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Becoming a Self-Sufficient Adventurer with Kayak Coach Lowri Davies

Capt. Sophie Hollingsworth - Former Ballerina turned award winning explorer - New Explorer of the Year 2017. Fulbright Scholar. Fellow of The Explorers Club & PostGrad Fellow of RGS.

How do you go from being an amateur adventure to seasoned expedition leader? Gaining the essential skills of an expert is key to reaching that next level of self-reliance in an adventure. As a kayak coach, Lowri Davies enjoys helping kayakers develop their abilities and become increasingly self-sufficient.

Lowri has been kayaking almost her entire life. Her hard work earned her accomplishments such as competing at the highest levels of the international freestyle scene and even becoming European Freestyle Champion 2006-08. Through many expeditions in places such as Siberia, Mongolia and Georgia, Lowri has adventured in over 30 countries.

Interested in bringing your passion to the next level? Learn the skills it takes to be a leader in your arena with Lowri’s advice.

Practise Mental Decision Making

When a friend planned to lead a client kayaking trip to Georgia and got injured before the trip, Lowri was asked to take his place. Fortunately, Lowri was able to move her schedule around and take advantage of the opportunity.

Those on the trip were already experienced with kayaking, but not the expedition style of the trip that required greater responsibility and self-sufficiency. Lowri’s goal was to give them the skills they needed in the future to be able to go on expedition trips themselves.

A big piece of this learning was mental decision making. As they decided where to explore in the next valley and set a plan for the week, Lowri made the decision-making a group process. “I was trying to just feed key information and allow them to try and come to decisions themselves,” Lowri shared. “For me, that's something I really enjoy.”

If you desire greater self-sufficiency in your adventures, consider finding someone to go with you who will allow you to be a part of the decision-making process and teach you the ins and outs of making plans.

Define Fear vs. Excitement

With challenging sports, there are often confidence or psychological blocks that get in the way of success. Lowri describes lack of confidence as a mix of emotions. “Fear and excitement have pretty much the same symptoms,” she noted. “It can be easy to confuse the two. Or if you're feeling both, which often is the case in something like whitewater kayaking, you mix up the part that is excitement with the part that is fear and see it entirely as fear.”

When this happens, Lowri works with her clients to recognise the positives. For example, looking at a big rapid you might feel fear, but the rapid is also the reason you’re there. The huge burst of adrenaline at the end is what’s fun about kayaking. Because of that, it’s clear that there’s also excitement there.

Being able to separate fear from excitement is a powerful skill as you face increasingly difficult adventures.

Develop Calming Tactics

When your heart rate becomes elevated from reasons other than excitement, it can be helpful to have techniques at hand that will help you become calm and centred. Lowri recommends breathing, singing, or even dancing to do this. Lowri would use dancing before competitions to get out of her head.

“Once you've got your heart rate down a little bit,” Lowri added, “sit and try to imagine in a realistic way you doing whatever the thing is that you're scared of. Whether that's running the waterfall or the rapid or taking part in the competition, you will recognize then that your heart rate will increase again when you feel that buzz but hopefully in a really good way.”

As you continue to pursue your sport of choice, develop strategies to find your calm place. Experiment with breathing, dancing and visualization to see what puts you in the best headspace.

Accept the Risks of Going Solo

“The challenge with solo whitewater kayaking is if anything goes wrong, you're reliant on your team to help,” Lowri shared. “It's really handy to have some people there to help you.”

Lowri is passionate about teaching safety rescue. “I think it's really important for whitewater kayakers to have a good grounding in safety,” Lowri noted. If you’re going to go solo, you have to accept the risks fully and be prepared to help yourself if things go wrong.

While Lowri doesn’t always recommend going solo kayaking, she sees the adrenaline rush in being totally self-dependent. For Lowri, those were some real moments of clarity.

Think from Different Angles

During an expedition in Columbia, everything seemed to go wrong. A two-hour trip took take all day and kayaks were left in the jungle while the team trekked back to town. In many adventures, things don’t always go to plan.

How do you handle those situations? Lowri says the most important thing is not to panic because that achieves nothing. “You got to try and stay calm,” Lowri advised. “Try and rationally think through what your options are. Then, try and think from different angles.”

By looking at a problem from all angles, you may find a less than obvious solution to the issue. Lowri believes that you can overcome even awful situations with a good sense of humour and a practical approach.

Whatever piece of advice stuck out to you, take that and remember it on your next adventure. As you become self-sufficient, bigger and better opportunities will unfold. You got this!


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