N Stanislaus, a nice 7 mile run a couple hours from Sacramento. I've done the run before (at a higher level), and it's only a class IV, but it's the first significant run I've done in about six months. I felt relaxed and really enjoyed myself for the day, but my paddling was definitely a little rusty. It's curious as to exactly what that means, 'rusty', and exactly why it happens.
When you're 'off' on the river, it's the little things that get you. In general I was in the right place and moving in the right direction, but I could feel that my timing wasn't perfect on some strokes - I'd be a little late or little early. The very first rapid I got spun out above the crux because I hung on to a bow draw a little long and clipped an eddy. Then I was too slow reacting with a counter stroke that could have corrected me fine. So I went down backwards - but not a problem since I was in the right place. Another time you had to charge right to avoid the hole. But I went too soon and too hard and ended up driving into some rocks and bouncing back into the hole. whoops.
Other than timing, my water reading wasn't as sharp as it should be, either. Actually, I could read the water fine, but I just couldn't properly judge its affect on my boat. I think a lot of that comes from spending my time teaching on easier water. When I get on harder stuff it looks so much bigger and faster that I expect it to push me around. But it generally doesn't. I would plow through curlers just fine, or punch holes that I expected to stop me. It's just a matter of calibration that takes some time to get used to.
The other aspect of teaching that throws off your paddling is the nature of running rapids. When leading beginners down a simple rapid you become aware of every possible hazard, every tiny ripple or seam, and do your best to avoid or minimize them. You get very skilled at the finding the easy way, but that isn't what you always want to do when having fun. Once you know what you're doing it's fun to boof the hole instead of avoiding it, to surf the wave instead of pointing straight down through it. It's a different mindset that takes an adjustment.