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The river is a sage teacher.

Her lessons are revealed patiently by the current, but almost always resonate to life in the real world as well. One of the most profound things that the river has taught me is the notion of responsibility. Responsibility comes in many forms.

I am responsible for my paddling partners. When we slide into the river together, we are subconsciously looking each other in the eyes and saying, “I’ve got your back, and I know you’ve got mine.” While paddling, we are acutely aware of both our own well-being and that of our partners, because the stakes can be high. Over the years, I have felt the power of this relationship from both sides. My life has been saved by a friend, and I have paid that gift forward to others in their times of crisis. Both experiences are equally as powerful, and they somehow pave the way for deeper and more rewarding relationships off the river.

I am responsible for my own decisions and actions. When I decide to run a rapid, that is my decision, and mine alone. Once I paddle out of the eddy and commit, I am on my own, and must deal with what comes…the river (like life) is a one-way street. This actually makes us stronger people, because we learn to keep a level head in chaotic situations. In my experience, the most successful people are those who take responsibility for their mistakes and shortcomings, and don’t pass blame to other people. When I make a mistake on the river, I must acknowledge that I have made that mistake and scramble for plan B. I cannot blame that mistake on anyone else, because I alone am responsible for the decision to be in the rapid, and for my own paddling. The river does not accept excuses.

Winston Churchill said “the price of greatness is responsibility.” On the river and in life, we show what we’re truly made of in how we look out for one another, and how we deal with the chaotic times.

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CG_21 Photographer: Chris Gragtmans Location: Upper Cherry Creek, CA
CG_31 Photographer: Chris Gragtmans Location: Homathko River, BC
CG_51 Photographer: DragonflyLive.com Location: Nantahala River, NC
CG_61 Photographer: Nick Gragtmans Location: Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
CG_7-1 Photographer: Robin Betz Location: West Cherry Creek, CA
CG_4 Photographer: Chris Gragtmans Location: Homathko River, BC