I just remembered a really poignant moment from my first clinic. I’d been working hard, trying to get a roll. The more I tried, the worse it seemed to get. I swam meat grinder three or four times in a row, hiking my boat back up to it over and over. I was tired and sore, not only from missing the roll but also from hitting my ass so hard on a rock that I lost my bootie. We jokingly changed the name of the rapid to "bootie grinder."
Frustrated, I dragged my boat to the shore and sat there watching everyone else. When a local boater, Terry Ratliff, approached me to ask what I was doing, I grumbled to him about how much I sucked. He was straightforward in his reply:
"Girl, if you're not swimming, you're not trying. Get your little ass back out there!"
So, I did. And I felt better. And I ALWAYS think about that when I'm struggling on the river.
This little anecdote was given to me by BWA member-at-large, Brandy Jones, after I admitted to her that I was having a hard time writing a clinic blog.
I wanted to say something about clinic. I wanted to say a lot of things, actually. Clinic isn't just an introduction to whitewater kayaking. It's an introduction to a lifestyle.
Through working with new boaters at roll classes, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a lot of you. You’ve asked
Last week, a student confided that she was afraid of being the “weakest link.” And when talking to a another student a while back about how terrified I was about putting on a new river last year, she asked, “So, you mean, you get scared about kayaking, too?” She was actually surprised by this. Clearly, she doesn’t read my blog.
Almost everyone is afraid of being the weakest link at clinic. And EVERYONE gets scared at times. Even Ms. Brandy Jones, whose bold approach to challenging herself on the river has been an inspiration to me since I first met her.
So forget whatever your friend told you about the river, because he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s trying to scare the hell out of you. And don’t worry about your roll. There’s a popular saying among boaters that “we’re all between swims.”
As I stated in my first post, some people come into the BWA for the boating, but I came for the people, the atmosphere, and the camaraderie. The nerves and the excitement that you’re probably feeling right now is the foundation that this camaraderie is built on.
As for the kayaking itself, there’s really nothing that I can say or do that’s going to make you less nervous about getting in a tippy boat and paddling down an unfamiliar river surrounded by people you don’t really know. But I know from experience that having someone tell you that you’re going to fine goes a long way.
So all I really have to say is, new boaters, you are going to be fine.
Prepare yourself for clinic mentally, physically and spiritually by reading this super important information: