Looking Forward

We’ve just started up some of the summer programs at the Whitewater Center which has me reflecting on my time line for how long I’ve been paddling. I feel like I’ve been paddling “for about a year” for a while now… I haven’t really been sure how long I’ve been at it! The onset of the whitewater camp last week had me flashing back to some afternoons spent on the instruction channel trying to dodge campers… I even had the delight of having a swim in front of the entire camp this time last year. That memory helped me to remember that it really was about this time last year that I started getting on whitewater consistently. I was taking a summer class and working while trying to make time to paddle; things have lightened up a little bit since then.

I was talking with someone the other day, reminiscing about my PFD on the Ocoee, and they asked me a question that’s been on my mind since that weekend: “What’s next?”

I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, having just graduated from college and all. Both in life and in paddling (funny how those two keep intersecting, huh?), I find myself trying to pin down some long and short term plans for myself as I’ve reached some milestones in both areas. Here’s where we’re at:

–          On the boating side of things, I’ve got a few runs on my mind since the thrill of goal setting and reaching is fresh. A few are pretty attainable while one or two others will require some consistent work on my part before I’m ready. I’m still not super comfortable on steeper, creekier runs because of some of the moves I have to make, so I plan to work on some of those nagging discomforts in the meantime.

–          There are some projects on the horizon. H2oDreams has been an incredible avenue for me creatively, and boating has been the perfect subject for writing, photo, and video projects alike. I get to push myself on the water both physically and creatively, and from that have been born a few short and long term projects that will involve more than just kayaking. Needless to say, we’re excited!

having some fun filming with Chris and Ali for the upcoming Playboater Troubleshooter. sometimes, you have to get creative!

–          I’m learning to teach. Let me explain…

In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of some of Chris’s lessons and clinics, gaining from both simple butt in boat time (the importance of which cannot be overstated, even if it’s just flatwater or easier whitewater!) and from being in an instruction environment. It’s made me think critically about how I learn and receive information, how I progress, and how I can pass that information along to others. I’ve learned about the delicate dynamic of managing different boating styles, and how each individual manages fear and circumstances differently, thereby requiring something different from the instructor. This is challenging! I tend to lean more toward wanting a LOT of information when I’m on the river, even if this isn’t the best thing for me (it usually isn’t), so when I’m with folks that aren’t quite as experienced, I find myself wanting to over-inform them.  This has been a huge challenge for me as glazed eyes or seriously worked up nerves can be the result of me and me alone. I’ve found myself really thinking hard about what information is good information, and when is an okay time to stay mum if the student has what it takes to adapt.

Few things are more satisfying than explaining something to a student and watching them get it, right in front of you. His/her joy becomes your joy. It makes me want to be better.

enjoying tagging along on an advanced boofing lesson
enjoying tagging along on an advanced boofing lesson

Before my first time down the Ocoee, I was talking to a friend who told me about her first experience down the river, which was quickly followed by a subsequent run where she was the one that knew the lines and had to explain them to the group she was with. Funnily enough, the same thing happened to me my first weekend on the river with friends. I realized that I had observed a lot of what was happening on the river beyond just lines where I point my boat downstream and go. I had the opportunity to sit in an eddy with a guy on his PFD down the river and break a rapid down for him. Don’t over explain, I kept telling myself. I thought hard about what he really needed to know and decided that hazard and consequence was a good rule of thumb.  How can I tell him what he really needs to know without over explaining? The rapid gets easier if you make a more intimidating move at the top, the easier way into the current sets things up to be a bit more challenging… He killed it. I’m not sure who got more out of the experience, him or me.

I thought that teaching was all about the delivery of information; I never thought that by being put in an instruction environment I would learn, too. When I’m boating, I like- for better or worse- to know all the different ways things can unfold. Being a part of instruction has encouraged me to push myself to try and make mistakes when consequences are low(er) so that I know what can happen not just to me but to students, too.

I think the most rewarding part of teaching- and I hope to continue to chase this, too- is it helps really separate reality from perception on the water. When you’re guiding someone through a skill progression or paddling with them on their first time down a river, the greatest aid to the success of both the instructor and the student is honesty. Yes, this is something you can totally handle, no this is something for which you’re not quite ready. Furthermore, I’m learning to look critically at rapids and really decipher risk and consequence, which is an incredible tool to pass along to a student. What is really happening in this rapid, and what can/will actually happen to a boater when he/she enters it?

More than anything, learning how to teach has been an exciting challenge for me; it isn’t easy, and I like that about it. Where do I go next? I’ll keep you posted.

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