Yeah! Everybody should playboat and then the Big South would be way less crowded. Oh wait, that's just one weekend a year and otherwise I see some combination of the same 15 dudes on every hard run in the state.
It comes down to being taught to respect the river enough to understand that you've got to earn your progression to the holy land of the controlled chaos of hard whitewater. You don't have to playboat but it helps. What you need to do is spend the Gladwell 10,000 hours in your boat challenging yourself in as many aspects of the sport as you can. It doesn't mean running whitewater over your head; It means constantly setting measurable goals to achieve when you go out for a paddle. Catching that impossible eddy, surfing that huge wave, making that upstream ferry.
"Other than the glass boaters at the Golden WW I rarely see people trying to pull every move they can running down the park."
I'm only mildly ashamed to admit I've been down at the park in March when there's 88cfs doing attainment laps on the gates working it for all it's worth. Just the same I'll be making attainment ferrys, catching micro eddies and boofing every damn rock in the narrows into September most years.
In certain line-ups, maybe otherwise known as class V put-ins in paddling, if you don't belong you are endangering everybody else out there. Even more so in kayaking. One of the most interesting things Louis brings up is where a surfer may try and drown you himself occasionally, an expert paddler rarely bats an eye at rescuing a fellow paddler... even the kooks. It's born of the unique bond the river creates in everyone who paddles, an unspoken trust which has been passed down now through multiple generations. I credit the early leaders in our sport for creating this ethos, and of course the river, which demands it.
RE: Style part II
Styling a line is of course the preferred option and the best paddlers, that I've had the fortune to paddle with, do tend to style nearly every line. But everyone has their off days and in the most challenging water, the water is so powerful that styling the line is unquestionably intertwined with just staying away from the bad places. Great paddlers also style their plan b and even plan c lines. Sometimes it's impossible to know when a great paddler has even reverted to their plan b line, they are that maleable to the rivers direction. Staying calm and resilient in the face of adversity is one of the rives greatest lessons.
To me, high volume rivers, trapped between gorge walls, creates the most challenging whitewater. This can be argued on for days, and what takes the most skill to run is a question that defies a specific "type" of whitewater but what I do know, is that the river is in charge on these types of rivers and styling the line may not mean the same thing as a precise and exacting creeking move of the same difficulty. All this babbling and my point is that, in the very hardest whitewater, a lot of styling the line is about maintaining composure and making what the river gives you work.