Kayaking and Risk - Mountain Buzz

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Old 04-09-2015   #1
Caleb125's Avatar
Edwards, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 264
Kayaking and Risk

Kayaking is obviously an inherently risky sport. I have a lot of discussions about this with friends and my parents and they can never understand why I kayak when there is so much risk involved. I try to explain it to them but it never seems to work. For me I keep kayaking simply because I love doing it and hate not doing it. For most people, however, that is not a simple enough answer. They just don't understand it!

Whenever I go to run a rapid I always weigh risk and reward. Obviously if the risk outweighs the reward I will always walk. Even if there is more risk than I am comfortable with I walk, even if the reward is higher.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that people don't understand kayaking. It makes it really hard to talk to people about it because they just think I'm crazy and have a death sentence. In my mind, however, it's almost a death sentence to not kayak, metaphorically speaking. So how do you guys deal with this? What do you tell people when they don't understand kayaking? I would love to see how I should change the way I represent our passion!

Colorado // Kayaking // Skiing // Film
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Old 04-09-2015   #2
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Statistically, you are more likely to die driving a car, or die while working at your place of employment. Yes, rivers can be dangerous, but most of the people I boat with have common sense, ability, and have some form of training to mitigate the risk. I have never been a class v boater, never will be, but I have a lot of miles under my belt. I figure just by miles paddled I am more likely to get hurt or killed, or witness/ get involved with something along those lines at some point. I have had one really bad close call in 26 years of river running. (Foot entrapment, I nearly drowned, seconds from passing out)
I don't take unnecessary risks, and my personal limit is I won't paddle something that I don't think I could survive swimming. I see a lot of people running stuff that I couldn't imagine swimming, and that is fine by me. We all get to work up to our limits in WW. I might still die boating. Heaven forbid I do, I will have died doing something I love, with people I cared for and respected, and I know where I'm going when I die.
Wishing I was on the river instead of surfing the web...
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Old 04-09-2015   #3
Cascade, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 19
Just take 'er easy

Originally Posted by Caleb125 View Post
people don't understand kayaking. It makes it really hard to talk to people about it b
Likely, because they don't care. This isn't something that's unique to kayaking. It goes for mountain biking, snowboarding, mountaineering, jetskiing, hell, it probably goes for quilting. It would be awfully tough for me to listen to someone go on and on about quilting precisely because I don't share that passion. But if someone I care about is clearly invested in a quilt project, I just may take the time to ask them about it. If you want your family to take some interest in your passion for kayaking, let them start the conversation.

As I've become more acutely aware of just how little people care when I get rad, I've personally responded by not talking about it as much. After all, the reason we paddle and decide to challenge ourselves in risky situations should never be with the motive of telling stories about it to earn respect. Anyone would deny that their decision making is influenced by the prospect of notoriety, but then we tend to talk about ourselves anyway when we're taking a break from editing our footage from the day. Try keeping the conversation about your exploits within your group of paddling partners and you might get some insight of you own into why you've been taking certain risks.

That's my strategy at least. I keep the stories to myself unless someone asks. If I have a swim, I humbly admit the mistakes I made. If I have a close call, I certainly don't talk about it with pride of the disaster I just dodged. Aside from those two events, there really isn't much place in a discussion for me to describe particular risks with someone who is unlikely to ever face it themselves. Showcasing dangers is often a way for folks to quantify an accomplishment, so if that's been the case for you, perhaps focus your conversation on all the other elements of your excitement for kayaking. The people you meet, the places you travel to, and perhaps a photo of something other than waterfalls, bootie beers, and brown claws.

I probably sound a bit presumptuous here, so sorry for where I'm wrong. Just personally, I've realized that when people have gotten frustrated with my incessant paddle-banter, it's because I was being a bit of an egomaniac and making conversations all about myself. This goes nowhere. Maintain some mystery around this whole kayaking thing you're into and it'll build some curiosity among friends and family. And if it doesn't, oh well. Talk about something else.

If you haven't seen this before, it's well worth the read. Written by one of the best kayakers you've never heard of.
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Old 04-10-2015   #4
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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^ Awesome first post ^
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Old 04-10-2015   #5
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We all share the same fate, it is what we do with the time in between.

I have learned to appreciate this.

also great post^^^
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Old 04-10-2015   #6
Horserump, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jan 2006
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When they call you nuts just smile and ask if they have ever texted while driving, talked on a cell phone while driving, looked away from the road for 2 seconds. If people where 1/8 as aware of their environment while driving as kayakers are while on the river there would be close to zero traffic accidents. All it takes is one magic moment of stupidity to change your life irrevocably.
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Old 04-10-2015   #7
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 329
Just show them this:

Originally Posted by Learch View Post
Statistically, you are more likely to die driving a car, or die while working at your place of employment.
If you normalized these statistics by the number of people who do them, I bet you're more likely to die kayaking.
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Old 04-10-2015   #8
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Copper Mountain, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
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I just hate when there is more risk portaging than firing.

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Old 04-10-2015   #9
Steamboat, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 609
If they're curious enough about it try to get them to go boating with you sometime. That's the only way they'll ever really understand what they've been missing out on.

"Don't knock it till you try it, eh."
It's a good day to be a duck....
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Old 04-10-2015   #10
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 189
People fear what they don't understand. The only way to understand kayaking is to do it. So short of getting your family to try it, as others have suggested, you will have to live with their disapproval.
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