Fear Conquering and Whitewater Rafting

In my never-ending quest to push the envelope, I figured my next challenge would be to tackle whitewater rafting.

My trepidation wasn’t what most people would expect.I love to swim, I love being out on the water and am generally fearless when boating.

What I was frightfully anxious about was the coldness of the water.I like my water warm. When I use the word “bracing” it is always in a negative context.

Never the one to just dive into a pool — no — I use the stairs or a ladder to lower myself inch by careful inch.

No use in shocking the goods — that kind of jolt can’t be good for the old cardiovascular system.

The idea of capsizing into an icy Montana river, as one can imagine, was not my idea of a good time. I’m fully convinced that hypothermia can happen in the dead of summer — especially when the water was Montana snow about fifteen minutes ago.

Heading in to be outfitted for our excursion, the fact that a helmet was issued didn‘t faze me. I was sure that rafting companies have to be careful for insurance reasons and no one wants to play rock-paper-knoggin out on the river.

I was completely calm, in fact, as the three guides — who could only be described as your quintessential Dudes — were handing out the gear.

Surely we couldn‘t be doing anything hazardous with these young whippersnappers at the helm.

I happily donned the ray-o-sunshine yellow helmet, the deliciously day-glow orange vest and the darling little waterproof booties. To top off the ensemble, I chose a bright blue pair of David’s swimming trunks.

I was a near-radioactive thing of beauty.

Feeling my fashion-forward oats, I boarded the van that hauled us to the launching site.

During the ride as we laughed and kidded with The Dudes — I was completely convinced that this was going to be a cakewalk — sitting back, dragging my hand in the water while the Dudes paddled me down a lazy river with spectacular scenery.

This was, after all, where the film “A River Runs Though It” was shot and Brad Pitt seemed to like it. Hey! I could work on my tan! Maybe they served drinks with little umbrellas! This was going to be fun!

Things took underwent an abrupt turn for the real once we reached our destination. The Dudes got all professional on us. Uh-oh. Listening to the rapid-fire instructions I suddenly was made aware of several things:

1) The river was full of crazy big rocks that had to be dodged.

2) Even if I wasn‘t tossed overboard, I was going to be drenched in freezing cold water.

3) The darling booties weren‘t for decorative purposes — they were actually protective gear.

4) I was expected to row (I found this out as a Dude handed me an oar).

5) The reason my garments were so bright was so I could be easily located after being dashed upon the rocks.

In addition, I learned how to respond when I was tossed overboard, that I was to board a raft with only one Dude and five other people that had never rafted before and that I was suddenly terrified. Great.

Still, I was here on a fear-conquering mission and – by golly – I was going in. I held fast to my oar, strode purposefully to the raft and situated myself on the bench. Our Dude sat at the rear and we were on our way.

Initially, it wasn‘t so rough. The serene beauty of the canyon was overwhelming. I actually COULD drag my hand along the water. Dude was once again relaxed and dude-like and we were yucking it up again. It was quite nice.

Then came the first big bend of the river. Like a flume ride at an amusement park (that you could drown on) we were set into action. The floor of the raft quickly took on freezing cold water.

Dude was suddenly shouting out commands — like a stoned drill sergeant — and we scurried to follow.

The in-case-of-emergency talk was NOT just for insurance purposes! We were oaring for our lives — and I was pretty darn sure not a single person in our raft knew what they were doing. It was exhilarating!

There‘s a beauty to being scared witless. My mind held only the task at hand.

I had completely put my trust in Dude — the same Dude who was bragging on his drinking antics just moments before in the van — because I had no other choice.

My clueless comrades-in-oars were doing the same.

After those initial rapids, the river became peaceful again and the cheers of victory went up as oars were double-pumped overhead. Tales of bravado were excitedly tossed around. I felt as though I was aboard a vessel with my only friends in the world.

We were a team that, together, conquered the wild river — and our fears. Collectively, we couldn’t wait for the next rapids.

Bring it on!

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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22 thoughts on “Fear Conquering and Whitewater Rafting”

  1. Hello guys thank you for your responses from my last post .i have to say a week after I wrote on the web site I did go to Cardiff for a 3 day period .i will say I am of
    43 years of age and I will say I did not get much sleep the night before .becurse it was my birthday on the day in Cardiff. I had got to the course at 12.00 am and the course was drained no warter on it .the Guide said you need to go and get togged up .whent in the changeing rooms got on all my gear on .all the safety clothing etc .it was about 15 mins to the hour .and I walked out side where the warter was on full blast .my heart sank .i am used to doing this with freinds and pepole I know .i have to say the worst was to come .my instructor took me round the course .where we had got to a corner and he said have you done any agreesive swimming (no) it was like history repeating it self .her I was on the corner of this concrete pillar .being asked to jump in to 20 feet deep warter whitch was 25 mph. There is some thing about these situations where you just want to run away from them and not being a strong swimmer .i thought I can not do this .i was on my own and I know if my freinds where there they would of supported me .i don’t know how I done it but it was like a spirt from above pushing me .when I went in It was like the experance of being flushed down the course .he I was being pushed under 10 foot rapids comeing up and buy the time I came up for air I was pushed under again and then the crunch came where I was told to swim for my life to get in to the side .i could not belive that I did it .i was truely exhausted .i was in an environment whitch I had no contol over and the force of the warter was in charge of you .it is just finding that moment .when the odds are against you .i will say what I do want to do is raise money for cancer resurch buy doing a skydive to over come my fear of hights .i look back now and I wish I could of pushed my self 20 years ago .but when you have pepole how are behind you .makes a lot of difference .

