This Blog

This blog is dedicated to explorations of spirit, life, adventure, and people. I hope that it encompasses much more than the actions of people, but rather creates a more complete picture of what it means to be an athlete and a person in the outdoor community.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Boof Storks

A New Kayak Team.

The Boof Storks had just come into existence. The kayaking team, whose creation was merely an esoteric reference moments before, quickly blossomed into a team that had a manager, a marketer, recruiter, and four loyal members. We consisted of a 31 year old PhD Student, Helen, a self-proclaimed libertarian tech wizard from the bay, Lauren, and a 15 year old boy whose dry top consisted of no more than one fully functioning gasket, Louis. As Lauren adjusted the velcro visor she had attached to her WRSI helmet, Louis, the 15 year old practiced throwing his paddle and tucking, in preparation for the 50+ foot waterfalls he would be running in 3-5 years. We were about to run the South Fork of the American, Chili Bar section. “Hand of god me please?” I was asked as someone prepared to practice their roll.

Louis paddled hard over a current between two eddies while one of the girls waited for her turn. Back and forth they went, occasionally having to paddle hard to catch the eddy and climb back in. “Kayaking is the only sport that truly allows you to go to new places as you get better” Helen mused as we floated down. Helen wanted to see rivers, see canyons that you can’t explore except through kayaking. Though a smiled also graced her face as she slid across a wave to make it from eddy to eddy.

“What a sick boof!” Louis turned his boat downstream and charged over a rock about 3 inches out of the water. He took a stroke and then quickly pulled both of his arms up to about head level with his wrists cocked down, as if waiting for the impact of a perfect boof off a 20 footer.

We pull over to surf an eddy made by an underwater rock, the front edge of which you can practice surfing. Lauren pulls onto it and practices drawing herself across, turning down stream. She flips and her hands pop out of the water. Her blades both are out of the water, she has a false start, then tries again. The paddle jerks across the water but her hips roll the boat over and she is up! “Whooot Whoot!” The boof storks cheer as Lauren has just combat rolled for the first time. This is her 4th time down chili bar.

Louis pulls up to me “What is the biggest drop you have ever run?”. I think back to the years of kayaking, of chasing rain, or snow, reading trip reports, and meeting people at put-ins I had never met, of being in different countries and cold hands, hands that could barely put on a skirt. “Don’t know, sometimes things go easy and I guess it doesn’t seem that big anymore, and sometimes things go wrong and it seems harder than it looks” I say. “I have been injured on class II and on the shore more times than on class V” I pull my knees out of my thigh braces wishing the next rapid was closer.

“What is the biggest drop you have ever run?” I ask, referring to his skiing. He says something but it is a name of some move I have never heard of. “Funny thing is that some of the hardest things I have done is when it is just me, Paul, and Hallie”. Funny thing, you would think you would do the toughest stuff when it mattered most, on the biggest trips, in other countries, when people are filming or something is on the line. II thought back and all I could remember is when it was me and two friends just looking at a drop, a lot of trust in them, and a rare opportunity. “I quit my job to kayak more” he says. I smile a little and lower my eyebrows, and let out a little laugh “Oh, yeah, is that what you told your boss?” he isn’t paying attention anymore, paddling away to catch an eddy.

“We are at trouble maker” Helen says nervously. She sees an umbrella, which is normally the signal we are at something important, because there are photographers. It turns out it is just a person sitting on a beach, we still have a few more bends. I can sympathize with the nervous itch, the waiting for it to be over, to have the success, and yet we live for that opportunity, the one we simultaneously don’t want to do.

“Should I go direct?” She asks. “I think so, kayaking is a fine line between fun and progress, and sometimes you have to learn where your skills end to know what to work on”. She peers around the corner and I peel out to catch the eddy. She peels out once I am in the eddy. We always talk about failure, about letting people fail in order to grow. Put it into practice and you get judged, you look like you are making poor decisions. It is the aftermath of those choices that leads to the real gold of failure. It is the recommitment to the weaknesses that were exposed.

She flips as she rounds the corner, bashes her shoulder and swims. She pops and looks at me. “Can I run it again” She says. “I think I know what to do now”. Every kayaker has a list of failures, of swims and flips, and bumps and bruises, but what do we get out of those things? Are we more wise? What do you get out of failure?

Maybe more than you think...

Monday, October 26, 2015

A change in perspective

Funny how a slight shift in where you stand will change the way you see things. 

Monday, October 12, 2015


We don’t ever exactly get it right. We always try to explain risk as a standalone trait of adventure athletes, as if it is unique to us. Much of society is exempted because they don’t brand themselves as “extreme athletes”, so they don’t think “Why do I do this?”. When things are accepted by society as an outlet it makes sense. Why do I spend my free time running full boar into another man carrying a small scrap of cured pig skin? Everyone else does it.

I am a little tired of people trying to explain what we do. We do what everyone does. Being alive is a risk, and being fully human is being completely in touch with your vulnerability.

Every day we should be exalted by the fact that we survivedBut we don’t get that. Our lives are a miracle and that fact is lost everyday because we are now so insulated against the riskiness of being alive. People die because a cell malfunctions and doesn’t stop reproducing, people die because they didn’t look left, people die because of a gust of wind. We are fully human when we recognize this. When we see that today was amazing because we are here.

Everything should achieve that, every action and moment. But it doesn’t, so now we need sensational experience to bring us back to our humanity. Watch the most popular TED talks, they talk about vulnerability, talk about exposing ourselves fully and living with courage. I spent two weekends in a row in two very different dangerous situations. The first weekend I spent completely exposing my emotional self in a rite of passage with the ManKind Project.  The next weekend I spent completely exposing myself physically on the SF feather. It surprised me how similar the experiences were.

The feeling of being alive. The feeling of being human, being proud to be alive, to have a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to know how special this life is. That is why we take risks, emotional and physical, to recognize the beauty of this opportunity known as life.