I had a bit of a revelation this past week.
It has always been a goal of mine to seek adventure through kayaking. I was never one to be content seeing the same stream over again. The unknown and the unseen always called to me. I got a reputation early on taking people on log strewn portage fests that were more hiking than boating. It took me a long time to find out why people were not having fun on these trips, as I was having the time of my life.
My dad wondering where he went wrong with me.
I eventually discovered that people did not kayak for the same reasons as I kayak. I cannot speak for everyone else, but for me kayaking is a way to fulfill a need to be on an adventure and keep my brain working towards something at all times. Solving the unknown is what keeps me kayaking. The act of kayaking down the river is more fun than I have doing most anything else, but if that was the extent of kayaking, It would not be the same sport for me. I can get the same rush and sense of accomplishment of running a big drop as I could in football, snowboarding, giving a speech in class, college and the many aspects that come with that, and really everything worth doing in life, without the looming prospect of death. So why, to borrow a phrase from Stookesberry, is kayaking "all consuming"?
Photo: Jeff Hartley
I grew up gifted at every sport I tried, able to get good grades in school. I could have followed numerous paths, but I chose kayaking. And that is because of the adventure and everything that comes with it. When kayaking, I could almost care less if I have to portage every rapid on a stream, if my group makes it through the area of challenge, that is the accomplishment I am looking for. And while the team is there, I am totally responsible for my decisions at the same time. Once I have proven to myself I can make it through a section of river, I loose much of the drive to come back if the run holds major risk. Mostly because there is so much else to see. My favorite reason to return to a river has always been to help someone else enjoy their own adventure on that river and being a part of their moment of seeing something new.
If its an adventure for them, its an adventure for me.
photo: John Watkins
I have tried to narrow down the aspects that call to me the most.
Knowledge-I have a strong desire to accumulate knowledge. When I was younger, it was books. Once school ruined that for me, I only had to wait a year before kayaking found its way into my everyday thoughts. Kayaking provided a way to attain an unending source of knowledge. Everyday I find out something new about kayaking. There was never anything with this many aspects I had encountered before this sport came into my life. It was perfect, and my brain picked up on that right away. I never run out of things to think about with kayaking. Its been a chore to refocus some of that attention on school, because even school has not provided me with enough to keep my brain constantly occupied. Kayaking has become the knowledge I seek, unfortunately it has gotten in the way of my desire to learn about other parts of life to a degree, but it feeds that hunger within better than anything else for me.
There is some interesting stuff to see out there.
shutting down "you cant do that"- I'm sure everyone hates being told they can't do something. I have put that monkey on my back in its place by kayaking. People say, there is nothing worth paddling that hasn't already been paddled, its not cool to spend your weekends in high school outside, that run has no access, you will never get in there, you won't ever find any quality whitewater out there. In my head, all those have been proven wrong, which makes it worth it to me.
Planning/Prediction- This is the part I love the most. Research, devoting time no one else is willing to give, solving the puzzle. I have always likened kayaking to reading a book. I'm always trying to find out what is coming next, put the pieces together, know what is there before I see it. And like a book, if its really good I can read it two or three times, after that it looses its appeal very quickly (when it gets to this point in kayaking, it becomes training to me).
No one but me (for the moment)- When I find a place no kayaker has been able to, or had the motivation to get to before me, that is where I belong, I don't feel any emotion, just a total lack of doubt. That is what I strive for.
The unknown- Seeing something I have never seen before is the goal, but its a lot less meaningful to me without a kayak. Just hiking doesn't do it for me. I have to be hiking for a reason, with a goal, with a purpose, or it does not become all consuming. I have always had a theory that children are the happiest people because they are always seeing something new. I strive to always see new things, and its kept me very content, I find that I am rarely upset when there is discovery in my life.
Plus I know there are a few of these out there :)
photo: Jeff Hartley
Talent- The development of my skill set is something that I could have done with any sport (not that it is immaculate by any means), so this reason alone has very little pull in my argument, but I had to do it somewhere, so why not develop a skill that would allow me to develop many skills using only one sport?
The right people.
photo: Matt King
So to me, there are two sports addressed here, there is kayaking, and there is adventuring with a kayak. Both are great sports and I enjoy them both, however, it is the latter sport that I practice, with the first being a fun way to train for the second.
continue to PART 2 below...