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Discussion Starter #1
So I came here a few months ago to ask advice about clothing for river guide training/1st year guide trips and I got a lot of advice, and I'm back for more.

My dilemma is this - I have completed 3 weekends of raft guide training, and I love parts, but I've got a bit of a secret. I'm still kind of freaked out when I'm hitting some of the bigger rapids during training. I've mostly been training on an intermediate class 3 river and some of the bigger rapids freak me out. My raft class started with around 20 people and now were under 10, and I haven't been performing miserably (I think I'm in the middle of the pack performance wise) but I just can't get over the fact that I'm still kind of scared of the rapids. During one of the weekends we traveled to the Cheat (at 12 feet, I think we subtracted 10 to get a measurement of 2 because of the gauge we used) and I swam three times, including Big Nasty and Upper Coliseum.

I didn't have much whitewater experience before the raft guide training started (two commercial trips as a boy scout and a recreation canoe training day with a company I used to work for where we played around in a class II rapid), and I'm wondering, will I ever get used to the rapids? My fears stem from getting thrown out of the boat/flipping and getting recirculated/going for bad swims/worse case scenario drowning.

Should I begin looking for a new job? Am I not cut out for the industry? Should I have maybe attempted to find a job on a class 2 river my first year?

Any and all advice is appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
 

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Fear and fun go side by side. If you have no fear you will end up dead. On the other hand if you are constantly scared sh!tless you may choke at the wrong time and really end up regretting it (hurt someone else). Fear is healthy.
 

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Being scared and keeping your wits is what its all about. If your scared shitless during the run but then smiling and feeling alive afterwords then that's great. If your always scared and don't want more than maybe a new career is in line. Everytime i flip or go for along swim yeah its really scary but when its over and you get back to camp beers, cocktails, and life are way better.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Get in a small boat (kayak, IK, whatever) and run the same rapids a few times. Your current perch will seem umpteen times safer afterwards.
It's funny you say this. I was duckying the same river that I train on a majority of the time, and I actually felt safer. Something about falling in vs falling out. Of course, I was following a experienced guide in a raft so choosing a line was easy as pie.
 

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If youre not just a little bit scared youre not really having fun.
 

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GoBro
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Are you having fun along with the fear? If it's not enjoyable at all you need to find something else. It's a lot of abuse for your body and wallet if you aren't loving it. Being scared is normal and healthy and will definitely mellow out as you get used to the runs, the water drops to summer flows and you get some more time under your belt.
 

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i was a raft guide for 10-ish years. There are a few rapids that scared me every time i ran them, and i ran those rapids litterally over 1000 times. They still scare me.

That's what makes it fun. It will take 2-3 seasons before it really starts to slow down for you.

Learn from your mistakes, and figure out a way to focus the fear.
 

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They're not going to stick you on the big runs as a first year raft guide. Stick with it and get your practice on the mellow Class III runs, build your skills and confidence, and then see if you get any more comfortable.
 

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It sounds like you enjoy it enough, so I think you just need to keep getting more experience. Rafting and kayaking are sports with steep learning curves when you're first getting started, and that's why a lot of people don't keep with it. But once you get over that first hump and gained more paddling and river reading skills, and some mishap recovery or rescue experience, your confidence should improve. A little fear is good in that it gives you a healthy respect for the river, but it shouldn't be an overwhelming emotion.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
One thing I should mention about my swimming experience on the Cheat is that we were being taught to R1 that day, after learning to J-stroke the previous day. The instructors mentioned that "R1ing" isn't a skill that many paddle companies teach anymore. From a curiosity standpoint, Is this true?
 

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Knowing how to paddle the raft by yourself wouldn't be a bad skill to have, especially after you dump truck all of your custies out! Don't know that a J stroke would be very effective in a raft though.
 

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I was never taught to R1, then after a few years of guiding the owner had all the customers get out and a higher takeout and I had to R1 through the last mile or so of river. I figured it out, but it was all about trail and error.

The questions has been asked, but not answered. Are you enjoying training along with the fear or are you just wishing that you were off the river? Everyone is scared when they first learn to raft/kayak/whatever. Working through that is part of the excitement.

When I went through training I was nervous every time I was on the stick and didn't get over that until partway through my first season. Even after 12 seasons I am still nervous hitting the meat of anything on the first few runs of the season.
 

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RE: Fear - it will get better, but the truth is it will always be with you. Also, it gets worse when you have people on your raft relying on you. I would think long and hard about how much you want to be a guide. I have respect for every rapid that I run. This respect comes from a measure of fear. (Cliche incoming) Remember that courage isn't possible without fear.

RE: R1 - We had a tube blow out on a raft on the Hood River (Class III section) a couple weeks ago. It was bad enough that there was no way to repair it to be inflatable so we duct taped the PVC closed and one of the other guides R1'd it like a canoe by sitting on the opposite tube.

