A new paddler asked me what made me so smitten about paddling whitewater in a kayak.
I tried to explain as best I could.
I said that there is a moment when you are in a rapid at the top of your skill level, yet not surpassing it, when time slows down, and you are able to put your paddle and boat exactly where you want it to be, and this moment is sheer bliss. After experiencing it, you will seek it out again and again, and once back in it, there is nothing but joy.
At its core, padding is about joy. I wish more people could experience it.
Whitewater has an image problem. Online it looks like a thrillseeker sport with no sense of preserving one's life. I've been party to it, because I love watching videos of people dropping big waterfalls and really hard, dangerous rapids.
I was fortunate to learn to whitewater kayak before youtube, when any access to a video of someone doing a river full of rapids meant buying a VHS tape. This means that I didn't have any idea that people were seeking out the sport for any reason but curiosity about what was around the river bend.
Whitewater paddling is a family sport; a way of life; a small tribe of feral kids who grew up and work 40 hours a week then get their butts back to the river every chance they can. It's people in their 70's and people who are 7 years old.
Whitewater paddling has been a great benefit to my life, not the least because it has taught me how to relax and not panic in unfamiliar, scary situations, and assess the task at hand. Often the task at hand has been underwater, in turbulent and rocky water. With friends. We all discover that a lot of what seems scariest is not really dangerous, but to find that truth out, requires facing what we fear. And the true hazards- we help each other avoid those. It's the ultimate solo sport that is also a team effort.
I've celebrated someone's first combat roll, I've felt exuberant at making a pirouette ender at a class II pourover, I've laughed so hard at a friend's goofy swim and then been the subject of the next carnage. Right now there are a couple of teenagers in our paddling circle who are stepping up and becoming awesome paddlers. It's so cool to witness and to help.
For those who asked, my sister Kathy is still in hospice from Stage IV cancer and early onset Frontal Temporal Dementia. She is being taken care of 24/7, in her home with her pets, and is free from any anxiety or stress. We tell each other that we love each other over and over when we are together. We sing Beatles songs together.
I'm reading a book on my phone that I bought from Google Play for $6.50, called "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig. I got it on a whim after seeing a quote from it, and it has some really good bits. For anyone who suffers from depression, he describes it very well, though I must say his anxiety was on a level that I can't imagine enduring, and he didn't try talk therapy or meds. I understand being afraid to grab the rope that is tossed your way - what if it doesn't help and you're left hopeless? But it's not the right decision; grab the damn rope.
And finally, it is clear that having a pocket computer that accesses the sum of humanity's knowledge only leads to looking at pictures of cats, videos of cats, audio of cats purring and discussions of cats' finer qualities. In summation, cats have taken over the world.
Here is a song about looking at pictures of cats: https://youtu.be/4JO-KRT0Vf0