If I’ve been told once I’ve been told a thousand times “Look where you want to go. If you look where you don’t want to go that’s where you’ll go.” Simple and obvious advice that I completely forgot about as I looked at the rock in front of me and then collided spectacularly into it. Luckily no harm was done, and I managed to keep a positive frame of mind for the rest of the journey.
The thing nothing could have prepared me for is the sheer speed of the water, and I had to learn quickly to use backward paddle strokes to slow myself down and to give myself time to make decisions. The levels were low, which meant that there were lots of rocks that needed to be avoided. It takes a while to learn to differentiate between a wave and a rock, and several times I found myself thinking I was approaching a nice wave, only to discover that I was bouncing over a rock, hoping not to lose my balance in the process. There was no time for losing concentration, and I had to be alert to what was coming up next.
I knew that I would have to get out and walk around a section of the river that was more technical than I was ready to manage, but I hadn’t realized that it was just ahead. My coach had told me to ‘eddy out’ (which means coming out of the main flow of the river to a calm section on the side), but I ended up caught between the flow and the eddy and heading steadily towards the section of river that I needed to avoid. Luckily, with the help of my coach and a fellow paddler, I was pulled to safety just in time.
Despite the collision with the rock face and the the near miss of running backwards through a grade 4 section of river, my spirits were lifted from the previous day, and I enjoyed the experience.