I've been asked more than a few times things like:
Why do you go backcountry skiing?
Aren't avalanches dangerous?
Isn't whitewater dangerous?
I heard from my buddy about another guy who on a rafting trip...
And so on and so forth.
I'm not the most eloquent writer, let alone for a question that really is this big, so I'm very glad that I found a piece written by Doug Ammons.
Doug Ammons is considered one of of the foremost whitewater pioneers. He isn't heard from that often in this age of Demshitz and Fred Norquist hucking massive waterfalls and uploading hours of HD footage. While the feats that the new school of paddlers are pulling off are amazing in and of themselves they don't define what whitewater is about to me quite so much as what Doug writes. (Don't get me wrong, I love visiting huge waterfalls, but more in a visiting the land of the dragons sort of a way, rather than trying to own and control them).
In Is kayaking only a sport? from Doug's site, he tries to dig down through the layers of bro-bra attitude that we know how to say to why most of us know but do not have the vocabulary to express properly.
We learn to work with the power of the river, riding its flow and judging its consequences. It teaches awareness, respect, and mindfulness. The forces that surround us have no ill will and do not care about our existence, but we have to be aware of their every detail and mood. Kayaking rivers is the art of staying safe by merging with the force of nature. It is the art of styling down rapids with grace and smoothness – blending with energy that flows from the heart of the earth, transforming danger into safety and fun.
Please go on a read the rest of the essay and get lost in the rest of his site. Doug has a very beautiful way of describing and inspiring whitewater paddling which may be why Outside Magazine considers him to be one of the top 10 adventurers of all time.
And for those of you who are more visual and audio style of learners here's the trailer for WildWater where Doug has a monologue at the beginning.
Fred Norquist does have a particularly excellent wall slide on Yule Creek at the end of the trailer.The photo at the top is David Speigel in the runout from the first Class V of Eleven Mile Canyon of the South Platte on a rare day where the water was running and homework and other essentials were able to be forgotten for an afternoon in April 2010.