This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
ALONE TOGETHER


THE MODERN CULTURAL TABOO OF GOING SOLO


Ours is a solo sport, merely done in a group environment. Once in the pull of the current, we are the masters of our own fate. Our abil- ity to put the boat where we want it, anticipate what may happen and deal with what does relies solely on one’s own abilities. It is only at the bottom of a set that we regroup with our partners and carry on to the next rapid. Why, then, is solo paddling—running a river alone—so taboo in whitewater? Some of whitewater paddling’s greatest achievements have been


performed solo. One needs look no further than Walt Blackadar, who astounded the kayaking world with his 1971 solo first descent of the Alsek’s Turnback Canyon in the Yukon—considered the hardest big water run to date. Buzz Holstrom’s 1937 solo descent of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado remains a rarely repeated feat. Yet any of these solo efforts are viewed warily by a whitewater fra-


ternity indoctrinated by group-centric thinking. While mountain- eering’s solo master Reinold Messner is hailed as a hero, his paddling counterparts are viewed as strange loners and reckless. From a safety perspective, there is little evidence showing that be- ing in a group is better than paddling alone. Social scientists point


22 CURRENTS || Annual 2012


to what they call the Fallacy of Social Redundancy. Despite what we were taught in school, groups under pressure typically do not make better decisions. Peer pressure plays an overwhelming role in coerc- ing individuals to do what they otherwise would never have agreed to. Ambiguity and assumptions surrounding authority and leadership create broad gaps and exposure to risk. More pragmatically, the rash of whitewater paddling deaths this


summer were all realized in a group setting—the parties were unable to be of assistance when it really mattered. Tere’s the rub, isn’t it? Ours is a solo sport, merely done in a group environment. Occasionally I paddle solo, but don’t mistake my argument here as


a wholesale endorsement. Running rapids solo is a lonely business and perhaps a different activity altogether than group travel. Te shadow of exposure is constantly overhead, as is the absence of comradery, laughs and shared accomplishment. With no need to look back up- stream, there is a stronger sense of flow. Rather than looking for chal- lenge, solo runs are about minimizing it. Choosing a line becomes a very clear yes-or-no proposition. If my answer is not a very clear and concise “Yes, I will nail that line,” then I don’t run it.


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148  |  Page 149  |  Page 150  |  Page 151  |  Page 152  |  Page 153  |  Page 154  |  Page 155  |  Page 156