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Old 08-14-2009   #21
Mike Harvey's Avatar
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Originally Posted by Smokey Carter View Post
All I know is I love whitewater paddlers and whitewater paddling. I hope the sport is growing because it just seems to attract such cool people......I've met some awesome folks who populate this forum.....

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Old 08-14-2009   #22
Join Date: Feb 2006
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don't agree with the article

There is no better feeling in the world as being at the bottom of a big drop and there are no better people in the world than those you meet on the river.

The rivers are just so powerful that you can only play on the margins, it is always more powerful than you and it is tough to be in a long-term loving relationship, cuddling every day for hours when in the back of your mind you know, she could reach over and give you the biggest beating you could ever imagine, ripping out your shoulder, smashing your back and holding you under water until you thought you were going to drown. That's just who she is.

In my opinion Greyson is one of the great outdoor writers of our generation. However on this piece I think he missed a big part of it. Kayaking is just an intense and extreme sport. So the birth, rise, fall, sideways whatever will be intense and extreme. Just because it rose and fell does not mean that it did so because it was intense and extreme. Rollerblading and mountain biking both surged and fell back and they are not extreme. Although I think I did have a pair of rollerblades that said "Extreme" on them in bright pink. Sports surge, fall back and go on. No sport in the world jabs the needle into your vein and pumps you so full of adrenaline that you enter another world where it's just you and the river and there are times in that world that nobody but a kayaker can understand how good it feels. The Yin Yang, equal and opposite tradeoff for those feelings is that death really is pretty close. It's all around you in the water you cannot breathe. Nothing is free in the world, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Many of the boom generation have moved on to less threatening activities and the permenant scars of each friend the river took build up the thoughts of increasing your own odds and the looks on their families faces that made you think all those fun times were certainly not worth this moment. In the end once you love the wicked beast but are fed up with her rampages you know you can never be whole without her. You just have to find where on her margins are best for you.

Even if you don't boat for 20 years you will still know:
There is no better feeling in the world as being at the bottom of a big drop and there are no better people in the world than those you meet on the river.

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Old 08-14-2009   #23
GoodTimes's Avatar
Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: '78
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 794
It sure seems that rafting is on the's always been strong and people flock here (and many other places in the world) each season to get their whitewater fix. It's becoming increasingly difficult to obtain permits, find camp spots, etc etc etc.....

Kayaking is an entirely different beast and it takes a rare personality, I believe. I too have seen MANY people give it a try and quit after one season (or less)'s not instant's dedication and the willingness to get your ass kicked before you can float down the same stretch of river you rafted with your buds last year.

In a country that's becoming's hard to imagine the sport REALLY becoming mainstream....which is quite all right by me. I'll continue to teach the willing and hopefully it will find more popularity if for nothing more than the health of the industry.

I for one love the fact that it still feels...and generally is....a small community. Everyone knows someone that knows that guy that's paddled with so and so. It's cool.......and pretty much everyone I meet out there is great......I think that's what really matters. The sport is still attracting and always will, the type of peeps I like to be around.
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Old 08-14-2009   #24
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Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1999
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AMEN. I for one am personally comfortable with the innevitable. and i don't beleive i would be truely "living" anylonger if i quit what i love, no matter the consequences. rare personalities is about the closest to explaining kayakers, its a deeper bond of understanding and similiarities that ties us together that we don't notice day to day cause its normal to us. i think it brings us even closer. f the mainstream.
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Old 08-14-2009   #25
Eagle, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2009
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I am starting to think that this sport is just falling victim to an overall trend in America of laziness and instant gratification. When I was learning to kayak, my roommate was who I mostly learned from. My second day on the river was a class three run because my roommate did not want to deal with finding a shuttle. We could take the in town bus for shuttle. This became a trend of me getting in over my head several time for his convenience.

I see it all the time in this sport. An experience kayaker tells a beginner that they will be fine stepping up a notch. The result is people get scared and quit. Friends can be the worst when it comes to peer pressure.

