*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Monday, 12 January 2015

'Adventure sports': a poor partner is easy to find

Another item retrieved from an old HD, altered to protect the guilty.

Of the moderately dangerous sports I do (canoeing, kayaking, climbing/mountaineering, cycling...) it is better to go alone than with people who'll put you in danger by their ignorance.  This is gained from hard-won experience; the most egregious example was my trip on Lake Superior kayaking with three other people.  Though they were confident they had experience enough to make sensible decisions (they did not), none had as much paddling experience, camping experience or sailing experience as myself (experience relevant to wind and waves).  Being short of plain common sense was the greater danger.  Here's how my lessons can be compartmentalized, most of these examples from a kayaking trip on Lake Superior.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours? ...
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early
Trips should have an overwhelming number of members from one gender, because nature or nurture, the genders do not solve disputes in the same way.  If one gender dominates, everyone at least knows which code to communicate with.  If the numbers produce a stalemate, my odds are on the gender known for not sticking to playground rules, especially if I can count on one to manipulate a whipped boyfriend.  Perhaps such miscommunication with gender, as a cultural issue, can happen between cultures.  Worth considering.

Every North American thinks they have a valid opinion.  Most people know shit.  The person(s) with the best knowledge and experience should make the decisions.  It’s safer, and it’s sensible, but uncommon.  Everyone gets a veto, but not planning powers.  These terms have to be explicit, maybe signed upon.  They will be most unacceptable to people with an inaccurate appraisal of their own expertise.  They should be encouraged to stay home or plan their own disasters.

Weather Forecasts
If you get a ‘small-craft wind and weather warning’ it means something: don’t sail something under 40’, and don’t paddle anything.  People who think they have valid opinions may not understand this or listen to you.  They may deduce from the calm water of a sheltered bay that the water is calm on Lake Superior.  They may do it the day after you were sandbagged by large steep waves exiting a sheltered bay.  Don’t invite them.  If you've only just found out they are idiots in the middle of the trip, invoke your veto.

It will not be fun trying to explain the causes of waves to people who think their opinion is more important than knowledge.  They will make incorrect assumptions even after they have pretended to understand the three main engines of waves: wind speed, fetch and water depth.  They may argue idiocies: waves go down if the wind hasn’t, waves in a bay have much to do with waves outside of it, and wind-shifts don't create chop.

It is alarming it's not obvious to as many as two of four people not to kayak on a lake with large swells if you get sea-sick commonly.  You cannot presume people have the sense to mention this to you before you are a day into your trip.  Ask in advance.  Ask everything.  People are too stupid to live.

'Rules of the Road'
Any sensible person knows that you do not cut off people driving, nor step in front of them; nor should you paddle across their bow.  Those who don’t have this sense of consideration may also not look around to make sure anyone is having trouble.  Hang back so you can mind all idiots and do your duty, but you won’t get help should you need it.  Thus, you’d better have gone solo.

There has to be a leader if there are more than two people.  This is a basic rule of human-sociology.  Acknowledge it.  It must be the person with sound judgement and broad knowledge; it doesn’t have to be you.  If you understand, great.  Get the others to sign.  Don’t want to spark a confrontation before the trip?  You will during: weather, safety, pace, meals, campsites, privacy… all of the above,  fuck.  You might also be concerned by any member who is uncompromising over petty points before the trip: their behaviour will not improve under stress and away from society.

Ever noticed the most social people are those least able to understand a need for your privacy to read, or what-have-you?  Ever noticed they consider you anti-social?  Ever noticed a book is more satisfying?

What you can do in an hour, because you get sea-sick and don’t want to stay still, has nothing to do with what you can do in a day.  The hare did not win the race.  The hare would have drowned if he was in a kayak, and everyone needs strength in reserve for: a surf landing; making camp when wet, cold and tired; should a thunderstorm came up; there is distance to cover before a safe take-out.  If hares leave you behind, remember they are unreliable for safety and this has become a solo-trip.  Paddle conservatively.

Loneliness doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?


  1. People who are quite sociable bother me acutely by, uh, bothering me when I'm in need of some privacy. They bother me in general by their excessive need to be in the company of others. It's hard to trust someone who can't stand to be alone with him/herself for an extended period...

  2. You sound just like my husband and his unwillingness to go camping with the kid. I KNOW he knows more about me regarding water safety and camping. I benefit from his father pushing him through to Eagle Scout as his Scout Master. I didn't get such rearing or outdoor time other than what I could pedal to during day light hours. I do find it sad that a quite stroll/fishing/reading alone makes you a stick in the mud. It is very rewarding to be able to spend time alone. And I second Billy's comment about trust....

    1. Well, I think I may be a little different than you suppose, which may be the fault of the writing in this post. The post was meant to be about North Americans having a tendency to over-estimate their competence, and refuse to defer to those whose judgment is better in a particular case: my regular issue with North American narcissism. That said, I can be very impatient with adults, as I preemptively assume they will disappoint me on these issues. I would change my attitude, but I am too often proven right.

      However, I have a great deal more patience with children (a good thing, as I am a teacher!) and with immigrants or other people who have not had these experiences, as they are more HUMBLE about their competency outdoors, though they are often little less competent than the narcissistic, and far more eager and able to learn. I have taken four Japanese, and one completely urbanized Jew, on a few different trips, and had nothing but a good time on each with them. I planned a trip they could enjoy, and they did their best to contribute If I told them we had to change plans for weather or another reason, they were glad I was looking out for everyone's best interests.

    2. I will agree with you about North Americans thinking they know all to the determent of themselves or others.

      Humble is my middle name when it comes to learning a new thing. I will be the first to admit being a novice and eager to gain skills. That is one thing that the step-kiddo has had a hard time dealing with. New things challenge him. So immediately he 'hates' new things and is quick to give up. Hopefully living with us will help change that. The foreign kids we have hosted have been great at trying new things. Our last kiddo from Austria went out surfing with the husband. They had a great time and our Austrian got to learn a few things on a short board. Step-son refused to even go into the water at all. :(