Come to Jesus Moments
Most of us have had at least one “Come to Jesus” sea kayaking experience. That watershed moment where your paddling life is “re-born”. Perhaps you were at death’s door either figuratively (sucking in aerated water while your boat is mercilessly “windowshaded” in a big wave) or literally (on a swim in the rough waters of Portes de Morts Passage on Lake Michigan), or both. Or more simply, you paddled outside of your club, or circle of kayaking mates and found out it was a big sea and you were a smaller fish than you realized.
These moments are crucial in every paddler’s progression. The awareness that you don’t know anything close to what you should know.
My “Come to Jesus” experience was as an instructor attending an update. There were no harrowing tales of high seas or epic rescues, but simply a trainer who was a better paddler and more knowledgeable than I’d known before. I had become gotten my paper three years prior to this update, admittedly undeserving of the level of the award earned. I had athleticism, leadership experience from other outdoor activities, ability to perform skills recently learned, common sense and rough water survival skills from a whitewater background (all good things to have). This allowed me to get a pass. Armed with a Level 4 certification, I had the false impression that I was truly at that level. Uninspired to learn further, I took my certification and put it to good use, leading trips on Lake Superior, in the Florida Everglades and even Alaska. I picked up new skills (self-taught) along the way, taught and lead quality trips/courses without incident. However, exposure to new thoughts and new ways of teaching created the awareness that my knowledge and level of skill as a paddler and teacher was not satisfactory (to me). This one experience has spurred what many paddlers could consider a lifetime of learning and betterment over the course of the past 6 years.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen paddlers come to this crossroad and go down the path of least resistance…satisfied to stay the same or even letting their seemed “failures” drive them away from the sport. Although regrettable, I don’t see this as the current trend in our sport. I see other paddlers who have achieved certification searching out opportunities to better themselves. This past year’s Gales Storm Gathering was the highest level of participant skill that I’ve ever witnessed at an event. Coaches from the west coast remarked that the Great Lakes were on par with level of coaching and skill as they witness back on their home turf.
Have you had a “Come to Jesus” moment? If, so… ”what was your watershed experience?” and “what have you done since that time?”