Life Lessons of Outdoor Action Sports
Daniel Pavich // October 20, 2018
Daniel and Kincade Pavich Fooling Around In Yosemite
About a month ago, I was doing some mountain biking through Pocahontas state park in Virginia. Nothing crazy, just some fun single track trails through the woods that let you go as fast as you can pedal. While I was out riding on this random day of the week, it was one of those solo sessions where it’s just you and your thoughts. I got to thinking about the things that I have done and do for fun throughout my life which pretty much led me to outdoor adventure sports (as far as recreation goes). I then went off on a metaphorical trail that led me to think about how these have influenced who I am as a person and I started to realize just how pivotal some of these influences from outdoor adventure/action sports really are, whether it be mountain biking, dirt biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, skydiving, scuba diving, camping, etc etc the list goes on. I’m lucky enough to have had a motorcycle racer as a dad and a gymnast as a mom. Myself, my sister, and my brother were all taught to ride motorcycles at a young age, had trampolines and gym equipment in our barn, and were exposed to the outdoors at a young age. Other than just being fun, there are real things to be learned from these activities. Which leads me to:
Life Lessons Taught by Outdoor Adventure/Action Sports
- The first step is taking the first step. It is all too easy to see something that looks appealing to you, really interests you, and never act on it. I find that many of my friends and I tend to be “jacks of all trades” if you will when it comes to outdoor activities. Now I’m not saying we’re experts at all of these, but we can hold our own. That whole array of skill sets came from just going for it and taking that first step in whatever it was. Doing this repeatedly for things like various outdoor adventure sports (let’s call em OAS from now on), where the only real consequence of disliking it is not doing again makes you accustomed to trying new things. The vast majority of my friends have no problem taking a job in a random place, quitting a job to travel, studying whatever they choose, or just up and moving somewhere and I’m inclined to believe there’s a strong correlation between the two.
- You’re going to take the line you’re focused on. Anyone who’s involved in OAS knows this. Mountain bike, dirt bike, snowboard, etc, it’s all the same. When you’re cruising through a trail or down a hill things are going fast. Strangely enough life tends to go by fast. While you’re heading down that line, there’s a lot of obstacles in the way. Lots of trees you can hit, cliffs you can fall off, rocks that can stop you in your tracks. You know that they’re there, you can seem them in your peripheral vision, but you never focus on them because you’re keeping your eyes on the line that you want to take. Same goes for life. There’s all sorts of pitfalls along that way that can screw you up, but that’s not what you’re focused on. You don’t ignore them, you know they’re there, but you just stay focused on where you want to go and going there.
- You’re going to eat shit. As was just noted, there’s lots of obstacles. There’s going to be a few points along the way that get the better of you. Sometimes you’ll come out miraculously unharmed, and sometimes you’re headed to the hospital. If you go through life thinking you’re not going to eat shit at some point you’re setting yourself up wrong which follows into my next point:
- Know how to fall. You know you’re going to eat shit, so now when you find yourself in a situation where you know you’re going down adjust accordingly. I’m convinced I don’t get hurt more because my mom taught us how to fall when we were young. You don’t put your arms out, you don’t try to stop it, you go with it and try to redirect so that it works out better. You keep the momentum going smooth, try to tuck and roll, and avoid hitting something else. When you see you’ve screwed up somewhere in life, as soon as you recognize it you start making corrective action immediately, you don’t wait till you hit the ground. Are you going to be able to fix things completely right away? No. Are you going to do everything to stop things being as bad as they could have been? Yes, yes you are.
- Get back up and go again. There’s going to be a few bad falls in there, very potentially some injuries. That never stops you from going again. Especially if you’re uninjured. If you did something that scared you, you take a step back, analyze what you did, establish if what you were trying was feasible and try again. If you weren’t ready for what you were trying, you slow down and work your way up to it but you never stop. This goes for any line, jump, trail, trick, etc. If something doesn’t work out in life, you either try it again if you think you’re ready and it just didn’t work right, or you try a different approach and slowly work your way up to it.
- There’s certain things you just have to learn by doing. My favorite example of this is slacklining. Anyone’s who’s walked on a slackline knows that at first it’s hard as hell but then somehow, magically, becomes easy. Your body learns on its own through muscle memory exactly what it has to do in order to keep you balanced on that wobbly ass webbing tied between two trees. Are there certain tips people can give you to start? Sure. Put all your weight on the line at once, pick the point at the end of the line and look at it, etc. Someone can only tell you so much though before you just have to do it (see point #1). In life there’s lots of things that can be learned from other people, and I’m in no way saying that those things shouldn’t be learned, but there has to be a point where you say screw it I’m just going to figure this out and learn on my own.
- Skills grow on each other. The more you expose yourself to, the more you find that something else you’ve done makes learning something else much easier. This is why you shouldn’t limit your experiences. If something interests you take the opportunity to learn it, if someone asks you if you want to go do something and you’ve got nothing else going on go for it! It all just turns into experience.
- You’re going to get lost. Things may even be going to plan, and you have a pretty good idea of what’s going on and then next thing you know your buddy accidentally drops into a canyon you guys shouldn’t be in while canyoneering or you end up stuck out mountain biking till 2 in the morning. The only thing to do in these situations is stop, analyze, and try to fix it. You then make a decision and go with it. I’m still very young and I’ve already had a few points in my life where I’ve been momentarily “lost”. Trying to decide what the best thing to do is, which direction you want to go and where exactly that direction will take you. The only thing you can do is pause, clear your head, consider your options, make a decision and go.
- Doing things alone can be great, but doing things with friends is always great. I’ve done my fair share of activities on my own and it’s pretty much always fun. It’s a good way to clear your head, get out and go at your own pace. Doing things on your own is always nice, but doing things with your best friends has no compromise! It’s awesome having people there to push you, egg each other on and share the memories. Cherish the friendships and cherish the good times, and above else be a good friend.
- Pick your line and learn the trail. This one is only relevant to activities with a trail but it’s a big one. When you go to a new trail for the first time, you’re not going to know it. The first lap will feel kinda weird and won’t flow quite right. The more you hit it, the more you learn, the better lines you pick, the better it flows and the more fun it gets. Sometimes it actually just won’t be a good trail, but you need to give it a try. Apply to any new experience, class, job, etc.
- You don’t need the best gear to get good at something. I would actually argue the opposite when learning something. So many people get wrapped around having the best gear, but when you’re learning it’s not necessary. From my point of view, if you learn on shitty gear and get good, when you get good gear you’ll be that much better. There’s nothing better than having sub par gear and smoking people who have all the newest top notch stuff. Now once you’ve really gotten into something, then you start to actually know what you need (what you NEED often times isn’t the best) and that’s when it’s time to start making investments. In life you don’t need the best stuff to start, material or otherwise. Just start. You’ll get a good base and eventually you’ll end up with what you need.