Benny Marr on Managing Fear

Benny Marr on handling fear before he runs something big, which he refers to as something that scares him.

Benny Marr is no stranger to running large rapids, which also means he’s no stranger to managing fear. The man who ran Site Zed first explains his approach to running rapids that scare him. This self-recorded account was documented on the Mistassini River in Quebec, Canada.

Handling Fear: The Process

I’ve been asked multiple times about what I do or what my process is before I run something big, which I’ll just refer to as something that scares me. This is a great time for me to explain that because I’m doing it right now! 

What I do when I’m nervous is, I really pay attention to what I’m doing, physically, with my body in two ways: One, am I elevating my heart rate? Because when your heart rate elevates, I think it also triggers some fear mechanisms, especially if you are scared. Two, I pay attention to the shapes I make with my face and my body. I make sure that they’re confident. No clenching or anything like that.

Image in the style of a negative photo from the viewpoint of Benny Marr paddling a rapid. You can see the kayak and paddle in front of him as well as a large wave from the rapid.

What do I know?

Once I get in the water, I think about : What do I know?

[In the case of this video from the Mistassibi River…] 

I’m going to go surf this wave maybe, and then I’m going to chill pretty hard on the entrance. I know there’s a big hole. I’m going to run that from right to left. Then I know that there’s two diagonals that start on river right and feed into the center. I’m going to be left of those and then I’m going to be staring down the gradient of the rapid. There’s a big lump of a wave. I’m going to be a bit left of that and I’m going to target a really cool, big diagonal. I’m going to go up and over that and then I’m going to turn my nose to the right. I’m going to take some strokes.

And at that point, I’m going to stop seeing the rapid because it’s so big. And at that point, what do I know, or what do I expect to feel? I think I’m going to feel myself get light and kind of drop a bunch of gradient. I’m going to stay low in my boat.

Black and white photo of Benny Marr handling fear emerging from a large rapid in his kayak. He is totally overtaken by waves.

What’s going to happen?

Then I ask myself : What’s going to happen?

I’m going to stay low in my boat and then I hope I feel a really big feature on my left shoulder that is going to push me to the right into the eddy. I know that that might not happen. And I know I might slip and I know I might go into a really big, really violent hole. I know if that happens, I’m going to feel what it feels like. I’m going to keep my hands pretty light on my paddle so that if it really pulls, it’s just going to pull the paddle out of my hands. My hand roll sucks. So if I’m feeling like I’m want out, I’ll get out. If I’m feeling like I should ride it I’ll ride it.

Black and white photo from the viewpoint of the side of the river, watching Benny paddling down a rapid in his kayak.

That’s what I know. 

And I know it’s going to be fun.


Step 1 : Pay attention to my body

[That includes heart rate and body / facial shapes.]

Step 2 : Go through what’s going to happen. 

[What do I know? What will I feel?]

Abstract photography of a droplet of water. Background is dark black with organic circle in the middle covered in water texture.

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