From mass hysteria to a single emotion.

Last weekend I spent an enjoyable afternoon at a rugby match. I went to watch Wrexham Crusaders, who I had taken rafting at the end of winter. I am no rugby fan and sat in the crowd to wait the game as a passive observer.

As the game progressed I was amazed that I got more and more engaged in following the interaction of players. Not just that but also how the spectators interacted with each other, strangers but for a common belief.

As the battle for possession moved from team to team and the ball passed left to right I could feel the masses of the crowd grow with adrenaline and be pushed and pulled by defeat. Throughout this time in the heat of the moment. In the shouts and moans from the crowd not a single obscenity was mentioned, no curse or oppressive comments. It was family viewing par excellence.

This brought me to the current crop of kayaking dvds online and to buy, along with the music that blasts from cars at each venue. Too much gangster rap, not the audio pleasantness one expects. Its hardly family centred. It alienates and keeps people away, is this what we want?

This is a slight detour, its not the part of the essay that we need to concentrate on, but is worth thinking about. The main crux is the euphoria as the ball was passed, how the spectator and emotions are moved along by the pace and the collected ambience of the surroundings. Spectators willing the side to win and the other to loose, but this is pure speculation and superstition, no cause and effect are correlated. Even if Wrexham made the move, the shouting, crossing of fingers etc are not the cause. Players skill is what matters the most and no amount of shouts from the terraces will change that, although the fans feel that the players owe them, they must explain the mistakes and do better for the fans next time around.

So how can this experience be filtered into the world of paddling. We are all alone when we make our journey on the flow. The skills we have learnt over the months and years become crystal and so we embrace our surroundings. The river bank is our stadium for experience. The flow and moves we make become formed as our comfort zone builds, the emotions that we can see as the spectator masses ‘are’ the individual. As a river runner we answer to no fans, no spectators. We are all that ever was, and all that ever will be. It only matters to us.

Is this a greater or lesser pressure, only the individual could tell, no scape goat to be pulled at the horns. We answer to our own questioning only. Our stadium is not filled with people ‘willing us to win’. The blossom of nature is the only chorus we have and that requires no post match debrief.

What is apparent at this point is the ‘person centered approach’ river running has no team as such. So why is it that after we run a river do we, at times, feel deflated like we have ‘let the side down’. I often hear this from my groups and from people on the river. For myself I have also been known to ‘beat myself up’, about a missed move, a stroke that wasn’t placed as I wanted and such. This is not why we paddle and we need a mechanism to halt the emotions that ‘tell us’ we are bad for making mistakes. We don’t have to answer to peers. Only our own happiness matters and I believe this is the joy of putting our self in nature. To be immersed in a place that we interpret, a place that asks nothing of us and expects nothing. Our stadium doesn’t expect a winner.

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