Fear in Kayaking

Fear

Definition: An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

 

Let’s face it, we’ve all dealt with fear on the river. It’s a less enjoyable part of the sport that we love. How we deal with our fears is the key to whether or not we can fully enjoy the sport we love. 

Before I leave the impression that I am an expert at overcoming fear I’d like to share that: I am guilty of beating myself up for being fearful and that I am guilty of pretending I am not fearful in an effort to save face. Leading to mental set backs, slowed skill progression and the loss of my passion for paddling.

A break from kayaking, getting older and a few ah-ha moments later I’ve come across a few things that help me overcome my fears.

1) Be honest with yourself and ‘the crew’:

Acknowledging fear allows one the opportunity to mentally prepare prior to the onset of fear. Sharing my fears with ‘the crew’ allows others to provide much needed encouragement and the necessary swift kick in the (well you know)… when needed.

2) Create a warm up ritual.

Something simple or elaborate so long as this ritual is performed each time you get in your boat until it becomes second nature. Once second nature, this task can help one recenter due to the repetition and familiarness of the task. 

3) Breathing and meditation exercises.

With encouragement from my friend, Eli Castleberry I added this to my list of fear response tactics. As a self classified square, this wasn’t something I’d previously considered. For fifteen minutes a day close your eyes (not while you’re reading) and breathe deeply. With each breath think of a tree soaking in all the sun it comes in contact with and try to make your lungs operate with the same efficiency while breathing. I can not quantify why meditation works but in my case during times of stress my mind reaches the point of fear less often and that I have an easier time refocusing on the task at hand. 

Happy paddling!

-Casey Bryant Jones

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