The Art Of Stoke And The Objectivity Of Danger

For the past few weeks, I had planned to write about one of my favorite topics: stoke. In our climbing, boating, and glorious gonzo outdoor community, stoke abounds, squeezing into every nook we cram our bodies in, every wave train in which we thrash gloriously about, every powder basin we drop into expectantly. This can be a beautiful thing. I never tire of people telling me they embody this excitement. The stoke is ferocity and friend, allowing you to live beyond capacity; to reach your preconceived limits and bravely step beyond.

Outside of our sometimes too-insulated outdoor community, stoke is a once-a-year word. Here in Bogotá, I gleefully took on the challenge of spreading the stoke, both in word and action. Stoke is a choice to be excited, to get up, to say yes. There are times to rest and times to dig deep, and stoke gives you the freedom for both: you can be equally as stoked for your rest day with brunch and a nap as you are for your summit bid, complete with dehydrated noodles for sustenance.

Thriving in outdoor environments, in the beauty and harshness of our planet, is my biggest joy. However, this can also bring injury, pain, and uncertainty. Injury inflicted because of time spent in natural resources transcends physical pain and can too easily embed itself in our psyches. The repercussions of a fall I took in 2012 in Grand Canyon still emulate in my corporeal, mental, and emotional self. Though the fear-tension-pain cycle has been most widely studied in childbirth, I have had to work past it as I engage in activities that involve falling. Some, like cliff jumping, I refuse to do. Others, like lead climbing, have been a continual process to break the barrier of fear.

The objectivity of danger is in every part of life. As we often tell people before river trips, the most dangerous part of the whole experience is the drive to and from the put-in and take-out. And yet, my hands still shake when scrambling up heights above raging water.

I want to be here to embrace my life to the fullest, not a life mastered by fear. I want you to be here with me, too. Safety is an objective term. Evaluating risk comes with experience, communication, and honesty. Check your knot. Buckle your PFD. Stay around so we can share more stoke.

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