Interview with www.Steepcreek.com
Author’s note: This is not a formal essay. However, I was asked a series of interview questions by Ben Friberg, who runs www.steepcreek.com, and the answers dwell on a number of topics that fit “whitewater philosophy.” The format leads to a different kind of approach to the ideas. I hope readers find them of interest.
What is your personal taste in kayaks?
I started out in 13-foot fiberglass boats in the 1970s and have paddled everything down to six-foot playboats. Every boat and every design has its place. It will do certain things and not others. There are plenty of good boats out there, and I don’t get hung up on the details. A good paddler should have the skill to make the best out of anything he or she is in, know what its strengths are and be able to use them, and also what its limitations are and how to compensate for them.
What kind of rescue gear do you have? On a serious run, all the standard things: carabiners, two pulleys, a good rope (!), prussiks, webbing. One absolute: never paddle without a throw rope. My friends Eric Nies and Brennan Guth did that and Brennan died because of it, but it just as well could have been Eric. Don’t assume nothing will happen, even on class II. The river is full of things that can happen. The life you save will be your friend’s, and the life they save will be yours. At its best the sport is a deep celebration of all that life can give. Dying while you’re celebrating life is perhaps the most contradictory and futile thing possible.
What is your preference for paddles? I have the same comment as for boats. Try everything and understand how it works. I used an Illiad paddle when I started — a huge battle-ax of a thing. I used wooden Nimbus paddles, the early Werner paddles, Harmony, Lightning, and a host of others. You should have the skill to adapt to any gear. Bent shafts are a fad, not a necessity. Likewise with asymmetrical blades. They have small ergonomic benefits, but I have yet to see anything done with a bent shaft or an asymmetrical blade that couldn’t be done without one. Overall, I don’t like preferences. The thing that preferences do is make you somewhat more rigid about interacting with the river, which to me is the opposite of what the river teaches. It teaches fluidity and continual, effortless adaptation to everything. I take that simple truth as my ideal.
What are your favorite creeks? I am a paddler and creeking is only one part of paddling, so I can’t answer strictly in terms of creeks. That would be like trying to write using only five letters of the alphabet. Believe it or not, one of my favorites is the local Class II – III Blackfoot River. People get so locked into class V and waterfalls that they forget the beauty of the water, which is why I’m on the river in the first place. If you can’t get pleasure out of the act of paddling no matter where that is, then you should think carefully about your motives. As far as harder runs, there are dozens of steep creeks nearby, and I’ve run god-knows how many thousands of class V and VI rapids. They are interesting, but they are not the sum of the sport. One of my all-time favorites will remain nameless. I’ve run it a number of times and to my knowledge nobody else has ever found it. It’s in a deep quartzite gorge, has multiple waterfalls 20 to 35 feet, long cascades, an interesting roped portage around a cascading sieve, and a mile of biggish water class V at the end. It’s all of paddling in a nutshell, and nobody else knows about it even after all these years. Oh, and I like Smith Creek up in the Idaho panhandle too – great multiple runs on it and upper tributaries, steep granite waterslides, punchbowl falls at the end; very classy. Lion Creek creek is great too. We did the first descent in 1990, and my favorite drop was one of the steep slides where my friend Paul Kopczynski had to shinny about 50 or 60 feet up a cedar tree to photograph the run. It was maybe 1200 feet per mile - so steep there wasn’t any place to shoot from and see what the rapid was doing.
Name five cities for creeking: I love western Montana and wouldn’t live anyplace else. Don’t mind visiting, but I like these big mountains and rivers with great bakeries, friends from grade school and high school, plenty of options for kayaking, good music scene. I can step out my door and in a few minutes be hiking on any of four or five different mountains. It’s three minutes to the river, and another minute to Brennan’s wave. 15 minutes to the Blackfoot.
Playboats on steep creeks. I’ll almost never tell anybody not to do something, even if I think it’s really unadvisable. Personal freedom is a big part of paddling, and if somebody wants to use a playboat on a steep creek, that’s okay – except if I’m on the team. The reason is, one person’s poor or inappropriate gear means that other team members may have to compensate or even save him, so in that situation it’s a decision that affects the rest of us.
