Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and perception

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Pyro
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Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and perception

Post by Pyro » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:09 pm

Good evening, all. I beg a small indulgence while I tell a story and seek the advice of the gestalt entity known as UKRGB. It's a story of confidence, perception, and an age-old problem with which I think a few people on here may be able to empathise. If anyone does, I would to love to hear about it, and especially to hear what you think a good cure for this particular malaise could be.

I've been boating, in various ways, shapes and forms, for over 20 years now. From pottering up-and-down various lakes in Scout Group fibreglass tanks and early sojourns onto rivers in the school fleet of pink Invaders, through dabbling with the odd slalom or flatwater racing event, to University's almost weekly diet of whitewater and polo, bits of sea paddling and... well.. whatever came along. I still paddle with the University club, despite having graduated a whole bunch of years back. I keep meaning to join my local 'grown-up' club, but haven't got round to it yet, despite several years of promises to myself.

I feel that the partial root of my problem stems from that length of time paddling, and the perceived ability level that goes with such longevity. It's been a LONG time since anyone really coached me - not, I hasten to add, my club's fault in any way shape or form. When I joined the University I was an 'alright' paddler and could "look after myself" (read: "get away with it") on G3 and easy G4, which was what we mainly did as a club. So nobody coached me because they were either much worse than me and needed more coaching or much better and coaching those who were much worse. So I got stuck in, helped out with those who needed coaching, and pottered along. I continued to 'get away with it' on slightly harder rivers, paddling big creek boats so I would get punished less for my failings, having the occasional little swim, but generally finding it all quite funny. Until...

Three, maybe four, years ago, were were up in Scotland for the New Year, as we had been many times. We were on the Etive, at a level higher than I'd ever run it - not that it was massively high, I don't think, but I'd only ever run it relatively low. Third drop of Triple Step, it all went very wrong. One of the things that had been absent in my paddling education thus far was this black art of 'the boof' - an oft-used term, and a fairly simple concept, one that seems to be expected of anyone who sets boat and blade on a river, but one I had somehow managed to neglect to learn. Stall on run-in + rubbish line + utter lack of 'boof' + no body-English = A lot longer going through the spin cycle than I really needed.

Every rotation of that spin cycle wrung out a wee bit more of my confidence. I got fished out, had a little time to think about my situation, got back in my boat, paddled down to the next drop, got out, and walked off the river.

Since then, I've quite honestly been nervous every time I've got in a boat. Even stuff that was easy, ordinary and straightforward for me 5 years ago makes me jittery. And as a self-critical, self-analytical human being who is both nervous and hacked off with himself for being nervous, I've looked at my paddling and diagnosed my own ailment:

Basically, I'm crap.

I've spent so long bimbling through stuff in a big forgiving creek boat just 'getting away with it' that I'm lazy with edging and my body positioning's feckless. My strokework is reactive rather than active; my braces panicky and wild; my timing poor; my boofs, on the rare occasions I think about them, more luck than judgement. I have acquired a mental block towards certain rivers (N. Esk and Etive being the main ones), portaged stuff I would previously have found relatively simple, avoided rivers that I fear will push me too much, and generally felt like a numpty.

The last winter has not been completely without merits: After a couple of excellent days, I have at least part-conquered a mental block towards the river Kent (don't ask.); I have learnt to tail squirt, stall and back-deck roll, at least in the pool; I've bodged around in a squirt boat a couple of times; I have learnt to avoid those paddlers whose first words in any 'getting away with it' situation are "well that was blatantly wrong" or those who greet my self-acknowledged failings with laughter and derision (they are more abundant than you might think). But I still have a long way to go.

So, I throw open the floor to the great and the good of this forum: Any advice offered will be gratefully received, and if none is forthcoming, then I at least hope you've had a good laugh at the story.

Cheers

Pyro
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Toby » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:24 pm

That post sounds a lot like my paddling life. No advice from me, just a 'you-are-not-alone' sentiment. Really identified with many aspects of that post...
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by davebrads » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:26 pm

My advice is to train. On a river that you are comfortable with, set yourself targets and repeat the move until you have it off pat. An ideal place for this is the Tryweryn, it has a variety of features and you can practice pretty much the whole spectrum of white water moves. HPP is OK too, but you can also use any other river - even on my local river, the Goyt, there is a couple of spots for practicing the art of the boof.

Practice breaking out and in too - but not just in the big eddies, find the small ones, or if you are using a big eddy, only accept success if you nail the spot you are aiming for.

