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November 5, by Louis Geltman Style For participants in a sport where peeling out at the top of a rapid almost inevitably results in arriving at the bottom, kayakers seem surprisingly indifferent to matters of style.
Things Style essay man go pretty badly awry, and onlookers might roll Style essay man eyes at a particularly bad line, but someone would have to be radically over his head before anyone would be likely to say anything about it.
In other sports, this is not the case. Kayaking is not surfing, and few people, if any, would want to see aggressive, territorial behavior find its way onto the river.
But is that behavior meeting some social needs in surfing that are going unmet in kayaking? For how steep it is, the Green is an unbelievably forgiving run.
But that forgiveness is routinely being tested by huge crowds of paddlers, some seemingly lacking the basic skills to run any river safely. In June, a video was posted on YouTube showing some gut wrenching lines on the Narrows: The callout was unusual, but it was the reactions that were perhaps more telling in what they reveal about attitudes in the sport, as well as the mentality that our collective indifference to matters of style, technique, and safety have helped to bring about with regard to how a paddler progresses in the sport.
Tell me that they came out of the womb paddling class 5. But while a crowd of marginal paddlers at your local playspot is annoying, crowds on class V whitewater are undeniably dangerous.
That danger manifests itself in a way that is perhaps unique to kayaking, and in a way that might account for some antagonism toward boaters insistent on paddling over their heads.
In kayaking, there are a lot of ways that things can go wrong. A pin, a swimmer being recirculated, a long swim threatening a flush drowning… in all these situations, urgent action can be the difference between life and death. And in all these situations, too, that urgent action is likely to call on someone else to immediately put his own life at risk.
In the surf, outside of the unique dynamic of tow-in surfing, someone getting beat down is basically on his own. But in kayaking, when someone is in trouble, someone has to act, boldly, and immediately. One of the most admirable characteristics of the kayaking community is this: When someone is paddling over his head, he undercuts that dynamic, both by being much more likely to need help and by himself probably lacking the necessary skills to help someone else.
If kayakers have to choose between preserving the all-for-one safety ethos on the river or preserving the everybody-come-along vibe in the parking lot, I think most people would unquestionably pick the former.
Contrary to YouTube commenter opinion, most top kayakers did not start kayaking on the Green River Narrows. I was very nervous before putting on the river.
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I had certainly hyped up what Class V was going to be like, and when I finished the run, I walked away with a smile on my face. I was super fortunate to grow up around competent kayakers, and I think that had a lot to do with it.
More than just putting in time on easy whitewater, learning new skills requires pushing it hard on easy whitewater all the time, and it may be that this is an easier mindset to adopt for younger paddlers for example.
That sort of learning is hard to achieve in a setting where a paddler is basically hanging on for his life. Pat Keller explained the steps he took to get better when he was starting in the sport this way: Every step on the way up that ladder is important.
Take time to know with each one if you are ready to proceed. But it must be climbed to with much respect for the dangers along the way. Your Facebook friends are going to be a lot less impressed with that attainment it took you a month to finally make on the Lower Yough than they are with a picture of you rolling over the lip on Metlako.
But paddling better, not just paddling harder water, is something that takes time. And taking beatings on difficult whitewater in the hope that one day the beatings will stop is not, for most paddlers, a viable path to success. The less obvious issue is how, as a community, to achieve that.
Ultimately, kayaking is up to the individual and there is NO ego when it comes to making sure you are as safe as possible on Class V."The style is the man himself." (George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon) "The old saying of Buffon’s that style is the man himself is as near the truth as we can get--but then most men mistake grammar for style, as they mistake correct spelling for words or schooling for education.".
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