Introducing Others to Whitewater

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Some may argue that there are right ways and wrong ways to introduce people to whitewater. Being Swiftwater Rescue qualified and a whitewater instructor, I evaluate each individual and give them experiences based on what I think they can handle, and most importantly on what the fun to danger ratio is.  My main goal, no matter who it is, is to get them off the river at the end of the session saying "That was so much fun, I want to do it again!"My friend and roommate Crystal is an adventurous, tough chick.  I told her about the free rodeo off Quyon Falls in Quebec that Brendan Ginter was running (He had been running free rodeos al summer from different locations in the Ottawa area).  She asked me if she could come along and watch, so after work we hopped into the car and drove an hour to the Falls.

Quyon Falls is a little 8-10 foot waterfall off Highway 148 in Quebec between Aylmer and Fort Coulombe.  My intention was to run the falls, and then get Crystal in my boat and teach her some rolling and strokes.   After watching a number of beginners gleefully hucking over the lip of the falls and some discussion with Brendan, I asked Crystal if she wanted to try it, telling her that the consequences on this drop at this water level were minimal.  She had never been in a kayak before, and we decided that we would send her over without a skirt on.  The rodeo participants were super helpful and encouraging, and after I assured her that she could do it and that if I thought there were dangers I wouldn't let her go, she said "Yeah!  OK!"

We sent her off the falls three times, with the guys waiting at the bottom to help if needed.  Great thanks to Shawn and Grahame especially, and everyone else for their words of encouragement. 

My friend got to experience not only kayaking, but one of the reasons why I love the sport so much.  The friendship and encouragement that you get from the kayaking community.  It was a great experience for her, and she even won a prize at the end!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Life is all about making priorities and determining what is most important to you.  It is so easy to get caught up in something and forget about everything else in your world that makes you happy.

My journey into whitewater was one of those times when I got caught up in something that made me happy, and avoided/hid from everything else that, if corrected or addressed would make my life so much better.

After I injured my knee, my active life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt.  I couldn't run, I couldn't bike.  My knee ached constantly.  It hurt to stand on the bus when there were no seats available.  Everything that kept me happy and in control was now a distant memory.  That is why when I discovered whitewater kayaking, it brought me back to that fit, strong feeling.  Sitting in a kayak and navigating down a class III or IV river allowed me to forget about that pain in my knee.  It allowed me to temporarily forget other stressors in my life.  

But forgetting them and avoiding them mean that, like it or not, these stressors do not just disappear.  They actually grow and become bigger without you.  Once you remember and turn to address them, they are so much more worse than they were at the beginning when you ran away from them.

After my dad died, I spent money.  I spent thousands of dollars.  I bought kayaks, gear, a motorcycle, went on trips.  I was on the river and driving around the country whenever I could.  And during this time, it was like my old life and my old worries had disappeared.  This new life was carefree and fun; I was athletic again, discovering challenges every day on the water, and I allowed my life behind to delve into more and more disarray.

It wasn't until recently when my eyes were opened to see what my life had become.  It was a lie.  Everything I had used to dream for in my career and my life had become unattainable, and I convinced myself that this was all I deserved.  I put those dreams and goals in a vault, and figured that kayaking was all I had left.

Not true.  

I was in West Virginia last fall when Max Lentz died on the Upper Gauley.  Jeremy and I were paddling down the river.  I had progressed so much over the last couple of weeks, that I was now paddling my playboat down the Upper, and leading through the rapids.  We made a stop at Hungry Mother, and during that play-break there was a major shift.  I began losing it.  I couldn't make basic moves, I was having trouble rolling, missing lines and became an all-and-out spaz on the river.  "Something's wrong," I told Jeremy.  This didn't make any sense.  I've had bad days on the river before, but never in the middle of a good day, started losing my skills.

When we arrived to the spot where Max's boat was pinned, I had no idea that he was still in it.  Even after I rescued his helmet that had somehow come loose, and gave it to a bunch of rafters on the shore, I didn't realize.

The next day I decided to cut my vacation early and drive home.  This wasn't necessarily the turning point, but this was the first time that I had been on the river and stopped living my dream world of invincibility.  I thought a lot the twelve hours back to Beachburg.  There were other things that were so much more important in a life that could end in a second flat with no warning.

I continued to make mistakes.  Huge mistakes.  But things were happening in my life to make me take notice.  These tiny signs were trying to tell me that my dreams and goals may not have seemed attainable to me, but they still were.  I just had to realize that and go after them.

Life is about priorities.  Kayaking is a huge part of my life, but sometimes you have to take a break and address other aspects of your life.  I just made the Canadian Women's Squirt Team for the 2009 World Championships.  I almost didn't even go to Team Trials.  I had taken that break and focused on and fixed many other aspects of my life that had gotten to huge to ignore.  I hadn't trained, and honestly believed that I didn't stand a chance.

I stood a chance, and now that I have realized that balance between family, kayaking, career, relationships, friendships, and Jenny (yes, Jenny is a priority all in itself), I can still enjoy the things I love the most, and be able to handle the little stressors that come along quickly before they spiral out of control.

Canadian Cottage Chick

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cottage life in Canada is a completely different pace, approach, world.

You really have to experience it to truly appreciate it.  Imagine no timings, no contact with the outside world.  All you have is the wilderness, watersports, campfires, beer, steak, family, friends and parcheesi.

Saturday was almost literally the first full day of sunshine we've had up here in Ontario ALL summer, so we spent the entire day on the water.  Tube Wars, Wakeboarding, Swimming, ATVing all day, followed by a feast of steak, shrimp, potatoes, salad, garlic cheese bread, beer and an all night campfire courtesy of our friend's old fence!

I have always wanted to ride my kayak behind the boat, and this weekend was my chance.  I had no experience with this, and no idea what to do to keep me from getting hurt.  I was really nervous as if I was going too fast and took an edge, I could feel some fast-water pain.

First session was fun, but I thought my arms were going to rip out of their sockets.  It wasn't like wakeboarding or waterskiing.  I was carrying the weight of my body, boat and drag from the water.

As we sped up, I started carving on the wake I was creating and getting more and more gutsy.  I was getting some good bounces going and finally twisted, dropped an edge and went vertical!  Woo!  I scared myself so much I let go of the tow rope and crashed.  It was the end of the day, and my hand-roll was finally pooched, so I decided to call it a day.

Next session I will go further; I can't wait!