If you can paddle with a coach or with a friend whose opinion you value, all the better.
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by clarky999 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:29 pm

Sounds like you could do with some coaching to be honest! Should help to (re)build skills and confidence.

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by buck197 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:34 pm

Why not invest in a week long holiday on a course say in the French Alps or Slovenia, they will give you 6 days coaching and you will get to gain confidence and improve your ability in a concentrated manner with peers in a lovely environment in the sun. There are plenty of good providers out there who can move you forward.
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by PeterG89 » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:35 pm

I think you diagnosed your problem yourself. Get some coaching. I "got away with it", not with anything big but just going in and out of eddies. Had some coaching, did 3*, WWSR and 4* training and now have no problems at all. Again by no fault of the university club im at, i was actually taught by some awesome coaches, but after 1 session of going in and out of eddies (again my fault, i was very busy in first year to get on too many trips) the focus seemed to be more on how to pick lines rather than this. After solving that through outside coaching which went from ground up (they're paid to so they should be good) and still paddling with, and learning from, the guys and coaches who taught me to paddle less than 3 years ago im now comfortable on grade 3 and pushing some grade 4s as well as doing a little bit of leading and a lot of coaching in the pool. If it wasnt for a uni club pushing me i wouldnt be where i am in the time i have done it, ive heard of so many other clubs who take it so slowly, i think uni is the perfect age to learn something like kayaking pretty quick, especially if your a fast learner like i have been.

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Simon Westgarth » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:38 pm

Your situation is not at all uncommon, many paddlers get beyond being a beginner, and very seldom receive any coaching. Instead these paddlers are swept along with a club scene, some how not getting noticed by the coaches if at all there are any coaches in the club, and 2 or 10 years later, trip over on one or two core fundamentals and have their confidence dented once or twice, to the point that they question whether it's time to consider a more leisurely past time or worst get injured and do not recover and bounce back into a boat.

Paddling core fundamentals are very important, as to is tactic comprehension, if you have these sorted, your paddling career is a near open book. In reading the above, it is without doubt you have some good skills and nice technique, as you would not of gotten this far without them. Your story although colourful is clearly not a laughing matter for yourself, be sure to get coached, find someone good. Invest a little in yourself and your hobby, the return could be near priceless.

Good luck

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Andy H » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:55 pm

Hi
I have the answer but to much to list here

So anyway you have a PM.

Cheers
Andy Holt www.escapetoadventure.com
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by DaveBland » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:08 pm

Have a read of this by the sadly late Hendri Coetzee.
You have to scroll down a bit to find the article.
http://www.fluidkayaks.com/thoughts.html

I find that committing to something that you are both excited about and a bit apprehensive about – like a week in the Alps or whatever – will make you step up. Your beating in Triple sounds grim, but you made it out okay so that should give you confidence too eh?

G'luck...
dave

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Pyro » Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:06 pm

Thanks for all the responses and advice, and especially DaveBland for pointing out the Hendri Coetzee article - that's fantastic.
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Tea Boy Tom » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:42 am

Hello old son,
Blimey, that sounds a bit dark! A lot of point made by others on here I agree with - getting some external input and focusing on developing your skill to minimise mistake in tricky environments. In my opinion, it's worth considering the mental aspects too. You could be really slick in a boat but if you freak out, you will be unable to let that slickness shine through. Firstly, consider your motivation for taking part in the sport and what you want to get out of it. If you know what you want, you can focus your efforts to achieve it more effectively. Secondly, some work on developing mental strategies might not go amiss, things like focus, visualisation, self talk. If you're into books, check out The Inner Game of Skiing by Galway and Kriegel and The Art of Freestyle by Brymmer, Hughes and Collins. Getting some input on the mental side of kayaking is a bit trickier as most coaches steer away from it. However, get in touch with Ian Pitchford at A Mind For Adventure http://www.mind4adventure.com/. He's a boater and he works a lot with sports people, developing their mental performance.
Best of luck with it mate and remember only a Sith deals in absolutes.

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by scottdog007 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:24 am

About a year ago I had what would probably be classed as a near drowning. I really buggered up my system I had infected lungs the lot, and couldn´t paddle for 3 months. After a situation like that you should get back in the boat and bite the bullet, but I had no choice business sent me away from the rivers and my boats plus my lungs said no untill I got them fixed. So approx 4 months later I came back. But I wanted to improve my ability and confidance, I contacted loads of people and mates to get out on the water or in the pool. I paid for some coaching, (with Andy Holt who I notice has replied to your story), put my name down first for the club trips (you ult to join a club). Basically I paddled with a lot of people better than me, and I learnt a lot. Gee my paddling has improved big time in the last year.