We need better ambassadors in the shops and local hang outs. To often people feel as though they are not "cool" if they swim or if they are not pushing the limits. This attitude; the "bro" attitude of experience kayakers telling beginners to step up and keep pushing it, is what is killing the sport.

Kayaking is a progression of skills that takes time. I am in a bad spot mentally with kayaking because of some of this. I don't like to be pushed and in the past when I have been pushed it turned out bad. As a result I am sometimes scared to get into my boat and paddle some of the harder stuff I have run a hundred times. It sucks.
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Old 08-14-2009   #26
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Teacher, Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2007
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I was just talking about this sort of thing with a friend yesterday coming back from paddling, remembering my first days kayaking as a beginner several years ago. Me and a couple of buddies spent some time learning to roll in a pool over a winter, and couldn't wait to get on the river in spring. We put on bridges at about .5 on the rock, and spent most of the time either stuck or dragging ourselves on rocks upside down in 6 inches of water or less...and I couldn't get the grin off my face the whole time, even with the cuts and bruises. Now I still get to drag myself over rocks with my friends, only its in class V instead (or that untimely early season wavewheel with not enough water)...and I still can't stop grinning, even with the bad days.

What I'm getting at is that this sport definitely isn't for everyone, but it is the most ideal sport for so many of us that have the type of attitude/disposition that kayaking lends itself to. And that is why it will never die. Those of us that know...well, we know. But, some people don't ever want to touch a rock with their head while attached to a small piece of plastic, and never get over those early hurdles, understandably so.

Kayaking can never be the next snowboarding, and it also is not like skiing in that with skiing/snowboarding, you can go maybe a weekend out of each year on vacation and still make it down the mountain safely, but kayaking doesn't really work that way. Being a good kayaker really means having a true passion, just in that you have to get so many days on the river to get competent and step it up safely. And, I'm glad too. This is a hard sport to be a poser in, unlike skiing/snowboarding. Plus, the benefit of this is that there always seems to be a nice influx of barely used boats for sale out there from folks who got the $hit scared out of them--lucky us, we don't have to pay retail!

Kayaking doesn't have to be for everyone, and the sport will never brings too much joy to too many of us out there around the globe. Now if FoCo would just get the playpark put in...
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Old 08-14-2009   #27
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 490
I think it's important for the sport to grow only for the reason that more boaters = more river advocates. Would I like to pick and choose who joins us, sure, but the reality is that people will choose for themselves.

Of the handful of people I've tried to introduce to kayaking, none of them liked it. Something was missing for them, for some it was the feeling of getting a workout (guess I should have made 'em swim more!), some it was the logistics/barriers to entry related to where they live and where the rivers are, others it was the perceived danger. I don't know, to echo GootTimes, it is indeed becoming a nation of the indoors, but that's why I want to introduce people to the outdoors.

FWIW, I think Greyson's article is right on from a business perspective and the sport certainly hasn't lost its soul. People, generally, still have a lot of money to buy things. Current cirstances aside, I look around and all I see is people with money wondering how to spend it. If you want to attract the next tier down of customers, you need to appeal to the enthusiast who may not want to take it to that high level of committment some of the previous posters have. Call that tier what you want, but they have a lot of money, regular jobs, and they want to pack it in on their weekends before showing back up at the desk on Monday.

A parallel to me is climbing where only a selection of the set of entrants really latch on and run with it, but oh my god, look at how many want to climb in a safe environment and they still want all the shiny gear. If I was a manufacturer right now, I would focus my ads in mainstream outdoor rags with pictures of friends having fun on class III. Or drinking beers by the river at the end of the day. Focus on the "fun" factor. The Jackson ad with the whole family going to the river with 4 boats on top. That kind of thing. The shots of the dudes running the gnar seemed aimed at the type-A, male adolescent demographic. For sure thats a critical and worthy segment, but face it, that's a limited demographic that doesn't have a lot of cash . They're also the type to move onto other things unless they see an avenue of progression -- one that doesn't involve more and more risk. Your customer lifecycle starts out young and hard, but where to go from there? X%, probably like 95%, won't move on to Class V+, or even stay at Class V for very long. So do we just give up and buy a raft?

