Whitewater Rivers

Written by : Ben Marr 

Hi, my name is Ben Marr and I love whitewater rivers.  Long rapids, big waves, searching for a line between dangerous river features all really, really turn me on. All sensations are intensified for me on the water. I am extra happy, extra stoked, extra nervous, or extra focused. When on the river I am ever reaching and searching out my potential.  I identify my thresholds, fears, limitations, and comfort zones - and I gently push them. It isn’t every moment on the water, but it is the best moments where I am singularly focused on one aspect - a technique, a skill, a new approach, an old approach, a new boat, an old boat.  I am looking to challenge myself and to learn.  Whatever I do or experience on the water becomes part of who I am off the water.  Everything I learn away from the river is brought with me to the river.  It is the perfect environment for metaphorical thinking.  Constants and variables knit together with challenges and uncertainty.

I am 34 years old. I was two when I went on my first canoe trip, seven my first time in whitewater, and nine my first time in a kayak.  Nothing happened fast, my learning curve has been slow, steady, gradual, and relatively safe.  Now I work extra hard and give extra attention to off-water pursuits that can assist me on the water.  It takes more work for smaller gains, but it’s still interesting.  One way I am trying to improve is by sharing what I have learned, and what I think works, with others.  It is a fun challenge.  As I attempt to identify the areas / techniques / and drills I think people should focus on to fuel their drive to progress, it is these same areas that I also use to progress myself.  It is the most simple techniques and movements that make the big differences.  And, as ever, it is simple again to apply these lessons across the board.

Man forward folding on blue yoga mat

In 2016 I was a reluctant assistant instructor to a friend on the Zambezi River in Africa guiding a group of kayakers down the biggest shit they’d ever seen in their lives. I didn’t love it.  I felt like I was working on the river, something I avoided for a long, long time. I cut grass, cleaned outhouses, sold firewood, emptied garbage, and worked on oil rigs all instead of raft guiding or safety kayaking.

On the Zambezi I just wanted to shred, but I was tied down. I struggled to balance feeding my inner shred rat with the job I was hired to do, but it got me a ticket to Arica and a week of pay I could apply to the rest of time there.  I did the same thing the next year with a much cleaner attitude. Then, I started doing my own thing and that felt awesome.  

I hosted a retreat. I incorporated yoga, nutrition, and the vibe I wanted in showing people my home river, the Ottawa, in springtime. We had some hiccups. For example the provincial Ministry of Transportation banned all river traffic due to flooding. Putting together that experience for people, though, was amazing (also, along with a few locals, the group I was working with can claim the highest descent ever on the Ottawa River, which is pretty cool*).

Man in hat instructing a group of people

Later in the Fall, I hosted a retreat again and it was perfect - a great group, beautiful weather, local foods freshly harvested, and I felt better with it all. I was getting ready to do it all again this past season when COVID shut things down.

During COVID I took a ton of online classes and really appreciated the accessibility and efficiency of using the online platform.  I decided to take my retreat online and apply the same concepts.  As with learning any new skill set I don’t have things dialed yet, but my map is becoming clearer all the time.  I see many places I can go with online learning.  

Right now my main goal is that after a retreat with me, whether in-person or online, people will feel a physically and mental shift which will open doors, create curiosity, and drive action. To get there I use movement classes, breathing techniques, and kayaking technique lessons + theory and guest instructors who know their shit.

Blue kayak in a whitewater river

What I hope to give people are tools that they take and apply to whitewater kayaking as well as their everyday lives. If someone can recognize and control their mental and physical stress running difficult whitewater, they can use the same tools in parallel situations off the river.

If that sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to join me. I’d like to help you…

Apply positive stress to your life.

Apply healthy physical stress to your body.  

Put good fuel into your body, and understand what happens to your food when you eat it.

Choose to be in situations that will help you recover physically and mentally.

Learn what works for you so you can choose what works for you.

Learn what doesn’t work for you so you don’t choose what doesn’t work for you.

Challenge yourself constantly.

Ariel shot of winding river

I have a whitewater kayaking specific course coming up October 22nd to Oct 26th, 2020 available at bennyfcknmarr.com.

I am also hosting an online course with the Outdoor Sport Institute from November 1st – 15th. Our goal is to guide and support athletes of all abilities in progressing at their discipline of choice using the same practices I use when I want to progress.  You can scale down or ramp up concepts and apply them to you, always.

To wrap this up I was recommended to tie it all together with a mention of why I am interested in doing all this. I am trying to make an income and rather than revert to the manual labour positions I have used to achieve money in the past I want to take a shot at making it happen for myself.  The - whatever you want to call it - road, path, journey, adventure to arrive at a goal, outcome, achievement that you are proud of and or stoked on will be the best part, the story the learning experience and so on and etc.  Your hard work won’t necessarily be more memorable than your achievements but I think that your hard work is more interesting than what you are using it for.

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