Cue The Journey Song….
Now that you’re singing it in your head. Imagine a small town girl that’s used to paddling a chill river thinking she could show up to a River 1 SUP course and like most things in life figure it out pretty quickly.
While many find the rush of whitewater exhilarating, I was convinced after hearing about all the hazards in the river I was supposed to identify and avoid; I was going to die in it.
There is no rational explanation to the visceral reaction I had standing near the water's edge. My whole being shook: legs, trunk, arms, brain. It was the first time I felt such an adrenaline dump that crippled my ability to learn, react or progress.
Every time I tried to apply what was being explained my body would do the opposite out of reaction. Which caused me to literally do the wrong move each time. It becomes really hard to practice when you’re so tired from self rescuing yourself onto your board. Fear itself is tiring, causing you to become rigid and in turn creating a harder learning environment.
Let’s just say nothing was setting me up for success except Reta Boychuk. She was very patient and evolved herself as an instructor to find ways for me to be successful. If you ever require an exit buddy into the current, that’s a direct reflection of the time she had to ferry me across the river because I froze. Nemo depending on Crush The Turtle….
Other than being determined and understanding that if you keep showing up it eventually happens.
THE RIVER SURFER:
March 2021 I met up with Reta as I came off Vancouver Island and her from The Sunshine Coast. Picking me up in Vancouver we road tripped to the epic Trail Wave. Unsure if it would be at the appropriate levels we took the chance and went anyway.
The Trail Wave I believe was the biggest turning point for me in paddling whitewater. As big as it seems and with a fairly big swim after I was hooked. I was magic. The safest, most perfect place to build my confidence.
Tears of joy and disbelief were coming down after this photo. It seemed so surreal that I just surfed there, without the coaching and mentorship from Reta it would never have happened.
It was a great start to the 2021 paddle season, a year that pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Paddling The Red Deer River at high water, taking my Swift Water Rescue Level 1 Technician, paddling from Jasper to Athabasca 663 km and going down The Slocan River were just a few highlights.
THE RIVER INSTRUCTOR:
Outside of paddling flatwater on Slocan Lake on a winter SUP expedition in February 2022, I hadn’t touched water for over seven months. As past progression showed though, I usually relaxed more over that time and was able to process what needed to happen. It did cross my mind briefly to not even try to attend the course as I wasn’t sure I would be ready.
Winter passed by quickly and I hadn’t even put any thought into the technicalities I should be practicing to prepare for my instructor course until a week out. By studying and getting back into the groove for the week I had this odd unattachment to passing. If I did great, if not I had more work to do; I was prepared for both outcomes.
I had put in the time.
I had connected the dots.
I had the skills.
I trusted myself.
I never shook once beside the river.
I even liked it.
There I said it, I like whitewater.
Having three amazing days of paddling where I felt confident, competent and had fun on the water was such an accomplishment. The deep sense of pride I feel in consistently showing up when I didn’t want to, being supported to keep trying and finishing what I started won’t fade quickly.
It will be shared and passed down to other new paddlers who may struggle with the same things I did. I have deep empathy for those nervous paddlers.
And if nothing else just remember:
Don’t Stop Believing…
Sending You Love N SUP,
The Reluctant Whitewater Paddler
CANRVRSUP River 1 Instructor www.paddleathabasca.com/
Find the Badfish SUP River Shred and Badfish SUP IRS online or locally at AQ Outdoors.