How to “Get Back in the Boat” after a Bad Paddling Experience

man ready to launch SUP

(photo courtesy of @dadonovan)

Kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, packrafting, canoeing—these are all paddle sports meant to be fun, enjoyable, sometimes exhilarating. But if you’ve a bad paddling experience, that fun can quickly go out the window and even be replaced by anxiety and fear.

How can you overcome a bad experience so it doesn’t keep you off the water?

The old saying “Get back on the horse” is true…but not always easy! There are ways we can “get back in the boat” that reduce anxiety and build confidence. Let’s take a look at some options:

Stick to Calm Waters for Awhile

A bad experience in rough waters or conditions is frightening. So one of the best ways to reduce your anxiety and rebuild confidence is to stick to calm waters for awhile. Paddle where you’re sheltered from wind, in a gentle current or on flat water.

Don’t worry about challenging yourself—enjoy a leisurely paddle where it’s easy. Breathe in the fresh air, feel the movement of the water beneath you, soak up the sunshine. Remember why you wanted to paddle in the first place.

Take Some Skills Lessons

If you’re new to paddling, or to a specific type of paddling, take some skills lessons from a certified instructor. That can be learning specific paddle strokes and knowing when to use them. If it’s whitewater or sea kayaking, it can be learning a good roll. Self-rescue skills are important no matter what type of boat you paddle.

To know these important paddle skills goes a very long way to build the confidence you need, especially when you need to overcome the anxiety from a bad experience.

Paddle with a Guide

Maybe your bad experience came from venturing out on waters or in conditions you weren’t prepared for. Hiring a guide to take you back out can make all the difference.

Guides know the waters, the route, possible hazards, and rescue skills needed in case of an unexpected incident. It’s possible you can even hire one to take you out one-on-one so that guide can give you his or her full attention.

tandam kayakers

(photo courtesy of @rob_mcnamee)

Go Tandem

Whether with an instructor, guide or more experienced paddling friend, another option is to paddle in a tandem kayak or canoe several times before venturing on your own again. This puts you in the water with a paddle in your hands, but without the full responsibility all to yourself.

You can take the time you need to just float, close your eyes and relax…then paddle again when you’re ready.

Join a Paddle Club

There’s nothing more motivating and inspiring than hanging out with other people who are excited about paddling. If you need to shed some anxiety and rebuild confidence, there will be plenty of folks ready to help you in a local paddling club.

There are usually a wide variety of experience level in these clubs, so you’re bound to find a few who can help you. Go to your favorite social media outlet and take a look around for one in your area and get plugged in.

Once you’ve been scared by a bad experience on the water, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and stick to shore. But with some help and patience, you don’t have to stay there. Paddling is too wonderful to let that fear keep you away!

Sea kayak instructor, Kayak Hipster, wrote his own story about how he and his wife “got back in the boat” after a frightening rafting experience early on in their paddling lives. You can read it here.

What paddle questions can we help you with? Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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