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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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?
 

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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)
 

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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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LDean,

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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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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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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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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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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That's boatn'. Last season had some lame swims early on, wrecked my head, and really didn't progress. this year started slow and was able to step it up. A couple thoughts. I kept tryin harder runs in my play boat and getting worked. Now i take the river runner learn the lines then take the play boat. Taking a good swift water rescue course gave me alot of respect for the river. It also gave me more confidence in that I knew what to do if things didn't go well.
 

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I'm dealing with this problem as well. The key to my success seems to be exposing myself to a lot of easy play park style and mixing in a small amount of more challenging paddling during the course of a day. This way I feel like I'm building fundamentals while keeping myself challenged. If this works for you, great! It's tough to rebuild confidence, so good luck.
 

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I was in this same situation/head trip during my second season too. It got me pretty bad too, so bad, that I did the exact same thing you just did, and started a thread about it.

Here's the Link to my thread, a lot of good advice here.
http://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f11/losing-your-edge-river-nerves-25961.html

The best thing that worked for me, like someone here already said, and I believe that the same person posted the same advice on my thread, was to take a step back, get on runs that I was already comfortable on, have some fun again, and then worked my way back up. Not sure if I updated on my thread, but a week later, I got back on Pdale, ran 3 rocks again at just about the same flows, and cleaned it, as well as cleaned the rest of the run. Then did the Gorge many times after that too.

I too am getting on more and more class IV stuff now, (3rd Season).

If you'd like, a friend and I are planning on doing Stevens down to the BTO tomorrow. (upper Mish down to the Bridges Take-out) You and your crew are more than welcome to join us if ya want.

Good Luck, stick with it, you'll be alright.

- Alex
719-337-8417
 

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Confidence

Step it back. Learn to be a really really good fundamental kayaker on easy water. Build on your confidence like laying a concrete foundation to a house. Build your house on a shaky foundation and it will eventually fall.

suggestions:
Take stroke clinic or creeking class. I took a stroke clinic a couple years ago at paddle fest and it improved my capability immensely.

Paddle technical water you are comfortable in. Hit every eddy you possibly can. Practice ferries all day long and going from eddy to eddy all the way down the river. Simple time on the water will build your foundation brick by brick.

Don't run anything that scares you.

Learn to read the water. This has taken me a long time.

Take swift water rescue classes.

As others have suggested. Paddle with people who you trust and want to help you improve and not people who just want you to step it up. In this sport these people are hard to find IMHO.

There are allot of people who get through this sport with a good boat and brawn and are not that good of paddlers. Be a good paddler first.

When I first started doing class IV stuff I was very selective about what I would do.
 

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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.
I couldn't agree more.
Remember that Kayaking itself is an amazing sport; most of the population will never experience what we do and why we do it. That alone is truly amazing and sets us apart from many.

Don't let this beat you down, you are stronger than that!!
 

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Maybe you should pick up tennis?

How many days do you put on the river a year? Sounds like time on the river would do you good. If you want to step it up you need to be paddling 70-100 days a season. If you put that many days in this season you'll be dropping into gore canyon competent but scared out of your mind next year and enjoying yourself in the royal gorge at 4,000 cfs. If you don’t put in that much time that’s ok just don’t expect to be comfortable in anything your uncomfortable in now. Doesnt matter what you paddle just paddle alot and you'll figure it out.

There are three types of boaters;
1. Boaters that love to kayak because it scares/exhilarates them some way.
2. Boaters that love to kayak because they like the culture not getting scared.
(These usually buy rafts and stick to flat water river trips or teach people to kayak until their students abilities surpass their own).
3. Boaters that love to kayak because they like both.
 

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It's all perspective isn't it? You ran Clark's hole, played the cards you were dealt, and won the hand. You didn't swim and you finished the rest of the run with dry hair we assume so...?? Congratulations.

Check out this description of the Gorge written by a member of Pikes Peak Whitewater Club. American Whitewater - NWRI - Arkansas 11. Parkdale Launch to Canon City You might want to have some crib notes handy next time.

Know the run, where you are on the river, and never..ever.. stare at Sunshine. ;)

Clark's hole at 1460

 

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What's needed is frequency. I believe that each year is a new year and it is imprtant to start early and boat often. For one thing, the water is less pushy. Secondly, our muscles are out of boating shape and have to be strengthened so not to be exhausted or over tense. Thirdly, we work on our aggressive control skills and get our heads into the realm of confidence and fun. Finaly, we've practiced and become comfortable during the somewhat gradually increasing water levels until suddenly the big water season arrives and you are already strong, confident, and able to enjoy the unique challenges of strong water.

That said, it is okay to portage anything on any given day. The river will be there if you decide to challenge a rapid at another date. There should be no shame or guilt. Keep it fun and know your threshold fot it that day. However, frequency is the key. Find a place to boat that is at your level for smiling, not fearing. Keep enjoying the sport, the beauty, the serenity, the fun, and before you know it your seeing yourself comfortable where ever you predetermine will be fun that day. Before you know it, high water season is over and your able to experience some of those more intimidating locations again with confidence, building your familiarity with them, an appreciation and a desire to keep returning to them each year.

Each is a new beginning, though. So, again, we need to start early and boat often. If any year doesn't allow that, well it's not all lost make what you can of it that year, but keep it fun. There is always next year. Don't beat yourself up over it. It's all good.

That said, someone mentioned rituals. I think it is beneficial to start your trip by fully emersing yourself in the river just before you get into your boat. One, this helps awaken you, clear your head, and relax you. I think it helps put you in harmony with the river that you are about to slide into. It also helps cool you down if you were a bit heat exhausted with all your dry gear and effort getting ready to launch. It also lubricates all your gear so that your not seemingly too tight and restricted when you first launch. Finally, I recommend doing a roll, or several, in the eddy immediately, firtst thing every trip. It reminds you that you can roll and it, again, helps clear your head and put the fun of the rver into your minds perspective. It is all about frequency, though. Boat early, boat often, have fun. The season is long and you don't have to do high water class IV if it makes you nervous. Go paddle a lake or class II or III instead if that is going to be fun. Someday high water IV and V may be a fun level that you eventually find yourself comfortbly entering. It doesn't have to be the end goal, though. Just keep the joy of kayaking and traveling and sharing good times with good friends.

Cheers!
Ken
 

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"I'am a girl so go easy on me." Is that an excuse or an explanation of why your confidence is shattered? Grab all your junk and get out there on the river as much as you can, that alone is a big confidence builder. Kick some butt.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thank you for all the sweet advice. I appreciate it! I'm not giving up on kayaking, I love the sport too much, the day after the gorge incident we put on pinnacle rock and I pointed with no problem. Yes, I do need to work on my reading skills and I'm also planning on taking a swift water course (I would this season but I'm bumming it up for two months and then moving to Montana).

Hey Crazy Nate I gave up on tennis after I tore my acl and I believe I got in about 60+ days my first season and I'm hoping to get a lot more this season!

Hey raymo I was told I should write "I'm a girl so go easy on me". I was going to write "I know there are a lot of jackasses on this forum, so I'm ready for some shit talkin!"

Thanks again everyone, and yes keep paddling FUN!!
 
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