Sunday, June 10, 2012

"When was the last time you did a wet exit?"

The above question was asked of me on Saturday by a student that was stalling a bit with some small talk before performing her very first wet exit.  I told her I really couldn't remember exactly the last time I had to come out of my boat but it had been awhile.  She took a breath, tipped over, and flawlessly executed her very first wet exit, very proud of her succes.  Had she asked me the same question right about now, I could tell her very precisely that it was about 3pm this afternoon, where Rice Creek flows into Long Lake. 

I was all by myself on a hot sunny afternoon and paddled the Delphin up to play a bit in the current and then do some rolls.  The water has gone down a bit but two separate flows come out from under the railroad bridge.  I had gone over here a couple years back while playing in the current with RonO, and then watched the ManFromSnowyLegs, a man with significantly more whitewater chops than I have, do the same thing last spring in the same spot.  I had paddled up, got up on the standing wave and as I started to ferry back across somehow the other current from the second gap in the railroad bridge grabbed my bow and I was upside down in a blink.  No sweat, I tried to grab my hat and my cheap, trade show sunglasses with no luck.  I then focused on the paddle, set up and.......nothing!  I set up again, blew it again, and finally pulled the skirt, following basically none of the techniques I had spent yesterday instructing new paddlers on.

No harm other than to my ego I guess.  I never come out of my boat.....right?  There were no witnesses at all so I could have likely gotten away with it but I kept thinking about the new paddlers yesterday and how this would have been (and will be)  a good teaching point.  We had fifteen excellent students yesterday and five instructors.  It was hot and humid and people actually wanted to get in the water, except when it was upside down, wearing a spray skirt of course. It was a nice age range from about 30 up to roughly 60 or so, and one of the more high level beginning groups I can recall.  No paddle float rainbows on the solo reentry practice, no weeping, and everyone had a rudimentary grasp of the skills when they left.  One person told me, "Today made me feel younger.  It feels good that I am capable of doing all this stuff".  It's what coaching is all about and made us all feel good as we broke down the class, the flow, and the content in the BessemerConvivialist's backyard.  Beer and 'tube steaks' tend to facilitate the clear and uninhibited thinking necessary for useful commentary on the syllabus and all of our presentations.

The one thing I learned yesterday and especially today is something we all need to be reminded of frequently.  Never quit learning, you never know it all, and just when you seem to be getting a bit smug about skills, competence, and life in general, something will come up, usually Mother Nature, and bite you right in the ass.  I rolled another dozen times in that current and discovered that the sweep, my go to roll, was probably the worst roll in the current.  A C to-C or storm roll seemed to be the best choice, and combined with a solid dose of humility the afternoon was very instructive indeed.

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