Most boats can be used for most things, but the more specialized the arena, the more care you should take that your equipment fits the situation. In the 80s when squirting came out, people started doing creeks and bigger water in squirt boats. Probably not a great idea, and several people died discovering that it wasn’t the tool for the job. Very edgy, no buoyancy, heavy tendency to dive – all bad characteristics for the terrain and all diminish your margin of error. It’s worth finding out what the limits of a boat or other gear are, or even your skills – but not worth your life. A young local paddler Max Lentz just died last fall, the son of friends of mine, and it’s possible that was partially because he had a play boat that got stuck in a sieve on a creeky line where a bigger boat wouldn’t have. A play boat just gives you less leeway for a mistake. I also nearly died once getting trapped between a submerged log and the bottom in the middle of a rapid. If I’d been in a shovel-nosed playboat, I probably would have died. But the river is a place of freedom, and people make personal decisions about what they want to use. Others may disagree, so my choice would be I probably would not paddle with somebody who had a totally inappropriate boat for a run, because I or another team member would likely be the ones trying to save them. But it’s a free world, so maybe they’d find somebody else to paddle with. And nobody can see the future, so maybe I’d be the one who got in trouble and the play-boat dude the one who saved me. It’s easy to be righteous, and impossible to predict the future.
Differences between creekers and other paddlers:
Paddlers overall are highly individualistic so I wouldn’t even try to generalize about their differences. Also, I don’t know many people who think of themselves strictly in terms of creeking. I certainly don’t think of myself that way, although I’ve done a large amount of creeking. If I came across somebody strongly self-identified like that, I’d encourage him or her to taste a few of the other fruit our sport has to offer. It’s pretty hard to beat surfing on the Lochsa, or doing a trip down the Selway, or padding the Alsek with the massive glaciers and mountains around you. Paddling is a broad and multifaceted sport, filled with beautiful things and places to go. Why limit yourself to one narrow aspect of it?
Is this the Golden Age of kayaking?
I used to think paddling was in a golden age in the 70s and 80s, but we keep finding things, designing new boats that make other things possible, and developing skills. I prefer to think that it will always be developing. I think talk of a “golden age” is nostalgia for a time that hasn’t yet occurred and never will.
What is the “Next level”? The sport is always changing and people are always learning and building on what has been done in the past. There will always be a next level no matter where we are now or in the future. The very nature of kayaking is to push what is possible. Blackadar showed what it was possible to do just by daring to try what others thought couldn’t be done. People’s skills have greatly increased since then, but even now each generation is showing that the limits of the one before were self-imposed, or imposed by equipment, or simply interest and focus. Every generation thinks they’re something special, and I suppose they are, but the best of any given era would probably be very good in any other era. So the next levels will keep coming, and I expect in my 80s to be paddling on one of Jupiter’s moons.
Do you think creeking is more team oriented than other kinds of paddling?
That depends on the people comprising the team.
East versus West coast runs
There’s so much travel back and forth I don’t think there’s much difference in the paddlers. And there are great runs all over. But there are obvious differences in the quantity of certain types of runs, the size and length of the rivers. Every place has its charm. The Sierras are pretty amazing however, and difficult to match.
Describe an Epic:
I have a skewed view of this. I’ve always accepted there should be a substantial level of pain and struggle as part of the goal of any trip. If it’s less than difficult, I don’t like it. However, I re-serve “epic” for things like Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic trip in 1914. If you don’t know about it, read “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing and you’ll understand what a real epic is, and why I use the word sparingly. Most paddling “epics” are milquetoast. Not that they aren’t hard or scary or even fatal; it’s just that the word is a cliché and isn’t used discerningly. Here’s a river epic: The Spanish conquistador Aguirre went over the Andes in 1560 and spent a year going down the Amazon river to find the mythical El Dorado. They didn’t even really know where the river went or how big the continent was. He lost most of his men, repeatedly starved, got malaria, and went crazy. He convinced himself and his remaining men that he was really the King of the New World, that his daughter was his rightful Queen, and that he was fated to depose the King of Spain and rule the world. Eventually they made it to the coast, constructed ships and sailed back up to Venezuela, then attacked the Spanish base to have Aguirre take his rightful place as King, and were killed. Now that’s an epic! What paddling trip could possibly compete with that? And it’s why our paddling escapades are milquetoast.
