5 Life Lessons I Learned from Paddling

by Ambassador, Willa Mason

1. The perks of being a rope person
Because of my parents, I’ve kept rope stored in my car for impromptu
paddling trips since the day I got my driver’s license. It’s a source of much grief for paddlers riding in my car: “uggh..ropes?!” Apparently, straps are easier, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really been convinced. Because, well, I have used those ropes not once, but three times to tie rusty parts of my car back on…muffler, wheel well, heat shield. Improvisation skills, let me tell you!

Ropes, I come by it honestly…

2. Fake it till you make it
I don’t mean fake confidence all the time. Definitely not. I mean that once you decide to paddle something, go at it like you’re going to style it. This aligns with the ‘’Paddle good or paddle hard’’ mentality. It increases aggressiveness, which leads to more speed, and consequently increases the likelihood of actually styling it.

The same thing goes for oral presentations, public speaking and job interviews. No matter how under prepared you are, don’t let the audience, or the rivers, in on that secret.

Speaking at Paddle to the Sea’s 50th anniversary

3. Rhetoric – it’s all in the phrasing
“I’ll be away from university for the week , there’s this thing called ALF, it’s in Tennessee, no there’s no website, no it’s not a competition…” VS. “I have the opportunity to participate in an international whitewater canoe festival…”

You can guess which is more effective. Life skills, my friends, life skills.

4. How to drive…
Alright, this might sound irrelevant. However, I learned how to paddle before I learned
to drive, and there’s a lot of crossover. Think about it – look where you want to go,
active eyes. Trying to exit an eddy on a slalom course with 40 other
paddlers, or at the likes of Beaverfest and Moosefest, is a heck of a lot like turning left or merging:
Look for the gap, eye contact, and go (with “grrr”)! It’s like a Tellico race with rules.

5. We’re all a little bit weird.
One of my dad’s favourite statements is: ‘’We’re all a bit weird, and we only get weirder as we get older’’. It’s so true, and maybe even more visible on the river, in a group where we rely on each other for safety and for fun. Open boating has helped me appreciate everyone’s individual quirkiness (my own included!) for
the strength (and the entertainment..) they bring to every group.

OC love.
Photo by Johno Foster

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