"Don't be such a Pussy!"

Photographer: Zach Mahone

Photographer: Zach Mahone

“Don't be such a pussy, just do it.”

Peer pressure statements like this infuriate me, these statements can sometimes have fatal consequences. 

When I am introduced to a new river I tend to fall on the more cautious side. It’s important for me to get to know a river, understand it’s dynamics, assess it’s dangers, and show it respect. Deadly consequences carry serious weight for me and I’m not one to just jump right in knowing such consequences are possible. 

It’s important for me to know my skill level is a match for a rapid. Making stand up paddling look good is very important to me. When people think of whitewater SUP I want them to envision the smooth and controlled paddling of Spencer Lacy, Masayuki Takahata, Charlie MacArthur, Dan Gavere, Bradley Hilton, and Mike Tavares (to name a few). I’ve seen some paddlers disregard this and throw themselves down a high consequence rapid that was way above their skill level all for the sake of proving something. I respect those that choose to portage a rapid much more than someone who is not ready and runs it anyway. 

But here is the even bigger issue and it’s one I think a lot of paddlers without a whitewater background don’t understand or overlook. Choosing to run a high consequence rapid you’re not ready for is a selfish and an irresponsible choice. By making the choice to risk your life you automatically make the decision for those around you to risk theirs. Let me use an example…

Myself and paddling buddy decided to walk around a rapid that the rest of our friends decided to run. The deciding factor was a sieve and undercut at the base of the rapid. A kayaker had recently gotten stuck in the sieve and died. That made the decision to walk it even easier for me. Swimming at the top or the middle could put you right into either one of these death traps. Those that chose to run it all had experience with that river and/or were very strong paddlers…except for one. We watched from the shore in horror as the paddler fell at the top on lap one. The second lap he ended up backwards again at the top, third lap was more of the same. Me and my buddy were beginning to make a plan on how we were going to save this person were he to find himself in either hazard.  

In that moment I was angry. Angry that I was thinking about how I was going to have to put myself in danger to rescue this person that shouldn’t have been out there in the first place.

I believe in trusting your gut and if something tells you not to do it — then don’t do it! Shame on those that peer pressure their fellow paddlers into doing something they’re not ready for and shame on those who don’t respect a paddler’s decision to walk a rapid. 

This is not the direction I want to see this sport go in. Don’t ever let anyone talk down to you or your abilities because you walked something; because you respected the river enough to say,
“Not this time…maybe next year I’ll be ready."

If you plan on being on the river regularly don’t be a liability. I strongly suggest taking a swift water rescue course. Visit http://www.swiftwatersafetyinstitute.com/ to find a course near you. Be safe out there folks! We’re river family and river family always looks out for each other.