Overcoming Fear in a Kayak - Word&Way

Overcoming Fear in a Kayak

woman in kayak
woman in kayak

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

I love to try new things. It’s the reason I know how to hand weave an alpaca rug, tandem jump out of an airplane, and auger a hole to ice fish. There’s such joy and exhilaration in new adventures. Sometimes, however, after I say yes, fear creeps in and I start to feel like maybe I’m in over my head. This is exactly what happened when I learned to kayak.

A friend asked me to join her for a kayak class. The kayaks and instructions were all provided at a serene lake on a Saturday morning. All you had to do was show up.

I love water. I love my friend. I love the outdoors. This was going to be a perfect fit.

When we got there, I quickly realized I should have asked more questions. All the kayaks were these long, slender racing kayaks with only a small hole for your body. Only the upper half of your body sticks out of the kayak.

Just the thought of getting my body wedged into that hole — on top of the water and in front of strangers — made me start to sweat. Then I started to giggle. Then I started with the awkward jokes.

The instructor was not impressed. The instructor made me go first for lesson one (big surprise!), which was all about tackling fear. We sat wedged in our kayak while the instructor flipped us underwater. We had to count to 10 while tapping on the bottom of our kayak, now above water, to give the universal sign of distress.

Our next step was to slide out of the kayak hole underwater and pop up next to our kayak. He said fear keeps you from learning. By overcoming that with lesson one, we were going to excel on the things ahead.

He was right. I counted to 10 underwater before sliding out with ease. I felt like a burden of fear had lifted when I broke the surface of the water. Everyone was cheering me on. It was the confidence boost I needed to tackle the rest of the class, including getting back in my kayak in the middle of the lake and learning to flip myself back up, STILL IN THE KAYAK, after being underwater. The flip is all about the hips and it took me a dozen times to get it. But I did it. Me. A bonafide, legit kayaker.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that kayak class, especially with all the fear swirling around about the coronavirus pandemic. There are so many unknowns and they all seem scary. I start to sweat, then giggle, then I say awkward things because I’m fearful about what’s ahead. Like the instructor, I wonder if God is also unimpressed with my attitude.

We are reminded over and over again in the Bible to not be afraid. Fear holds us back. Fear hugs us tight, then suffocates us. Fear tells us we can’t when all we really need to do is trust and try.

As I wash my hands, I whisper again and again, “Be not afraid.” I also try to listen for signals of distress from family and friends in this season, so I can support and encourage them in these darker days.

When I’m crying at my desk at the news of another death, I remember back to that summer day on the lake when I went under water afraid and came out on the other side a believer, full of hope and ready to learn.

We can do hard things. Be not afraid.

Written by

Heather Feeler keeps a bucket list of new things she wants to try, including making goat cheese, learning to logroll, and riding in a sidecar motorcycle. She still works on tackling her fears daily.