May be you should go back to basics, do your WWS&R course again to build your confidance up. Put a paddling plan in position. For me I now practice getting into issues, so I deliberately paddle into ´friendly´sticky holes so I can practice getting out, or get familiar with being thrown around. I now notice that rivers and rapids that I was once frightened of, now bring a smile to my face and I look forward to run them.

I wish you all the best.

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Lowri Davies » Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:53 am

I am sorry to hear about your confidence bursting incident, but as many posters have already said - you are not alone! I do a lot of work with paddlers who struggle with confidence on white water (I run specific Confidence Booster courses). I'd say there are two main elements to work on, which are mutually beneficial but neither of which can "fix" your issues on their own: physical (the core skills) and psychological (confidence). If you do not have the core skills but have the confidence it is only so long before you become unstuck, while if you have the skills but not the confidence then you are not able to access those skills effectively.

1. Fundamental core skills: going back to basics and making sure you are being efficient and effective in tasks such as breaking in and out, setting a line across flow and punching through small stoppers will allow you to take confidence from the fact that you KNOW you can put your boat where you want to. This can be done on really quite simple water (the Upper Tryweryn might be too much at first) - the key is to remove and worries about the technicality of the white water so you can focus entirely on your tasks. As your skills and confidence grows, you can take the tasks onto increasingly challenging rapids. Ideally this would be done with a good coach to provide feedback and help to set appropriate tasks that progress at the right rate.

2. Psychology: As Tom said, it is harder to find good coaches with experience in this field, but certainly not impossible. There are some simple techniques that can help such as visualisation, trigger words, planning, video feedback, realistic reflection, breathing techniques… Something simple I find works with so many of my students is that of altered posture. Our posture and body language often reflects our subconscious feelings, but that relationship is two-way so we can use posture to control our subconscious. Simple idea but very effective.
You have already identified another major psychological factor, which is that of other people - what they say and do but also what you perceive them to be thinking. This is potentially the most difficult challenge for paddlers as this is generally not a solo sport, yet we have little control over the words other people use or the attitude they exude. Chose your paddling buddies wisely and let them know if certain things they do or say make you feel uneasy. We are a team on the river and the stronger each member feels, the stronger the group will be - good paddling buddies will understand and respect that.

I second Tom's suggestion of "The Inner Game of Skiing" - it is great for understanding what is happening when we have those off days (and when we have those dream days where we nail everything) and how we can work towards having more good days and less bad. However, I really do think it is an additional tool and the best thing for you to do is get some expert coaching from someone able to provide for both the physical and psychological sides of your paddling.

Any questions on any of this stuff, please feel free to email me on info@flowfree.co.uk or get back to me on here. More than happy to help.

Good luck and happy paddling!

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Kayak-Bloke » Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:51 am

I've noted some top coaches and paddlers giving you advice and I'm (sadly) not in the league of Lowri, Simon or Dave but I have been(maybe still am a bit) in the same frame of mind that you are and therefore you might find it useful to hear a smiliar story which ends with what I've learned. If nothing else you'll know others have been there too which always helps a little!

I've paddled at an ok level for over twenty years but had no formal coaching since the eighies. Since getting into more WW I have paddled lots of grade 3 runs and the occassional grade 4.
Like you it's questionable if I should have been doing this but there you go..
I was part of a mixed ability group paddling in the Alps, last year, and took a horrible swim on day 3. Now at no point was it life threatening. But having ended up upside down and rolling no longer being an option (lack of breath and paddle!) I was horrified to realise that I could not get to my deck grab loop, the water was fast, shallow and steep and my body position just would not let me reach it. The water was crystal clear and I was fully aware of boulders and rocks wizzing passed my face and banging into my arms and body. I could feel panic enveloping me so decided to do anything to get the bloody boat off me and kicked/ violently wriggled it off!
Once on the bank and re-united with my boat I felt ok and the rest of the river went without incident.
However.... I swam every day after. I racked up a year's worth of swims in 3 days!
My whole body was bruised by the end not just my ego!!
My confidence was shot to bits and the more I tried to correct what was wrong the worse it got.

Back from the Alps I avoided any challenging paddling and questioned if I should even flog it all and call it a day.

I decided to try and sort out my head and enrolled in a couple of day's coaching. It was really useful not only just to outline just how much I still had to learn (despite having been a paddler for twenty plus years!) but also in going right back to basics and using every feature as a means to practice the core skills.
I also learned that you don't need to be on grade 4 to do this in a meaningful way. I took a lot away from those two days and have spend a long time breaking the river down into tiny tiny chunks and utilising every chance to try some of it out. Rivers now take longer to run but are much more fun!

