Why we do this – the three types of fun

So I really try to focus on type I fun. I’m more of a fair weather paddler than I used to be. I try to paddle streams that are within my ability that are scenic. Paddling with friends and relatives is a plus. The trick is not to get overly complacent with this type of paddling. If type 1 fun is a little boring, you can always paddle backwards or with your eyes shut to make it more interesting. Taking advantage of play features, hand paddling, and catching eddies without paddlestrokes can keep it interesting.

Type 2 days are on streams that demand your full attention. Out of your comfort zone, there is usually a mental aspect with lots of ongoing risk assessment. Sometimes type 2 days involve navigational errors or the actual conditions encountered are a good bit different than what was expected.

Type 3 days- the first thing that comes to mind is being ill. There have been a few days I should have stayed home and rested but paddled anyway. Truly miserable. Other “suffering needlessly” days include a lot of portaging and very little paddling. I’ve had a few “beater days” and a couple of near misses- make for great stories and a great example of what not to do. There are a lot of streams I’ve gotten to the takeout and thought, “one and done”. The truth is, that as I age out, that there many streams that I used to routinely paddle that I no longer even consider paddling. Another type of paddling that approaches type 3 is the “overly long day”. You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you just want to get to the takeout. In general, I try to avoid the sensation of not making any progress (short boat on a big body of water where the scenery doesn’t change).

In terms of instruction- it should be fun. I like paddling, so if you are making it unfun, then that’s really on the attitude of the teacher. You don’t have to tear people down to teach paddling. As somebody that lacks technical skills, I’ve been the weak link in all of my instructor training classes. I really appreciate constructive criticism that is specific and helps you address a skill gap. None of that bothers me. I know I suck at some stuff. Chris and Lydia Wing, Robin Pope, and Scott Fisher are all great at being constructive.

I did take one class that felt very evaluative. Unfortunately, the criticism wasn’t always productive. In other words, it is not enough to tell someone they suck, you’ve got to be able to tell them how to fix the issue. Even in that situation, I learned things but “fun” isn’t how I describe that particular weekend. In many ways, I am an instructor’s nightmare. I have plenty of ingrained bad habits. I own it and attempt to get better.

Packing mules and horses, backpacking, river trips.
In many ways it is all the same. If no one got killed or seriously hurt, no animals were killed and the busted boats were fixed enough to get home.

1 Like

Telling someone they suck is not teaching, but it is the mark of incompetent teachers and charlatans.

I guess I’m categorically challenged. If I had to categorize fun, I’d go orthogonal. Something like silly fun, exhilarating fun, accomplishing something fun, and being part of a group fun. To me no fun is not a category.

I read somewhere that Billy Squier was Arena Rock. Curious, I looked up rock genres in wiki and there are dozens that start with just the letter A. That’s just plain gratuitous overcategorization.

My favorite article so far on the topic is one about “productive leisure”.

Type II fun I suppose would be like a hobby that takes significant effort and that one improves at over time. The reward is not just momentary pleasure as in type I but a sense of accomplishment and growth (had likely with type II experiences) that ties it all together.

A couple of parts I found interesting. First I believe is about collecting experiences in order to feel that we’ve made the most of life and have the scars and memories to prove it.

Anat Keinan, a business professor at Boston University, coined the idea of the “experiential CV”: an extended résumé filled not with work experience but with life experience. In her research, she’s found that people who measure their self-worth by their productivity are inclined to spend their leisure time seeking “collectible experiences,” trying, essentially, to build up résumés that prove they are interesting people.

I can relate to this idea, where I fill up time with things that are type 1 fun, but they don’t feel like things that anyone will be interested in or impressed by. I don’t think that needs to matter, but in a competitive culture where getting ahead can be thought of as one of the key goals, having the type II experiences to tell stories about can add to our sense of self-worth and identity. Then we can feel like oh I’m just wasting away my life laying around or staying in my safe zone, even if it’s pleasurable.

They [hobbies] also help us build a sense of self outside of paid work. People tend to consider their hobbies to be a big part of their identity—you’re not just someone who runs, you’re a runner. But “we don’t get much identificational mileage out of telling people that we just dig the TV and we watch it all the time, or that we go to the pub every night and have a pint,” Stebbins told me. “It’s not distinctive. Everybody does it, and in the end, you haven’t much to show for it.” I asked Stebbins if he thinks serious leisure is a requisite ingredient for a meaningful life, and he said yes.


Interesting article - thanks.

This is definitely true in whitewater circles - shuttle trips are filled with war stories about the rivers and rapids that people have run. I recently signed up for a class III step-up program in NH. Part of my motivation was easing back into more challenging rivers in a structured way, but the opportunity to add some new NH rivers to my “collection” was also a big draw for me.

No doubt - we are all “paddlers”. Then you get down to “I’m an open boater” or “I’m a kayaker”, or “I’m a sea kayaker”, or “I’m a whitewater paddler”. So many ways to classify ourselves.

1 Like

That last quoted paragraph ignores the fact that watching TV or going drinking as a “hobby” are passive activities. They require almost no thought and definitely no skill. There is no progress involved unless you count being able to watch or drink higher quantities, neither of which most people consider accomplishments.

I always thought it was weird how someone would boast about having ridden x-thousand miles…on a motorcycle. Not a bicycle. While operating a motor vehicle requires some skill, it just doesn’t match cycling, hiking, running, x-c skiing, swimming, paddling, etc for the Braggable Miles factor.

1 Like

Kind of late to the party. But I wouldn’t call type 3 “fun”. It may be “learning experience” but in my view doesn’t fit into “why we do it”.

No why I do it anyway.