Dear Mountain Mama,

I’ve hit a plateau with paddling. I’m comfortable on the handful of Class III runs I know well, but I feel nervous even thinking about paddling a river for the first time. How do I break out of my comfort zone to the next level of paddling?

Thanks,
Eddy Flower

Dear Eddy Flower,

Sometimes the security and safety of the familiar feels good. But if we always do what we already know, we limit our potential. To confront the barriers we sometimes unknowingly impose on ourselves, purposefully put yourself in uncomfortable situations every day.

This past weekend I went hang gliding for the first time. As much as part of me wanted to feel the sensation of flying, there was another part that felt scared about taking the leap of faith flying requires. I pushed past that uncomfortable feeling. The moment I felt my feet lift off the ground I felt completely free, untethered from even the weight of my own body. For a few seconds, I glided in the air, making subtle adjustments with my body to control the glider. Flying left me feeling giddy at the possibilities just outside my daily routine.

For you, dear Eddy Flower, I suggest breaking out of your paddling routine. Start on the rivers you know well. At every opportunity to play, get out and surf that wave. Heck, try to rock splat or stern squirt. It doesn’t matter if you flip over every time. The point is to start feeling more confident when you’re not in complete control or the unexpected happen.

Take new lines down the rapids you know. Or take the lead if you tend to follow other paddlers. The nomadic Aboriginals who have made a home in Australia’s Outback for tens of thousands of years believe that every person must assume a position of responsibility at some point. They believe that in order to know the earth and one’s relationship to the world around them, they must at some point get out in front. Taking a leadership role on the water might help you, Eddy Flower, get to know the river more intimately and gain trust in your paddling skills.

Takings these small leaps of faith might feel scary at first. But after a while you will become used to putting yourself out of your comfort zone. And along the way, you’ll discover what you’re capable of paddling. In no time, Eddy Flower, you’ll be eager to paddle new rivers.

Happy Paddling!
Mountain Mama