Keep Calm and Paddle On: How to Keep a Less Than Ideal Situation From Becoming a Really Bad One

Whitewater kayaking might be the best thing on Earth, at least for me anyway. If you read what I write here then I’d guess there’s a better than average chance that you like kayaking at least a little bit too. If you’ve ever spent a day in a kayak then you’ve probably noticed that in kayaking, as in life, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes we have to abandon play A and move to plan B, C, D, E…

When things start to go less than ideal, how can we make sure that they don’t make it all the way to really bad? I have a couple ideas on this that you may or may not find helpful. The first and I think most important thing is to stay calm. I know it’s often easier said than done but trust me it helps. When we’re calm we can look around and take in information. Our brain can then use that information to evaluate our situation and make informed decisions. Sounds weird, right? Believe it or not when we start to panic we get twitchy and spastic. We start to cling on to the first idea that we see which isn’t always the best. It’s pretty easy in our frantic state to actually make our situation worse. Often times a better escape route is right in front of us. We just need to relax long enough to see it. I know I know, it’s really hard to stay calm when you think you’re about to drown. Just try to start practicing. Start by reminding yourself afterwards you need to be calmer in the future. Then eventually that will turn into reminding yourself to calm down mid incident. With even more practice you’ll stay calm right from the start. This works both when you are the victim and the rescuer by the way.

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The other piece of advice I find myself sharing with people, often on the side of the river after a rescue, is to stay out of the water. Let me clarify. If you or a friend becomes a swimmer in the river, especially on class III and up water, once you are on shore you need to STAY THERE. When the swimmer is out of the water they are for the time being safe. They should not go back in the water, period. Now I know what you’re thinking, “what if we can’t get them back to their boat?” Situations may dictate that the swimmer needs to go back in the water. If so, fine. I’m just saying make sure, absolutely sure, that there really is no other option before you put someone back into the water.

There’s my two cents on minimizing carnage. Do with it what you will.

Thanks for reading.

Pete

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