Back in a boat!

At Easter, I had a close encounter with a rock on the Findhorn Gorge. Most of you know the story- I had suspected spinal injuries, couldn’t move my head, and was at the bottom of a gorge; this resulted in me being airlifted from the gorge by the lovely RAF search and rescue helicopter. But that’s a different story.

For about 8 weeks after that, my back was pretty sore and I had lots of physio. I’ve also been pretty busy working, and going to Canada 🙂 so I’ve had quite a long time out of a boat. Lots of people (mostly non-paddling friends) assumed I wouldn’t go kayaking again after such a serious incident, but I was always determined that I wouldn’t give up the sport that I love because of one set back.

So, back at the beginning of July I finally got back in a boat on a river. One Wednesday night, I went to Llangollen and paddled the Dee (from just below Town Falls to Tyn mawr park) with Alison, Helen and Leo. The Dee was in flood and extremely fast flowing, through the trees at the get-in. It all looked a bit scary, and after much coersion I finally made it back into my boat and got into the eddy. Crossing the eddyline into the main flow was really terrifying, and I almost chickened out again. But I’m glad I didn’t. I felt such a huge wave of releif that I was back in a boat again! That section of river was really beautiful. It’s a calm grade 2/3 with only one tricky rapid which is quite short, and it flows through some lovely scenery.

After that lovely, calm and perfect reintroduction to paddling, I went to Llangollen again a few weeks later, and spent a few hours playing on the bottom hole at Nomads with Simon (and hardly anyone else!). I’m not a very good playboater and was considerably out of practice, so I capsized a lot. Every time I went over, I had such a huge adrenalin rush before I rolled, that after about an hour I was worn out and I gave up to take photos of Si. But that afternoon was another step in the right direction. It gave me back some confidence in my roll and allowed me to get used to being upside-down in my boat again.

So on Sunday, I bit the bullet and paddled a ‘proper’ river. I went to the Tryweryn with Simon, Cath and Penny; after much faffing (not our fault-we were on time!!) I launched into the Tryweryn at the top. My heart was racing and I was so scared it was hard to think straight. I paddled the Graveyard like a true fresher- straight down the middle, no control and missing every single eddy. Simon was sitting in an eddy (which I was supposed to go to), and as I shot past him at high speed, he gave me a look of alarm and sped after me. This was a theme that continued for the rest of the river……but by the time I finished I was feeling much better. Overall, I was calmer and very reassured that I’d got down without needing to roll (used my high brace several times though!).

We trudged back to the top and picked up Sue, her friend Paul and a random bloke who wanted some paddling buddies. The second run down was much better for me. I was more controlled and I actually made eddies that I was aiming for! On the third run, I felt even better; instead of looking at the river and feeling scared of the rapids/drops, I was looking at the features and the eddies and planning my route.  So by the end of the day, I thought “I’m back!” and I felt very satisfied. From now on, I’m sure that my confidence will come back, and pretty soon I’ll be back to paddling at the level I did before my accident. However, the paddle on Sunday was in the very safe environment of the Tryweryn, so paddling a more isolated river will probably be another new challenge to address……..

Thanks everyone for your help and encouragement on Sunday and at the Dee (Alison, Helen and Leo) and see you on a river!    Rachel


3 Responses

  1. Yay, go girl! Looking forward to more paddling trips, xx h

  2. Good for you my dear!! Looking forward to paddling with you this coming season – we’ll have to kick Sue et al into action and head north 🙂

  3. Hey- good to hear your on the river to recovery. You’ve been very sensible. And its good to hear you enjoyed it and were able to start to focus again on river reading

    Much respect!!
    Best wishes

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