Last week was the Green Race, a class V creek people race every fall near Asheville, NC. This year it turned twenty years old, meaning for the last twenty years it has been one of the biggest events in the whitewater community. Two other rivers also ran that weekend, the Cheoah and the Tallulah, which is where I go with my good ole boys. But before the much anticipated “challulah” weekend, I went to the Green Race party and followed it up the next day with a Green lap, meeting a ton of awesome girls I’m excited to know.
The pre-race party is about what you would imagine from a bunch of hardcore kayakers: plenty of beer, boat giveaways, and goading about the upcoming race. Everyone was dressed up as either a hipster or a hippie (although there were a couple wild cards: a chef, etc) and making predictions, some hilarious, others kind of serious.
After the party, I remember having a brief conversation about kayakers in the Southeast with a recent transplant from the wild wild West. She observed that if you’re not boating class IV+ everyday here in the SE, the generally accepted consensus is that you’re not really a kayaker. I know this to be true, its something I’ve struggled with all 8 years I’ve been kayaking. As soon as people can roll in a pool, they start jumping on runs above their heads so they can reach a somewhat mysterious level of “kayaker”. The temptation is there for me as well. I’m a comfortable class IV+ boater, sometimes class V. But I find myself on days like today, when I’m working on articles and packing for the winter instead of kayaking some hardcore creek somewhere, doubting my identity as a kayaker.
Part of the problem is this consuming obsession with charging hard everyday, but a part of the problem is also where I find my identity. I don’t have to kayak something challenging and hard everyday to be a good kayaker. I don’t have to push my personal limits and the industry limits to be a solid kayaker. I don’t need to go kayaking even when I’m more scared than excited just because I’m worried about my “image”.
Yes, kayaking is a profession for me. Technically I get to paid to kayak in the summers, making it more than just a hobby. But, when I’m not working, kayaking should be for pleasure. The moment it stops, I need to re-evaluate. My identity should be coming from something deeper than a hobby. Yes, I am a kayaker. But I’m also a wife, a writer, a baby mountain biker, a dog mother, and a baker. I like the color blue and almost wear it obsessively, I don’t care for personal hygiene no matter how hard I try, and I love hand written cookbooks. And I kayak. A lot. But that’s not all I am. Because if anything ever happened and I couldn’t kayak, I need to be more than just a kayaker. I need to be a whole person.
Who are you besides a kayaker?