Mind games (by proxy!)

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Pyro
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Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Pyro » Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:34 pm

Posted this on a Uni club forum and got no responses whatsoever (bloody students...) so thought I'd post it here.

The scenario

You're out paddling with a group of friends, having a good day on a river you know pretty well and have all paddled regularly. The group is mixed ability, but it's intermediate-advanced mix, no-one you'd call 'novice'.

The weather's pretty good, the level's nice, the group's having a giggle and everyone seems to be paddling well, then you come to one of the slightly harder bits. Most of the group breeze through it, a couple take a big brace or two, but one person unfortunately takes a swim. There's no immediate hassle - this bit ends in a big pool, and it wasn't a bad swim, all their kit's been recovered, the swimmer is back in their boat fairly quickly, they're not cold, they're not hurt, and they're still smiling.

A little further on it becomes really obvious that the swim has given that person a big knock psychologically. They've swum in that place before, and were worrying about it a lot before you got to it - though they hadn't voiced this. They've now got a confirmation bias - 'I always swim on this bit', which has now extended to 'I always swim on this river'. They've tensed up, they're nervous on anything more technical, which leads to a couple more swims on stuff you'd normally expect them to cruise through. They're looking around for chicken lines or places to portage or walk out. For everyone else it's been fine and fairly easy, but that one person has ended up having a really bad day of it and is now heading home beating themselves up about it.


The questions

a) If this person is part of your group on the river, how do you deal with this? Either on or off the river, whether they're a friend and peer or just someone you've been asked to lead as part of a club trip.

b) If is person was you. How do you deal with it yourself, and how would you like/expect a group leader to deal with it? Again, whether that's a club trip leader or a mate with more experience.


Some years ago I was often in the latter position. Now I'm more often in the former, and even with personal experience behind me I find it difficult to help someone in the same situation. Too often in some groups the answer is just 'oh MTFU', which I don't think helps anyone...
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by frazerp » Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:46 am

OK, I'll play.

a) Principally I'd talk to them. Then pull in a second and drop the affected paddler in between us. Make it clear we're there and watching but generally things are OK. Be reassuring and encouraging. Kayaking is a team activity after all plus this type of confidence loss is a completely normal reaction. I'd also quietly flag the situation to the rest of the group so that they can support but also are aware I'm focussing my attention away from them.
Off the river I'd congratulate on sticking with it and reinforce that this was all perfectly normal. Dealing with fear is one of the skills and joys of boating but it isn't easy.

b) It has been me. Learning to recognise such a drop in confidence is one of the key boating skills everyone needs. Being able to inform the rest of your groups keeps both yourself and the rest of your group safe. In the past I've done various things about it. My worst bout we called it a day and walked into the nearest village. I don't regret making that call and I think it made me a better paddler. We carried on the next day and I had one of the best boating days of my life. More usually, I'd drop down the order. You're much more protected with a few boaters both in front and behind you than you are on point. One time we were running some big volume river 6-up. I'd been leading but was getting more and more nervous. I dropped back to number 4. Then I relaxed a bit and looked up. The 3 boaters in front of me were all surfing waves having a blast. After that I enjoyed myself.

All the best,
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by DaveBland » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:29 pm

Cool. I'll play too.

It's all about deciding not to paddle a feature on a river rather than assuming you will paddle it right from the start.

We've all been there. On a river with a crux feature in it. You are worrying so much about the crux, that all the time up to it you are not actually paddling that well and [more importantly], not actually enjoying yourself that much.

The answer is to mentally 'let go' of having to paddle the feature. It's okay. The group doesn't care.

Then... when you get there, if you fancy it – give it a go. Whatever. No pressure. If you make it great. If you swim – well hey, you gave it a go. And if you walk – then you were always going to. Next time...

And for the group to support them. Sure, have a chat. Be open about it. Let them know there's no pressure. And if they do want to give it a go when they get there... let them know you'll be there for them. Set up safety and make any errors as painless as possible. And most importantly, let them know and give them the time they need. Rushing them will force pressure and errors. However if they are dilly-dallying for ages, just let them know that they've taken their time and if still not sure, best leave it till next time.
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Pyro » Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:04 am

Many thanks for playing chaps, good thinking. I don't think there's any right or wrong answers, and I guess you're right that it's largely about creating a space and environment for the 'affected paddler' to have a good day and help themselves.

Dave, your comment on 'pressure to paddle' resonates a lot, and I think it's sometimes an issue of paddling with bigger groups. Not necessarily ego within the group and comparing yourself to others, but the time pressure to just get everyone down the river and off. Less pressure to paddle specific features, more support, less pressure just to get down the river are a good start in dealing with some of the headgames, I think.

