Brauns Law March 2018


Whitewater Thrill Ride Learning to Still Your Mind

showers will soon be upon us, and believe it or not, this is my favorite time of year. From my junior year of college until about five years after I graduated, I was an avid Class IV whitewater kayaker. My roommates in college got me into the sport, and for years, Tallulah Gorge on the Chattanooga River was my playground. At the time, the river wasn’t controlled by a dam. Spring would bring a rush of high, fast water that made the Class IV and Class V rapids more fun. Whitewater kayaking has earned its reputation as an extreme sport, but it’s not all wild stunts. If you want to succeed in a kayak, you need to learn how to still your mind in chaos.

When you are flipped upside down while strapped to a kayak, rapids swirling all around you, your instinct is to panic. But the key is to hold your breath and remain calm. Let time slow down and make yourself think things through. Relying on brute strength will get you nowhere, and if you panic, you’re in

“If you want to succeed in a kayak, you need to learn how to still your mind in chaos.”

me, I rolled myself upright and barely managed to paddle to a rock. There, I pulled myself out of the kayak and collapsed. I didn’t wake up until my friends came back to find me. A few weeks passed until I was ready to try again. Unfortunately, I tried to hit the rapids again — my friends and I were young and dumb. We thought it would be cool to go to the Chattanooga River during a flooding stage. Overturned trees floated by and we saw deer swimming in the water, so I can’t say I was surprised when I flipped upside down on the rapids. What I didn’t expect was to be ripped out of my boat and dragged along the bottom of the river. By the time I fought my way to the shore, my kayak was nowhere to be found and I had to hike through the woods to get to my car. This marked the end of the time in my 20s when I thought I was invincible. I realized my head wasn’t where it needed to be anymore, and I sold all my gear. Despite the rocky end to my kayaking career, I don’t regret a single rapid. Kayaking was one of the coolest things I have ever done, and in the end, it taught me an important lesson: Sometimes, it’s better to quit while you’re ahead. -David Brauns

trouble. But when you remain calm and realize you’re going to be okay, then you can get yourself upright again and keep paddling. Kayaking isn’t about physical ability; it’s about the mind and finesse. Kayaking was a big part of my life, and I loved every second. I got to meet the owners of Perception Kayaks, a world-class kayak equipment company, and I hung out with members of the U.S. Olympic kayak team. Once, I went over a 32-foot waterfall, and I had such a surge of adrenaline from the experience that I couldn’t sleep for two days. It was a blast. But all good things come to an end. My end came when I had two near-death experiences back to back. I bit it on a Class IV rapid and couldn’t get back up. The whole way down, I was trapped underwater with my eyes closed, waiting for the chaos to pass. When I finally felt the water grow calm around


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