The story of The Flow
Our founder and curator, Tim, on the essential connection revealed by our latest deep read.
"The main injury we get is guys dislocating their shoulder", was the cheery warning from my canoe instructor whilst taking my British Canoe Union Three Star as a teenager in the 80's.
Apparently, it was not uncommon for guys (definitely in the masculine) to injure themselves trying to muscle their way out of heavy whitewater.
It's a neat analogy for the predominant outdoor pursuits mindset at the time, a sort of misplaced macho swagger which prioritised strength, conquest and dominion.
Books like Tom Patey's One Man's Mountains and John' Lofty' Wiseman's SAS Survival Handbook were stalwarts of my bookshelves. But don't judge me; just a teenage boy awash with testosterone and enthusiasm for any outdoor activity that wasn't a team sport.
Like many, I rediscovered my passion for the great outdoors later in life, having drifted away from the outdoors in my later youth. When I levered myself over the mantle of the big four zero, I knew it was time to return, propelled by a different energy.
The author Amy-Jane Beer was herself a keen kayaker until a tragic accident caused the death of a close friend, pushing her out of the water entirely for a spell. The story of rediscovering her love of time spent by, on, in and under the fresh running water is documented in The Flow, a wonderful reflection on our place in nature's grand scheme.
Returning to the river many years later, she realises how much she misses her watery bond and so begins a new phase of exploration and reconnection.
Amy-Jane and I both share that same measure of love; lost then rediscovered. Perhaps it is the perspective provided by our time away that highlights there is something more at stake here than mere personal wellbeing; the future of the planet is at stake.
As Amy-Jane notes, immersion changes people.
It reconnects us.
And, in a world that has lost its way, reconnection is the bond that will save us.
Fortunately, we are experiencing a bloom in new ways to engage with the great outdoors as wild swimming and paddleboarding explode in popularity. A new generation is rediscovering the joys of time spent slowly soaking in the natural world rather than feeling the urge to triumph in some way.
And this isn't just benefitting them individually; when their collective eye happens upon the injustices humankind is committing against our waterways, increasing sewage discharges and rising levels of plastic pollution, their fresh connection can compel them to act.
Amongst the many magical meanders Amy-Jane takes in her book, the transformation of recreational adventurers into recreational activists is perhaps the most hope-filled.
It's a topic we'll delve deeper into in conversation with Amy-Jane, along with authors Jo Moseley and Sara Barnes and activists from the Ilkley Clean River Group, at a live panel during the Alpkit Ilkley Adventure Festival - a fringe event of the Ilkley Literature Festival.
Tickets for the event, on the evening of 27th October, are on sale now.
The Flow features in our Deep Ink subscription in September and October. Deep Ink adds features a deep read every two months, in addition to our monthly Adventurous Ink books, and is ideal for those looking to discover more as they explore their life through the great wide open.