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Sit This One Out

I find the longer I am in this sport, the harder decisions I have to make. For me, some of the hardest are when I have to pull off a river, or when to not put on a river in the first place. Normally at this time of the year, you would expect a report on the Green Race. And I had every intention to kayak in this year, get a crew of folks and film the female racers. I knew this wasn’t possible a few weeks ago when my shoulder has yet to recover from jacking it up out west this previous summer. I figured this was fine and I would head to the Cheaoh, one of my favorite rivers and paddle with my boyfriend and his friends for his birthday.

Plans were set. Then the weather forecast took a big turn for the worse. Snow, cold, heavy wind. Cold. Slowly, his friends were dropping the plans of kayaking like flies. Being the person that I am, I asked to not bail based on the forecast and let’s just wake up in the morning and see what was out there. We woke up to nothing but wind and cold. I was game, he was not. I thought, “Ok, no big deal, it is pretty cold out there.” Then Sunday came. The intention was to paddle Tallulah. Something happened that morning that through my mental game completely off. I wasn’t focused on the river, I was thinking about my shoulder and to top it off, working out with my students on Friday I landed on my knee wrong and it was still swollen and going down stairs still bothered me. My thought was “This probably isn’t a good idea. 600+ stairs just to get to the river?”

To give some background, the Tallulah is not my favorite river by any means. My skill is certainly capable of this river, but my mental game is certainly shaken by this river. I have had countless screw ups on this river, it is the last time I ever say my friend Jen alive and I broke a rib or so in my back that caused the biggest injury of my career due to flipping and hitting my back in just the right spot on rock. Being my stubborn self, I still loaded all my gear and expressed to Zoli it was going to be a call I made when I got out of the car and walked to the river.

I made the call and sat it out. He had two other dudes to paddle with therefore I wasn’t holding him up. I was super bummed for myself and because this was his actual birthday paddle and he just got a brand new shiny Jackson Karma. I wanted to be there on the river but through past experiences, knew I needed to listen to that voice. As I saw the boys walk away, I eventually pulled away from the put in and headed toward the takeout.

On the way to the takeout I saw a playground with a wide open space. I thought “perfect” as I had my dogs with me and it was sunny. I was able to sit out and soak up the sun, think about the decision I had made and had the joy of letting my dogs run carefree in an area that was new to them. It turned out to be a fine day for a little me time and put things into perspective.

The point is this; it is so difficult to make the decision to not put on a river when you just aren’t feeling it. Especially if you are sitting at the put-in of the river. But I fully believe there is a reason why we feel these things. As long as fear is not in the forefront of this feeling, please listen to it. Rivers will almost always be there. If today is not your day, maybe tomorrow will be. Things need to feel right in this sport. No matter what your “status” in this boating community is, listen to your intuition.

Crystal.Gustin

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!

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