"I thought I was immortal"

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Pete C.
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"I thought I was immortal"

Post by Pete C. » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:22 am

Just thought I'd post up a link to an article I've just read called I thought I was immortal.

It's an interesting take from someone who's given the psychology of paddling some proper thought. Because the comments on the article have closed already, I wanted to share it here...

It's an interesting take, and one I empathise with. I don't think it was such a lightbulb moment for me, though - more a gradual realisation.

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cripper
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by cripper » Thu Feb 02, 2012 3:01 pm

I plan on being immortal. So far so good.

But reading that article I have had a very similar experience earlier this year on the Dart in decent flows, nasty swim with lots of trees and holes to batter the breath from me before pushing me underwater again. Still want to go back and do it again at the same levels, but I also like to think it has made me wiser and more able to step it up a notch again but hopefully a bit safer.
Hear no rain.
See no rain.
Pray for rain

alexpethybridge
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by alexpethybridge » Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:28 pm

I've only been paddling for year and a half, having started when I came to University. My teenage years had been spent rock climbing, mountaineering and gorge walking, either with my parents or my mates, but mostly just with my dog. I realised pretty early on that if I climbed long enough on a hard enough grade I was going to die, seriously injure myself, or experience it happening to a friend. My climbing partner and I were close and safe but knew the law of averages made it just a matter of time. We joked that we'd know to stop before anything bad happened. As it was nothing bad did ever happen, she's still climbing and I've taken up kayaking.

The thing is, I brought the same ideas to kayaking, well similar anyway. Everytime I get on the water I accept that what I'm doing is dangerous, and I could die. As long as I evaluate the risk, and take precautions (technique, a good group to paddle with, safety gear, knowledge of the river section etc.) then I mitigate that risk to an 'acceptable' level. Then I shut away the thought of dying and enjoy myself. I'll keep pushing myself until I no longer enjoy it, or something happens that makes me pack it in. A bit like with climbing, I just hope I'll know when enough is enough. Some people might say thats sounds like I think I'm immortal, I don't think its the case, I think I've accepted the risks and made a decision.

Caveat - I agree with the article though, I think men are generally overconfident, I know I'll back myself to complete a move, or run a drop safely, more often than I'll step back and walk it. So maybe there's a little immortality lurking around.

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RichA
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by RichA » Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:52 pm

alexpethybridge wrote:I realised pretty early on that if I climbed long enough on a hard enough grade I was going to die, seriously injure myself, or experience it happening to a friend.

...and I've taken up kayaking.
This is the exact opposite for me, but for the same reasons. Several close calls to friends over several years (paddling) was a little for much me, and I realised a few weeks back that I'm paddling less and less as a result, and doing other sports more (climbing!).

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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by Dr Robin » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:07 pm

Thanks for the link, Pete.

In one sense, I don't really relate to this, because I don't think I've ever considered myself immortal. I've always felt aware of rivers or sections which I considered to be beyond my limit.

On the other hand, I can relate to the more general idea of over-confidence. Over the years, I've become aware of the "banality" of many accidents. Accidents don't tend to happen on the huge rapids which we consider carefully and protect. Accidents often happen on some silly little rapid which is technically easy, so we paddle it without concentrating or inspecting out of laziness. I fear that less-experienced paddlers don't appreciate the "banality" of accidents, and assume that only the grade 5 knuckleheads get hurt. If I had a lightbulb moment, perhaps it was the realisation that that assumption wasn't true.

These days, rather than having lightbulb moments, I have little reminders. Last year I was paddling an Austrian creek, and I tried to eddy out before a drop. Unfortunately there was a little rock just below the surface of the water at the entrance to the eddy. I hit it with the side of my boat, was rejected from the eddy, and found myself heading towards the drop with no idea of the line. Luckily some of my group were already on the bank and hurriedly shouted the line. It turned out fine, but I realised that on difficult rivers one clip from a tiny rock could be disastrous.

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DaveBland
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by DaveBland » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:31 pm

I've never felt immortal while paddling. [Can't say the same for being in bed though, eh ladies?!]
Maybe it's because I'm so desperately bad at swimming.

Sure, when younger I used to push harder and take more risks, but they were still pretty calculated, even if occasionally misguided.
These days having a kid is the biggest mental limiter. The thought of my wife having to explain to her why 'm not coming home again, ever, is as sobering a gauge of why and whether I want to run something as you could get.

