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Book Review: In The Flow

Iboutdoor takes a look at a long-awaited kayaking resource…

Four years ago, I found myself in my final year at university studying for an outdoor degree. Sat in front of me was a sports psychology essay, with no words on the page. The problem was that at that point, there was very little written work on kayaking-specific sports psychology. The odd journal article could be found on competitive slalom paddlers, but otherwise, I looked to other sports for my references.  

Many paddlers will have heard of “Inner Skiing,” a book dealing with the issues of head games and the psychology side of risk sports. However, there has been very few (if any?) sports psychology books aimed solely at paddlers. Until now…

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“In the Flow” by Jonathan Males finally addresses this gap in the sports psychology literature and I can see his work being quoted for ever more by outdoor education students… More importantly though, the book offers easy to understand advice for all paddlers, covering everything from rebuilding confidence after a bad swim, to keeping engaged with paddling in later life. 

Drawing on his experience coaching both the British and the Australian olympic slalom teams, “Mally” presents his 4 fundamentals for paddlers to work on to improve their paddling self-confidence. Citing a number of examples across different disciplines, as well as quotes from some of the world’s top kayakers, he shows how any paddler can make small changes to their mindset, to increase their performance. 

The book is set out in an easy-to-read format, starting with the fundamentals of self-confidence, before moving on to look at how to apply them as either a recreational or competitive paddler. Each section is then neatly summarised with a series of thought provoking review questions. 

Although there is a wealth of information here for the budding slalom paddler, or high performance coach, I was able to find an equal amount of good advice to apply to my more modest river paddling. Towards the end of the book, Mally tackles some of the harder questions in our sport – Why do we do it? What do we get from wilderness experiences and are there gender differences in the way people behave of the river? 

I can fully recommend this book for anyone that’s interested in the psychological side of paddlesports, whether they be a coach, athlete, or just trying to achieve their full potential.

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“In the Flow” is available for sale here in both paper back and E-book formats. For more of Jonathan’s work on paddlesport specific sports psychology, check out his blog: “Diary of a Middle Aged Kayaker”

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