After a great day on one of my favorite Class III-IV runs, a paddler from a different group asked me why I wasn’t paddling a harder river that day.
I found myself answering with a justification for not living up to my potential in his eyes. ‘It’s cold and rainy and we didn’t feel like driving over to the other river.’
Right after I said that I felt icky and wondered why I didn’t just give him the authentic answer: ‘Because I wanted to paddle this river with my friends.’ Period. It’s fun for me.
I realize that he didn’t intend to make me feel any way. He may have meant it as a recognition and acknowledgement of my paddling skills.
Even so, I think it’s worth challenging attitudes that can be prevalent in the whitewater world:
- That someone paddling a river a grade below their upper skill level couldn’t truly be having fun.
- That a paddler should be paddling to a level that aligns with your perception of who you think they are.
- That if you or someone else isn’t paddling something challenging then you’re/they’re not cool enough.
Stop saying things like ‘just.’
When I hear myself or other women say ‘I just did the lower section.’ Or, ‘I just did the first rapid and walked the second.’ There’s typically an undercurrent of ‘I can’t celebrate what I did because it wasn’t the most hardcore/challenging thing.’
You only get to live once, and you get to choose what’s fun for you in this life. Stop justifying your choices and start celebrating the skills you’re building and the fun you’re having. BTW, I’m talking to myself as much as you, the reader!
Ask better questions
My favorite pet peeve question is when people ask me if I run the Green (Narrows of the Green) or Green Light (Narrows of the Green without the big 3). You know who has never asked me that in my 30 + year career? The paddlers at the top of their game, the best of the best – the pros, the folks who I’ve been paddling with for decades. The only people who ask that question are people who feel like they have something to prove.
Better questions could look like:
- Did you have a good day?
- What do you love best about this river?
- What was your favorite move today?
Let’s challenge ourselves to ask questions that build people up and allow them to be who THEY decide to be.
You don’t need to justify your choices. Remember that ‘because I want/like to’ is a really good stand alone answer 🙂 Celebrate because you’ve got nothing to prove.