By: Dwayne Parton

Fear Management

That’s the name of the game…well, at least part of it. There is an aspect to Kayaking that is simply about controlling our fear. When fear creeps in we go into survival mode, the problem is that survival mode is mostly an irrational mode. It makes us make poor decisions and renders us incapable of observing our current surroundings. Our fear makes us focus too hard on the hazard. When I was learning to paddle I learned that you go towards what you look at. If we look at the hazard, then we go to the hazard.

One of my favorite parts of paddling is this discipline of fear management. It’s in almost every aspect of the sport. Whether we are learning to roll, or running our first class V. When we are learning to roll half the battle is keeping our head. Keeping it after we miss our first roll, until we finally hit our fourth. We flip over and our instincts say I need air. This is why we gasp and kill our roll. We want to come up, we want to breathe, and that’s why we must learn to control the instincts that come from fear.

I’ve caught my self several times paddling rapids and realized that when I got to the end of that rapid I really had no idea what was happening or what had just happened. I was stricken with something, maybe fear is not the right word, but I wasn’t all there either. I wasn’t focused on the current moment, I was holding on. This is how my first experience was at Table Saw and Nantahala Falls. All I really knew was that at the bottom there is an eddy and I can roll up there. But as I’ve matured in my paddling I have tried to really focus on observing, paddling with intention, and focusing hard when I miss my line, keeping my eyes open, and not over analyzing what lies ahead.

A life lesson I’ve grown to really appreciate and love about paddling is that when we let fear rule our current moment we miss all the little things that allow us to navigate and move through the chaos.