Monday, October 21, 2013

A PhD in Sea Kayaking

A Ph D in Sea Kayaking?

How smart/good do you aspire to become in kayaking? How do you keep score? Will there be a time when you decide you have "arrived" and know all you care to know and can do all you care to do in that skinny little sea kayak of yours? For some of you the answer will be yes or "I am already there." That is, you are content with your skills and (hopefully) paddle within the conditions that are safe for you.

For others (this is me raising my hand) it is not such a simple question. For many who are bright, curious, over achievers, have ADD, are obsessive-compulsion, etc. or a combination of them all there is no end in sight. We press on looking for new challenges (not necessarily dangerous ones) and new goals to keep ourselves interested and challenges. We take a certain satisfaction from knowing that we are growing in the sport. We have a need for more. More skill and, for me, more knowledge.
And, we each go about our quest differently.

For some it is a matter of paddling more often and in more challenging conditions (with competent partners). For some it is attending symposiums and taking what I call the detail classes such as working on the forward stroke, doing rescue scenarios and the like. For some others it is taking a deep breath, deciding that they have the basics needed and signing up for an IDW with an eye toward qualifying via an ICE and becoming a certified instructor. An amazing number of us have been there.

Does there, I wonder, come that time when enough is enough? If so, what determines that time? Is it physical limitations? Boredom? Job/family obligations? Age? Whoa, wait. Age? I think not.

Speaking for myself, I have realized the need to progress in this sport that I have come to love and respect and from which I have derived so much pleasure. You also need to know that my passion in life is to teach, so it is no surprise that I worked and practiced and eventually became an L4 certified instructor (some would say certifiable, but I digress). One soon learns, however, that constantly teaching beginners is an excellent way to become a lesser paddler. I didn't want that to happen and, so, even at my age (I am over 40...ok, 50...ok, older) I have decided to train to be an IT (instructor trainer).

Suddenly a new world has opened to me. Now, in addition to on water skills, I am dealing with classroom teaching, even teaching learning and teaching theory and the like. My mentor, Sam Crowley, is a task master and never sells me short. He insists on it being done right and gives me excellent feedback in the areas in which I need improvement. For my part, I feel like I am still learning and growing, I am involved physically and mentally. I am challenged. I feel youn(er).  I am going for my PhD (to add to my MD).

I invite each of you to see if you have reached your level of potential in kayaking (or anything else in your life) and whether or not it is time to take on a new challenge.

Paddle safe...


Bill Burton said...

Thought-provoking post, Dick.

I know what you mean about compulsion. For us, as you say, there is no "enough." We always want to paddle more, and to paddle better. Unfortunately, we approach the asymptote of our ability though we still hunger for the rapid advancement of the early learning curve and our younger selves.

Perhaps it is for this reason that many of us, including myself previously, measure our progress and look for validation as paddlers by turning pro.

I abandoned this as a metric.

I love to learn, and I love to teach. I even love to learning to teach, and I'm not approaching that limit yet.

But I hate having to go through all the red-tape of renewing credentials, keeping certifications, council memberships and dues current, etc., just to teach a few times a year. Given the time demands of a land job plus my own personal paddling pursuits, I can't make enough money instructing to break even against the costs of certifying. But it's not the dollars that get me, it's the paperwork and check-writing. To some it may be no big deal, but being ADD, when bureaucracy invades my sphere of relaxation it feels Kafkaesque.

So, I teach only for free, as a volunteer, in settings where certification is not required. I suppose there may be a liability risk, but I get waivers and have my own insurance.

I'll pay for my trips, pay for lessons, teach when it suits me, and not worry about a kayaking balance-sheet. I'm lucky to be able to do that.

And I retain amateur status.

Silbs said...

Bill, thanks for your thoughtful and courageous comments. As for the money, there really isn't any in it, at least for us. I am in the hole considering all the gas,, dues, certifications,etc. That, clearly, is not what we are about.

Melo Smith said...

I believed that doing kayak is not an easy thing. It is not an easy ride to take.But if you have the courage and the heart toward this sport, I assure you that everything will be alright. I remembered that time when I have Kayak in Philippines, at first I'm having a bad time doing the sport, but my father reminds me to be positive, have the faith and courage while doing kayak. Afterwards, everything seems to be alright.