It started back in January…a misstep. First practice I was planning to go to was not a scheduled practice. Had cleaned up the boat, got everything packed, looked at the Eddy Line available…okay, no practice that Monday! No sweat! Had made a personal commitment to do this thing anyway, so kept the boat in the car and made it up from Macon to Atlanta the next Monday.
Chapter 1: Discovering
If any of you had ever dealt with illogical fear/panic, then you might have some idea about what I go through every time I get on whitewater. Panic is a friend. To explain this phenomenon, it’s like standing at a microphone in front of an auditorium before thousands of people and being asked to speak extemporaneously…about…anything. To me, that’s Panic! Someone asked me this past weekend…what was I afraid of? Easy! When on the river, about getting injured, about drowning, about breaking my neck in a strainer. The normal stuff.
Chapter 2: Under Water
First couple of weeks, when I turned off the light in bed I practiced holding my breath in the dark…for as long as I possibly could. When at the beginning of my first practice in January, Brian asked me to “hold my breath” while I was sitting in my boat, closing my eyes…and he “clocked” me. I held it for one minute! He assured me that any roll lasts from 3 to 5 seconds max! Figured that with 55 seconds to spare, I might live through being upside-down in a kayak.
Chapter 3: Dealing With Pain
Being a 50-something female who has sat in front of a computer for at least 20 years, not particularly athletic outside of some back-packing, coming into this paddling community through a tandem canoe/camping liaison for a few years, and dealing with prior injuries, etc, I felt I had a right to my panic attacks. I gave myself that indulgence! But I knew I had to get under this thing before it became a liability to me and others I might paddle with in the future. I decided to continue with the practice. Because I loved the river water…loved playing in the rapids…wanted to learn to surf…wanted to learn the ways of the river … wanted to experience the joys the river could give. Wanted to progress in this “sport”…..rather “lifestyle.”
A paddling-buddy who was like a kayak-mentor, and who I trusted, agreed to help me with the basics of the roll practice. I took advantage of this generosity and decided to come as often as the Boys & Girls Club was open. That person was a great encouragement to me and I thank him dearly.
I felt many times that I was just too dumb to “get it.” I knew all the procedure…go under water…get ready to do the “C to C” roll…and then…just go…blank!! Forget where to put my head coming up…forget that the head was the very last thing to come up! The mantra is: (very counter-intuitive), the head is the LAST THING to come up.
Some things I did to help this practice: Peter suggested early on that I should do some Yoga. So got out the Rodney Yee AM practice tape I’ve been hoarding for years, and actually used it. Also, was shown some great warm-up exercises based on yoga moves that get your shoulders loosened up.
That was a particularly sore spot for me; slept with cold packs on the left shoulder for two weeks, eating Ibuprofen whenever I could. Our jarhead office manager (female) told me to suck it up and work through the pain; she was right!! Had no idea that I would ever get through this!
Chapter 4: Centering
After a few weeks, attempted to control these rampant feelings, become more centered by coming early and doing a round of Tai-Chi (Yang short form). This helped greatly in setting the tone for the practice that night and allowed a more meditative mindset. (But note, on the river, a degree of panic can sharpen your reflexes, so it’s not altogether a bad thing.)
Actually Doing Something
Well, the whole practice culminated in three Geezer rolls! According to Peter, my secondary roll-master, they count. At least, I did begin to put it all together somewhat towards the end.
Life is a constant adventure! I couldn’t dare living if I didn’t challenge myself. My thanks to all the great entities who “put themselves out there”? for me. Blessings on your camps.
A word to Jamie…she caught a rash in the very-chlorinated pool the day she helped me – so glad she was able to clear that up, but thank you so much for your help that day! And also to Louis, for taking my money (and my picture) and offering advice and camaraderie.

by Betty G. Rose