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​Blog: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Sometimes we need to be open to people offering different perspectives. Board member and keen paddler, Clare Dallaway Clare writes of her recent trip to Wales.

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After several conversations with a couple of girly friends about our desires to be more confident on the water, we made a decision to book a day of dedicated coaching.

As a female I often feel there is a missing link to the males I know, perhaps it’s not having that ‘Y’ chromosome which often allows the guys in our paddling circles the confidence, bravado and belief in one’s self to do the things they do. I appreciate I’m not speaking for all of the female paddling population, but often I speak to females who like myself are happy to voice there are times of anxiety and lack of self confidence to accomplish a certain goal, often unfounded when measured against their physical and technical ability.

So on Sunday 19th August 2018 we decided to take ‘the bull by the horns’ or should I say ‘our paddles by the shaft’ and do something decisive.

A day was booked to be coached 1:3 ratio on the Tryweryn, a river we are familiar with and enjoy paddling. The objective being to face some of our fears break down some of the myths we believe about ourselves.

After a discussion about our wants and needs we got changed only to find the Tryweryn had stopped releasing, due to a technical hitch. Fear not, the gods were in our favour, rain had blessed the Conwy and further ado we drove to the first A5 bridge.

What a fabulous morning! We paddled the section with an ethos of only continuing to paddle when we felt the flow of the water and were comfortable to continue. We played on features, running some several times to practice and perfect some of our technique. We led each other carefully, considerately and may I say confidently; enjoying the river and what it offered.

As we paddled we saw detail and features we hadn’t noticed previously (having paddled this section many times before).  We took time to pause, reflect and discuss how we felt as we progressed the section. Brimbrass rapid was a breeze and we paddled well, acknowledging any voices of doubt or anxiety only to hold them in a controlled space, rather than allowing them to run riot!

After lunch, we headed for the Llugwy and joined the river at Jim’s Bridge. Here we played about with some ‘S turns’, upstream paddling and generally played on features as they appeared.

We moved down to just short of Cobden’s Falls. Here we eddied out to scout the rapid. It was a walk up a bank and along a forest trail, down to a bridge. I remember thinking as I walked I’d rather not have to carry my boat here if it was to be a portage.

We took in what Cobden’s had to offer. You couldn’t help but notice the sound of the water rushing over the rocks, screaming for attention. I took one look and silently considered my options. At first all I could think about was the portage using an ankle that would not have thanked me for carrying a boat, but then as I took in the rapid all I saw was a mass of white water and a huge boulder staring at me daring me to dance should I choose.

It was a no for me when asked by the coach, but then completely unexpected I was offered the option of a line I hadn’t even seen. All of a sudden I could see a successful outcome of a rapid, a line I would happily take and it wasn’t a portage.

The biggest and most impactful learning for me that day was sometimes we are so blinkered, our brain wants to protect us and focuses attention on the obstacle, the danger, the threat that appears so imminent. If we take but a moment, a step back perhaps, or blink once in a while to refocus our gaze very often we see other opportunities that may not have presented themselves previously.

– Clare Dallaway

This insight is learning for me personally not just in a kayaking scenario, but in my day job, my volunteer role as a Board Director of British Canoeing and life in general.  Sometimes we need to be open to people offering different perspectives, or just blink once in a while so we refocus on what is at hand, otherwise all we may see is just a great big rock in the way of us and a successful outcome.

By the way in case you’re wondering all three of us plus the coach of course made it down safely and had a whale of a time. We’re looking forward to our next girlie adventure!