Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sport and risk















This week we had an interesting discussion within our kayaking association. It centred on the possibility we might be unwittingly promoting risk taking behaviour by publishing photos that depicted kayakers close to icebergs. I think some of my shots and others, may have led to a review and subsequent club disclaimers. There were some who felt the association should not publish any photos of kayakers who appear to be near icebergs.
This recent debate caused me to reflect on my own photo taking - was the risk too great?
I didn't think so at the time. And I don't think so now.
An interview I heard some time ago suggested risk taking sports served a positive sociocultural good. Examples included horseback riding, motorcycle riding, scuba diving, and judo. The expert didn't mention seakayaking per se but I expect he would include it in the list, since sea kayaking is something everyone can learn.
While you can have degrees of risk - when a sport is inherently risky to start with, picking out a particular aspect of sport that might be more risky is a bit like splitting hairs.
In sea kayaking - once you leave the beach everything after that is a risk.



In this still from Will Gadd's Aweberg contribution at the Banff Film Festival he pushes the boundaries in order to make his film. Compared to his other climbs in the rockies and elsewhere, I would expect the technical skill to actually climb the iceberg is probably quite low, but the adventure interest is quite high. He was wearing a lifejacket.




In other sports - coaches and administrators make great efforts to manage the risk by educating all the participants, conducting courses and establishing some limits. In judo, competitors can be eliminated from a tournament - not just penalized, by carrying out a high risk move that can harm either an opponent or themselves. Yet, armlocks, chokes and all other throws within the international curriculum are acceptable.


What could be more risky than a hockey player not wearing an eye visor and then sliding in front of a slapshot?

Or in lacrosse, standing in front of a high powered shot from a running foreward.

If an organization provides education, training, safety seminars and skill development, they have done everything they can and need to do. People know they need thermal protection to paddle in the north atlantic but on those blistering hot days we know folks will and do wear only a sun/paddle shirt. That becomes their choice. People make choices all the time: not wearing a helmet in surf conditions, paddling on exposed coasts, paddling alone, paddling near whales and numerous other
common scenarios all of which involve more risk than the already risky sport of kayaking on the ocean.

It all seems relative to personal choice and your internal psyche - for a glimpse into what I think is a truly risky adventure sport - check out the film 20 seconds of Joy. This is an intrigueing glimpse of a norwegian female Base jumper and her sport experiences, including how and when her base jumping career came to a sudden halt changing her whole life.

8 comments:

Brian Newhook said...

Excellent commentary Michael, I agree with everything you said. It was my photo that caused this stir.... I thought it was an amazing photo worth sharing with everyone.

michael said...

I suspected yours was the proverbial straw I had one entered a couple of months back that might have got folks thinking. I thought your entry was very deserving - congratulations.

Brian Newhook said...

Yes, I remember that photo you submitted, it was a great shot.

Icebergs really make people nervous it seems.

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