After a busy week Keith and a quick play at the club Keith and I were keen to get back on the water for a play. Keith had a new boat to try out and I wanted to see how different I felt on UK rivers after being in the Alps. So we got together with a few other paddlers and headed over to the mighty T. The last time I came to the T was an emotional visit, I was a nervous wreck and it all seemed to big and overwhelming. I faced my fears and along with some tears made it through the pre-graveyard section by the end of the day. I was determined this time I would do more and I wouldn’t get so wound up.
We got down here and without too much faff we were kitted up and on the water. I spent much less time on the pre-pre-graveyard with some ferry glides and S-turns to get the feel of the boat again and settle in. I was still nervous here but it was more a residual feeling from last time than actually to do with today. Once I felt reasonably comfortable, I decided not to dwell too long on getting it perfect here before I moved on, and I hadn’t had a melt down so I had already felt an improvement. We paddled on down to pre-graveyard and hopped out on the bank to take a look.
The rapids here now looked a lot smaller. I wouldn’t say I thought they were friendly looking but not the huge crashing swirls of death that they looked like before. I looked at the eddies on each side and could see how I might want to get in and out of them. For the most part I thought I might be able to get to them, but wasn’t too happy with getting out of them. I decided I would take the first eddy on the right and then run through the rest. Taking these eddies I realise gives other paddlers space to get out in front of you. Now I’m not fussed about others getting on and doing their thing, I don’t own the place and I certainly don’t feel entitled to anything, but this is something I need to get over. Keith went out of the eddy (confident in his ability he is able to see a gap and take it) and then I go to follow. While I’m ‘setting up’ my line to get out of the eddy just where I want to, running through my little mantra that prepares me to keep the right edge and angle, and have the paddle strokes where I think they need to be, a few other paddlers come through. I back off and wait for the next gap, again I take so long that more paddlers are coming across the lines where I want to be, and I’m not confident enough to go for it anyway. Keith is patiently waiting for me a couple of eddies down and Alex (who was now in the top eddy next to me) suggested I go in front of her and Dylan. I set up again, saw a gap and went for it. This got my heart racing more than the waves themselves, but once in the flow I settled a bit, Keith jumped out of the eddy in front of me and we ran the rest. No tears of relief this time, and I could feel that I had started to make a change in myself. It’s no longer terrifying. Still scary but not terrifying. Having had to deal with so many other paddlers and finding a gap to get out my adrenaline was up and I hadn’t had chance to look for eddies or notice anything on the way through.
I decided I would do the same again on the next run but try to notice where the eddies are as I passed them. I found a gap to get out of the top eddy a lot quicker this time, had a slightly better line through the last wave and had noticed at least one eddy on the way through (There must be at least 10 eddies. From the bank I can find them but shooting past on the river it’s much more difficult to see!) We went again, Keith had suggested trying for another eddy but having stepped up from last time and made big improvements already I wanted to do the run the same again and have it feeling good. This time I saw two or three eddies and only had a small fright when Keith went river right on the last wave. It totally threw me and I ended up further river right than I needed to be to eddy out river left where we had planned. That gave me another bit of an adrenaline jump but I made it and on the whole felt good with the run.
I was feeling tired by this point, happy with my progress since the last time we came and decided to call it a day for me. My time paddling in the Alps has clearly upped my game but I wasn’t prepared to push it further and risk knocking my very new and tentative confidence. So I walked along the bank with Bill, taking photos and video of the others as they moved down and played with the rest of the features. I got changed after tea and cake break at the cafe, and walked again with Ali (who had now swapped to dog care duties so Bill could paddle) and enjoyed chatting and watching from the bank.
I look forward to my next trip there to see what I feel like I can go for to improve again. One step at a time!