Sunday, June 22, 2014

Teaching on the River

I'm back in the Coloma area for a few weeks, teaching on the river and enjoying my old neighborhood. Since I moved to the coast a year ago, I haven't had much opportunity to teach whitewater kayaking, so it's nice to get back out there. The ocean presents challenges in a way that allows you to choose whether or not you want to take them on. The river is much more committing, especially as a beginner. The challenges are a fundamental part of the progression and can't be avoided. It changes the mindset of student and teacher.

On the river, I find it very important to manage expectations. People need to understand that they are going to face the rapids and flipping is a likely occurrence during the learning process. They might be afraid, nervous, excited, and exhausted, all at the same time. There's a million things they need to remember - good posture, loose hips, steady strokes, torso rotation, watch the current, edge the boat, look downstream, follow my signals - while trying to stay upright.

I break it down into simple concepts, trying to keep their brains as free from clutter as possible. It's a process of loading information into the mind and the body over the course of a lesson, slowly letting parts sink in until they no longer need to be consciously remembered. When it all comes together at the end of the lesson, and they paddle the toughest rapid of the day with the best form and arrive successfully at the bottom, I know that I've done them right. The smiles tell me so.

It's good to be back, if only for a little while.

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