Saturday, January 5, 2019

Kayak Lesson: Expedition Mentality, Part 1

I am no longer a kayak instructor. In all honesty, I no longer kayak, though I occasionally get out in the canoe with my family. But kayaking is still a part of my life in that it helped shaped who I am, and a lot of the lessons learned through kayaking are applicable to many other facets of life, and I do my best to remember what I've learned in one context and see how it can benefit me in other places. I thought it might be worthwhile to point these out and encourage others to use what they know to improve what they do (and maybe who they are).

Expedition Behavior: We're all in this together

Let's say you're going on a kayak expedition. That could mean two weeks exploring a remote coastline, or a multi-day first descent of a river in South America, but it could also mean an after-work paddle on your local lake with a few friends. The same principle applies to each: everyone on the expedition is responsible for the team and we take care of each other.

If someone's food bag gets raided by raccoons, you don't let them starve the rest of the trip - everyone shares a little food because it will help them (and they will be strong enough to help you if you need it). If someone's foot peg breaks, you share your repair supplies to fix it. That's true if the break was a fluke accident or a poor decision. It's even true even if their boat is old, cheap, poorly maintained, and they forgot to bring their own repair kit. Regardless of the cause of a problem, be it chance or self-inflicted, everyone does what they can to solve it so the entire group can continue and hopefully thrive.

Some people on this expedition will be stronger than others. They'll have better skills, more experience, and better gear. Maybe that's because they worked harder to prepare, maybe it's because they have rich parents who buy them lessons and equipment. Those people will bear more of the burden than others: they'll tow the person who gets hurt, they'll explore the route and be first down the gorge. The good ones will do the extra work without complaint because they know it makes the team more likely to be successful, and they often realize they got where they are because sometime in the past someone better helped them out. It's a circle, not a line.

Now, you might like some of the people more than others. You might not want to go on another expedition with someone who constantly makes bad choices and shows no effort to learn or help others. You might want to spend some time paddling alone with the risks it entails. But while you are on an expedition, in the middle of the struggle, you know you have a responsibility to everyone else and trust everyone else to come to your aid if you need it. That's what expeditions are all about.

Life is an expedition. Sometimes it feels like we're on our own, but that's never really true. We buy our groceries from other people, drive to the store on roads built by everyone's tax dollars, and read interesting things on the internet posted by people we will never meet in person. You can try to define your tribe as an independent group, but they are really just one pod within the larger expeditionary force. Most people will treat their neighbors like an expedition member. The challenge is to treat the stranger the same way, especially the ones you won't ever meet. The mother in Detroit who still has to buy bottled water for her kids to drink while she showers with her mouth and eyes closed to avoid ingesting what comes out of the pipes. The father from Guatemala who has to decide if it's better to risk his children being killed by gangs in his home country or taken away and stuck in an internment camp while seeking asylum in the U.S. Life is a very hard journey for some and those of us who are having and easier time of it should use our skills and resources to help out those in need. That's expedition mentality.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Upon Further Reflection

As my regular readers may have noticed (if I have any left), I have not posted much in the past couple of years. The reason for that is simple: I haven't kayaked much. The reason for that is a little more complicated but can be summarized thusly: I have a child now. My daughter was born almost a year ago, and I am no longer a professional kayaker but a stay-at-home dad. Having a child doesn't inherently prevent one from paddling, but it does alter the choices one makes. I could kayak myself while my wife looks after our daughter, but my wife is my main paddling buddy and our daughter is too young to join us. We could get a babysitter, but then we would both be missing out on time with our child. We both choose to spend our time together as a family. It's a choice, and ultimately an easy one for me.

Most of my friends have been acquired through paddling. Everyone knows me as a kayaker. It's my identity. Many have expressed surprise, or even condolences, over my lack of kayaking. The thought of no longer kayaking seems crazy, possibly heretical, definitely depressing. How can someone whose entire life was built around a sport no longer pursue that sport? What about the livin' the dream? Again, the answer is fairly simple:

It was never about paddling

For fifteen years I worked in the kayak industry: selling them, teaching people how to use them, writing about them, playing around in them. But my dream was never about kayaking. My dream was to live a good life, be joyful, see beautiful places, soak up nature, find adventure and challenge all while surrounded by good people who cared for each other. Kayaking certainly brought me that, but it isn't the only path.

