Head space is your current state of mind, if you’re in a good head space you will be calm, happy, enjoying yourself, and able to make good decisions. If you are in a bad headspace you might be stressed, anxious, upside down and not having the greatest day ever. I believe that head space is something that you can exercise, build on, and improve every time you go kayaking.
Why should you work on improving your head space? You’ll be more likely to style your line (way more fun than beatering), so people will want to paddle with you all the time. You’ll be more likely to make good decisions under pressure; switching to plan B, or plan C if you didn’t get your line quite right, or getting one of your friends out of a sticky situation.
Here are a few simple ways that I like to grow my head space.
Practice, practice, practice!
Train your body and your mind, catch every eddy, boof every rock, train your roll on both sides so you can roll in any situation. Practicing hard moves on easy water means that if you screw up, the consequences are not so bad. Once you have a move dialled on easy water, you’ll be much more confident when you need to make the same move on a more consequential rapid.
Make smart choices
If you’re not sure of the line on a rapid, ask someone in your crew. If you’re not confident that you can make the line, walk around it! The river isn’t going anywhere, you can walk around it this time, and crush it next time. Way too often I see young kayakers who just want to find the biggest rapid and fire it up; they often make it through unscathed, and sometimes they don’t. The satisfaction of hitting your line perfectly is much more rewarding than feeling relieved that you somehow made it to the bottom in one piece.
Judge your crew
If you’re jumping on the river with a bomber crew who are super solid on safety, that’s great for your head space and you might feel confident stepping it up a level. If you can see that your crew is a bit nervous or you’re unfamiliar with the river, you might want to paddle something easier that you all feel confident on. You can still find plenty of hard moves on easier rivers.
Get some playboating experience
Playboating is awesome to fall back on when you’ve misjudged your line and now you’re getting beatdown in a big hole or a weir drop above a 100 ft waterfall (this happened to me once and it was borderline terrifying). It might not be that drastic but surfing in holes and other hydraulics helps develop your orientation underwater and develop your reflexes so when you get that window of opportunity to escape your body does the right thing. Side surfing in small holes also helps with your balance and edging so you are less likely to end up upside down in the first place. You don’t even have to own a playboat, you can practice playboating in your creek boat too.
Kayaking is awesome.