Why Whitewater Enthusiasts Are Great Global Citizens

All around the world there are beautifully scenic whitewater rivers. Similarly, all around the world, there are undeniably unique river people. From the Futelefu in Peru, to the Gauley in West Virginia, and all the way to the Ganges in Rishikesh, India; whitewater enthusiasts travel internationally to experience the best rivers. Throughout all of my adventures to competitions, whitewater festivals, guiding internationally, and simply just stopping by a river along my travels, there is one thing I see in common among the river folk; they make great global citizens.

Cross Cultural Connect defines a Global Citizen as “a person who recognizes that they have their own unique culture while respecting and valuing the diversity of others. They simultaneously acknowledge the interconnectivity of all humankind.” Kayakers, canoeists, shredders, creature crafters (is that what they like to be called?) and all walks of whitewater lovers tend to make some of the best examples of global citizens, and here’s why:

Pillow Rock on the Gauley River, West Virginia. Gauley Fest 2022. Photo by Mark Armistead

They are open-minded and inviting: Let’s face it, whitewater people can get pretty weird. However, one thing I seldom see is hatred toward others. “Put in” and “take out” points of rivers are generally some of the most welcoming places I have ever been. Individuals from all backgrounds come together for one commonality, their love for the river.  Professional river guides must take into account how different cultures learn and respond to teaching in order to have a successful descent. Even off the river, I have seen (and experienced) many boaters open their homes to traveling kayakers, no matter where they are from. They understand that (other than a great run) boaters need shuttles, showers, access to a washing machine, food, and a phone to call home every now and then. Since many have been in the same situation as the boater visiting, they tend to be more empathetic toward the traveler’s wants and needs. 

Gorge Canyon, Upper Colorado River.
Photo by Mark Armistead

They are willing to help others regardless of culture: Whenever someone is stuck on a rock, pinned against a bridge, or getting worked in a hole, people of whitewater will do whatever is in their means to help (unless it’s Gauley Fest, then there is usually some cackling, filming, and even friendly sabotaging before it’s time to step in…but that is a different article).

If someone is in danger or just in a stressful situation. Swiftwater experts of all kinds will step up to help another, regardless of their culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender. They recognize that all people on the river are simply trying to have a safe and enjoyable experience. 

They care about the environment: A clean river is a happy river and a happy river hosts happy boaters. Not only for the simple reason of wanting to receive a clean line or even a possible beatdown in clean whitewater but different tourist towns depend on healthy rivers in order to be economically successful. Whitewater organizations throughout multiple countries unite volunteers to create cleaning trips and take action to keep rivers from pollution. Even the American Whitewater Association worked with government officials to explain the impacts and changes that the Clean Water Act would have on rivers and surrounding communities.  When passionate people get together, real action and positive outcomes can be made regarding the global issue of polluted water.

Pocono Whitewater river clean-up trip. Photo provided by Sierra Fogal

In conclusion, whether they recognize it or not, the majority of all river enthusiasts are prime examples of global citizens. They welcome all walks of life to experience the thrills of nature while being open-minded to people of different backgrounds. Experienced guides and boaters acknowledge the interconnectivity of all humankind when it comes to having a positive and safe adventure on the water. They are willing to help complete strangers if it is within their means. Lastly, they work together to protect their sacred work and play environments. When we step back to see the bigger picture, we can see that global citizens truly make a difference in this world, even if it just feels like we are trying to have a good time and protect what we love. Check out some more global citizens in action on the CCC website!

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