This weekend, I went whitewater kayaking for the first time. I took the introductory whitewater kayaking class offered by Bruce Williams at the Whitewater Learning Center of Georgia:
After the first day learning basic skills on the lake, we went to the Tuckaseegee river below Dillsboro. That is where the trouble began. I enjoyed the course immensely and Bruce is a very nice, patient instructor, but I have alot of psychological issues that I need to work on and I really don't know how to go about overcoming them.
I was doing fine until I got to this one rapid which I never bothered to learn the name of, but it has a pour-over rock that you have to go to the left of in order to avoid being flipped. I almost got around it, but didn't quite get far enough to the left of the pour-over rock and it flipped me. Now, I am not confident in my ability to get out of an upside-down kayak at all. I have a huge panic reaction to being flipped, that seems to take over as soon as I realize I'm about to be flipped. This results in me not being able to do what I need to do to pop the spray-skirt. So, I end up trashing around trying to come up for air, but the back of my head hits the kayak and won't come up. Basically, my head gets pinned between the back deck of the overturned kayak and the water, so I can't come up for air. I then get dragged down the river in this position and I am at the mercy of whenever the spray-skirt decides to pop on its own to get free.
Now, after the skirt pops and I get released from the kayak, I notice that I'm being swiftly dragged downstream by a current that I can't fight. Intellectually, I know that I should get in the whitewater self-rescue position, but by this point I'm panicking too much to think rationally and just flail about hollering for help. I try to grab every rock that I go by, but my hands slip off and I keep getting dragged downstream. I do not even remember how I ended up getting out of the river, but I eventually made it to the bank and got back in my boat.
It was all downhill from here. Since my nerves are shot and I'm suffering from adrenalin stress at this point, complete with tunnel-vision and hyperventilation, I can't really do anything right and the only thought on my mind is that I'm going to flip and get stuck in my kayak and drown. So, at this point I am scared of anywhere in the river where the water is not completely flat. If I see ripples or a rock sticking up above the surface, I panic.
I freeze up and stop paddling when we get to a wave train and this causes me to get flipped again. This time, I manage to get half-way out of the kayak, but my foot becomes trapped inside, so I am getting dragged down the river with one leg stuck inside the kayak (having size 14 feet probably doesn't help much here). This of course scares me even more.
I ended up portaging Double-Drop, and I was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn't bring myself to put back in. I had had enough. I hiked up the side of the hill to US 441 and they towed my boat the rest of the way and came and picked me up on the side of the road.
What I have noticed, with me at least, is that fear creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I get spooked, and this causes me to make more mistakes which in turn causes me to get even more scared and make even more mistakes. It's like a negative feedback loop that keeps growing and reenforcing itself.
Now, here's the kicker. After all that, I still want to learn to do this. However, I don't know what to do at this point. I don't want to sign up for another trip, because my antics and me having to get out, rest until my nerves calm down, and get back in only to be flipped again and have the same thing happen again is not really fair to the other people on the trip. I don't want to ruin everybody else's good time.
Basically, what I need to do is go somewhere with an instructor and practice wet exits in running water (doing it in a lake didn't help me at all, it is different when there is a current) and I would also like to become more comfortable actually floating in whitewater. Perhaps have somebody stand on the bank with a rope and let me float down a rapid. I need to convince myself that I can get out of a kayak if it turns over and that if I do fall out it is not the end of the world and it is ok to float and let the current carry you until you can get out, rather than immediately starting to panic. I just need to become more comfortable and confident in whitewater in general before I go on another trip.
Does anyone have any suggestions or advice?
i strongly disagree. this guy is not ready to surf a hole. the best way is to go to the lake or a pool and hubie1 New