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Kayaking Adventure in the French Alps


Here at Go Ape we are proud of our adventurous instructors. We spoke to Emily Bowie, who works at our Go Ape site in Aberfoyle, to find out about her adventures kayaking in the French Alps.

girl in wetsuit with green canoe by lake and mountains

I have just returned from a two-week kayaking trip in the French alps, which was organised through the Edinburgh University Canoe Club. I was super keen to go on this trip as it would help me to develop my kayaking skills, as alpine rivers present different and exciting challenges which Scottish rivers can’t offer. We went paddling every day, gradually moving from easy beginner rivers to harder intermediate rapids as the days progressed.

Ever since I began white-water kayaking two years ago, I, like many others involved in the sport, have struggled with the ‘head game’ involved in paddling. Nerves can take over when you are at the start of a rapid, as you are anxious about the unseen river ahead, and must put your trust in the more experienced ‘rescuers’ in your paddling group to lead you down an easy line on the rapid. I was determined to overcome this fear, so that I could progress my kayaking skills. A kayaking-intensive two-week trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on this.

Go Ape helped me to go on this trip through the Adventure Fund, which helps Go Ape employees to ‘live life adventurously’. White-water kayaking certainly isn’t the most accessible adventure sport, requiring a lot of money, time, and experienced paddlers to take novices down rivers safely. The Adventure Fund made this trip accessible for me thanks to the financial aid I received.

At the start of the trip, I felt incredibly nervous on rivers and was potentially at the lowest point I have ever been with kayaking. I felt that although I had been paddling for nearly two years, I wasn’t showing much improvement in my skills. I was debating whether the stress I felt during and before rivers was worth it. However, as the days progressed and my nerves slowly settled, I realised that the buzz of adrenaline that I got when I got to the bottom of a tricky rapid was what made kayaking worth it, for me. The rush of endorphins as the nerves passed away and the feeling of achievement left me on a high for the rest of the day. I came to realise that I wouldn’t enjoy kayaking if there wasn’t an element of fear involved; if there was no stress, then there would be no high.

I am going into my final year of studying psychology at Edinburgh University this September, and I plan to do my dissertation on the topic of fear and kayaking. I feel that I learnt a lot on the trip, about how to manage feelings of fear and use them to maximise enjoyment rather than let it take over and inhibit my performance. I will use what I’ve learnt when working at Go Ape, as I will help nervous customers to recognise their fear, showing them that it’s not a bad thing to be scared. I will encourage customers to harness the fear and use it to push themselves to try things that they might not usually do, and hopefully it will leave them feeling 50 feet tall. 

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