What Not To Do / Adventure Sports  / What Not To Do When Pursuing Adventure Sport
James P Nolan - Planing an expedition

What Not To Do When Pursuing Adventure Sport

Adventure Sports. What are they? And what are they not? Well to begin they are not sport’s full of adrenaline junkies as many people wrongly believe. Adventure sports is a category of sports that are perceived, and I stress the word perceived, to be sports that are high risk. However, if done right these sports can be lower risk than driving your car. So, for anyone that finds themselves taking an interest in adventure sports or would like some life lessons gleaned from falling down mountains and swimming over waterfalls, here are some things to not do on your journey.

Don’t run before you can walk

Adventure sports like many sports take skill, and skill takes time to develop. The more skill you have, the more you can get away with. The consequences of not having the skills can range from a bruised ego too much worse. That’s why you shouldn’t do what I did. Don’t run before you can walk.

When I began whitewater kayaking, I was very fortunate to get a job working for an adventure travel company in India. Our base was right next to some of the most popular whitewater on the Ganges River and as a result two of my friends convinced me I should bring my kayak. That was a good decision. However, a bad decision was consistently throwing myself at harder and harder whitewater without having one of the fundamental skills of a kayaker. The ability to ‘roll’ or right a kayak.

Had I simply put in more time before this, I would have saved myself a lot of bruises, bad swims and negative experiences, that ultimately slowed my progression overall. Don’t do what I did and negate to polish fundamental skills before tackling bigger challenges.

Don’t go it alone

One of my favourite things about adventure sports is also the most valuable. The people. Find good people to help you during your journey and don’t forget to return the favour. I have had the luxury of having some great mentors and friends that have supported me in my journey, either by helping develop essential skills, or to help get me out of some sticky situations. However, this wasn’t always true and there were times when I purposely decided to go it alone. Don’t do this. The disadvantages far outweigh the benefits.

It might surprise some, but a solo multi-day trekking trip alone in a remote section of the Himalayas can actually be quite enjoyable. The freedom, solitude and challenge were things that all drew me to the choice to go it alone. Half-way through my trip I found myself stuck. The bridges I was supposed to cross had been washed away in a storm and I could see no other possible route forward. I had to turn back. Luckily, I bumped in to two local men shortly after this decision. They were aware of the bridges and knew of another way up a side valley and over quite a substantial peak. They guided me and even fed me. Without them I would have never completed my trek and would have been forced to make the multi-day trip back the way I came.

This is why you should never go it alone. Even if you find support just in the form of advice from someone who knows the route forward, you are always stronger than when you are alone. Therefore, don’t go it alone. Don’t pursue your goals without mentors. Don’t pursue your goals without friends for support. Don’t pursue your goals without the advice of those who can guide the way.

Don’t forget to practice for when it goes wrong

Adventure sports do involve a degree of risk. How much risk you take is up to you. However, things don’t always go to plan and you have to deal with the results. How you react and what you do at this crucial time can be the difference between a small hiccup and a really big mess. Don’t forget to practice for when this happens.

I learned this lesson the hard way when a friend had a nasty swim while kayaking on a river in Europe. He had cut open his hand, had become separated from most of his equipment and was relying on me to pick up the pieces. My failing? I hadn’t practiced my rescue skills enough. I was slow to rescue his equipment, slow to get to him and slow to get him what he needed from our first aid kit. The whole process took far longer than it should and during this time he was only getting colder and more in pain as the adrenaline began to wear off.

It was a valuable lesson and one I thankfully learned during what was only a minor incident. If it had been a lot more serious, those precious seconds or minutes could make a very big difference to the ultimate outcome. Don’t do what I did, don’t forget to practice for when things go wrong. Adventure sports can be risky, but only if you don’t come prepared.


You will make mistakes when taking part in adventure sports. This is a certainty. If you didn’t people would never learn and you would never grow. However, the good news is you can learn from other people’s mistakes. So be sure to learn from my failures, go have some failures on your own and when you do, please tell everyone all about them so we too can learn what you learned.

Top Tip

Don’t forget to have fun.

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