It has been a rough week for everyone here in New England. A week ago, we lost a pillar of our boating community when Boyce Greer died on the North Fork of the Payette in Idaho. I didn't really know Boyce personally, although I had paddled Class V with him a couple of times. It's been especially hard on some of the guys who had paddled with him for as long as some of the young boaters on the scene have been alive.
When something like this happens, it really makes everyone take a step back and think about why we do the things we do. There are no easy answers to the nagging questions surrounding mortality and the dangerous sport we do. On Saturday, I took the three and a half hour drive to the Raquette River in New York with my friend Adam. He was supposed to be running the North Fork with Boyce that day. I can only imagine the pain for these guys who have paddled together for so long in the tight-knit community here in New England.
We talked a little about the philosophy behind why we paddle Class V and rattled off name after name of people we knew who died on the river. There is a sense of guilt that we all have when we do something dangerous and get a thrill out of it, and I'm sure this gets exponentially worse once you have a family. There's always that voice in the back of your mind saying: "maybe I really shouldn't be doing this."
There are no two ways about it: running Class V is dangerous. It can be scary. If it was easy and safe, everyone would do it. But it's not. It takes training, some athleticism, and more than a little grit. It is a crazy place to be out there on the edge pushing your abilities and keeping a calm head when you do it. But that's the point. Paddling difficult whitewater is about being alive. It is the most pure and true experience that I have ever known, and it has brought me more joy, pain, and satisfaction than anything else. So while it may be a little fringe to be out there running the hardest whitewater you think you are up to, it isn't crazy. It's life. And while we all need to be cognizant of the dangers and take care of each other on the river, we can't live our lives in fear.
As we stoically made our way to the river, we did what we always do: we went kayaking, and somehow things made a little more sense.
We'll miss you Boyce.
Matt Young below the Tubs on some pensive laps on the Raquette.