back up a bit. Then slowly start getting onto some harder runs. Make sure if you up your game you aren't making a HUGE step. Take it slow and steady, and don't think you are the only one who suffers from this. It is a common thing in the kayaking world. Also, keep reminding yourself that a year ago you were just learning to roll. You've progressed REALLY fast, and that is awesome. So don't be too hard on yourself.
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Old 05-31-2010   #3
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,408
Sounds like you went into Clarks, that would rock most everyone. You will get two schools of thought, go out and push your edge and htfu or back off your level and get back to enjoying the river and then start pushing it again when you feel confident again. The choice is yours and tough to say without knowing you. My choice would be to back off the level until you are enjoying it again. In the end, its about having fun, right?
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 05-31-2010   #4
rg5hole's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 450
We all know where you are at amiga. For some that feeling never goes away but if you stick with it a while that will ease or even disappear.

Remember that paddling is 50% mental, 25% strength, 25% skill (plus or minus)

Royal at higher flows is intense. Give it a couple days and try to get back into browns with a solid crew. It sounds like you are from BV area so you are in the heart of step it up land with tons of options, but fractions and browns are perfect for you. You will find your confidence lags your skill and sooner or later it will catch up with your ability and make Fractions and Browns seem fun but a bit easy or even boring. Then onto the gorge again you go...

Also, if your crew was scouting for "a while" it sounds like perhaps you are paddling in a novice crew and it would benefit you to seek a skilled boater to go with you a couple of times, especially on "step up" runs. (sorry to the crew, you guys may be super solid, but I wanted to make that point)
I've never boated before, but I have posted a lot on Mountain Buzz!
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Old 05-31-2010   #5
oh yeah
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 539
i think we've all been there. do you have a pre-paddle routine? i need to dump water on my head before i paddle harder water. i use that as my reset/ focus moment. other people i know have to practice roll before they get in the flow. maybe try deep breathing? try ten deep breaths before putting your skirt on.

also, go back to the runs you know at higher flows. there will be a sense of familiarity with a new challenge (higher water).

and lastly, learn to make harder water easier. either by seeking out sneak lines or getting really good at catching small eddies and boat scouting. i solo the numbers frequently and occasionally clear creek of the ark. when solo i play it really safe and catch more eddies than i would in a group and take the most conservative lines.

it's a head game. i'll agree that ~50% of it is mental. you know how to paddle, your head just gets in the way.
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Old 05-31-2010   #6
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,751

most all who boat any length of time will go thru what you are experiencing. Some times multiple times.

I have been thru it several times.

As mentioned before, my solution has been to go back to runs I know, practice the hard moves on easier runs, build up my skill plus confidence and when things feel right ------ step it up.

advice on having a good crew along not only for safety but for good solid support is also good. this is a big time confidence builder.

As mentioned above, I feel that that a lot of boating success or failure is "in your head". That is some amount of confidence is a good thing (over confidence is not).

One of the things I do is close my eyes and picture in my mind me running the rapid and making the right moves. This not only adds confidence it helps me nail down the line and moves required.

When the time feels right, conditions are right, crew is right, weather is right --- fire it up and have fun!!!!!
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Old 05-31-2010   #7
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,017
If it's not fun don't do it.
1. Go back to when and where you were having fun and not scared.
2. Step it up slower this time (keep getting chundered in rowdy playholes).
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 as necessary.

Some people have fun stepping it up quickly and getting smacked in the process.
Some people have fun staying on class III their whole lives. Find out where you fit and if it's not fun, don't do it.
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Old 05-31-2010   #8
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 70
Great advice in this thread.

As everyone's saying, step it down until you're having fun again. Remember why you're out there, then step it up when you're ready. Beat downs (or near beat downs) suck, and they freak us all out. Take it easy; no one enjoys being terrified.
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Old 05-31-2010   #9
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Denver,, exhaustion
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 579
i went through i smaller version earlier this season.... by about a week. I ran lower clear creek for the first time and aced it, i felt awesome... then literally 3 days later ran it again and was so off. read worst day boating for me, no swim but just off on my lines, multiple flips (with missed first rolls). i was completely shaken... completely! 2 days later we were back on lower clear creek and i was scared... really really nervous, but i trusted the guy i was with, watched his lines, but watched the line and not just focusing on following him. i still flipped in elbow falls, side surfed the hole (if you call it that... i think my head was the only thing out of the water) but made it the rest of the way without issues and with a slightly restored confidence. the next day on the poudre helped even more.

but i agree for me it's about the fun... and the challenge, balance and enjoy
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Old 05-31-2010   #10
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 226
I find that on class IV and harder runs I'm not familiar with I usually get knotted up. The one thing that consistently keeps my confidence up is boating with solid paddlers and people familiar with the run that are good at being patient, focusing on safety, and of course having fun. Who you boat with makes a huge difference.
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