This weekend celebrated World Mental Health day. No doubt you will already know this due to the vast amount of posts that have been shared online about mental health. It is wonderful that people feel comfortable to have this open and honest discussion about mental health. Kayaking for me plays a huge role in my mental well-being as well as my physical well-being. This is an aspect of my addiction to kayaking that I believe is shared by many others within the kayaking community. Therefore this week’s article I want to dedicate to mental health and it’s association with kayaking for me.
A little while ago I wrote three articles about to how to become an ‘independent boater’. These articles focused on three smaller goals you should achieve in order to move from club paddling to peer paddling. There is one key ingredient that I did not talk about in detail however and that is getting professional coaching. This I felt deserved to be discussed in a separate piece and in more depth.
I want to discuss the value of coaching and how to get the most out of having coaching. I have made the conscious decision not to name any kayaking coaches in this article. A wise friend once said ‘different coaches work for different people and at different times in your life, different coaches will work for you.’ I thought that this was such an accurate statement and it has really stuck with me. Everybody will have different coaching styles that they prefer and that is fantastic. We also are incredibly lucky in the UK to have a huge wealth of talent in our white water coaches and it would be unfair to single out just one or two in this article.
When I wrote my #shepaddles application, I wrote about some of the women in kayaking who inspired me. I wanted to acknowledge how these women, my role models, had made a huge positive impact on both my kayaking and myself personally. This week I want to share with you 5 women who inspire me in the paddling world. Some of them I have no doubt you have heard of or are even role models for you. Some of them you will not know. Each in their own way makes a positive difference within our community. That is something I felt was worth sharing.
The role of social media in kayaking and more generally extreme sports is a topic that has been discussed many times before. As someone who is quite active on social media this is something that I wanted to share my thoughts about. Before I start I think it is always good to have a reminder that social media is NOT the same as real life. I spend quite a bit of time on my social media/writing my blog but I spend far more time actually out on the water. I think that social media can be a great way to share with others and when used in the right way can be really positive. It does concern me that some people may feel like social media affects them or their kayaking in a negative way. I want to go over a few things that might help with this and why I’ve chosen to use my own social in the way that I do.
When my friend messaged me a couple of weeks ago asking if I wanted to come on a trip to Scotland I thought it would end up being a hiking trip with maybe a couple of days kayaking thanks to the dam releases. It turned out to be the best Scottish week of kayaking I have ever had! On the first day we drive up to Scotland and arrive in the beautiful sunshine at the upper Tummel. In typical kayaking fashion, it turns out we know the kayakers who are already in the layby. We have time to fit in a couple laps of the upper Tummel which I had never done before. It was a lovely little g2/3 river with one bigger rapid in the middle. I was super stoked on our second lap as I managed to get a leany-boof on this drop. As I went down first however, nobody else got to see it! Still, it FELT amazing!
If you don’t already know, I am a massive kayaking enthusiast. I love running white water rivers as often as I can and love a good down river play day. What I really don’t do much of however is actual freestyle kayaking. 6 months ago in a post Christmas – New Year haze, I was tagged in an online post. The post was from GB Freestyle advertising an introductory ladies freestyle day at Hurley, coached by world renowned freestyle kayaking coach Jacko Jackson and previous junior world freestyle champion Ottie Robinson-Shaw. Their aim was to spend the day with 10 female kayakers who had little experience of freestyle kayaking and introduce them to Hurley (one of the best freestyle features in the World). What an amazing opportunity! I put my name down straight away, thinking that is was unlikely I would get picked. So when I received a message a little while later saying that I had got a space, I was equally surprised and delighted! This article is an opportunity for me to share what happened that day and the positive impact it has had on me.
When it comes to head games in kayaking I am my own worst enemy. One of the greatest obstacles that I have to deal with is when negative thoughts about my kayaking or even myself come into my head whilst I am on the water. These thoughts have the potential to affect my river time so greatly that two things usually occur. The first is that I stop enjoying myself. The second is that my paddling actually gets worse because of it. My whole motivation for kayaking is because I enjoy it so if something gets in the way of that, it needs to be addressed. I came up with a list of my most frequent negative thoughts and how I dealt with them. I then asked people what negative thoughts they themselves experienced whilst on the water. I was amazed at the response I received to this question. It was clear from the replies I was getting that there were some strong common themes and many of the answers actually matched my own list. So I decided to address three of the most prevalent negative thoughts along with how I have learned to deal with these thoughts whilst kayaking.
A few weeks ago I had a call from a friend at Pyranha who asked if I would like to borrow a small Ozone for a while and write a piece on how I had found it. I could not have said the word ‘yes’ any faster than I did! Afterwards though I asked my friend if they were sure. I did this on the basis that it was possible the only moves I might achieve were the classic ‘capsize and roll’. He laughed and just said that it would be a more realistic review then! 24 hours later my living room floor was set up to outfit the new boat that now occupied it. I should point out now that I am proud owner of a Z.One and so a lot of my following reflections on how I have found the Ozone come from my comparisons between the boats.
Last week I did not write a blog piece because instead I was involved with a paddlers virtual get together where I had been asked to share some stories. (The video from this can be found on the Paddling Pals Facebook page.) These stories very much revolved around my own friendship group that I kayak with. So this week I wanted to dedicate a blog piece to talking about those people who are so important to me and also explain a long running joke within this group of ‘Team Del’.
As I am sure the rest of the UK paddlers will agree, it has been sad not being able to go white water kayaking over the last three months due to Covid restrictions. I am lucky to live in Nottingham however and so have been able to do lots of flat water paddling since restrictions eased just over a month ago. Whilst I have really enjoyed my flat water sessions, it is not quite the same as white water kayaking. So when it was announced this week that my local white water course Holme Pierrepont would be opening up again it was of course met with great excitement. With careful restrictions in place, all sessions have to be booked in advance to limit the number of paddlers on the course at any one time. So I booked on for this weekend and have let the excitement build up since!