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Old 07-21-2009   #31
stubby's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 432
I find this a question I have often asked myself. I grew up paddling on the rivers with my family and it is inextricably a part of my soul. A week on the river in my boat was my regular summer vacation and want it to continue to be that way. To me there is a component of challenging ones self that is a key to this sport. Running class III for some is that challenge, and for me it's running class V. But I've stood at the top of a drop and walked it because I knew I didn't want to deal with the consequences of missing my line, and other days I've stood on that same drop and felt everything gel and stomped my line and came out the bottom feeling stoked beyond comparison, and a sense of peace where all that exists is you and the line you're dropping in's incredible.
Lately though, my conflict arises with my wife not being comfortable with what I am paddling (and I'm talkin' like Bailey, not Pandoras), even though I feel fully confident in performing a run, or choosing to walk a line depending on the conditions. I work as an RN too and see peoples lives taken or irrevocably messed up from a car wreck, or eating to much saturated fat not excercising and stressing too much. I don't believe in not taking risks, it's a natural part of life and a model that I grew up with. But nevertheless it brings up tricky territory of your own desires vs your loved ones concerns.
I think it's worth it to run stuff you know you can run and know you're not likely to die on if you swim (given anything can happen), others do not. It's why mountains have been climbed or rivers descended by a few, but not by all.

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Old 07-21-2009   #32
thornton, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1969
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 600
Is it worth what? Death, no. We can avoid many things in life and death is not one of them. Some of us like to kick death in the teeth a few times before it takes us. Adrenalin is just a by-product of these actions.

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Old 07-21-2009   #33
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,012
I think the question is: "are the consequences of a missed line worth the rush that you get trying it?" When I was working my way up through Class III and IV, the answer was unequivocally yes. When I was exploring new Class V runs and doing my first V+'s the answer was unequivocally yes... that is, before I had kids. Now that I have two small kids, I know the answer for the V+'s is unequivocally no. As much as I would love to do Pandora's or USB, the risk of leaving my children fatherless and not being able to teach them the love for rivers that I have far outweighs the reward.

I'm still debating the Class V's. I think the consequences are different in Class V kayaking vs other action sports. I can get just as big a rush skiing as I can kayaking, but the consequences are a blown-out knee (avalanche terrain aside) not drowning. I can get almost as big a rush mountain biking as I can kayaking, but the consequences are a broken collar bone, not drowning. I can get just as big a rush play boating the Gauley as I can creek boating Vallecito, but the Gauley rush comes from being tossed around like a cork in bathwater while the risk is getting heckled by your friends when you get crushed and having to drink a bootie beer. The Vallecito rush comes from making it through an amazingly beautiful place alive while the risk is not making it through an amazingly beautiful place alive.
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Old 07-21-2009   #34
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 207
This discussion hits close to home for me. Good food for thought here.
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Old 07-21-2009   #35
Kayak/SUP Instructor
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The High Ground, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,325
Here at work I'm known affectionately as a Former Action Guy . I've grown up always knowing that life is eternal so it shapes my world view and what I'm about to say. I am convienced this body, when I'm finished with it, will be an old beat up tent that I once lived in. Tents are temporary shelter for those on a journey. I live by the creed that it's better to have been a "has been" than a "never was."

When measured against eternity we are here for only a moment and I know we may not like to think so but there are no indispensible men or women.