In addtion to the pysical practice I bought a copy of the "Inner Game of Skiing" and it's really helped me to see how I am my own worst enemy in terms of over analysing everything going on! It's a great book for getting it all back into a realistic perspective.
I'll be honest and say I'm not out of the woods yet. I'm still very nervous about rolling and reluctant to deliberately stick myself in stoppers and the like.

However I'm working with people to help me through that bit and above all what I'm focusing on enjoying my paddling rather than trying to push myself too much. By just doing that it's suprising how much your confidence returns as you realise you're not actually that bad a paddler at all!

Just underlines the advice of the pros:
Get some proffesional coaching.
Learn about; what's going on in your head and methods for seeing it as it is not how you percieve it to be.

Nige

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by banzer » Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:10 pm

Are you in Leeds? Come to the Washburn this evening, I'm in a red Allstar (er, and double diamond werners, orange drysuit), we'll have a chat about it if you want....

Rich.
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by justin-g » Wed Mar 30, 2011 5:16 pm

All of the above and GET FIT - if you are really paddling fit and have a bit of strength to pad out your technique it always helps with confidence.

I also think paddling in a controlled envronment is good for confidence - get to cardiff for a day and just run laps hitting the same basic lines over and over - rest on the magic carpet - good for fitness and confidence and they have a bbq on sat's.
White water "rider"

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by shanclan » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:00 pm

Caveat: I am nowhere near a top paddler or coach either.

I came across a useful concept in a climbing book: that your skills should be in a pyramid. The same seems to apply in paddling - you need to build your skills from the bottom up and work on them all the way from the bottom to the top all the time. If you translate into kayaking I think it looks a bit like this:

At the bottom are your flatwater skills. Are your flatwater strokes perfect? If not work on them, try coaching others, then try coaching other people how to coach them. Get feedback, try canoeing, different boats, whatever. They will never be perfect, so you can always work on them.

In the middle are your basic moving water skills. Is your moving water roll bombproof? if not work on it. Can you make every eddy you want where you want? If not work on it. If you are happy, do some coaching to consolidate.

Moving up are your river running skills. Are you really solid at Grade 3? On any river style, in any condition, in any boat, on any day and styling it? Is your leadership and safety solid? There aren't that many people who can honestly say yes to that. Grade 4? even less. Get lot's of variety and get pretty solid before you move up a grade. If you have had time off, recognise that you will need to drop down a grade.

At the top of the pyramid is the area you are trying to push into. Start with river styles and conditions that suit you on days when you are happy, then widen out slowly and cautiously. If you need to, drop back. However, if you have built a good foundation you are more likely to make a quick, clean breakthrough when you go for it.


I have come to the conclusion that having a pyramid takes a hell of a lot of work. Especially when time is precious, it os hard to admit that sometimes you would be better working on your weaknesses at the base, rather than throwing yourself off something you might get away with.

The OP seems recognise that he doesn't have a pyramid. With a tall thin skill base, once things go wrong, everything collapses. Do this repeatedly, you hit fear and self doubt because you don't have a solution other than to try again. Fear makes things even worse, because when you paddle under the influence of fear, your body tightens etc and you begin to learn in that mode and embed poor skill into your unconscious.

I am not sure if that isn't all BS...

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by DaveBland » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:05 pm

My additional penny's worth...
Ultimately the only way to tackle any fear is to face it head on. Try to boil down what it is specifically that you are afraid of – getting another trashing or prolonged swim or whatever.
That specific aspect is the thing to focus your training on to get your head straight. If it's a long swim, get some endurance in in the pool, practice swimming on 'safe' rapids etc. It will not only make you physically more prepared, but mentally you'll feel equipped to kick the demon's ass.
dave

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Kim Bull » Wed Mar 30, 2011 8:15 pm

Hi,
There's some good advice above. Lowri has highlighted that it's likely you'll need to work on the technical and psychological aspects of your paddling. Feel free to have a look at some of the resources on my website - these include some video demos of some of the things Lowri referred too (eg using posture to change state etc). If you have any questions let me know.
Very best regards,
Kim
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Excellence in Canoe and Kayak Coaching

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by paddletastic2 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:42 pm

Pyro

You have been boating for about 20 years, me too. That puts me in my mid 30's. All of your comments sound familiar in some ways but I am not sure of your circumstance. Some things that occur to me.