I was looking back through similar old threads on here, and someone (Krikkitwars I think) had mentioned something along the lines of "I felt nervous because I wasn't paddling well, until I realised I wasn't paddling well because I felt nervous". That's a tricky spiral to pull yourself out of!
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by StillNewish » Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:32 pm

I think everyone goes through highs and lows as far as confidence is concerned, I know I do! That's when having a good group around you is helpful, knowing that you will back each other should things go wrong, and that you will not peer pressure people to run stuff if they are not feeling it.

I find the best way to get confidence back is to step down a grade, and go out and really style something you know that you can do well; take the more exciting lines on an easier river section, play in the features, and gradually get the 'mojo' back that way. The best advice I think is to not wait to do this, after an 'epic', but do it as soon as possible.

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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Franky » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:07 pm

StillNewish wrote:I find the best way to get confidence back is to step down a grade, and go out and really style something you know that you can do well; take the more exciting lines on an easier river section, play in the features, and gradually get the 'mojo' back that way. The best advice I think is to not wait to do this, after an 'epic', but do it as soon as possible.
Good advice. I had a confidence setback on the LV Olympic recently after some encounters with rafts. The next few visits I stuck to the Legacy. It was great not to feel the angst of an upcoming battle with the Olympic and to enjoy the opportunity to improve the skills that had let me down without any pressure.

Have had a couple of visits to the Olympic since then and enjoyed them (though admittedly there are no rafts at the moment).

Apologies for diverting the discussion to artificial courses but I live in eastern England so they are my bread and butter!

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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by TechnoEngineer » Fri Jan 27, 2017 1:27 pm

In both scenarios, apply TTPP, and remember any scenario where you once got trashed on a feature but later went back and styled it. Maybe even go back there.

Plus, as Colin suggests, "Make easy lines hard, make hard lines easy".
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Pyro » Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:47 pm

TechnoEngineer wrote:In both scenarios, apply TTPP
Que?

What is TTPP?
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by TechnoEngineer » Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:37 am

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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Pyro » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:14 pm

Interesting, thanks very much.
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by DaveBland » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:38 pm

Interesting in those notes it mentions 'chicken shoot'.
I thought that phrase had gone with the dinosaurs. I know that's the point it's making.

After all, taking the easiest, safest route down a river/feature should be the norm not an exception.
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by Pyro » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:02 pm

That's a very fair point, Dave, although I don't think you'll change the name of the rapid on the Orchy for love nor money.

I don't necessarily agree that "taking the easiest, safest route down a river/feature should be the norm...", but the line should be appropriate to the paddler. I, when feeling on my game, might deliberately take a slightly harder line to challenge myself. A less confident paddler might be looking for an easier line, which is fair enough.

I used 'chicken line' in my original post, and I suppose what I meant was "looking for lines with less risk of a flip, irrespective of difficulty in attainment". I've seen someone take a significantly more awkward, scrapy, twisty line, pulling themselves through only-just-boat-width gaps between rocks, just to avoid a small-ish hole which has caused them a bit of grief in the past. That "I will avoid this feature regardless of how much extra effort is required to do so" mindset indicates panic and a loss of rationality to me (and yes, that has been me at intervals. I guess that's what I mean by a 'chicken line' - one that has less consequences but may actually be harder to attain.
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by DaveBland » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:22 am

I agree it's just surmantics.
However I have always thought that there should be no stigma attached to whatever route taken, including the bank.
At higher grades, the most commonly paddled line will be the easiest for sure.
On lower grades, it's common to take the 'normal' line down features which may well be the most often paddled line - but that doesn't mean the easiest line is not the ideal one.
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Re: Mind games (by proxy!)

Post by FLHgirl » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:43 pm

Interesting question. My thoughts (from paddling with a uni club...)

a) I've not really been this person - most of the paddling I do is either with a group of very new paddlers where it's accepted that there will likely be several swims from different people on a trip, or in a group where most people are more experienced/better than I am (when I would never consider leading). However, I think I would try to deal with it in the same way as leaders have dealt with it when it's been me :P

b) I tend to find myself in this situation (or similar ones where I've been worried about a particular feature and have ended up portaging it when I should have been fine running it) quite often, as I'm very good at overthinking the possible consequences of swimming, getting pinned etc, and I've ended up portaging long sections or walking out a couple of times. I've found the leaders have been very good at dealing with it - they'll encourage me to run things they know I should be able to, but equally accept that in the end I make the decision and never give me any sort of grief when I more likely than not end up walking. I also find that if I'm nervous just generally paddling the river, it's really helpful when I can follow a specific person (not necessarily the leader) who I can trust to choose easy lines. It means I have one less thing to concentrate on.
In terms of how I deal with having made stupid mistakes/not paddling as well as I can myself, it varies. Usually on the day, I'm mostly cross with myself for messing up, but partly pleased that nothing awful happened, even if I did swim. In the longer term however, I try to think of it as a reason to go back to that river and not swim on, or not portage, the feature that I did before.

At the end of the day, everyone's going to mess up or chicken out of things sometimes, and we just have to be accepting of ourselves when it happens to us, and other people when it happens to them.

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