We all hit them. Sometimes we hail the with satisfaction- a goal we have been trying to reach. Others are more frustrating as we just cannot move beyond. As a moving water instructor, I have had the pleasure and pain to teach pretty well all levels of boater- from rank beginners to advanced instructors, and one of the most difficult areas to help people is taking them to the next plateau.
A plateau is a point you reach with relative ease, given your skill set and current abilities and to get beyond this level requires a further injection of both these things. Oh, and lots of work.
When you see a great paddler on the water, it is easy to say things like, “oh well, she is really fit and naturally talented” or some such like. This indicates two things: that she has some god-given talent that is unfair so there’s no hope of reaching her skill, and that she didn’t have to work at gaining that skill. This could not be farther from the truth, but we all feel better about ourselves by believing it.
I do some slalom racing when I get the opportunity. I do okay. I don’t win. And that’s how it should be, because I don’t train to compete, I just show up with the limited skills I have. If I expected to win over those who actually train for these events, that would be weird. I am at a plateau with slalom- clean through the gates, but slow. To move beyond this would mean some seriously hard work on my part.
Pushing through this plateau would mean developing some new skills to up my ability. How is this accomplished? First, lots of practice at what I do well currently. Second, some new techniques, skills or strategies to put into play on the river. The former is just time well spent on the water; the latter, however, can be sped along by either divine inspiration or instruction. I prefer not to wait for the gods to shine on me and tend to go straight to seeking help.
The Good News– you can be helped to push past your current plateau. A good shot of instruction at the right time can save you years of frustrated time trying to figure it out on your own (try teaching yourself golf, guitar, brain surgery…).
The Not-So-Good-News– you must work at the instructional tips you receive. It will not necessarily click the first time you try out a new technique (or even the second, third…).
So plateaus can be pushed through. Take a course with someone who has pushed beyond your level. But just remember that to get to the next level does require work, not divine intervention, so get out after the course and practice what you have been shown. You will still swim that rapid for a while, then less and less until one day you realize you are in your boat more than out of it and you have made it to your next plateau.