[Everyone’s got a vice, a bad habit, something they know they need to change. Unfortunately, everyone also has a million excuses why they just can’t do it. Not anymore. Every month we will be following a different CollegeCandy writer as she takes on a personal challenge. Last month Charlotte tried to stop biting her nails. This month, Tiffany is going to attempt to conquer Outward Bound. Can she do it!? Could you?]
I’m starting to the get the hang of backpacking! It’s still not easy to carry 60 pounds on your back but it is becoming more bearable. I find that it is easier to carry the weight when I don’t focus all my energy on it. Instead, I try to talk to my crewmates (something I didn’t do before) and to sing songs in my head (surprisingly, I find that dirty rap songs motivate me best–I think it’s the beats, not the lyrics). But as I was told by my instructors, although Outward Bound has a way of making you feel comfortable, in an instant you can find yourself in your “stretch zone,” the area outside of your comfort zone, or even in your “panic zone”, which for me is hysterics and tears. I’ve already been in my stretch zone the whole time I’ve been of the trip but I can honestly say that white water canoeing and rock climbing have both put me into my panic zone. When I signed up for the trip I overlooked these two components of the trip. Now that I’m here I figure I’ll just have to deal with the challenges as they come.
Canoeing Day One: Today was definitely a challenge. We didn’t jump right into canoeing on rapids, but we practiced rowing in pond since it’s still water. I had no idea that my fear of water was so great until today. I mean, I’ve been swimming in the ocean before so I’d say my swimming level is at knowing how not to drown without really knowing how to swim. But being confronted with having to go down rapids has really shaken me. It didn’t help that I was awful at being the person in stern, or back, of the boat. I definitely made my partner and I seasick since I couldn’t keep the boat straight. To add on to my terrible day, at the end of our lesson we had to flip our boat to stimulate what would happen if we flipped our boat on the river. This definitely put me in my panic zone and I cried before I did it. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t really drown but it was still daunting to fall into the water. I can say that I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.
Canoeing Day Two: After the disaster that was day one, I tried to come into today with an open mind since it was our first day on the river. But as soon as I saw the French Broad, I knew that I would have my work cut out for me. The river was flowing so quickly and there were rocks everywhere you turned, so I had to focus on keeping my partner and myself from hitting anything as it is the responsibility of the person in the bow (there was no way in hell that I was being the stern again). Before the canoeing really started we had to flip our boats again to stimulate what we would need to do to swim a rapid. But unlike yesterday we were actually in a real rapid–s!$t. Before my nerves got the better of me, I knew I had to flip my boat first. My heart was pounding louder than I’d ever heard it before but somehow I managed to flip the boat before I lost my teeny bit of courage. I struggled to get into rapid swimmer position since I was flailing around, but I managed to make it down the rapid in one piece. I have never felt so relieved in my life! And honestly, it wasn’t that bad. After flipping, I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders (as cliche as that sounds) and I was ready to enjoy the rest of my day, so I did! Logan, my partner, was great and we managed to go down all four of the days rapids without flipping our boat. I’m actually kind of pumped for tomorrow.
Canoeing Day Three: After a wonderful night’s sleep at a dude ranch directly next to the river (the only dude ranch in the southeast!), we woke up the next morning, hopped in our canoes, and paddled down the French Broad. Today, we stepped up our game as we went down level 3 rapids. It’s rare that a beginning canoer would be on level 3 rapids by the third day, but as I’ve mentioned before Outward Bound likes to challenge us on the regular. Level 3 rapids are a lot more technical, since they involve skilled canoeing in doing things like catching eddies (the slow water around the rapid) and being able to power through faster moving water. A lot of the rapids we went on today featured enormous rocks, waterfall style drops and a lot of hidden rocks–they were definitely not places you wanted to flip your boat. Being in the bow was definitely scarier than being in the stern, since I was the first to see what we were about to face. My partner also had to put trust in my that I would match the speed of the water with my paddling, since I gave the boat momentum. My heart was beating wildly with each rapid we came to but unlike the other two days, this time it was with adrenaline. I felt like I should be on the cover of some outdoor magazine as I leaned into rapids and dug in the water with my blade. I’ve never felt that strong or quick before. And thanks to Logan’s and mine’s teamwork we didn’t flip our boat the whole day!
White water canoeing really challenged me and I wanted to quit before I even started. Now, I can say that I’ve fallen in love with the sport. I definitely want to learn how to swim and to continue doing this in the future!