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Pint Size Perspectives: How to Prepare for a New River

Hi! My name is Hannah Musgrove. I am a Cali Collective Junior Ambassador. Yesterday I did a new section of the river, Chili Bar on the South Fork American.


Sometimes on a new river, I can feel overwhelmed and really nervous, but this time I didn’t. I definitely felt nervous, but not at the level that I usually do. I’ve been thinking about why this has happened and I have come to my conclusions.

Hannah and her younger sister Maya gets some beta on the first rapid.

Hannah and her younger sister Maya gets some beta on the first rapid.

The first reason I felt this way was because I was prepared. I have a solid roll and the skills needed for that section. I had been doing different sections of the same class and practicing my combat roll by surfing waves and doing stern squirts. I felt confident in my skills even though I hadn’t seen the rapids yet. Everyone around felt confident in my ability to do the section and, as a result, I felt better and more confident. This is really important when running a new river, I have found.

Hannah blasts through First Threat.

Hannah blasts through First Threat.

You should feel like you were meant to be there and that you are ready to do this because your skills meet the difficulties of the river. This put me into the “flow zone”. I had listened to Darcy Gaechter’s Cali Collective talk and I was ready to practice it on a new section with new features. I felt calm but alert and I knew what I was doing. Another reason I felt this way is because I didn’t overthink doing the river. In my head, doing the river was just an activity. I had other things to think about instead of just dwelling on doing the river. I have found this in other sports as well, when you aren’t overly stressed about doing something scary, you do much better.

Hannah and her family.

Hannah and her family.

This brings me into my final and most important point. I didn’t pay attention to what other people had said about certain rapids. I have had lots of input about this certain section of river over my life and it was very very mixed. When you get input about the river, it’s important to remember that whoever is giving you this information has their own level of preparedness for that section, they most likely did it at a different level, at different times, with different lines and so on. It’s good to know what rapids are harder or longer, but you can’t really listen to other people until you’ve seen the rapid or run it yourself.

Check out Hannah and Maya’s first run down Chili Bar (thanks to dad for following with the GoPro):

For more information on to get your kids into the sport of kayaking and grow their skills and confidence, visit our website:

Cali Collective Youth Program


We are proud to have the author, Hannah Musgrove, as a member of the Cali Collective Junior Ambassador Team and as a role model for other young paddlers.

All words and images Copyright California Watersport Collective 2020. All rights reserved.