I remember my first steps in to climbing and kayaking adventure vividly. As if it was yesterday. The first time I went climbing I was nervous. I hate looking stupid because I don’t know what I’m doing. And there I was, about to do exactly that. I walked into the climbing wall entrance and stood on the public side of the metre high glass wall waiting for Dan and Matt to notice me there. I must have looked sheepish, like I didn’t belong. I know I didn’t feel like I belonged. Which was silly. I used to help instruct climbing at a local Scout centre so I knew a little. Yet that first step over the threshold felt so so hard.
Dan and Matt came over to chat to me. After lots of stalling from me, Dan eventually asks if I’m actually going to come in. I guess I couldn’t stand there forever so I walked to the entrance, paid my fee, signed my life away in the paperwork and in I went.
Why did taking that first steps as a climbing beginner feel so hard? I really struggled to have the confidence to just throw myself in. What if I made a mistake? What if Dan and Matt thought I was an awful climber? What if this thing I’d wanted to try for so long just wasn’t for me?
Kayaking was no different. It was the week before my thirtieth Birthday. I’d never been in a kayak, couldn’t swim, had a fear of water and hated the cold. (Just to note – some of that still applies now!). Everything felt against me. I did the same sheepish walk in, not really knowing what to expect. Hiding away when I could.
I got in a kayak and freaked out anytime someone came near me. I DID NOT want to get tipped over. As we always do with newbies, Dan got me to practice escaping my kayak when I went upside down. It took me ages just to psych myself up to go over. Being under water was not comfortable for me at all.
All in all, I think it’s easy to say that I was scared and nervous in equal measures about both of them. Confidence is a weird thing, I never had the confidence to try either of those. I’d always just refused to do anything water based with my scouts, I was the bag holder! And never had the courage to get into climbing even though I had that little burning light of desire to do it in me from about the age of 14. But something made me take that step that year, in 2016.
I would never have just rocked up to a club on my own, or even had the confidence to sign up to some training sessions or coaching. So how do you get started in a sport like this if that’s the case? Although I’d only known Dan and Matt for a few months, we’d built up a good connection at the Essex Jamboree. It seems that having someone who I trusted implicitly there giving me a little push to take me out of my comfort zone was what I needed to finally give it a try. And I was waaaaaaay out of it. I also fancied Dan a little at the time too so that always helps ;-). (Don’t worry, I’m still very much single 4 years on. I’m sure there will be a queue of guys wanting to date me some day haha).
It takes a huge amount of confidence to try something you know very little about, with people you know very little about. For me it does anyway. But once you find those people and take those first steps, getting over the initial discomfort, actually things became so much easier. Well, in some respects anyway. Some things I still find hard 4 years on.
Looking back now, if I was to give one piece of advice to someone who is nervous about starting out in climbing or kayaking I’d just say give it a go. I know, I know… considering I just said I struggled to do that, that’s not going to be easy for some of you. I’ll write a new blog post soon with my top tips for kayaking. Here’s 8 top tips for a climbing beginner. But to start you off… If you haven’t got any friends who like doing it, find a local club and join them. Or look for some formal training/coaching to give you the basics. It’s no way near as scary starting out as I thought. Even if I was way out of my comfort zone. And once you have the basics in place it’s amazing how much easier it becomes. Whilst as you progress, that feeling of not wanting to look stupid returns on occasion, it becomes so much easier to handle.
Ironically a lot of people thought I wouldn’t last in kayaking. I was just too scared of it all. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I would last myself. But I’m sure as you can guess, I did. And I’m so glad I did!