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Paralysis By Fear, 7 Steps To Overcome

Everyone faces fear. No matter what sport, what occupation, what age you are, we all know the feeling of fear. How to overcome it is a hot topic. While I am no expert, I have a take on this subject. Here is my road to losing the fear, and getting back to the passion.

Let me back up for a second. I got to a state of fear that almost paralyzed me for a number of reasons: I had a scary side pin at the top of go left and die on the green narrows, I had a swim that didn’t allow me to come to the surface on the first try, separated AC joint, broken ribs, and losing a friend to the river (to name the bigger stuff).

My path

1. Walk away

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away. Clear your head. Figure out why you are doing what you are doing. If whatever has happened to you scares you beyond loving what you do, continue to take time away. If you are meant to get back to it, it will call you.

2. Go back to the basics

There is nothing wrong with taking a step back. Or 10 steps back. Personally, I purchased a long boat and went back to flat water. I needed to retrain my muscles how to paddle more effectively. I needed to focus on one thing at a time and trying to do this in raging whitewater wasn’t ideal.

Jackson Karma Unlimited; Great for Attainments
Jackson Karma Unlimited; Great for Attainments

3. Be a student

Seek resources on how to become better at what you do. Make sure these are trusted resources that will guide you in the right direction.

4. Be a teacher

One of the best ways to become better is to be the teacher. See what works for others. Change your perspective to teach and see the possibilities open up for yourself. Even if you don’t think you are good enough to teach, get out of your comfort zone and give it a shot. 

dynamic duo
Teaching Youngsters!
Leading an all girls playboat clinic
Leading all girls playboat clinic

5. Positive self talk

This point is big. If you tell yourself you are going to fail, you are likely to fail. For myself, I not only want to succeed, but I want to do it with grace.  My self talk could be a reality show and I’m not always nice to myself! I might yell at myself, but I’m telling myself I’m more than capable and to suck it up and do it. Telling myself I can do it, or telling myself this isn’t going to be good, can be the difference between running a rapid on my head, or coming through on the other side with a huge smile on my face while remaining upright. 

6. Listen to your inner voice

What is your intuition telling you? This is tough. When we are scared, we think that voice is telling us to run the other way. Not to run that line of that rapid. Get out and walk. Quit altogether. But really listen. If this is a super strong feeling, follow it. Don’t ignore it. That rapid will be there the next time. But if your inner voice isn’t screaming those things and you know you can do this, then just do it.

Scouting Rapids
Scouting Rapids

7. Give yourself a break

If you don’t move forward as fast as you want or you remain paralyzed, don’t beat yourself up. It will call you when the time is right. 

Here is my personal example of this. It has probably been 5 years since I ran go left and die by running it left (sneak is to the right). As I mentioned earlier, I had a nasty side pin (at the top of the log!). It got into my head. And in a real big way. To the point that I almost stopped running this river. Fast forward to last summer. I reinjured my shoulder (separated my AC joint back in ’09).  I purchased a long boat and started all these steps I’m writing to you about. I’ve been feeling strong lately and getting back out to the green. My first time back out this summer I wanted to run left. But I hesitated. I decided to run right for numerous reasons but mainly, I wanted more there on safety. 

Every time after, there was always a reason. Most importantly, it wasn’t calling me. Until recently. I still didn’t have the numbers in safety that I wanted, but my energy levels were beyond normal. I was feeling it. I sat above, looked down, swallowed the fear of what happened before, saw my line and decided this was my moment. No hesitation. One stroke, line up, take a deep breath, trust in my skills and go for it. I was all smiles, hooting, hollering and fist pumping after running it. It was a huge accomplishment for me and one that only I will understand. 

But remember, don’t allow fear to swallow you whole. Take measures to overcome. Be positive. Listen to your inner voice.


I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!