Now I get to relax (or collapse in exhaustion) in my own home at the end of a day chasing a baby around the house, I get to see the wonder of the world through new eyes, face the challenge of introducing peanut butter to an infant and figuring out how to teach her right from wrong, all surrounded by the most important people in my life who love me unconditionally and support me through all my travails. The dream is very much alive.

They say that life is about the journey and not the destination, but our choice of destination gives purpose to the journey and there are many routes to get where you want to go. If paddling brings you joy, as it does so many, then by all means pursue your passion to the fullest. But if you get the same satisfaction out of horse-riding, then canter on. Or bird-watching, or political activism, or needle-point. Whatever your choice, you will be better off if you don't confuse the activity with the outcome, the endeavor with the reward, or your own goals and aspirations with those of the people around you. I'll keep paddling, I'll post when I have something to say or show, and I hope to see others doing the same. Live your own dream and stay woke.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kayak Meme Machine 5

Once again, this is to collect some of the memes I've created and shared in other places. You can see more in post 1post 2, post 3, and post 4. Here are the latest:

Now one of my local surf spots, but taken years before I moved to the Mendocino Coast. Anyone recognize the bridge?

Everyone should recognize where this was taken. Always a challenge trying to work a specific landmark feature into a good action shot, but this one worked out pretty well.

Though you can't tell, this was taken just around the corner from the previous pic. And truth  be told, it was a spilling wave wrapping around a point, not a surf break, so the perceived difficulty/danger in the shot is far greater than the actual. That's what we go for: make it look exciting but be in complete control the whole time :)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

2016 Holiday Sale on A Paddler's Journey

It's holiday season again and I'm making it easier to purchase my kayaking memoir, A Paddler's Journey. If you haven't heard me talk about it before, the book tells my story as a kayaker, from a complete novice floundering in the surf and on the river, to a highly respected instructor and expedition paddler. It's about paddling, but really about the journey we all take in life to find what we love, to improve ourselves, and to come to peace with our place in the world. Even if you've never touched a blade to the water you'll understand the action and recognize the lessons learned.

There are a couple different ways to purchase the book in print or electronic form, but the sale prices won't last forever. If you purchase a print copy through the CreateSpace site (a division of Amazon) and use the code XUW6M6ZV you'll get $3.00 off the cover price. That makes it only $9.99!

And if you want a signed copy you can order that through my website. You can even tell me what you want on the inscription and have me mail it directly to someone special as a gift. I have limited stock on hand so first come first serve for Christmas gifts. You'll need to order by 12/15/15 in order to make sure it gets there in time. And if you order in December I'll even through in a free copy of my Paddle California DVD, highlighting some of the best kayaking our wonderful state has to offer.

(with free Paddle California DVD)

The digital version is only available at Amazon and at $2.99  - but for one weekend it's FREE! (only through 12/5/16)

And if you've already read the book, let me know what you thought - I love to get feedback. You can always leave a comment, or if you want to share your thoughts with the rest of the world, consider writing a quick review. (Reviews also help drive Amazon search engines, so just by leaving one you'll help other people find the book)

And for those who missed it the first time, here's the trailer if you want more info on the book itself:

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Kayak Meme Machine 4

Once again, this is to collect some of the memes I've created and shared in other places. You can see more in post 1, post 2, and post 3. Here are the latest:

This is the inimitable Sean Morely in one of the first production versions of the Jackson Kayak Karma RG. He came up to the Mendocino area with a few of the Jackson folks to shoot a promo video. I tagged along to get a few shots of my own - and to try out the boat. Very fun design, but a bit bouncy on big waves.

This photo goes back to before this blog started: 2004, Ecuador. A really fun trip with a lot of cool guys. They didn't really like us riding on top of the bus, but it was crowded and they let us get away with it until we got back into town. Kind of cool that you can use public transportation for shuttle.

And here is my lovely wife demonstrating how to have fun while kayaking: smile and kayak. That's all there is to it.