Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

I went looking back in my files for a different photo, and stumbled on this one instead. Both guys in the photo are gone. Drowned while pursuing our sport.
Perhaps it is because I am going to Don's funeral in an hour, perhaps because the two year anniversary of Ed's death is coming up fast, maybe I'm just depressed. Whatever the reason, I saw this and just kind of ground to a halt.

There are a lot of things right with it, this photo. The North Fork of the Blackwater, around 1.7 or 1.8. Good water. Good friends. Mostly good lines, although I think that was the last time I bothered running Junkyard, the put in rapid. I haven't been seeing eye to eye with it since it last shifted around.
The eddy is the beginning of what was a casual run, on our toes enough to be safe and have fun, but not gripped, or anxious about what lay downstream on this familiar creek.

(I realize this is a disjointed mess, and the following paragraphs are nothing new, but I needed to get them out of my head so I could look at it, and solicit ideas.)

I can't get past the questions, not yet anyway. Is it going to happen again? Will I end up watching it happen to someone else? Will it happen to me? Is it worth it, do I enjoy what I am doing enough to keep going out there? Am I good enough? I've talked a lot with friends this week. Talked about boaters whose careers I admire. One commonality is that all the names that pop up are still around, which was probably why I cited them. Still boating engaging, difficult whitewater, but paddling far enough back from the edge of their abilities to be safe and comfortable.
We also talked about different kind of paddlers, how different people pursue the sport, how the adventure smooths out our wrinkles, lets us focus and flow in the moment. And how, for some, it takes an escalating challenge to keep finding yourself locked in. How do you find that balance to stay safe and engaged? I don't want a faux exciting amusement park ride, but Its miserable to keep losing friends, peers, to what is essentially play.
Some people paddle for fun occasionally, some people paddle a lot for the experience and the joy. Some people paddle so much that its a major, if not THE major component of who they are. If I had to guess, I'd say that last group is where most of the people we keep losing came from. Is it only because they have a higher exposure?
Finally, I have to agree with Doug Ammons on this one: "He died doing what he loved" is a cliche that needs retired, ASAP.


JB said...


mv said...

Good thoughts...think that dialogue is a good one to have with others, as well as internally on a consistent basis. Even though clear answers may never reveal themselves, sometimes the questions are more important than the answers...thanks JB.

Matt Pascal said...

These are exceedingly difficult to define:

"engaging, difficult whitewater" and
"paddling far enough back from the edge of [our] abilities to be safe and comfortable."

I hope you do it, I hope that I do it, and I hope that we all do it.

JB said...

That's the sweet spot, Matt