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Sometimes complacency is a paddler’s worst enemy. A crash down Bear Creek’s Stairway to Heaven served as a not so gentle reminder to stay focused on every lap. A momentary lapse in focus can put you just off of your usual line. In this run, a sloppy entrance too far right resulted in too much right to left momentum and angle. My bow found the lefthand shelf and sent me flying head over heals down the remainder of the drop. I was especially thankful for my Jackson bulkhead system that certainly saved my ankles!

This inconsequential crash offered up a valuable lesson. To stay focused always and be deliberate with every movement in your boat. Afterwards, I started completing a mental checklist before rapids:

1) Visualize your line before entering the rapid.
2) Be deliberate in every movement. Make every paddle stroke and position an intentional movement to put you in the right spot, at the correct speed, and with the appropriate momentum.
3) Keep your eyes wide open and on the prize. In larger rapids, it’s easy to experience “whiteout.” To combat this, always have your eye on the next feature and try to complete a mental recap of your line right after. If you cannot recall a segment of the rapid, you likely whited out.

Charge on and stay focused!