Valdez was Nuts: Overcoming Fear and Fast Water

When I think back on the conference trip to Valdez with 10 other outdoor enthusiasts from UAS, the moment that stood out to me was white water rafting. I had never been on a river raft before, and we were all dressed up and ready, me in my men’s large drysuit, to take on the class 3+ rapids. 

I was slightly terrified. I crave adventure on an extreme level so I knew that I would be able to find joy in this experience as long as I stayed in the right headspace. White water rafting in Valdez gave me the opportunity to face my fears, and I noticed a clear shift in my mentality in the middle of the rapids on the second run, after I learned I would survive on the first run. 

Mark Oldmixon, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor, was our raft captain, and we were going into the biggest of the rapids. He was leading us in and then missed the huge wave, and he apologized. That was when I realized our mission was to survive this unforgiving river and that we were trying to have fun while doing it. 

I very quickly became stoked, and I can’t wait to raft again. Recounting my white water rafting experience, I have remembered what my best friend’s aunt, extreme skier Kristen Ulmer, once told me – that I had to be intimate with my fear. Adventure and fear coexist. 

If you know no fear, then you do not know adventure. It’s incredibly important for outdoor extreme sport enthusiasts and for everyday people to embrace their fear, not to run from it. 

by Alyson Kenney,UAS Student

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