With apologies, undoubtedly

Posted by Ken Campbell December 1, 2010 2 Comments 517 views


A few weeks back, I posted an entry about Texas. About leaving Texas, actually, and how happy I was to be doing so. I didn’t mean it to be a hit piece, but a Texan friend of mine called me out on what I’d written, saying that it was mean and that it sounded angry. When I went back and read what I’d written I saw that she was correct, that what I’d intended to be ironic or even humorous had come across as small and spiteful. Because of her input, I changed the post to make it more about my perceptions and less about the Lone Star State.

I bring this up now because I sense I’m about to be offensive again. Not toward Texas this time, but a little closer to home.

I’ll start by saying that I am not a kayak racer. It’s not that I can’t paddle fast; I may not be a speedster – the Olympic squad isn’t exactly burning down the phone lines – but I have been known to cover the miles with a sense of urgency. It’s not that I lack competitive fire either. Quite the opposite. I’ll turn anything into a challenge, and if there’s a chance I can be successful, I tend to take it all very seriously.

Which sort of goes a long way in explaining why I don’t race kayaks. I’ve never really wanted to mix kayaking with competition because I see kayaking as a labor of love more than anything else and I think that, for me, a combination of the two would dilute that experience.

On a different level, perhaps even closer to the bone, is a belief that most – probably all – “adventure racing” is a waste of time and almost completely unaligned with any real environmental sensibility. When nature is viewed as a backdrop to contrived human accomplishment rather than a place to be learned from, protected and savored, it is devalued and neutered. Competition necessitates focus above all, and the imposition of artificial parameters on a natural setting reduces the environment to an obstacle to be overcome and, to my way of thinking, completely misses the point of what wilderness is about.

Put simply, the idea of a race through the wild, whether in a canoe or on skis, using a kayak or climbing gear, is not much different than having a tournament in the Sistine Chapel to see who can be first to get through the stations of the cross. There is, I believe, enough meaningless competition in the world already and to use our few remaining natural areas to promote even more is lame. I know there are those who disagree (and I expect I’ll hear from you soon), but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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