Some Sunday Thoughts: When to Say No

Thank goodness my tooth broke my fall! God only knows how much worse it could have been. All joking aside, the situation in hindsight is actually a pretty scary one. After successfully rescuing a boat for a swimmer on a surgy 200% day on the Green, I was knocked over by said boat and another rescuer to then run the next ledge upside down pinned to my back deck. I’ll spare the details of what went on next, but the quick of it was, I landed directly off the ledge on to my face. I’m lucky my wife still thinks I’m handsome, but I think she’s just being nice. This isn’t a sympathy post. I actually hate sympathy in these moments. I’d rather learn from them. In fact, once I got over the shock of the situation, I immediately got in my head about what I could have done differently.

The reason why I am writing this now is not to debate back deck rolls, full faces, or what’s the best way to protect yourself in those scenarios. I have already run all of those scenarios through my mind, and nothing really makes the weird predicament any better and by and large doesn’t change my overall philosophy on those subjects. I will be wearing my mouth guard I bought myself over a year ago, that’s for sure. What’s changed is determining when to let someone’s shit just float downstream and not put yourself at additional risk. I did everything right until I didn’t.

I’m a staunch advocate for boat based rescue, and I would argue, very good at those types of rescues. Years of teaching has basically programmed me to position myself on the river to best effect a rescue by boat for others in my group. I have also predictably put myself at greater risk by providing these rescues and until now come through relatively unscathed. I feel a bit of a paradigm shift coming for me. This is one of the reasons why I felt the need to take a year off and maybe permanently from providing adventure travel guiding. Because of my skills, I am often looked at as being the cushion for a lot of groups and as a result, groups make hasty decisions.

No, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done the exact same thing in hindsight after the swim, but I certainly would have been sure that as a group we would have made a better plan for if things went south. In hindsight, we made no group decision for another paddler’s ambitious goal and as a result, largely, were unprepared and instead had to react quickly to the escalating situation. We gave ourselves no time; climaxing into an unforeseeable and unfortunate outcome. A LOT of groups operate this way and I know better.

If we make choices individually it still has a group effect. I had the ability to maybe suggest a prudent pause but I had a lapse in judgment myself and in those particular instances, you have to know that things could have a possible negative outcome.

So what have I learned? Slow down, think clearly, and sometimes it’s ok to say no to chasing the boat. All of these things I profess in a classroom setting but so easily forgot this go around. Glad for an outcome this time that wasn’t much worse.

A side note: I wanted to start an exercise this year of writing weekly thoughts on philosophy, technique, industry, etc. I had no intention of having such a profound start. I would gladly boat with the group I boated with again. It was a new one for me and maybe one of the reasons why I wasn’t so outspoken. I’m a bit rusty at being a part of a group as opposed to being the lead in a group which is inherent in our classroom work.

Regardless, I look forward to providing some weekly insight into my world this year. I hope you find it useful and entertaining. Feel free to reach out for any feedback you may have! Next week will be the post I had originally intended.

So what are your thoughts on this? Leave some feedback below as we appreciate and welcome different points of view!

8 thoughts on “Some Sunday Thoughts: When to Say No”

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for sharing this!
    I think we can all benefit from being more thoughtful about downside potential, and seek to step up the risk mitigation.

    John Mattox

  2. Glad you’re safe. Lydia sees what most of us see. Nice encouragement to prepare for possible bad outcomes, not to hope it will always be fine. Going over a ledge upside down is such a vulnerable thing. I enjoy reading about the pressures you feel in your different roles and groups. I haven’t taken on greater river risk because of your presence, but I can understand how you would experience that and feel that way.

  3. Concise, and honest …. I truly enjoy the pictures you paint as you express yourself…. Our primitive brain (Amygdala) store all our survival instincts…. It appears you have inserted the NEED to help others and are coming to terms with this…. “To Reflect is to Become”…. Peace

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