I’m surrounded by paddlers who have previously or are currently taking it to the extreme. I mean EXTREME! First descents down rapids and/or waterfalls that really defy what humans should be able to do and survive. Let alone do on a regular basis. It leads me to ask the question….why? What is the reason that these individuals who admit they’re scared, physically affected and cognizant of the risk will place themselves in this situation? The answer, while differing on the adjectives, all state the need to overcome a challange…or even a fear, if you will. To press their abilities to the edge. It’s an interesting notion and one that fascinates me on many levels. Again, why?
There are so many things to be fearful of, if we let ourselves worry our brains away. Not being able to pay the bills, losing loved ones, disease or our own fragility. Perhaps this is why on some level we want to overcome a fear that is in our ability to control. Perhaps.
On the other hand, is there strength in choosing NOT to run a rapid? I think so. Yesterday I was on a stretch of river I’ve run several times. For me, it has a few rapids on it that challenge me. I’ve never stood up through Spencer’s Hole on the North Santiam. I’ve done it coming down to a knee several times. Yesterday, however, I portaged the entire thing. The water was running a little higher. Again not really that big a deal. We even scouted it (which I think is worse for me…I’m almost better off, especially on a rapid I know, NOT seeing it first). We chose the line I’d run ON my knees. Sam ran it first, on his knees because I asked him to. I saw the line and thought “yep that’s totally doable”. For some reason though, I just didn’t want to do it. At this point in my life I’m okay listening to “my gut”. Did I feel great in the moment skipping it? Well, yes…and no. I will admit a feeling of “failure”. Like somehow it represented a weakness in me, my “badassery” (or lack thereof) or lesser skill in paddleboarding. On the other hand, I felt a sense of relief, and was able to enjoy the rest of the run and giggle through Mill City falls which I swan-dived. Hahaha. For me THAT’S what it’s about. If I’m not having fun there’s no point.
I guess there’s no real “aha” words of wisdom here but maybe a suggestion that we might place too much emphasis on “conquering” our challenges. These, by the way, are self-appointed challenges and I’m fairly sure no one will think less of me as a human for having not run the rapid yesterday. Bottom line, it scared me in that moment, and while I’m sure I would have lived through the swim, I’m gonna stick with having fun…most of the time. If I accomplish some harder lines along the way, and overcome some small, manageable fears, well that’s just fine. Everyone else…well onward, and choose what’s best for you!! (I won’t think any better or worse of you).
Thanks for listening…