Does fear affect your paddling ability?

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Baddass Buddha
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Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Baddass Buddha » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:39 am

Hello Paddlers,

First post. New to the forum's.

I was wondering what you all thought about fear effecting your paddling ability?

I find that if I've had a scary swim I keep making more mistakes and end my abilities are dimminshed because I'm rendered by my fear of it happening again. I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and how you combat this ?

Cheers,
Baddass Buddha

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Chalky723
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Chalky723 » Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:31 pm

I find that if I've had scary swim I tend to be tired, cold & more likely to swim again. Although, I did have a phase of swimming right at the start of the paddle & being fine after that as the worst had happened...

I try not to overthink it if possible...

D
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by DaveBland » Wed Mar 08, 2017 6:24 pm

There have been quite a few threads on here over the years... do a search on the word "fear" and some good ones will come up.
I got as far as skimming through the first 3 pages and was reminded of a fair few.

Happy reading!

But to answer your question... 100% totally. Nerves/fear completely incapacitate you on the river. Every and brain and coordination all go to pot. You paddle best when having fun. And being shit scared ain't fun.
Knock it down a few grades and play the hell out of the river to get confidence back. Or pile into the biggest hole you can find and work your way out. Either is great at building confidence again.
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by davebrads » Wed Mar 08, 2017 6:59 pm

I have also observed the opposite, where someone who hasn't either capsized or taken a swim for some time becomes increasingly scared because it has been so long since they have experienced it, and they then do everything they can to avoid it happening with the inevitable result that they continue not to capsize/swim and prolong the issue.

Sometimes it is good to capsize. Of course there are times where capsizing and certainly swimming are to be avoided at all costs, but it is healthy to find a safe spot and to take risks that are likely to result in a capsize or even a swim.

Also swimming in rough water is a skill in itself. Knowing when to swim hard, when to lie back and relax, when to take a breath and when to close your mouth are all things that can be learnt so that you are less likely to have a "bad" swim.

Fortunately I don't swim so often these days, but when I was starting out I swam on a very regular basis and I am sure that this experience ultimately made me better able to judge risk and better prepared for dealing with things when it went wrong.
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Baddass Buddha
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Baddass Buddha » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:00 pm

Thanks guys, the feedback is much appreciated.

I'm currently doing research on the subject for my graded unit. All the knowledge from experienced paddlers is taken on board.

Here is the link to my survey, if you guys get a free 5 minutes could you do me a favour and fill it out.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Q3Q5J8N

Thanks again paddlers,

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Pyro
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Pyro » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:26 am

Filled in the survey, but you need to define 'fear' I think!

There's a sliding scale of fear/nervousness/apprehension for most people, I suspect. Wherever you are on the beginner-inter-advanced ladder, at some levels that fear can be motivational, at some levels it can be detrimental. Feeling nervous isn't an issue unless those nerves overtake your rationality and you become panicked. Feeling nervous and using that to focus yourself on the task at hand is perfectly fine.

As trite as it may sound, I've used a phrase inherited from my Dad a lot when coaching: "Feeling nervous shows you're taking it seriously". Whether you're a beginner looking down your first moving water or an advanced paddler lining up on a G5, the nerves themselves aren't a bad thing, your response to them may be.
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Franky » Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:08 pm

Pyro wrote:Filled in the survey, but you need to define 'fear' I think!

There's a sliding scale of fear/nervousness/apprehension for most people, I suspect. Wherever you are on the beginner-inter-advanced ladder, at some levels that fear can be motivational, at some levels it can be detrimental. Feeling nervous isn't an issue unless those nerves overtake your rationality and you become panicked. Feeling nervous and using that to focus yourself on the task at hand is perfectly fine.
For me the distinction is straightforward - nerves you can overcome, fear you can't. Fear is when your body seems to turn to jelly and you lose control of your movements. You are definitely better off portaging in that state.

I don't think fear is ever motivational. If it is, then it's not fear but just nervousness.

For me, nervousness often tails off after a bit of time on the water - I suppose it's the endorphins kicking in, and getting my "river legs" back.

There are some activities I couldn't progress with, because I couldn't deal with the fear. I gave up caving when a student, after having to climb a 30-metre shaft. I thought, "I don't like this and I don't want to get used to it." I haven't felt that with kayaking. Even after some nasty white water capsizes, when I pulled the deck out of fear rather than necessity, I felt I wanted to get on top of it.

