Thousands of river miles, swims, accomplishments, learning moments, and smiles later that moment still sticks. It is rare you can trace a passion back to its conception, it's birth, no matter how symbolic or contrived that moment may seem.
How does something start?When you first see it? When you first want to do it? When you sign up for you first class? It is hard to define. For many kayakers, their first experience in a whitewater boat is to roll, is to experience the chaos of being disoriented and upside down under water.
What an appropriate beginning.
It has it all. The difficulty of unnatural movement, the struggle against the water and yourself, the desperation for oxygen and life, the thrill of escaping the situation to return to the surface; triumph! These are the qualities that separate kayaking from other experiences, that lead to its unique feeling. They never stop, and kayaking becomes quite a long journey.
For years, after this moment of completion through struggle, people who fall in love with the sport tangle with its grasp, fighting to get back to the river and learn what it has to teach. Soon the hardy soul on this journey is running the drops once watched on youtube or bombflow; running whitewater that was once unimaginable, impossible. The journey is scary, humbling, and now you too fumble over how to describe what you do, and why. The fear in the movies is real but the actual danger still seems intangible.
Then is the first real injury. A flip in a quick rapid and 20 stitches now decorate your face. Then a subluxed shoulder. An underwater pin that forces a dislocated shoulder leaves you sidelined for three months. You come back from the injury and are strong for awhile. But then you swim, not just a swim. You have a moment where you contemplate death. It enters your mind as a viable result of the situation. You make it out! Close one...
The risk sets in, the honeymoon phase is over. Kayaking is real, and the stories the old kayakers have been telling you for years starts to sink in. They have seen friends pin, swim, and die. But you always thought it wouldn't happen to you, but it is. Kayaking doesn't feel so glamorous anymore.