Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Sitting on the side.

After a year of watching friends go out kayaking and having fun on the water I can finally start thinking about getting back in my boat myself. It has been a long journey since I dislocated my shoulder in Austria this time last year with a lot of bad news, broken promises, missed deadlines, a few tears and a lot of insurance claims without having much good news to keep me going. It sometimes got a little tricky to see if getting back into kayaking was really worth it. But now I am hopefully at the end of it all and can start think about getting out of the gym and back in my boat.

Since I capsized last year and embarrassed myself by missing my boof I have been on the mend. It started well with me being back in my boat in time to paddle for the British Universities Kayak Expedition (BUKE) selection weekend and getting picked for the team to head to Venezuela which I promised to my fellow team mates I would be fully fit for. I also managed to get another day on the Border Esk back in Scotland around that time but that was the last time in nine months I had a proper paddle.

However, after the delights of being picked for BUKE, my shoulder came out again during the Christmas holidays and then again and again until we decided the best option was to operate. March 17th came and I found out the reason for my shoulder constantly dislocating was due to a broken shoulder socket which wasn’t spotted in the scans or x-rays. After two shoulder operations I now have two screws holding a bone graft in place and a lot of ligaments that have been shortened to keep everything held together.
Choosing to have surgery though has meant I had to miss out on a large amount of boating. Firstly a holiday to Corsica followed by breaking a promise to Ben and Eoghain about going to Norway with them and finally the expedition to Venezuela. Luckily the trips all had enough members to go ahead and it looks like everyone had a super time. But watching all the blog updates and photos put online hasn’t been that easy to enjoy without a bit of regret and jealously.

I also didn’t manage to help out the canoe club in Edinburgh as much as I should by becoming a bit of a bystander having not being able to lead trips, teach and just help run the club. It is very hard to stay motivated and tell beginners how amazing kayaking is when I couldn’t join them. Instead I got to watch as the guys and girls progressed by learning to roll, running harder rapids and generally having a good time.
I don’t think I will ever forget the day when it all went wrong or all the pain I have been through. But now I can look back on everything and maybe learn a little from all of this. I have learnt that boating when you’re tired leads to mistakes, being strong and having good shoulder stability by going to the gym will help by making paddling possible for longer without getting tired and also keep your shoulder in your socket, while also keeping your elbows down keeps your shoulders in a much safer position.

Setting aims and goals, big or small, helps with training and motivation and is something that I should do when I go boating. I have been picking dates for when I can paddle again, first it was after Christmas, then Easter, then Wet West and now hopefully next week. It is really hard watching one go past and not being able to make it but having a reason for it has helped. In the same way choosing lines and making them, understanding why you didn’t make them and thinking about how next time you will make you them rather than rolling up at the bottom with a slight shake of the head and a laugh from your mates before paddling on without a second look isn’t the best thing to do.

However I have seen how amazing the kayak community can be, such as the guys at Sickline who asked what was up when I was holding my shoulder and all looked upset that I couldn’t race with them, to the guy who ran all the way around the river to make sure I was okay and then to the guys at Edinburgh who have given me a hug, cheered me up and will hopefully hold my hand as I get back in a boat and look after me over the next few weeks and months.

Sandy Douglas