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Get Out Of Your Outdoor Adventure Bubble

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) Colin shares with you his adventure muse.

The inspiration of Colin's outdoor adventure life isn't a trail, mountain or body of water. It's ice hockey. And a recent return to the game that started it all showed him how important it is to pop the bubble that all of us in the outdoor community are living in.

So click play and get out of your comfort zone.

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Episode Transcript

Colin 00:00

Welcome to the rock fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head and today I want to tell you why you should pop the outdoor bubble you’re no doubt living in and how ice hockey has become my own personal adventure muse.

But first! If you like what you hear when you’re listening to THE ROCK FIGHT can you please click follow and rate the show on whatever podcast app you are listening to us on? Also Apple Podcast listeners, if you could take 30 seconds and leave us a written review, that is how THE ROCK FIGHT increases it’s visibility to other new listeners.  So please write us a review and leave us a rating.

Lastly we want to hear from you! Please send your emails to my rock fight at gmail dot com or hit us up on instagram or threads where our handle is at rockfight dot co

Alright let’s drop the puck and start the show.

I’ve talked about how I came to the outdoors before here on the podcast but today I want to go a little deeper on it because I think there are some lessons that I’ve learned that apply to our whole outdoor community.  

But before I start picking at the scabs of your shadow let me give you some background so this all makes sense. 

Outside of a brief stint playing little league and an even briefer stint playing football I didn’t play organized sports growing up.  At least not professionally. 

My brothers and I would play backyard football but more than anything else we went outside to play laser tag in the new houses being constructed up the street. 

And call this the ramblings of an aging Gen X’er but it’s a fucking crime that laser tag didn’t fulfill it’s promise as the sport of the future. The build up to it’s release in 1986 was huge. But I digress.

It wasn’t until I was in 20’s that I discovered the secret of outdoor adventure. As a kid I did a little bit of camping but I logged even less outdoor adventure time than I did football, baseball or eve  laser tag time. But mostly I was a kid riddled with fear. Avoiding risk at all costs. The idea of putting myself out there only to fail and possibly ridiculed was absolutely terrifying.

The only reason I found outdoor adventure? Was because I started playing ice hockey.

When I got to college I went from living in a hockey-less void to being surrounded by former and current players. My freshman year roommate had Youngblood playing nearly daily in our dorm room and all of this is weird because I went to school not in New England or Minnesota but just south of Philafuckingdelphia.

But this was also the time when hockey was gaining popularity in the zeitgeist.  In the 1990’s the NHL expanded. Adding the San Jose Sharks in 1991, the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992 and on the heels the Mighty Ducks becoming a hit movie, the big time hockey expansion continued in 1993 with Anaheim adding the Ducks and the debut of the Florida Panthers.  

MTV Sports, home of snowboarding, mountain biking and land yachting included ice hockey in segments with hockey playing celebrities like Jason Priestly.

So for 18 year old me, not only was I surrounded by hockey playing peers hockey was in the air, generally speaking. And so it was that I started playing. Which would turn out to be one of the most consequential decisions I’ve ever made.

Because for a kid who grew up pretty much afraid of everything my totally unanticipated and complete deep dive into playing ice hockey changed the way I viewed the world. 

Hockey has this sort of badass factor that differentiates it when you compare it to the team sports that dominate the conversation here in the US. If you tell someone you play pick up hoops they nod and say oh cool. If you tell someone you play ice hockey they immediately want to know more and talk about how cool hockey is but how they could never do it themselves. The only other sport I’ve had a similar experience with has been surfing in that regard. 

And on the surface there’s really not all that much that outdoor adventure and hockey have in common other than the roots of hockey being played outdoors on frozen ponds.  I haven’t come across many other hockey players that also mountain bike or like to climb mountains. 

But it’s not about finding a similarity between the activities at all.

I think it’s really more about trying something new. Something hard and unique as an adult and learning that I could do something new, hard or unique. Learning that I could overcome all of those childhood fears and climb a hill that many others view as unclimbable and realize the truth is that anyone can do this; they just have to decide to do it.

