So yesterday on the Annamoe river I brought a group of 8 level 3 standard kayakers out for a paddle. Laragh was a hive of activity with clubs and groups from all over the place heading out on the river. It’s great to see so many familiar smiling faces on a Sunday morning. There were also loads of cyclists on the way over the gap gritting their teeth on the difficult climb.
I decided to run a lower stretch of the river with my group before heading back up to Jackson’s (a drop) for a look. Everyone paddled really well in the earlier part of the day and we had a great trip. Confident paddling, new skills learned and loads of fun. It was a bit of a mission getting back to Jacksons from Lynhams as we had to walk the boats in which took us about 15 minutes. When we got there, the group had a look at the drop and then immediately looked to me. What did I think? Should they run it or not? In the end two of the group decided to run the drop with one of them (only 14) taking a swim in the eddy half way down. I managed to teach some rope work and safety technique and then we all headed back to Lynhams. Afterwards I began to think about why I had taken them there in the first place. Yes some of them were able to paddle the drop and it’s exciting to see whitewater like that for the first time. However, as they looked at the drop with anxious faces, I realised that I had made a mistake by taking them there. I had brought them there so that they could say they had run it. Nothing more. They would have learned a lot more if I had taken them to another stretch of river where they could have practiced boofing and technique. I have taught the majority of the group to paddle from scratch and I have been very careful to emphasise an experiential style of kayaking rather than a competitive one. Why we do what we do is as, if not more important than what we do. They have no expectations or preconceptions about any stretch of water because nobody has told them that they should have. The measure of a successful days kayaking is how much fun they had on the water regardless of where that water is. So I realised that I was making one of the most fundamental errors of instructing. Saying and teaching one thing and doing quite another myself. So what does this have to do with price of cabbages?
Well as I logged into Facebook this morning I see 101 photographs of kayakers running Jacksons every which way..some with clean lines and some upside down on their heads. Every picture from an identical angle just with a different colour boat. I see stories of training sessions and miles covered on the roads and mountains, competitions won, new bikes, new runners, new kayaks.. and I wonder about our motivations.. or why we are doing what we are doing. Is there a part of all of us that seeks approval from others for what we are doing to the point that the destination overtakes the journey. Has the outcome become more important than our methods? Do we need a new model for “succcess”?