If I survive, I demote the incident to a “mini-epic”. Thankfully, I have had a number “mini-epics”, such as nearly getting killed, straggling out of the wilderness having shattered my boat, left all my gear, climbed out of some god-forsaken canyon, and been near complete exhaustion. And I’ve been slam-med badly on rivers and weathered near endless pummeling, but fortunately I didn’t black out and I survived, so the mini-epics continue. And I have not yet gone crazy, nor do I think I’m going to depose the King of Spain.
Rapids that make me nervous:
I can’t answer the question, because this isn’t the way I experience rivers. To my mind, if a rapid makes you nervous, then you aren’t prepared for it and it’s dumb to run it. I run rapids I feel I belong on, and if I don’t have that feeling, then I portage. I run rapids if, after I’ve scouted, I reach a place where I feel like I’ve been poured right into the river and I’m certain I can do the moves. I wouldn’t want to paddle with somebody who was running stuff he was nervous about; it shows bad judgment. There’s no way you’ll be on top of your game with that weighing you down. My runs have included some very substantial things, and I’d say that the hardest things were not so much steep creeks as high water steep runs, like the NF Payette (especially Jacob’s Ladder-Golf Course) at 6000-7000cfs, or Coyote Falls on the SF Clearwater at 5000+. Certain rapids on the Stikine come to mind as very challenging. Those aren’t steep creeks, and I can’t put any steep creek rapid in their category, even though there are plenty of really mean things that people have run. If you make a mistake on one of them, you’re dead. Steep creeks, even the massive cascades that Steve Fisher was running in Quebec, never have the sense of finality to them that a big river does, especially a river in a deep gorge. They are impressive, obviously dan-gerous, you surely could get killed on them, but they just don’t have the massive gravity. Even ugly, ugly drops on a creek don’t have the steely feeling of power and seriousness that you get looking at something like Wasson’s Hole on the Stikine at a higher level. There’s something about a massive, convulsing volume of water getting stuffed down a huge drop, and the incredible chaotic violence of the surges, that sends shivers up your spine, or when you see huge seams welling and geysering up against the walls, or when the current is so fast that the holes get spun downstream, breaking completely across the river from one wall to the other.
I could say that I was nervous for a little bit when looking at a tape of the Tsangpo Gorge below the confluence with the Po Tsangpo. This was maybe 1997 before any paddler had been in there, and Charlie Munsey and I were looking at a tape he’d gotten from some trekkers. The level must have been 70,000, with huge bedrock waterfalls and rapids and vertical walls at least 500 to 1000 feet high right out of the water. This one drop was probably a 50 or 60-foot waterfall which, because of the level, was an immense shuddering ramp into an apartment-building sized hole. The water was so fast, the hole was exploding straight up into the air. The rapid below it started out with a breaking wave that was probably nearly 20 feet high, and disappeared into offset holes of similar size. The instantaneous thought of being in there was a sharp stick in the gut — fear basically — but it was immediately replaced with laughing at the absurdity of trying to run that stretch in a kayak. We knew looking at it, that no matter who ever went in there, they wouldn’t run that drop or anything else remotely like it. It’s the biggest whitewater on the planet, but nobody will ever run it.
One other one comes to mind. When we were in Mexico in 1991 we did a movie for National Geographic canyoneering the Shumulja River and following it underground. At one place we were a good 700 feet down in a vertical walled gorge, standing on a natural arch about 100 feet above the river, right where it disappeared underground. The river charged over a waterfall, went under the arch, then into this boiling pool, which ended with big whirlpools where the water got sucked under. That sent shivers up your spine, because you were looking at death — but you weren’t going to run it. We did a rope traverse across the walls and through a narrow passage, then dropped the boats and ourselves down into the river in the cave system. Read my story “Chen Cave” for the weirdness of it all. There’s something about running a river that’s 700 feet underground in the jet blackness that is a little disconcerting.
Have you ever lost a close paddling partner?
Yes, over the years about 10 or 12 people, which includes both partners and friends. I feel I’m a ghost, in the sense that you seek for a greater meaning that includes death. The change comes in assessing what the essential worth of paddling is, and what responsibilities you have to yourself and to those who love you, and who are waiting for you at home. If you take those things lightly, or you don’t consider them, then you’re less human than you should be. I think it’s horribly selfish for people to take those risks without considering the serious effects on others. I reject the brain-dead clichés that people spout, like “at least he died doing what he loved,” or “that’s the price of pushing the envelope.” I feel certain that if you could ask the guy while he’s dying, he’d say something along the lines of what a waste it was. I know I’ve felt that after several episodes that I barely got out of. The problem is that most people, and especially younger talented paddlers, cannot understand what it means to die, or to face the emptiness that comes from a close friend dying while doing something that seemed so vibrant and alive. They brush it all away, supremely confident that it won’t happen to them or their buddies, but all you have to do is listen to them talk and it’s clear they don’t comprehend the outcome — the pain, the meaninglessness that their parents feel when their energetic, smart child kills himself while playing. There’s the glorification of risk, the sense they’re engaging in courageous feats facing danger and potential death, laughing at the reaper, but the fantasy collapses when something happens. All the clichés just seem stupid at that point. So I suggest people give all this some careful thought.