Having said that I also don't have any minor children who depend on me, but I have buried many friends who do have minor children.
"Let us cross the river to the other side and rest beneath the shade of the trees." ~ Last words of Thomas Jonathan ''Stonewall' Jackson
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Old 07-21-2009   #36
Blue Ridge Mtns, Virginia
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 16
This has been a Huge issue for me this season. I have always been a "charger", I know what its like to clear the big triple jump in the A race, I know what its like to stomp a 35 footer on teles, and i know what its like to clean the big three on the green after seeing them for the first time after boating for 2 years. Hell i even jumped into a ring and fought a bull(and got my ass kicked) in Ecuador last year. I have always been unafraid. I just knew it wasn't going to be "me". This spring, on my local run in VA i paddle up to a group who didn't look like they knew what they were doing with ropes out, I find out there is a man under a log in the middle of the river. Myself and my friends pulled him out. I have seen death up close before, a few times, but to see a fellow paddler on my local "easy" run up close and see his eyes look into mine crushed me. It took me a while to get over it, cut out the class V for most of the early spring, had sleepless nights and nightmares seeing myself in that guys place and people telling my wife and daughter it was me. As the memory slowly faded and i built myself back up mentally on some harder runs i felt like i was getting it all back together again mentally. So i go to CO for 3 weeks this June to boat and I'm fired up and feeling good, boating good etc. We start off with some welcome to CO runs: Kermit's to Golden, Homestake, Cl Cr ark, then off to CB. I'm feeling REAL GOOD again. We run East and OBJ and i lead the whole way,stomped the lines and had the time of my life again feeling like that was all behind me. We took off OBJ and got the call about my friend Ed passing on Cinnamon. I was crushed mentally all over again. It brought back all those feelings, memories, emotions from i had from dealing with the drowning. I was messed up again. Didn't want to run Vallecito, didn't want to run quite a few runs i would have been all over like white on rice in the past. I even walked supermax and I would have, in the past, walked back up with my buds and ran it 2-3 times. So i changed my attitude the rest of the trip and boated a bunch of easier classics i had never done just so i wouldn't have to think about the pressure i put on myself. I had a blast running the class IV-V- fun stuff.
Is it worth it? I still don't know. I hope this is something i work through. For me though if I feel like I'm glad i just survived a run, mentally, instead of styling it that is NOT a good state to be in. But the unforgettable, supercharged "high" that many of us have after seeing our lines, mentally planning it, and running successfully something big, hard, with teeth is a feeling that is, for me, like no other on earth. For now that brings me back. Maybe one day it won't. It has to make sense for you and only you personally.

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Old 07-21-2009   #37
rg5hole's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 06
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 450
I should point out that what we do is exceptionally risky, as if you haven't figured it out yet. Here are some statistical analogies to shed some light

Out of the 4.5 million front rangers who have access to the whitewater there are VERY few who drop in on a kayak. Say 2000 class IV or better boaters. On the other hand there are well over 50,000 licensed fishermen. If you look at death or injury for kayaking vs fishing the statistics, as you might expect, are very swayed. 10 times more fishermen than kayakers but kayakers are nearly 100 times more likely to get injured or die.

So in '07 there were nearly 100 fatalities in motorcycle accidents in CO. That is about 18% of all Colorado traffic deaths, although motorcycles constitute only 3 percent of all registered vehicles. Relate this to deaths per kayaker population added with days on river and I think you will find it much closer than fishing but still swayed not in favor of kayakers.

so the old catch all of "your personal threshold" is valid but does not cover all the bases. Sure "you" choose to go kayaking and choice is choice but do you really, does anybody really know or understand how dangerous kayaking is compared to other activities? Physical ability limits where we can go, in our sport Mental ability also limits where we can go and these are both personal but there is a high factor of chance/probability that cannot be left out of the equation.

And yes eastcreek you understood clearly that the day after the birth of my child 3 months ago I went kayaking Class V. I should also say that my wife is a better boater than most of you reading this thread and my son has already been down the Grand at high water, Gore at med-high water, and Rockwood in a playboat to name a few...and had it not been for the sheer size of her belly she may well have been fireing up Esca beside me a week earlier. She was also a bit jealous she had to miss it truth be told. But the moral here is I have toned it down but not by my choosing though, mentally I have been blocked from the sheer want/need to run the shit.
I've never boated before, but I have posted a lot on Mountain Buzz!
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Old 07-21-2009   #38
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Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 1,234
Pick your battles. I try to kayak on water I'm nearly certain are within my abilities on any given trip. If I run something that pushes it, I make sure there's safety set. There are days I just haven't paddled. After getting on a stretch that feels just too hard with not enough safety or not enough guidance, I hike it or sit it out. If all I ever did was class II with the occasional III the rest of my life I could live with that. No need to prove anything as there will always (in my case) be a lot of people far better, crazier, and cooler than me.

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