I don’t know when the change happened, whether it was a gradual awakening or a sudden realisation, but I have woken up. I have realised that there really is only one person’s opinion of me that is truly important, one that matters more than any others, and that is my own. And, this has undoubtedly made me a better leader and coach, and I have been able to give myself permission to move away from ‘the edge’.
You see, with this realisation, there comes ownership and a sense of release. The release is in the knowledge that you do not have to do anything simply to impress others. In this era of sharing, likes, kudos and followers we can start to believe that people are watching us and keeping score of our achievements. This leads almost inexorably into doing ever more difficult and dangerous challenges, raising the bar all the time, living on the edge simply to draw attention to ourselves and impress our ever demanding audience. The growing body of evidence surrounding the number of people who are dying taking selfies is alarming, and looking more specifically at risk sports, it is my opinion that people are pushing harder and, critically, sooner than ever before.
Teaching kayaking, I always emphasize that the last move in any rapid is looking over your shoulder at the person behind you. Complacency, poor safety hazard and risk assessments, media/social media, and the quick learning curve and inexperience of newer paddlers all play into risk being higher on rivers although the hazards remain the same.
Kayakers vs Whirlpools – As the Ottawa river begins to rise the eddylines start to get way more powerful and at the top of the Butchers Knife rapid, some really powerful whirlpools begin to form!
The Stikine river is perhaps the one river that burns in my heart as the bracket of experience. This is, for me, the place where all my passion lay bare and raw for all to see. It is more than the river alone. It is more than the memories it gave. For many this river, which has been put on a pedestal, holds no clues-no passion. Instead, others do, these are the places that prepare you to challenge. Implicit in these situations is the notion of personal risk. How we, as thinking organisms, perceive these risk situations is key.
It is not simply a question of can we do this?
But is the question, should we do this?
I have just finished watching the full version of Chasing Niagara (just over 1 hrs worth of action). It has been available for a while via iTunes at a cost. However it is currently available to watch for free on Red Bull TV.
CHASING NIAGARA follows Rafa Ortiz, a celebrated pioneer of big waterfall kayaking, as he pushes himself to the limit and redefines his sport by daring to dream the impossible – successfully descending Niagara Falls. To prepare for this highly dangerous drop, Ortiz enlists a team of fellow professional kayakers, including Rush Sturges, Evan Garcia, and Tyler Bradt, to help him train and document the process. As they take on lightning fast rapids and massive waterfalls in exotic locales, they soon find that what started as one man’s epic quest, evolves into an intense three-year journey of self-discovery and friendship that forces them to redefine their own definitions of bravery, purpose, and ambition.
Huge waterfalls, near death experiences all captured in such a way that makes Chasing Niagara appealing to both paddlers and non-paddlers. In terms of the way in which Chasing Niagara has been put together and the action within it, it is probably the best kayak related video I have seen.
I have been asked many times about the notion of fear and how to push the doors open and walk in a pasture free from fear. Below are some thoughts, these thoughts are a work in progress.
Many say that they feel fear when on the water. They feel scared, nervous of the rapids they are set to descend. How we deal with this fear is important, for it is the only guidance that we shall ever need.
In order to discuss the fear, first off we need to examine what is fear, or more precisely where it is manifest. Only then can we aim to control this. Fear of things we have control over is ludicrous. This is like saying ‘I am scared of cancer’ whilst puffing on 40 cigs a day. Whist fear of things we cannot control is posited with anxiety. If we cannot influence events, it is this lack of control that we fear, so to say, we fear been out of control. Although again this is looking awry. We let our children stumble from all fours to two, wobbling with each step of exploration. We allow the hooded darkness of inner city streets to grow with crime. We vote for a political system that will fail and yet we bypass this fear. We allow it to hold our hands through our daily lives. We accept this fear. Our true fear is a fear of our own making, not the making of a collected consciousness. When we allow fear to form from a collected ideal, we can no longer accept responsibility for it, its something else, somebody else – will take responsibility for it.
We all know that one person that doesn’t care about the risk, has the balls and likes the attention, but thankfully there are many paddlers out there that will go out and get the reward purely from the enjoyment of having the skills to paddle something… they don’t need to shout about it.
I am a huge GoPro user, I have owned most types and always have a couple with my kayaking kit. Being able to bring tech into my paddling offers me the perfect combination of the kind of things I am into. I also spend a great deal of time watching home grown kayak movies on Vimeo and Youtube, many of which appear here on the site so I have a pretty good feel of what is possible and the impact that POV cameras have had on the sport.
Society is probably more media driven than it ever has been before and even the small section of society who kayak have been part of and are impacted upon by the rise of social media. Being able to view user driven and user published media where the end viewer has ultimately also become the media maker/publisher has many merits and has helped bring the sport to more people than it ever has done in the past. Continue reading