Whitewater is best enjoyed by doing it well\n\n\n\nDon\u2019t get me wrong: I enjoy a quality aquatic spectacle (beatering). And I\u2019m a firm believer that if you aren\u2019t occasionally making mistakes \u2014 on the river or in life \u2014 then you probably aren\u2019t trying very hard. But somewhere along the lines, shit kinda got out of hand, and frankly, some of y\u2019all are starting to sketch me out.\n\n\n\nCarnage has always been a part of whitewater paddling. It is the inevitable result of humans choosing to challenge themselves amid the forces of nature. Since the inception of the sport, mistakes, experiments, and bad luck have all led to bad swims. It has long been accepted by both beginners and elite level paddlers that we are all \u201cbetween swims.\u201d\n\n\n\nBut how and when did those swims become glorified?\n\n\n\nOn any given day on the river, you\u2019re likely to find at least one person in any group with a Go-Pro strapped to their head. The ubiquity of the personal \u2018gnar cam\u2019 coupled with the \u2018look at me!\u2019 culture of social media has created a version of reality where people are sharing their own carnage for the sole purpose of getting attention.\n\n\n\nAnd it works.\n\n\n\nPost a video of yourself running a rapid well and you\u2019ll get a few likes (as well as that comment from Aunt Martha, who is both amazed and frightened by your fearless \u201cwhitewatering.\u201d) But post a heinous video of you getting stuck in a hole and having the swim trunks sucked off your body, and the crowd goes wild!\n\n\n\nSuddenly, instead of 43 likes from your high school friends, you\u2019ve got 14 shares, hundreds of \u201clikes\u201d (because, sadly, Facebook doesn\u2019t have an iconographic that quite represents: \u201cWow, that was sketchy and it\u2019s amazing you\u2019re alive!\u201d), and a slew of comments in each of the paddling groups where it was shared.\n\n\n\nCongratulations, your mishap has gotten a lot of attention. Who doesn't love attention?\n\n\n\nThis brings us to the rise of beatering.\n\n\n\nAs the \u201cfeel-good\u201d effects of likes and shares on social media have taken root in our neurology and psychology, we are tricking ourselves into thinking that what gets us attention\u2014any and all attention\u2014is cool. We have collectively tricked ourselves and each other into thinking that beatering is cool.\n\n\n\nThe idea of beatering started as just a label on someone else\u2019s mishaps: \u201cCheck out this video\u2014Joe was beatering hard.\u201d\n\n\n\nFrom there, it became a label applied not just to one's mishaps, but directly to that person: \u201cJoe got trashed at Super Scary Falls again. He\u2019s such a beater!\u201d Or: \u201cLook at me, I beatered hard today.\u201d\n\n\n\nWhitewater has a slim margin of error. Mistakes, hubris, bad luck, and\/or poor decision making can lead to severe injuries and death. If the \u2018beatering is cool\u2019 mentality persists, we are likely to see a parallel increase in both Facebook likes and paddling-related memorial services.\n\n\n\nPutting on the river with an "It's okay to beater" mentality puts everybody around you at risk. When you find yourself teetering on rocks at the mouth of a sieve, your crew is now at risk as they scramble on wet rocks or paddle into sketchy terrain to try to save your ass. I, for one, don\u2019t appreciate that. I, for one, don\u2019t think it\u2019s cool.\n\n\n\nTo be clear: My issue is not with making mistakes. My issue is with the mentality behind the decisions leading to those mistakes. I\u2019ve made my share of mistakes on the river. I\u2019ve been roped out of some shit. I\u2019ve crashed plenty. On the river, I play around, experiment, and try moves that I\u2019m not sure will work \u2013 and sometimes, they don't.\n\n\n\nBut there is a difference between approaching whitewater with a \u201cself-growth\u201d mentality versus a \u201cbeater\u201d mentality. The former leads to self-knowledge and conscious risk assessment. The latter leads to getting in over your head and the increased likelihood of injury to yourself and others. If you\u2019re constantly pushing your limits while relying on others to pick up the pieces, you are putting both yourself and your crew at risk.\n\n\n\nWhitewater is best enjoyed by doing it well. Instead of relying on external stimuli such as likes and shares to feel good about the sport, we should be cultivating our own internal reward system as we grow towards improvement and mastery. As individuals, we should be striving to understand our true motivations, and the ways societal factors (like social media and the desire for attention) can warp our risk assessment.\n\n\n\nAs members of the paddling community, we should be aware of the effects of rewarding others with our attention. When we see that other members of our community are making poor decisions instead of giving them likes, we can be generous enough to engage them in honest conversation expressing our concerns.\n\n\n\nWhitewater is a unique sport in that it is individual- and team-based at the same time. We make our own decisions about putting on, and when it\u2019s time to pull out of the scouting eddy, we are on our own. As a paddler, I highly value the sense of autonomy that comes from being in my own boat. And yet, at each moment, at every stroke, running parallel to that experience is the reality that as soon as something goes wrong, whitewater becomes a team activity. We take responsibility for each other on the river.\n\n\n\nAs a community, it is no different: Just as we have each other\u2019s backs on the river, off the river we are responsible for how our actions affect one another as well. The reality is that these two things\u2014our on- and off-the-river decisions\u2014cannot be teased apart. Our actions off the river influence the choices made on the water. If we want to encourage and experience safe, sustainable and enjoyable participation in the sport, as members of this community, it is up to each of us to recognize the consequences of our actions and to help shape our culture in a way that keeps our charc in the good flow.