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White Sand and Stone


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  • Writer's pictureBrian Spear

My Best Advice from Whitewater Guide School: Start Early

I went through guide training in 2011 to become a whitewater guide. I've traveled throughout the West Coast running rivers ever since. What an amazing journey that has been and I have learned so much about myself and grown in so many ways as a result.

Something I can reflect on from those 2 weeks living out of a tent in Camp Lotus, CA and running rapids all day was the emphasis on how to navigate rapids by starting early.

As a new raft guide, most people spend their first days (hopefully) dodging obstacles and simply making it downstream is considered a success. As the skills build on how to navigate whitewater improve, they follow a more finessed sequence of movements.

My teachers always emphasized the advanced guide skill: starting early.

Last minute moves are a sign that you waited too long to make a decision and hesitancy generally results in hitting the obstacle or being caught off guard by a rock or large wave.

As this relates to everyday life, I think about planning and making a move early. Procrastination is a last minute game and it keeps us on edge. We don't have much resources available to us because we are so concerned with avoiding the obstacle, which is generally completing something by a specific time period.

By starting early, we need planning and giving ourselves enough time to move through the steps in that plan, which allow for graceful movement down stream.

If I am headed downstream in my raft and I see a rock about 50 feet ahead, I have some time to respond by moving in either direction away from that rock. Obstacle avoided.

By starting early, it is generally a few strokes in either direction that can afford to miss the rock. With early moves, they are only a few movements which requires less effort. Less stress. More energy for enjoying being on the river.

Contrast this by first time raft guides whom don't usually start early, wait to make a move away from danger. Like a moth to a flame, the raft is headed straight for the rock and still no movements of the raft in either direction.

Waiting... waiting...

Any last minute moves at this point will be hard and difficult, if not impossible to miss the rock. Hitting the rock, which can get us stuck, flip our boats, knock out passengers, is a great learning opportunity to remind ourselves to start early.

So with that, look downstream and see what you see. With every rock in the way, also a sweetspot to navigate towards.

By keeping your eyes downstream, simply plan to move into opportunities and away from setbacks. Be ready to make your move towards those opportunities by starting early.

I hope you've enjoyed this article and found value as it applies to your everyday life.

Stay tuned for more articles and insights.


Brian Spear

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