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Facing Fears with Friends

Written By | Sarita Kay 

How do we measure success? Is there a unit, or gauge? I’ve been exploring this idea while pondering paddling winters in Colombia and more nebulous thoughts, and while there’s yet to crystallize a formula, I believe I’ve found two key elements. We have support from others, building us up and making space for our missteps, and we have our own determination, alone in a kayak as we are in the universe of the mind.

Photo | Lorena Bacolla

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Colombia, an enchanted land of endless horizons and hidden waterfalls, of generous loving people and horses swaying to vallenato on a Saturday night. The rivers are many, and mostly warm, replete with toucans, monkeys, and occasional gold-miners. Nearby our hometown of Cocorná, Antioquia, rivers tend towards the steep and sieve-y, and I remember my first year there as an eye-opening experience. “Stepping it up” is made possible by the buena onda of paddlers worldwide, be it longtime friends or newer ones—those who will lend you gear, paddle easier sections with you, or forgo the big line to show you down the suaver one. Thank you, Cali Collective and Freak’n Creek’n! That boost can also come in simpler forms, be it a smile, a hug, a knowing glance, or a few kind words.

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Our internal motivation is less easily quantified. We are varying and adaptable beings before an unfixed world, and our accomplishments will look different, too. Back in Cocorná, we were out on a low-water Río Calderas with visiting friends when I pinned twice, successively. I felt crushed and humiliated and figured that I should cut my losses and take out early. When we stopped for a snack, I thought about what I was afraid of, and, given my skill set, what I should do. I decided to continue downstream, and it was a great day. While far from my cleanest run on the river, it felt like no small victory to have overcome my self-doubt at that moment.

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

A wing-suiting friend has said, “Comparison is death,” and while it may sound dire, I’m starting to understand what he means. We can only be measured against ourselves, as we are. There will forever be new challenges to face, and mistakes to be made; sometimes the better move will be to walk away. So we savor our successes, fortified for the future.

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

Photo | Bob Frederick

Photo | Lorena Bacolla 

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