Eventually the outdoors consumed my time and hockey got put more and more on the back burner until I stopped play entirely for 14 years. But then funnily enough it was my kids that got me back into playing.

Around 2019 they all started skating and all wanted to play. So whereas most people raise their kids on the sports they loved when they were younger I had the opposite experience where my kids found the sport on their own and it brought me out of retirement.

At the time I was trail running a ton, while also mountain biking, surfing and stand up paddle boarding. And rediscovering my OG sport after a long layoff was definitely fueled by the novelty of playing after a long layoff and of doing something different than what others in my outdoor orbit typically do.  If my first foray into hockey was cool because it went against the mainstream this time it was cool because it went against what most outdoorsy people do.

But if the first time around hockey taught me to try new things, this time was something different. And that was the social piece.

So much of our time in the outdoors tends to be spent alone. And to be fair, that’s a good thing. Going out into nature solo, finding solitude, learning to be confident in situations where the outcome hasn’t been determined is a crucial component of the adventure journey, and just as essential as going on adventures with other folks.  But like many in our community,  between career and family most of my time in the backcountry was and is spent solo.  

As we age our world tends to get smaller.  Our views a little more firmly set. Throw in a pandemic where we were given the excuse to sit around at home and me now in my late 40’s and what I didn’t know that I was missing was being social, especially with people outside my personal orbit.  

Sitting in a locker room, a group of individuals with different backgrounds and views, but all bonding over the game because playing hockey is fun . It’s sort of like doing a weekly get together at the local bar but instead of just sitting around and eating bad food and drinking we get together and work out by playing a hockey game…and then have beers and bad food afterwards.

This was a big moment because it taught me how much of our outdoor community  is a bubble. A bubble that the more we lean into it, we lose touch with broader aspects of humanity even if we are constantly discovering our own. Getting out of our comfort zone is a big part of outdoor adventure but while the physical challenges may continue ever on, eventually we stop challenging our personal growth and we get comfortable with the particular politics and the temp of the collective swimming pool of the outdoor community.

Don’t believe me? Spend some time on LinkedIn with folks who work in our industry and see what they post about.  And that’s not an indictment of the outdoor industry, this seems to be very much a human trait.

For me, walking back into that locker room at the rink, full of people who didn’t give a rats ass about FKT’s or mountain town housing or what’s happening on the PCT, it reminded me that the main reason I found my way to adventure sports in the first place was because of the challenge and doing stuff I wasn’t exactly comfortable with.  

The past few years have been as wonky for me as they have for everyone right? After the pandemic I played on a team for a bit but then kids activities and a second knee surgery put hockey back on the shelf for a couple of years. 

But through all of this I’ve learned that for me it’s hockey, not a trail, break, a bike, a kayak, a river or a mountain it’s hockey that is my unlikely adventure muse that I shall return to again and again for what it both gives and how it balances my outdoor interests.  For all my outdoor inclinations hockey is a weird other side of the coin. Played on ice inside a giant refrigerator and often with old angry dudes who still think they have shot at the Stanley Cup.  

It wasn’t the discovery of a vista or dipping my toes into a babbling brook that kickstarted my outdoor journey. It was the religion of canada that opened the door to the outdoors and thus those two things are inextricably linked to each other.  Is that bizarre? Probably.

But this June I’m making my second comeback to hockey. Oh and this time, my 18 year old daughter will be playing on my team for a few months before she heads to college. 

So why am I telling you this? Because as healthy as it is to do all of our favorite outdoor activities, to live only in that bubble is as dangerous as living in any other bubble.  I’m glad that I have my skates and my teammates to keep my dumb ass grounded. What do you do that balances out your adventure life?

Alright thats the show for today, before you punch out please head to rockfight dot co and click join our mailing list so you can receive news from the front, the official newsletter of rock fight llc.

Also come back this friday for a new episode of gear & Beer where we’ll be discussing bike apparel and the rationale mexican lager!

The rock fight is a production of rock fight llc. I’m Colin True. Thanks for listening. And here to take us out is the musical voice of rock fight llc chris demakes with the rock fight fight song. We’ll see you next time rock fighters.


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