Whitewater kayaking is a mind sport. As a paddler you must be confident in your abilities and able to focus your mind, letting everything else fade away but the drop.
Here's a few tips for those who need a little mental boost:
1. When your on the river, know your abilities. No matter how gnarly a rapid looks, if it is in your ability range and the line is good to go, remind yourself that. Remind yourself you CAN run this rapid, it just looks gnarly. Don't let your head get the best of you.
2. Any kind of negative self-talk, anxiety and emotions hurt your focus. If you have low confidence, you can't help but focus on all of the negative things rather than on things that will enable you to paddle well. Taking a 180, Positive talk gets you relaxed and energized before a drop or rapid. Don't say "There is no way I am going to run this rapid today." Say, "I'm going to try my hardest today and paddle the best I know how." If you run the drop, Sweet. If not, you didn't beat yourself up for portaging. Sometimes the better part of valor is taking the dry line (just make sure to keep a positive outlook).
3. When scouting a rapid, once you see the line, visualize yourself in the rapid. Visualize where you are, the strokes you will be taking, and finally, you greasing the line. Visualize both the process as well as the the outcome. Try not to worry about things you have no control over, and stick to those you do. The more different rapids you experience, the more you realize how similar they are. Use past experience to predict what will happen in a rapid.
4. Remember: You shouldn't focus on the past because its out of your control and you can't do anything to change it. Sometimes a bad experience is one that is hard to come back from. Just remember the past is the past and anything and everything can change.
5. Finally, while kayaking is a mental sport there are some days where you may just say "Screw it" and give it a try. Follow the above steps, make sure you have safety set and give er'!
If anyone has any other tips or hints to break through the mental block that sometimes occurs in kayaking, feel free to post back! It's always great to hear new ideas!
See you on the river!