The potential negatives

– Why don’t you walk out?

The question came from my Swiss better half as I was shaking the ice-cream headache away in the eddy. I had just self-rescued out of an unpleasant scenario that was inflicted by a missed line ending in a bad boof. With a good grab of ice, upside down, I had managed to push myself back up and away from the icy undercut I was stuck in.


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 Photo: Marcio Franco

The Myrkdalen was flowing at 20 cumecs and surrounded by deep snow and ice, but still flowing. We were the first group of the season, and by the looks of it we were a couple of weeks too early. It was a scenario that was not allowing many mistakes. I had just made one. Yes, why didn’t I get out? The question snapped me back into reality.

I shook my head and acknowledged feeling unfocused and “off”, for whatever reason. Strangely enough, the question also made me smile in a flash of self-insight. What the heck was I doing? It wasn’t like I didn’t know the river, or that the team was weak. I had been down it many times and even once ran it solo looking for a lost kayak. I had never encountered the river under these conditions though, and I found myself overly focusing on the potential negatives: the consequences of “ifs” and “maybes.”


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 Photo: Marcio Franco

Well, the mind I can force. Fifteen years of running whitewater has taught me this much. Upon getting rid of my ice cream headache I answered the question:

– I will continue, and there will be no problem.

So I did. My lines cleaned up. The rest of the run was great despite the eerie conditions. Sounds easy to switch the mindset, right? It isn’t. But again, it is totally doable. You can draw on your own experience and self-confidence in situations like this, and most importantly: You can, and have every right to, trust yourself.


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I continued because I know my abilities quite well. This knowledge gives me confidence to force my mind in the right direction at the right time. (At least most times) This is also a confidence that ties together with knowing my personal limit of pushing myself. And I was nowhere close to that limit.

But I definitely needed a reality check.

If you know that you can: Then you do. This is the simple rule you have to remember. This trust in one’s own abilities even on bad days takes time to build, but you will get there. I promise.


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Photo: Marcio Franco

I later thanked the man for not pampering me with “Darling, you will be fine, just relax…” A cup of “pull your shit together or get out of here” was the most efficient medicine and ensured that I got my head back on my shoulders ASAP. Honesty on the river is severely underrated.

After all, isn’t this what it is all about? To maintain the right kind of focus. To not get caught up in the potential negatives. In whitewater, there is very little room for doubting yourself and your line. In whitewater surrounded by ice there certainly is no room for self-doubt.



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