Do you solo?
Yes, I soled extensively on hard runs of all kinds for a long period, but don’t do it much any more. Names of the places don’t matter, although I’m sure at least some readers will know of a couple. The interesting thing is, I’m sure that nearly all serious paddlers solo at some point, mostly because it provides a truly rewarding sense of intimacy with a river. I won’t recommend soloing to people, unless they find themselves coming to it for internal reasons, almost despite themselves and without seeking it. On the other end of the spectrum, anybody who solos because he thinks it’s cool is fooling himself, mostly because he’s defining it socially — which contradicts what it actually means. You do it for the privacy, intimacy, and perhaps for a specific mental and physical challenge. For some people — and I’m thankful to put myself in this group — it can be the most beautiful and rewarding thing imaginable. After many years of aggressive, difficult solos I realized that the difficulty doesn’t matter for what I really wanted out of the experience. Certainly the focus and mental challenge are rewarding, the sense of being completely absorbed into a dramatic place. However, soloing just means being alone, so it can be done anywhere. The key element for kayaking is that when you are with other people, even if it’s just one other person, paddling is a social experience. But when you are alone, the river itself is your partner. That intimacy with the water is one of the deepest experiences I’ve ever had, and it took the intensity of the hard runs to fully appreciate it.
Is there a height at which waterfalls become more dangerous? I know good paddlers who have really hurt themselves on falls as low as 20 feet. Depending on the entry and lip and current structure, anything up to 60 or 80 feet seems perfectly controllable. And Tyler Bradt’s run on the Slave (107) looked pretty sharp, and he nailed the run off Palouse falls (180 feet). Felix Lemmler, a Swiss paddler, has done up to 140 feet, but he also hurt himself substantially on one much smaller. I have to say the highest I’ve ever done is about 55 feet, and I got a concussion on it, so I’m probably not the best guy to ask. However, it looks like there really isn’t any limit as long as the entrance is good, the pool is deep, and the water is aerated enough.
Year started creeking – mid 1980s.
What was your first kayak? My first kayak was a homemade fiberglass boat in about 1973, a takeoff on an obscure Prijon design made by Lynn McAdams, a local fireman who built boats for [Walt] Blackadar. Rob Lesser bought his first boat from Lynn in 1969. I also paddled a Hollowform, and an Eddyline WSL-9, both 13-footers.
When did you first get into kayaking? That depends on how you define “kayak”. My family had two foldboats, which was a German two man kayak with a folding internal frame and an outer canvas cover. We paddled on easy local rivers and lakes from the time I was 5 or 6 (about 1962). My older brother bought an Eddyline SL in 1972. I surfed it some in the ocean and went down some of the local runs a couple of times. Also, I was on the swim team and there were kayaks at the pool. When the coach left, we’d pull them up to the high board, get in and launch ourselves off. It was a start.
Who are your heroes?
I don’t think of kayakers as heroes. It’s just a sport for god’s sake. Heroes are people like the Chinese guy in Tiannanmen Square who stood in front of those three tanks and then climbed up to persuade the gunners not to fire on the protesters. I have a picture of that on my wall to remind me of what really matters. That took guts. Or guys like the Special Forces soldier who threw himself on a grenade to save his buddies. Paddling doesn’t rise to that. As influences, I’d say Walt Blackadar and Rob Lesser, and a friend of mine, Zap Erikson. In 1972 I was 14, and I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated and read Blackadar’s story. That lit a fire. A couple years later I saw films of him getting utterly trashed on the Susitna (1975), which seemed awesome. That was about the time I learned how to roll and paddled a few times on our local runs. Then I dropped it. But Lesser on the Stikine defined the sport for me; at that point I became inspired to really start paddling (1981).
