Monday, February 21, 2011

Use your gear!

The Book Across the Bay came off very nicely on Saturday night. Gale force winds had blown the registration tent down the day before and then cranked up again on Sunday, clocking a max of 67mph on the Blatnik bridge in Duluth. There was no snow on the course as late as Friday morning due to the warm week preceding the race but volunteers had a nice track down by the 6pm start Sunday night. I had one of my better races, finishing in the first 300 or so out of 2,267 registered participants and still felt pretty good at the end. A flat course is very friendly to tall, 220# guys. Hauling that weight up even small hills can be problematic. I crossed the line, was harassed by the PA announcer, my crony RawhidePhil, and took my skis off and started heading for the beer tent. Almost immediately I was accosted by three women in ski 'outfits' who asked to inspect my skis. I was somewhat puzzled as they pored over my skis in the fire light until one of them told me, "These don't look too bad other then some scratches on the top and the base looks fine. I was afraid to use my good skis because I was sure the ice would scratch them all up".

I've encountered this gear preservation attitude in almost every sport I've been involved in. I know guys who won't walk through the thick brush (where the birds are) for fear of a scratch on the stock of their shotguns. Many skiers are content to ski on a pair of crappy skis when conditions aren't perfect (their 'rock skis'), and we all know kayakers who would prefer to get wet up to their waists rather than run the bow of their beloved fiberglass boat up on rocks, or even sand. I am sure that there is a wide spectrum of attitudes, from the types who purchase things and leave them in the original package with hopes of selling them for big bucks in the future, to the 'run it like you don't have a penny in it' types. I tend to lean toward the latter and the majority of my gear has that 'comfortable' look. Gear is made to be used and I think its hard to concentrate on the techniques of the activity a person is engaged in if the worrying specter of dents and scratches is lurking somewhere in the back of the mind. There is also a safety component involved. If you contort in order to avoid a rock or small bare spot on a ski run or choose kayak landing spots based upon what it easiest on your precious hull, you are going to be in trouble at some point. Resale value of the gear can certainly be affected but what's the value of the 'opportunity cost' that was lost due to babying the gear? There are extremes on the abuse end and I have a long time friend that I wouldn't buy a used anvil from. My Valley Aquanaut HV, the beloved Ore Freighter, has some extra fiberglass and gel coat on it due to exuberant paddling but its structurally solid as a rock and paddles like a dream. Are we worried about cosmetics or function?

There are products that are made for and invite abuse. My canvas Filson chaps and jacket are made to bull through thorn thickets, blackberry patches, and other woodland environments that would leave GoreTex or fleece garments in shreds. Both the BadHatter and FrugalFisherman refuse to consider fiberglass kayaks because their motto when landing on any beach is, "Accelerate to ramming speed!, an enviable strategy when attempting to negotiate a cobble beach on Superiors north shore in the surf.

I guess the point of this post is to be concerned about what you are doing and not what's going to happen to your gear. That should have been thought out before you made your purchase, and your gear should be suitable to the conditions you expect to play in. I will have to admit that the women inspecting my skis would have had a different conclusion a couple years back. I was attempting to pass a guy and ran straight into a luminary that had been extinguished. For all my supportive friends who wondered what kind of dumb ass could run into a luminary, its kinda hard to see a 5 gallon pail sized block of clear ice in the dark. I broke my binding but some Super Glue therapy made it almost as good as new. If the same thing had happened this year to my 'good' skis would I have been pissed? Damn straight, but I still have the Super Glue. So push the envelope a bit people, there is lots of gear out there to replace that which has been compromised. You will find an amazing sense of freedom when you run your sporting gear like you drive a rental car.


Anonymous said...

Well said! These items are nothing more than tools for our enjoyment, and tools should be used and enjoyed, not worried over. That being said, a little care and maintenance does go a long way.

Keel strips were invented for a reason...

Nan said...

If a person keeps protecting his or her good gear so it never wears out, doesn't that make it rather difficult to have an excuse to go shopping for replacements? I'm with you; stuff is made to be used.

Besides, isn't it a lot more logical (and safer) to use the best gear you've got when the conditions are the roughest? People are strange.