Dr Robin's right though, it seems to be the silly lac of concentrations on easier stuff that cause the most trouble.
There's deffo a lesson in that.
dave

JimmyP
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by JimmyP » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:34 pm

DaveBland wrote:
Dr Robin's right though, it seems to be the silly lac of concentrations on easier stuff that cause the most trouble.
There's deffo a lesson in that.
Only paddle grade 5?

Kayak Mike
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by Kayak Mike » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:43 pm

Rainey is immortal

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DaveBland
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by DaveBland » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:59 pm

JimmyP wrote:
DaveBland wrote:
Dr Robin's right though, it seems to be the silly lac of concentrations on easier stuff that cause the most trouble.
There's deffo a lesson in that.
Only paddle grade 5?
Ah, wouldn't that be awesome! ...or paddle everything like it's grade 5.
dave

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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by Mally » Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:38 pm

I thought I left the blog open for comments, so its great to see some responses here. I agree on the point about getting complacent on the small things - that has got me in to trouble. I was reminded of one occasion back in my immortal days ;) when I floated sideways down a little riffle admiring the view back upstream, only to get pinned on a tree branch. Nasty.
It seems to me that everyone has their own version of learning about their limits, whether its gradual or sudden. And rivers are great at offering up a reminder of the need for humility.

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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by Graham R » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:14 pm

Good article.

I had a brilliant time canoeing at university, learning to paddle and trying harder rapids pretty quickly without any real mishaps. We went to the French alps, then Austrian Alps then Norway for the first time and although I have always been fairly sensible, I didn't have any experience of things properly going wrong and I was feeling pretty confident. Then...

I underestimated a rapid on the Jordalselvi and while being recirculated underwater ended up thinking "what if I don't come to the surface, I'm running out of air, I could die here." Fortunately I did, and my friends rescued me, cheers! That was a sharp lesson in how dangerous kayaking can be! I don't think I've been as confident since, which is good and bad I suppose, because I think I prefer the feeling of manoevring a boat more than the fear and adrenaline, or at least I do now!

So I focussed more on polo and slalom, but carried on paddling, doing another awesome trip to Norway, a summer off to finish my PhD then last year we went to India. This time we were doing the Tsarap Zanskar trip. There was a pretty large amount of water going down and my nerve was being tested quite a bit on the Tsarap! I was being cautious, portaged the chunkiest section of a long rapid and got back on, dismissing what was downstream as a simple ferry to miss a big hole then the rest I'd sort out from the next eddy. WRONG! The water was bloody fast, my banana shaped Jefe was not quite slalom boat quick and I got knocked slightly off-angle on the ferry and dropped into this monster hole sideways. 4000m thin air and a violent sidesurf interspersed with rolls took its toll and I realised I had to swim to get out. So I did. As I swam down on my back being rinsed through more holes, dunked under water for periods and getting increasingly knackered, the old "I might die here" thought reared it's head again. I weakly got to a calmer bit where a friend helped me to the side. Two others rescued all my gear and my boat. Seriously good job! Anyway back to the point:

More than ever I have been thinking about what I actually enjoy about whitewater, and it's definately not cacking myself! Back to the slalom, polo and a bit of freestyle for me now. I'm still keen on things that offer pretty safe fun, the Etive is something I'd consider as this, but the buzz of getting away with something dodgy doesn't thrill me at the moment!

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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by scottdog007 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:26 pm

Here is a story I read some years ago. It made me very humble after reading this. I had to google it to find it.

http://www.kayak.me.uk/kayaking/boulter ... g_boul.htm

They say you take the biggest risks closest to home when you feel the most safe

Pete
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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by Pete » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:44 am

scottdog007 wrote:Here is a story I read some years ago. It made me very humble after reading this. I had to google it to find it.

http://www.kayak.me.uk/kayaking/boulter ... g_boul.htm

They say you take the biggest risks closest to home when you feel the most safe
Just goes to show how dangerous kayaking can be, he ended up getting married as a result!!

:-)

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Re: "I thought I was immortal"

Post by scottdog007 » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:49 am

Pete wrote:
scottdog007 wrote:Here is a story I read some years ago. It made me very humble after reading this. I had to google it to find it.

http://www.kayak.me.uk/kayaking/boulter ... g_boul.htm

They say you take the biggest risks closest to home when you feel the most safe
Just goes to show how dangerous kayaking can be, he ended up getting married as a result!!

:-)
The irony of his story though, was that his girlfriend left him because he almost topped himself in a stopper. She left him met another guy who then had a car crash and she killed her. Gee.

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