Kayaking Technique Forum

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Risk

Thomas, your post about children and risk sports -- and the response to it -- was profound and thought-provoking. Since I read the thread I've thought a lot about the concept of risk and danger.

Risk is relative. I'm more afraid to change my hair colour than to go out in big wind and waves in a kayak. Not many people would share that perspective. My hairdresser thinks I'm nuts.

Risk is a matter of degree; prudent risk vs. recklessness. The trained, fully equipped paddler vs. a friend who thought a kayak looked like fun, stepped into one with no training and went right over into the water.

Risk is about perception. When I was a kid, I used to row in cold, rocky, foggy Muscongus Bay, Maine with no safety training, no PFD and only a bailing can for safety equipment. (Back then, no-one worried too much about stuff like that.) I thought I was pretty safe, because I knew the coast and I thought the boat was untippable. After all, my brothers and I had tried to capsize the boat and couldn't. Today, I have a PFD, training and full safety equipment and I feel far safer in a much less stable boat.

Risk is an attitude. I once spoke to a climber who had just been to a memorial service for his best friend, killed in an avalanche. After we discussed his friend's death, he started talking about the rewards of climbing; how he set goals he didn't really think he could reach, climbed with people who were both his best friends and his most trusted fellow climbers, and together they achieved things they had thought were impossible. Death was a fact of life for this climber, and it was very much on his mind then. Yet he looked beyond it and saw only challenge and achievement.

It's easy to define the extremes on the risk/no risk spectrum but the more I think about it, the less I can define what exactly we mean by risk.

Thomas, thanks for starting this thought process. It was -- and is -- fascinating.

Pamela