Anyway, I find this to be a very interesting discussion.
Damn it feels good
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Old 08-14-2009   #28
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Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
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Originally Posted by possumturd View Post
I wrote about this experience before but this is a good time to bring it up again.

I convinced a friend of mine to attend one of the whitewater festivals on the Ark. He had never boated. I am a big believer in professional instruction as it has paid off for my daughter and me in other sports as well as kayaking. He signed up for a class. First they put him in a pond and taught him how to wet exit and do some strokes. Then they took to entire class and put them on the Ark running at about 2K. He said they spent the entire class chasing gear and people. He had one experience where he was pined upside down against a rock. He met me at the end of the day and told me he would never get in another kayak the rest of his life and many of the people in the class felt the same way.

There are more people to blame than the manufactures.
As an instructor on the Ark I can see where your feelings are coming from. Unfortunately I don't think you have really put yourself in our shoes before it seems you try to spread some "blame" our way.

Is it better for someone to learn this sport when the river is flowing at 750?? Of course... Unfortunately all the festivals on the Ark (including the one based on instruction) are organized during high or peak flows.

Your buddy was probably put on a class I-II section of whitewater.. after being shown the wet exit and basic strokes on a lake. I think if you did some research, you would find that this approach is about the standard for instruction across the country, And it is just about the easiest and most low risk that instruction can get.

I agree that 2000cfs on the Ark is not optimal for instruction.. But if that's when someone books their vacation or organizes their festival during that time... there's not much we can do about it.

The Ark is only at low water for a month or so... for a paddling school to survive as a business, you have to be able to operate all summer. I'm not trying to insult your friend.. but a Class II swim.. is a Class II swim. If you can't handle that swim, this might not have been the sport for him in the first place.... and those people are definitely out there. But please don't go suggesting that the paddling schools in the Ark Valley are throwing people in over their head/ turning people away from the sport.
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Old 08-14-2009   #29
Eagle, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 11
Originally Posted by darkbluewrangler View Post

I think if you did some research, you would find that this approach is about the standard for instruction across the country, And it is just about the easiest and most low risk that instruction can get.

I think you are missing the point. Just because something is "standard" does not mean it is correct. It seems to me the standard needs to change. If the ark is that high then beginners should not be there. Take them up to the colorado or somewhere where that amount of water is not as threatening. Rafters travel from far away to the ark for trips. Kayakers will too.

It is your responsibility as an instructor or school to provide the safest most enjoyable experience. If your bottom line does not like that; then maybe that is not the business for you. I have said this before, kayaking is not corporate. Never will be. It is not about making money and running the business. It is about running the river. If people never make it far enough to enjoy it because the business pushed them in the wrong direction...well then the industry has failed that beginner.
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Old 08-14-2009   #30
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 325
The Great Debate

This topic seems to have come up alot this year...with the limits of the sport being pushed to places that very few would have thought possible just a few short years ago, and yet there seems to be declines in certain aspects of the sport. I was talking with some friends the other day, and we could barely think of anyone under the age of 25 on the front range that are into creeking. It seems to be alot of the same faces at the put in's and take out's of the standard front range creek. I don't know why, but there really doesn't seem to be alot of new blood....I could be wrong. But I diverge. Anyone interested in this topic should check out the "Great Debate" article from the Jan/Feb American Whitewater Journal. American Whitewater - -SecurityGadget-explain, But I am sure you are all members and have seen this already, right? Its very interesting and touches on most of the points that have been brought up in this thread and previous threads regarding the future and past of the sport as well as the current state of the industry. And the range of contributors is great, from icon's of the sport, to the new stars and industry leaders. Even Craporadan has a piece in there.....I highly recommend you check it out.

Chris Morrison
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