Louise Jull | Okere Falls, New Zealand - Everyone makes mistakes every now and then. Whether its forgetting things, dropping a glass or even misjudging a situation.
On Tuesday the 9th of September I was pretty pumped for my 6th lap of the green (2nd lap at 100%). There were a lot of people on the river this day, we had a super solid crew. I did a few walk backs on some of the top sections as I was feeling good. I had finally figured out pretty much all of the lines up the top and felt confident with them. I even nailed ‘go left’, although it still scared me a little bit. Then upon reaching the top of Gorilla I started to feel pretty nervous. Everyone was rallying off it and I figured I should probably join suit and do the same. Last time I ran it had been so sweet and the line had felt pretty good to go. So I started off the top drops which went okay, not great but okay. Then I suddenly got quite nervous and was just not sure of the line through the notch...I was trying to remember what I had done the previous time..but it was too late. I caught my paddle somewhere in the notch and power flipped. I only had my paddle with 1 hand and then by the time I got it back I was on the edge of ‘Gorilla’ drop. I nearly got up...but not quite. So down I went, swallowed and destroyed by the rapids and rocks that lay beneath. I fell onto pretty hard rock but it seemed I had so much adrenalin I did not feel much pain.
Katrina was waiting in the eddy for me and as I floated in I came out through the hole in my spraydeck (It was maybe a little bit too big for me). I was pretty out of it and felt really ill. I thought I was going to faint or throw up but I managed to pull myself together. I was pulled up onto the side and fortunately there was a few people around to help me out. Big thanks to Adrienne Levknecht, Katrina Van Wijk, John Grace and the many others that were on the scene and helped me walk out of the gorge.
I was taken to the hospital and checked over and when the xray results came back the Dr. Diagnosed a fracture on my scapular. I was pretty drugged up in the hospital so was feeling pretty positive and not too bad about the whole thing. But when I got home that night the realisation of what had happened hit me.
It takes a lot of force and a hard hit to break the scapular so my body was in quite a bit of shock. But for me, I know my body will heal. The fortunate thing about bone injuries is that they heal back to 100% in 6-8weeks. The harder part in my mind is the fact that I let this happen, I messed up and made the mistake which led to this accident. I should have got out of my boat and scouted the rapid again, taken it more seriously and been sure of my line. Any new river I have paddled this year I have given full respect to and always made sure I charge my lines, because I know you have to. What scares me is that I messed up the other day. Something in my brain was not working or making me stop and think about what I was doing, I was not sure of the line and I still went. Human error maybe but this is something I could have avoided. I know I could have because I owned that rapid just a couple of days earlier. It was not a question of could I do it or not, I had already done it well. Just mentally I was not strong and this reflected in my pathetic strokes and hesitation. My confidence in my ability is low right now and I feel super gutted. Kayaking class 4/5 requires confidence and I feel like I let myself down the other day.
In 4-6 weeks I should be moving towards getting back in a boat on mellow water but it is going to take a lot of mental rehab to bring my mind back to believing that I can paddle. Like I said at the start, everyone makes mistakes at some point, but in class 4/5 mistakes can cost a lot more than a glass of spilt milk. I really want to focus on mental training in the next few weeks, I believe this is a weakness for me and now is the time for me to try to strengthen this.
Thanks to everyone for the support and messages, the positivity helps a lot. Especially thanks to Shane Benedict and Katrina Van Wijk. Katrina continues to be soo supportive and she also continues to charge hard out on the water. She is a beautiful paddler and has been putting everything into it, its inspiring for me and gives me motivation to heal fast so I can join her out on the water soon!
Note Sportscene. This article from Louise inspired sport pyschologist Jonathan Males from Performance1 to write something about the psychology of injury: 'Re-building your confidence'.