Zap was a friend of mine on the swim team in the early 1970s who learned how to roll, got bone cancer, and at 18 in 1973, paddled the upper part of the North Fork Payette in a fiberglass boat. He had one leg at the time. He skied, parachuted, climbed, and finally died from cancer in 1984, but he never stopped joking and he never complained, even after eight operations and the loss of both legs. Zap is a hero to me, but not because of his kayaking.
What sport led you to kayaking?
Although I liked kayaking, I did it only sporadically, and mostly not in terms of whitewater. Kayaking came after swimming, climbing, cliff jumping, backpacking, and skiing. However, it wasn’t some other sport that led me into it, it was playing classical guitar. I paddled early on, but it wasn’t until I’d been a fanatic classical guitarist for a number of years that I really appreciated rivers. I was looking for a different kind of music to play, and I found it in the current and flowing water. At that point, kayaking became my instrument of choice, and rivers my music of choice. It was the perfect synthesis of everything I liked – free flowing emotion, power, athleticism, challenge, problem-solving, beauty, outdoors – it just had everything and I charged into it in every way. I think the combination of swimming and guitar allowed me to understand the feeling of flow, which almost immediately defined my sense of the sport.
Classify your development as a kayaker: I got really good really fast, was paddling hard class V within one season after focusing on the sport. Hard knocks as well as lots and lots of training and doing everything I could to learn.
Ways and advice to advance: Okay grasshopper, here it is: Let otters be your inspiration. Learn to play with the water in all its moods and forms. Never fight it, never feel conflict. To paddle at the highest level you need to belong in each river you move with. Any nervousness shows your weakness, so find and remove every weakness. Train slalom, play paddle, run every kind of river, creek, pond, lake, and ocean you can touch, paddle every kind of boat, catch every eddy you can, surf every wave, do every move possible, learn everything about what the current does — you’ll never succeed but trying is an awful lot of fun — feel the music of the water, apply skateboarding and music and martial arts to paddling and learn how to ricochet and ride and slide off of rock features. Paddle the way an otter would if he had a kayak. He doesn’t need one, and you need to get to the place where it is part of you.
Classify your development. Does it come from being totally prepared?
You can never be totally prepared for a step into the unknown. Prepare the best you can, don’t underestimate things, always be learning and developing.
Why were you drawn toward creeking? Over the years I’ve done 40+ first descents. I liked exploring and figuring things out – the water levels, logistics, where and when to go, how to get there. Translating what you could see on a map to what might be paddleable. It’s totally different now with google earth and easily obtained satellite photos. We were the first people to start really hiking in around this region, in the mid-1980s. There was lots to do. Lots of promise, lots of great runs.
What teaches your more: hard knocks? Hard knocks.
What helped you progress? Always being focused on gaining new skills and improving the old. Constantly searching for how it all fit together. Never at rest. Always seeking deeper understanding.
Who are your sponsors? Before 1990 I paddled with Perception, but that was because they were essentially the only manufacturer around, and also because Rob Lesser was my close friend and made sure I could try out anything new that came along. There was no money involved, just the possibility of getting gear at a wholesale rate, or in some cases, Rob giving me gear after he had used it as demos for a season. The issue never really came up until Dagger started in the late 80s, and then in about 1993 when the company teams started. At that point, I rejected sponsorship. I had been invited to be on several company teams, which was flattering, but after I thought about it for a little bit I decided the answer had to be no. To me, kayaking is about independence, and I prefer to go my own way. Swag never appealed much to me, and I don’t like wearing stickers. I went to the river because it was free of all that, and so deliberately bringing all the trappings of mainstream companies and ego there is the opposite of why I paddle. I can’t imagine doing nothing but driving around and running rivers, competing at freestyle or Class V races. Some people may like it, but it sounds pretty boring to me. There’s so much more to life than that. It’s a trifling way to live, even if it’s fun for a while.
I realize that sponsorship is a given for most excellent paddlers these days, and a few of them even expect sponsorship as if it’s a rite of passage, an affirmation of their skills, or even an entitlement for “helping” the companies. They don’t seem to realize that when you look at the cost-benefit from the company’s standpoint, sponsored athletes aren’t worth it. They are completely expendable. However, on a personal level I think sponsorship can also potentially become a kind of virus. My paddling means certain things to me because I have deliberately kept it outside of commercial concerns. I realized in the early 1990s, which also coincided with my focus on soloing, that I was seeking a certain kind of purity of experience. I was seeking something that rivers and kayaking couldn’t give me if I had any other motives or influences, and so I pared away all formal ties to companies. That purity is what gives kayaking its value to me. That’s not for everybody, but it is the opposite extreme from seeking sponsorship.
