Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Tenzing Norgay effect

Everyone wants to be Tenzing Norgay. This is why I like sea kayaking. Confused? Good. Tenzing Norgay, was one of the first two people to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. He got there with Sir Edmond Hillary. Everyone wants to be that guy. You can't put on a backpack and not think 'hey, I wonder...' You know every male that has ever driven a car is pretty sure they could win the Indy 500. Everyone who has gone climbing at the indoor gym has dreamed of El Capitain. People like the image of the explorer. The person who does something no one has done before. I call this the Tenzing Norgay effect. The problem with the TNE as I will call it, is the risk involved. To go from the rock gym to El Cap is a pretty big undertaking. To go from Backpacking in the Sierras to climbing Everest is an even bigger undertaking - I think, having never climbed Everest. And that is why I like Sea kayaking. The TNE is very easy. You can get into a kayak and think, I could carry all my camping gear in this pretty easily. From Camping to long distance touring isn't that big of a difference. The next thing you know you are planning to paddle the Inside Passage from Skagway to Ketchikan.

That isn't to say it's easy to make those jumps, there are definite skills required, and somethings will only be learned from experience, But it is easier than climbing mountains, and for the most part significantly safer.

That is the beauty of Sea kayaking. It isn't a great leap. It is very easy to go to a store and buy a kayak, paddle and pfd, and go paddling. I mentioned this in my first post. It is also the problem. People think that because they don't perceive the need to get instruction, they don't ever do it. That is sea kayakings biggest hurdle. The number of people that tell me that 'they know how to kayak' because they have paddled once or twice, I can't count. It is sort of like saying I can cook eggs, so I know how to make a souffle. And while you can follow a recipe to make a souffle, isn't it better to get someone to teach you? To learn the tricks from a master?

Recently I had a conversation with my wife, and she told me that she spoke to someone who had seen this blog, and was at first very excited - as she had always wanted to try kayaking. But as she read she got very intimidated. This made me very sad, as it is the exact opposite of what I hope to accomplish. Kayaking is an easy sport to start, with a learning curve that isn't very steep. You can learn as much or as little as you want, but the important thing is that you get into a kayak. Once you get into a kayak, and experience the world from that perspective, fairly quickly you too will experience the Tenzing Norgay Effect.

On a side note, I planned a trip to do the inside passage as stated above in 2001, immediately after 9/11, at the time I lived in Lower Manhattan. I am still trying to make that trip happen, with my biggest problem being finding someone to paddle it with.


  1. Full confession: I'm the intimidated would-be kayaker. But lots of things are intimidating to me--at first. Riding on the back of a motorcycle scared me to no end. Then I tried it--and now I love going for a ride. I suspect it will be the same with kayaking.


  2. More people need to be willing to take the first step into things they think are daunting, but aren't so intense. I'm not a kayaker by any means, but I really dig the methods and style of teaching here.


  3. C - anytime you want to paddle, call me.

    Iain - Thanks.