R1 experience isn't mandatory, but like all skills in whitewater, it isn't going to hurt. There are a number of spots on PNW rivers where portages by clients means R1ing (or lining) around some sort of feature.

Did they have you R1ing from the stern? Bow? Or from center (on a tube)?
 

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I categorize fear like stress, that which makes me perform and mitigate risk more effectively and that which harms my efforts. Having a healthy respect for the objective and subjective hazards is the way to float for life.

I think the one thing we often fail to do as a recreational communities is acknowledge that each of us has different thresholds for safety and risk. Analyzing that personal boundary ahead of time as a guide will only help you survive and thrive in the job. Unfortunately, no one but yourself will know what those limits are and how comfortable you are skirting those boundaries.

As well....dividing fear into 1) fear of danger to life and limb versus 2) fear of experiencing discomfort is an important distinction I have had in the outdoors. Knowing that line as a professional is pivotal. You can flirt a lot more with hazards that just fall into the last category.

I would spend more time with the company before deciding myself. You are focusing on training which is a key component of moving along in one's professional and avocational career in whitewater. But only good things can come from the awareness you spout here....even if it means you walk away at some point.

Phillip
 

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I think fear and excitement are the same emotion, one you like (excitement) and one you don't (fear). Learn to like it or give it up.

Also, you may want to practice swimming in safe conditions and learn the techniques to escape hydraulics.
 

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Being scared and keeping your wits is what its all about. If your scared shitless during the run but then smiling and feeling alive afterwords then that's great. If your always scared and don't want more than maybe a new career is in line. Everytime i flip or go for along swim yeah its really scary but when its over and you get back to camp beers, cocktails, and life are way better.
the best part is fighting back the waves of panic with a smile!
 

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I agree with previous posters that rational fear can be healthy. On the other hand, there's something to be said for the confidence that a guide exudes bringing out the best in his (or her) crew. I know several former guides who I think are great guides, but who fell more into the "afraid" category, and that affected their guiding, and ultimately led them away from guiding whitewater.

When I started guiding, I was more from a climbing background. I saw the safety in the two sports as being opposite in a couple of ways. First, the protection: in climbing, once you fall, there's nothing to do except hope that the systems you built in beforehand were adequate. In boating, there's not a lot you can do until things go downhill. Now, obviously, we can definitely set up safety in boating, especially on bigger stuff. My views have evolved with experience, but the point remains that learning how to swim, how to flip, and how to recover is important stuff! To me, it's as important as learning to place cams and nuts effectively.

Second, I felt that with climbing, you could almost always back down, take a rest, try again, back up, and so forth, until you felt you had it dialed. In boating, once you hit that glassy water at the horizon line, you're all in, and you'd better follow through. I still look at it that way sometimes. When I get that feeling of, "hmmm, I wonder how this is going to go?" but I'm already committed, my approach is to force that down, and focus on the matters at hand. Being afraid once you're committed doesn't help me a whole lot.

Now, a healthy respect and fear before being committed to running a rapid is good. Never feel ashamed, or wrong or whatever for deciding to walk a rapid. I think it takes more guts in some circumstances to walk away than it does to shove off and run it against your better judgement.

I like Restrac's point:
dividing fear into 1) fear of danger to life and limb versus 2) fear of experiencing discomfort is an important distinction
Learning to differentiate between the two can be difficult, but is so important.

Alright, enough babble. As to your original question, I think since you're already three weeks into the training, you might as well stick it out til the end of training and decide then, that is, unless you're just miserable with it. If you're so afraid that you hate it, then stop, but if you like it and have some fear at the same time, might as well at least finish training and see how it goes for a bit. If the latter is the case, my guess is that that fear will mellow with time, experience, and skills.

Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for all the input guys.

To clarify, I am having fun, and enjoying myself. After I survive a rapid usually I have a grin on my face. Sometimes I'm even talking to myself in my head during a rapid, "oh shit, oh shit, hell yeah, All right!!) Once I'm done a rapid. The thing is, on the way to the Cheat the other day, the fear just consumed me. I had heard that the rapids were big, and that we were gonna swim alot. Heading into an experience like that sucks, no if, ands, or buts about it (from my perspective). I think once I begin working for the company, and working the same rivers, I'll be able to control staying near my comfort zone a bit better and chipping away at my skills, vs. jumping into water that I'm super uncomfortable with. That make sense?

With all that being said, I think I'm going to like rafting 10x more once I get it down. I'm a motorcyclist and the first month or two on the roads I was pretty nervous. So nervous that it made me not want to go out that much. Once I learned a bit though, I was out riding more and more, building that confidence and enjoying it so much more. With that being said, I still get pretty nervous right before I get on the bike knowing that I'm about to do something pretty risky..
 
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