I think nearly all paddlers share this feeling of purity about their experiences; it’s really the core of the river’s draw. So, I believe all of us have this in common. I think I took it farther than most. While I don’t question how strong their love for rivers and paddling is, I do think sponsorship changes how they think about what they do. A few years back there was a major uproar among manufacturers and competition promoters because some of the sponsored paddlers were so obnoxious. Clearly it went to their heads. Fortunately most are not like that. Some of this is inevitable because it mixes personal and social reward. There’s so little money in the sport that the effects are relatively small. And the river experiences are so powerful they also tend to overwhelm any covetousness.
Among the sponsored athletes you have intelligent, highly talented young men and women who are experts at a fascinating sport, traveling the world dealing with both beautiful and dangerous surroundings. On the surface, that would seem like a crucible for some penetrating thoughts about life. Yet, where are they? As best I can tell, that lifestyle doesn’t produce such thinking. Instead, it produces a kind of continuous excitement and intense fun that substitutes for thinking, as if the lifestyle is the answer to everything. These guys are great paddlers, but the sponsorship just feeds a self-referential way of being. Their films are their expression of life, but most are all action and no reflection, which is why it’s called whitewater porn. People who are “paid to play” aren’t the ones who will provide us with a philosophy to live by. The more sponsorship they get, the farther removed they are from the rest of us into a kind of fantasy land, and the less they have to offer outside of the action. Self-focused fun instead of perspective. It’s fine for them, but it’s never been something I aspired to. For me personally, I see it as the opposite of what I want my own kayaking to be. But the most important thing here is, nobody should impose his definitions. Certainly I don’t want or intend that, so to each his own. Paddling is all about individual freedom. Let them have theirs.
Do you have any doubts and fears? How do you deal with them?
If you’re doubtful or fearful, then don’t paddle. If you’re feeling those emotions, they are your inner self-being honest and mean you’re over your head, either physically or mentally or both. If you’re fearful then you’re ruining your paddling and also just asking for an accident. Back off to easier rivers, train, improve your skills in every way possible, and most of all enjoy yourself. If you do this and work systematically on your skills and conditioning, then you’ll know when you’re ready for the next step because at some point it will seem like the perfect thing to do. You might be excited, but you won’t be fearful and you won’t doubt. Also, keep in mind, you don’t have to do harder things. There’s no rule out there that says you need to paddle Class V or even Class IV. Go out and have fun at whatever level you find enjoyable. If fear appears, look carefully at why, solve the issues that cause it, and ask yourself whether you’re doing something you really want to do.
Fear is your honest self telling you what your limits are. Listen to it. I won’t paddle with somebody who is fearful; I’ll tell them to go do something easier, or I’ll take them and we’ll pad-dle someplace easier. I’ll suggest they ask themselves why they want to be on a run that frightens them, because that’s fodder for some psychotherapy. It indicates that they have extra unspoken reasons for being there, and those reasons are not in line with their own internal assessment of what they are capable of. They need to think about that, find a better match between river and self, or improve their skills so they know they are a good match for that run. The crux is, they’re asking their paddling to take them someplace they don’t belong. It might be something for ego — to feel they belong on the Green, North Fork Payette, Yule Creek, Upper Cherry, or some other notorious run, so they strive to be a ‘member’ of what they see as the elite. Sometimes it’s driven by a sense of accomplishment, or of proving themselves — but none of those are necessarily good reasons for putting oneself in a life-threatening situation. If they start out doubting and fearful, then it is likely they will not be thinking clearly when the show is on, they will not be adequate team partners, and that is very likely to get them really scared, or hurt — or put their companions in danger as well. Be honest enough to accept fear, and be courageous enough to do something intelligent about it, instead of selfishly putting yourself and your teammates at risk. Bravado doesn’t cut it either. It’s just a half step from fear.
If you’re constantly dealing with fears and doubts, then there’s something seriously wrong with the way you are approaching the sport. Go out and do something easy and fun, Class III or easy Class IV at most. You should be getting satisfaction and joy out of the very act of paddling.