Here is an essay written by Jeff West
REFLETIONS ON OUR LOSSES
Many paddlers speak of the tragic deaths that have occurred in whitewater. For many of us these accidents are too close. They have occurred on rivers we have paddled, on rapids we have run, and to paddlers more skilled than us. Although most people see these fallen paddlers as tragic, I see them as my heroes.
As we all know there are inherent dangers involved with kayaking. The likelihood of fatal accidents occurring on Class IV+ is something we have been forced to acknowledge. Nature has shown that death is a possibility in our sport. Knowing of the deaths that have occurred and realizing that more will follow, my views on this have changed. Although most see tragedy, I see the ultimate gift. We try to ignore it but the possibility of drowning while paddling tough whitewater exists. Nature dictates that some must fall. The deaths have proven to be random. My friends who have given their lives have all been highly skilled. My nightmares have been realized. No one wants to die while kayaking, but unfortunately some have and some will. I now see those who have perished as my heroes. They paid the ultimate price for what we all love. We are so lucky to be able to paddle challenging and difficult whitewater.
I never thought it would happen to my friends, ones so skilled and competent, but it has. It is as simple as this: these deaths allow us to paddle another day. Nature requires a toll for allowing us to paddle these incredible rivers. The majority of us will only pay with an occasional cut or bruise, some pay with the sadness of the loss of a friend, some pay with their lives. This allows the rest of us to live incredible experiences, cherish wonderful memories, and look forward to paddling days ahead. Someone once told me they thought it was ridiculous to be prepared to lose your life while kayaking tough whitewater. I donít see how anyone can afford to not recognize this possibility.
I remember my friends who have died almost every day. I try to honor them with my paddling. I recognize the sacrifice they made. I thank them for their gift everyday.