I've been through phases where nervousness was stopping me enjoying paddling, and when that happened I did what Dave B suggests, and dropped down a grade for a few weeks. It got me out of the cycle of failure and self-recrimination.

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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Chalky723 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:02 pm

Hmm, I was going to say that fear gives you focus & can aid concentration.

What you're describing as Fear Franky is generally what I'd consider the aftermath of fear - I've never been frozen, like jelly & unable to contain my movements, even when in some terrifying situations underground.

I'll breath faster & everything becomes sharper, but it's never stopped me from carrying on - in the caving situations, going back wasn't always an option anyway.

If there wasn't an element of fear or uncertainty to caving, kayaking etc I don't think I'd be as driven to do them - no fun with no risk....

D
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Pyro » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:39 pm

Franky wrote:For me the distinction is straightforward - nerves you can overcome, fear you can't. Fear is when your body seems to turn to jelly and you lose control of your movements. ... I don't think fear is ever motivational. If it is, then it's not fear but just nervousness.
Chalky723 wrote:Hmm, I was going to say that fear gives you focus & can aid concentration. What you're describing as Fear Franky is generally what I'd consider the aftermath of fear
Thanks both, that gives a perfect example of why I said "You need to define 'fear' " ;)
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Franky » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:56 pm

Chalky723 wrote:What you're describing as Fear Franky is generally what I'd consider the aftermath of fear - I've never been frozen, like jelly & unable to contain my movements, even when in some terrifying situations underground.

I'll breath faster & everything becomes sharper, but it's never stopped me from carrying on - in the caving situations, going back wasn't always an option anyway.
I guess people are different. The type of fear I'm talking about is an entirely unpleasant sensation - and it *does* stop you from carrying on.

What you describe - breathing faster, things becoming sharper, feeling focussed - I would describe as "excitement". I've experienced that too, and it is very different from my experience of what I call fear.

Since I know the things that trigger that particular real incapacitating fear for me, I avoid them and therefore have never got into situations where I seriously inconvenienced people I was with. Heights is a trigger with me. With the caving incident, I just made it up the rope, but I was shaking. I felt something similar when hiking along Grib Goch in Snowdonia. I made it over the ridge, but only by crawling on all fours. Nothing motivational or fun about it - nothing I wanted to get used to.
If there wasn't an element of fear or uncertainty to caving, kayaking etc I don't think I'd be as driven to do them - no fun with no risk....
Uncertainty yes, fear no. And for me it's a matter of challenge rather than risk. Gradually as I've progressed with paddling, features that once looked dangerous, I now see as challenging. If I still saw them as dangerous, I wouldn't be able to run them. Of course one should never lose one's respect for the water, but being able to predict how water behaves, and knowing how to deal with things going wrong, are essential for me in being able to enjoy paddling. There has to be a Plan B for me.

A bit of a tangent: one reason I took up paddling was that I am quite a good swimmer, and so wasn't too scared of falling in the water. But I'm struck by how many paddlers are actually, by their own admission, poor swimmers. I wonder if those are the paddlers who are attracted by "risk" rather than "challenge"?

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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Chalky723 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 4:33 pm

Having broken some ribs on the Upper Dart a week & a half ago I can say that anything can be dangerous & nothing can be taken for granted. If I didn't do dangerous things I wouldn't do half the hobbies I do!

I've crawled along Crib Goch on all fours - absolutely terrifying & absolutely not fun at the time. But afterwards, there was a massive sense of achievement & it's something I'd do again, that's the same as Caving for me - it's frightening at the time & not always fun, but I like to push myself & I'm normally confident in my colleagues - which helps a lot!

When I've opted out of running something, it's never been out of fear - it's been because I've had a look at it, compared it to my abilty & the situation (Levels, tiredness etc) & realised that I'm not confident I'll come out of it without damaging myself - I'm a kayaker not a kamikazi!

Maybe you're right, maybe I'm just excited & not scared, feels scary to me!!

D
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:14 pm

Fear can engender lack of commitment which consequently makes a swim more likely when it matters. Always try to focus on the task at hand.

Get well soon, Damon.
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Re: Does fear affect your paddling ability?

Post by Chalky723 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:12 pm

Thanks Jason! A particularly frustrating area to knacker - can't do anything that flexes it or makes me breath deeply, sleeping is a pain too - I think I'd rather have broken a limb!

D
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