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I came into the 2022 Freestyle World Cups in Columbus, GA, with complete confidence in my ability to quickly adapt to the new features and create rides that could take me to the top.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I felt strong in prelims of WC 1 (Ambush), but my mental game fell apart during semis. In WC 2 (Good Wave), I just simply had bad rides and didn’t even move on through prelims.

After Ambush, I felt disappointed and frustrated but remained stoked for Good Wave, for most of my training over the late summer and early fall had been angled toward bigger waves. Though that Friday proved to be one of the hardest days of kayaking I have ever had. All 4 of my rides ended as quickly as they started: unable to land more than 1 trick and constantly catching an edge. After my final ride, I couldn’t help but yell out—anger and frustration toward myself, my skill set, and my ability to compete engulfed me. I paddled straight to shore, got out of my boat, and walked straight to the parking lot. And on that walk to the truck, the anger I felt morphed into sadness. I was inundated with an overwhelming sense of dejection stronger than anything I’d felt before. The accumulation of losses I have taken in the international circuit this year left my head spiraling, and so all I did was sit and think but nothing came to mind.

The Feelings of Losing

I didn’t know what to think, and even now, I still have trouble figuring out what happened. Over the 4 or 5 years that I have competed in freestyle, I’ve never had issues with nerves or having bad rides; I’ve always been able to pull it together when it counted, but this year has made me rethink all of that.

I experienced the same sort of mental struggle earlier in the year at the Freestyle World Championships in which I came crashing down in my first ride after feeling substantially strong in training.

My only reasonable conclusion to this cognitive thicket is the heightened pressure I’ve placed on myself over the last couple of years, and after a 2-year hiatus from the freestyle scene, I guess I wasn’t ready for it. It took some time for me to feel confident again, but I got there, and the same goes for all losses: just gotta keep rolling with the punches. Competition can be hard. It’s important to not lose the fun of competing because the outcome can really suck; that’s what I did, and it distracted me from what really mattered: having fun on the water.

If you have struggled with competing, not had the results you wanted, and questioned your skills because of happens in competition, I understand; a lot of people understand. We can’t all have the best days, and it definitely hurts when your bad days happen when you need good days, but that’s just an unfortunate part of it. Bouncing back, coming back stronger, and not letting the fever of competition consume you is the most important part.