  2. I will say I loved your comment on the whitewarter rafting I have to say I did do white warter rafting in Scotland .i have to say I know it sounds crazy but when the raft guide said is there any body hear that can not swim .i had to admit to. The guide that I could not swim I have to say if I do go swimming I do ware armbands becurse of lack of confidence . When we got in to the raft this was in aberfeldy the thing is I did like what you said about the cold warter becurse when we got 3/4 of the river the raft guide stopped and we where told we had to jump of the raft in to the warter .the thing is was to be resude back in to the boat .when I hit the warter I had never had surch a shock when you hit the Icey warter .i will say there is something I would like to share about. This experance and that is I did this trip in 2008 . Since then I am a local at the swimming baths .i still have to ware the aids to go in the warter .but I do suffer with anxiety issues when it comes to the rivers . But I started to kyack at the start of 2013 . Where pepole have helped me overcome fears . Of when the boat tips over and other skills last year in November I took on my biggest thing I have ever done in my life was to do the white warter kyacking .i remember on the Tuesday afternoon our instructor said we are going to a streach of the river . Just thinking about it made me shake with anxiety .i remember getting in the boat and starting of down the river I remember comeing round a corner .and saw the rapids this was one of the most scariest moments in my life I just wanted to stop and get out of the boat .but I was in no position to do this becurse the warter was moveing me at such speed .it is that moment in life where you think the rapids are going to turn you over . But when I had gone though I had over come my fear in a few seconds . And it was one of the most exhilarating moment of my life . I was hooked on this where I just wanted to keep on going .and do bigger rapids .i did do just that .i am takeing on the biggest thing this year where I am doing a grade 4 course in the united kingdom . I do know that I am going to be so nervous on my first day .but I can not wait for the event to happen.i have learned something buy takeing up the sport of kyacking .and face your fears don’t let the. Anxiety and fear hold you back .get your self on a course or do it with a club there are still times where you are going to fell with a fear with doing these sports .but it tells you that you can over come fear .i don’t mind sharing what I have said becurse if you have a fear .dont let this hold you back in life .

  3. Neat read!
    I did this before I had kids, but made the mistake of wearing a bumble-bee patterned knee-length WOOL vintage men’s bathing suit underneath (Sharon the fashion victim again).
    Aside from not being able to breathe properly in a too-tight wetsuit, I had to completely disrobe in a portapotty midday to remove the ITCHY wet bathing suit, and try to slither back into a wet rubber outfit. By the time I did that, the others had eaten up all the lunch, and I went hungry.
    Oh yes, the rapids were just as you described them–not something to be taken lightly, especially if you go in the spring after the winter melt.

    And I still have that bathing suit in my wardrobe closet.

  4. Good for you for paddling straight through your fears! I am a poor swimmer at best, and I have actually had the misfortune of white water rafting quite a few times for how afraid of it I am… I know that you’re supposed to paddle paddle paddle through the rapids, but when I see that rapid coming I wait until everyone else has focused on it completely, then I stop rowing and grab onto someone else’s life vest to make sure that even if I do go over, I’ll have someone else to take with me. You probably don’t want to go on a rafting trip with me.

    1. This comment did make me laugh! A great tip to keep in mind if I ever take on this challenge myself. While the thought of it is scary, it is also exhilarating… so who knows!

  5. This is all so cool, I’d love to try this, however I’m better at enjoying other peoples experiences of dare devil activities.. Lol :)) xx

  6. Nice story ^_^. my first rafting was scary because i don't know how to swim. lol. but we did fall out of the raft ^_^. that's really unforgettable.

  7. I love the way you write! You really crack me up. I live with a very adventurous husband who has put in these types of situations many times – rappelling 100 meters down into a cave in New Zealand, scuba diving (I'm fairly claustrophobic and not a great swimmer). Like you EVERY time I have a blast!

  8. Awesome story! My family went on some rapids in SC called Nantahala and I had to be physically forced into the raft by my husband and teenage son. How can Mom, the adult, be so fearful and the rest of the family be so anxious for what I was sure was a suicide mission LOL! And like you, after that first go at the rapids I was having the time of my life and all my other worries seemed long gone and far away and I was paddling for my life and loved it! I am ready to go again now that you have me thinking about it!

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