In order to be on top of your game and "get away with it" you usually have to be practicing, life now gets in the way of paddling for me. I have a wife, a house a daughter and I don't get out as much. I have hurt myself recently carrying out moves that I would have done with no problem 6 years ago. When I do myself damage I take longer to recover and confidence suffers. My time on the water is valuable and I want to enjoy it so I am pushing myself less. As a result the confidence drops again. I now walk round things that I would have run and again my confidence dips.

I am not on the water so often so I am not so confident in my judgement. I feel my river reading skill is deteriating.

I do feel age, fitness, comitment and circumstance all add to your approach to your paddling. I certainly feel that commitment to my family has reduced my commitment to my paddling and I wonder whether with my reduced paddling time I can regain the "edge" my paddling had without regular paddling. I wonder whether different disiplines may give the answer?

David

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by DaveBland » Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:17 pm

paddletastic2 wrote:I do feel age, fitness, comitment and circumstance all add to your approach to your paddling. I certainly feel that commitment to my family has reduced my commitment to my paddling and I wonder whether with my reduced paddling time I can regain the "edge" my paddling had without regular paddling. I wonder whether different disiplines may give the answer?
Uh-oh... it's a really familiar story. Get to your 30's and life, wife and kids etc get in the way of your paddling and you give up, only to spend numerous years following a more life-friendly activity, all the time wishing you were still paddling.

Hands up I did that. Luckily an opportune move to a paddling mecca meant I was able to get straight back into it [after 8 years off], what with life a bit more sorted and daughter a bit older.
Half a season back into it I was back in the zone and at 45 am paddling now not far off as hard as I did back then.

So what's my point? DON"T STOP PADDLING. Having got back into it I now realise what a numpty I was for stopping.
And it's not just because I'm over here and it's all on a plate... believe me, if/when I come back, I'm carrying on paddling.

For the record, I really wish I'd kept at it – okay maybe cranked it back a bit to counter my lack of regular paddling, but I feel I've missed out and it was significantly harder to get back into it. I was lucky.
dave

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Strad » Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:39 pm

DaveBland wrote:
Uh-oh... it's a really familiar story. Get to your 30's and life, wife and kids etc get in the way of your paddling and you give up, only to spend numerous years following a more life-friendly activity, all the time wishing you were still paddling.

Hands up I did that. Luckily an opportune move to a paddling mecca meant I was able to get straight back into it [after 8 years off], what with life a bit more sorted and daughter a bit older.
Half a season back into it I was back in the zone and at 45 am paddling now not far off as hard as I did back then.

So what's my point? DON"T STOP PADDLING. Having got back into it I now realise what a numpty I was for stopping.
And it's not just because I'm over here and it's all on a plate... believe me, if/when I come back, I'm carrying on paddling.

For the record, I really wish I'd kept at it – okay maybe cranked it back a bit to counter my lack of regular paddling, but I feel I've missed out and it was significantly harder to get back into it. I was lucky.
Oh how very true except for the last part, I found hopping back into g3 fine, used that to build confidence before pushing a little more, have had an attitude change though I would much rather play my way down a nice big n bouncy 3 then start pushing the grades further. I am sure it will happen in the end though.
Old School?? I miss my AQII..
Graham Stradling

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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by sparrow » Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:58 pm

Lots of top quality advice above from people way more qualified to give it!

I broke my nose on the bottom of a river after getting washed off a wave and failing to roll in time to avoid a shallow section 4 years ago, and it's only in the last year or two that I've started to feel confident in my boating again. That makes almost three years of snivelling my way down rapids, refusing to surf waves and telling myself that I was rubbish and that whitewater kayaking wasn't my thing. What helped me was being pushed to get back down rapids, get back on tiny waves, and slowly build up those 'i nailed that!' moments which do so much to build confidence and remove the nasty self criticism.

If you pick one tidbit of advice from all of the excellent stuff above, let it be stick at it! You aren't the lone ranger, and letting your boat gather dust in the garage will do nothing to assuage your frustration at your perceived lack of mad boating skills. It seems the area that you were weak on was boofs. Get some coaching on them, stick at them. Nail a few and I bet your confidence will increase pretty sharp.

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Lowri Davies
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Re: Getting Away With It: A story of confidence and percepti

Post by Lowri Davies » Mon Apr 04, 2011 2:46 pm

Sorry that this is a bit of a blatant plug, but I've got a Confidence Booster course running on 27-28th April (the week of double bank holiday fun). So if you want to work on some of the psychological, tactical and physical elements that are causing a lack of confidence in your boating then get in touch :-)

Details are here: http://www.flowfree.co.uk/skills-course ... er-skills/

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