They’re all waiting for me… again… There’s a chill in the air, more rainy days to raise the river levels and some paddlers keen to start their river careers after lots of foundation skills practice since Easter.
Take yourself back to when you didn’t own a drysuit, or maybe even much of your own kit at all. You’re in a borrowed boat that someone else keeps moving the footplate on, and you think your paddle might be a bit short. But you’re dying to get on the river to feel the rush of testing your skills on moving water, to actually go somewhere and see what everyone is talking about in ‘running the drops’.
If you listen to the ‘chat’ before getting on, it’s usually about the river levels, new kit, the week’s past events and where we’ll stop for lunch. But the thoughts of those new paddlers maybe very different. “I wonder where we’re going. What will I do with my car key? Will my car be alright left at that back- end-of-nowhere get-out? Have I got the right kit? (He/she over there has a very fancy cag on) Will I swim? Who will help me if I do?” Being part of a club, a good club should be key to putting these thoughts to rest. Running rivers, especially if it’s your first ‘season’ is exciting, fun, social and often an upward learning curve. We bandy about many, sometimes over-used, quotes. For example: “We are all just between swims” or “Never less than 3 should be (on the river)”, but they are used because they are TRUE.
These are fresh to a new paddler and they need to hear them. As we reiterate all these ideas, that swimming is part of learning to paddle, that there is a team with you to help when things don’t go as planned and to share the successes when they go right, to keep everyone safe and to improve your paddling skills , the group will develop as a body of secure, confident paddlers. We have all felt that moment. Everyone is on the water when you are watching for an eternity while your boat empties, you are starting to shiver and wondering who will notice, or you are fighting with numb fingers to get your deck back on without help, thinking, “Flip, they are all waiting for me, again”. Following a swim, feeling like this can add to frustration and embarrassment at not getting it ‘right’ . But if you have a good team around you, it should be turned into a positive. They ARE all waiting for you – it’s their role as your paddling buddies, just as it will be your job, when it’s someone else’s turn to need a snack break and to share your chocolate, or to get out of your boat to help them retrieve lost kit or to throw that rope accurately at the right time. No one will ever worry about a wait, its part of the journey. If you are an experienced paddler, remember when you were hoping someone would say “Follow me”, or were the slowest to get changed or the one who needed to borrow a hat or a towel at the get out.
If you have just started your paddling journey, develop new skills, find out about how you deal with challenges, (maybe save up for some warm kit) and your club will be there to support you, even if there’s some waiting involved.