Life Lessons From The River

Author: Aron Bayreuther

Those were the last words I heard before I dropped over a Class III+ rapid in pursuit of a lost boat. I was in an inflatable kayak (called a ducky) on a river I had never seen before, going over a rapid we hadn’t scouted. I knew there was a tight line far river left and I knew it was high consequence if I didn’t make it.

We had been playing in a river wide water fall fondly named “Jaws” when my friend fell out of her boat. There is about 60 feet between Jaws, which boasts deep water and large pools of slow moving water (called eddies) and this burly Class III+ section full of exposed rocks, sharp pour overs, and shallow waves. Time is important in those 60 feet.

We had been instructed to grab our boats and swim to the eddy if we flipped. My friend needed assistance getting to the sides of the river and in doing so lost her boat. I had been setting safety and quickly tried to recover the ducky before it dropped over the rocky rapid; equipment recovery is important in whitewater because without one piece of gear you can be rendered useless. So there I went, dropping over this tight pour-over with jagged exposed rocks to the right, and a large boulder pile to the left. I had to get her boat back.

So many situations in our lives happen like that day: fast. Problems are created just as quickly as solutions are found. What I learned from guiding and paddling on whitewater is that problems can be faced the same way on the river as in real life situations. As obstacles arise in our lives we have to consider how we handle them.

We can square up and hit problems head on, face them and back away, or sneak around them. Each obstacle is a learning experience, and if you try to sneak around one and fail, you then move forward with new knowledge and utilize it. Take every experience, whether it be good or bad, as an opportunity.

Facing your fears and backing away is always a valid option. Know your limits, take time to learn and evaluate, try later when you have a better idea what to do.

Squaring up to problems, especially those that scare us the most, may be the hardest route to take. We have the tendency to shy away, to try to sneak around the biggest obstacles; but those things that scare you the most are often the most rewarding, because once you’re on the other side it means you did it.

I successfully ran that tight line on the Seboomook River. I was scared doing it. But I squared up, and I’m better for it.

About the author:

Aron is a licensed Maine Whitewater Guide for Three Rivers Whitewater and is currently a senior at the University of Vermont. The experience described occurred in a controlled training environment during our annual ACA Swiftwater Rescue Training Program. Three Rivers Whitewater prides itself on putting more time, money and effort into training than any of its competitors. Every year, excelling guides are admitted into a fun, exciting and educational multi-day program to further their knowledge of the river.  Throughout the two days, the guides are put through mental and physical challenges on The Seboomook River to help them to sharpen and enhance their Swiftwater Rescue techniques. For more information about our training programs or how to become an awesome guide like Aron follow the link.

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