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Over the past few months I have been traveling Chile in search of amazing whitewater. Throughout my trip I found myself pushing the limits of what I know and can understand about the incredible forces of water. The first challenge I came across was a rapid called Marimon on the Rio Trancura. My last encounter with this rapid didn’t go so well. I ended up hitting a flake rock which sent me off line. I landed on my face, and permanently scarred my hands. When you have a bad swim not only do you begin to question your physical ability to run a rapid, but the mental side begins to kick in. Every boater needs to know their limits, and sometimes it gets tough when you are standing at the edge of a serious rapid. I always follow one rule: If you can’t clearly see the line and aren’t able to break down every inch of the rapid, then don’t run it. And don’t be afraid to tell the crew you are with that you are going to portage.

I had mixed emotions about running Marimon again. On one hand, I knew I had run it clean in the past and wanted to face the challenge. On the other hand, I know how unforgiving Marimon can be if your line isn’t perfect. I spent an hour that day looking at every inch of the rapid; breaking down each paddle stroke I would need to take. I visualized my edge transitions, and every way the river would try to grab me. When I was able to see every little detail, I confidently made the decision to grab my boat and head for the top of the rapid. No one else will ever make that decision for me. I do rely on the people I paddle with to provide good information, support, and above all–safety. There were four of us that day. We all took turns running safety for one another. I am happy to report that we all had great lines. It was definitely a success. There are no words to describe the feeling that overcomes you when you reach the bottom of a big drop. At the bottom of Marimon those feelings were intensified. I knew I had dealt with the mental aspects of the sport, and made every decision with confidence, and complete control. I had overcome my fears and grown because of it.

Some people may wonder why you would go back. Why run it again? A good kayaker does not run a drop to brag about his or her accomplishment, but rather to understand, to learn. When you push yourself it is inevitable, you will make mistakes. It is only after you understand what you did wrong that you are able to grow. People spend their whole lives’ trying not to fail. It is through failure that we learn. Getting it right is great, but we don’t always remember what we did to get it right. When you fail, you will never forget the how and why. The lesson learned is one never forgotten. The simple answer is…I run it again, because I made a mistake. If you don’t fix your mistakes, you are failing yourself.

The biggest challenge that day wasn’t the water running through Marimon, rather, it was facing my fears and learning from my mistakes.

Eric Bartl

(this represents the views of one of our team members- not the company or its employees)