WHY DO WE DIRTBAG? ~ The Lifestyle, Decoded, From A Relatively NewInitiate. by Michael Potter, SE Correspondent.

Paddlers come in all shapes and sizes,  races, ideology, religions, family backgrounds, and so on and so forth. There are as many reasons to paddle as there are people who do it. There is no one solid answer to the equation. If you ask 100 paddlers you get 100 answers, and none of them are wrong. So let’s ask the question: “Why do we dirtbag?” 
Well first off, what exactly is a dirtbag? I mean, what separates one kayaker into a whole other category from another kayaker? Is it skill? Is it experience? Not in my personal opinion.

Here’s the definition from the Urban Dictionary. “Dirtbag Paddler: (noun) Paddler, of any level, who loves the River and the river lifestyle. Goes rafting, kayaking, canoeing, SUP, whatever!  Swims like a fish, and loves rain as much as sun. May be broke in the pocket, but rich and giving in the soul. Speaks the universal language, that of the River, in any of the tongues of the Dirtbag Paddler World – which is all of them.  Survives on whatever it takes to get that next WALLACE fix. If your car smells like your gear, or better yet if you HAVE no car, you’re a dirtbag.”

I mostly kayak so I will use them for examples, as that’s what I’m most familiar with. Sometimes I push rubber but not regularly. I totally enjoy a day on the water no matter which I paddle.  
I look back through the past 12 months of paddling, my first year, and only remember one day on the river that I didn’t enjoy. I won’t go into detail on that issue other than to say it wasn’t an injury. I have paddled almost every weekend this year, ice cold, smoking hot, rainy weather, snowy weather, even one paddle where my drysuit iced up. Class lll paddling to no class flat water, Wallace every rapid to styling cool stuff, I’ve enjoyed it all. 
I am one of those people who hates cold weather, but I can’t wait for fall and winter season to set in. In the Southeastern region, this is the time of year when dreams come true. That creek that you have been scouting all summer comes alive; the rivers that you have been scraping down are now pushing at the top of the banks. I hate cold weather but it isn’t gonna stop me from getting my WALLACE on!!
Winter is also where you find the true Dirtbag. You know one. He’s the guy hitting the used kayak gear Facebook pages to scrape up every bit of warm (and hopefully) dry gear to just survive the next run. I smoked these pages last year, ending up with an old used drysuit that had so many leaks I felt I’d made an investment in the Aquaseal company. My brother still wears that suit and swears it’s dry as a bone.
We have Little Tyke Dirtbags to Grandpa Dirtbags. I saw both on rivers that I haven’t mastered yet. The kids always amaze me. How fast they do learn! I’m  kinda slow in the skills department myself but I’m getting there. I hope to be like the 70 year old man I saw styling the Ocoee. Much love to Grandpa still beatering at his age. I was impressed.

So why do we dirtbag?  
It’s for the love. You see, there’s something that brings us all together. It erases boundaries. It has no acknowledgement of religion or politics. It cares not what background you come from. It’s not worried about your sexual preferences. It’s neutral in all things living, and all things need it to live. It’s just pure, simple Water.
The love of water draws us all to the river. Once there, it washes all our differences away.  

I have never heard two kayakers going over a drop yelling at each other about the  Presidential election. I have never seen two paddlers running a rapid trying to figure out which owns more or has the most monetary value. The river separates you and your everyday issues from THE NOW.
I personally had a bad experience in life and bought a kayak to seek release, something to ease the mind from everyday life. Soon after I started meeting people.  People became interested in paddling with me, a little at a time. In return, I became interested in meeting more paddlers. Soon after, I started organizing trips to help new paddlers have suitable runs for themselves.  
The reason I dirtbag is to have a place to clear my mind, and meet great people while doing so. When I’m on the river it’s a happy place for me. The people are friendly, I have no worries, everything is cleansed and washed clear in this moment of time.  No future, no past. Just me, my friends, and water. Right here, right now. Carpe Diem!
This is why I dirtbag. Grab a boat and a paddle and go find your own reason to be a dirtbag. When you figure it out drop us a line.
EDITOR’S DESK- Michael is a DBP Admin and Staff writer for the Magazine, covering events in his native Southeastern United States. Although he hasn’t paddled as long as some of us, his genuine love of the lifestyle and dedication to the pursuit of excellence in our sport shines through. He truly lives our way, and exemplifies the following: 
“We exist to share stories of paddlers of all disciplines from all over the world; to interview icons and playmakers in the paddling community and whitewater industry; to preserve the stories of our collective history; to raise awareness of and to protect our rivers and resources; to promote whitewater festivals and events; to report on competitions and competitors in the race community; to give a home to the artistic side of paddling in poetry, artwork, music, comics, and humor; to be inclusive not exclusive, to preach unity and support, safety and camaraderie; to break down the barriers that separate society; to have a global outlook with a local feel; and to celebrate the Dirtbag Lifestyle!”
So get out there, be awesome, and make this world a better place!!
All Forward Thinking. 
That’s what it’s all about! Expanding our sport’s horizons is something we are actively doing… Reminding each other that our community is the same no matter where the River is, the color of skin or language spoken. On The River it’s all one language, the language of Flow. 
Whether you’re a 30 year veteran raft guide like Associate Editor Taz Riggs, or relatively new to the community like Michael, we’d love to hear from you. If you have a story to share, feel free to email us, message us on the Dirt Bag Paddlers Facebook page, or on Instagram @DBP_4_LIFE

  • Show Comments (5)

  • Gwendolyn Butts

    Michael has been amazing in our pursuit to becoming a db. He has a huge heart and is always ready to help.

  • Micki Fields

    I loved reading Michael's article and the sharing of his Dirt Bag philosophy. We met on Facebook shared great posts and looked forward to meeting on the river. That meeting happened last summer at the APES picknic on the Noli. We met on the river a few times since but always stay in touch. He is an ambassador for the sport down here in the South. His great humor and passion for the river make him a cherished friend and fellow paddler.

    • Casey Fields-Tucker

      I very much agree with my mother on the above comment. Mike is a very enthusiastic paddler with a whole lot of patience for those of us who were just starting out and didnt know an eddy from a strainer or river left from river right. Look forard to paddling with you in the future.

  • Hance Dubendorf

    Good stuff, you definitely touched on the essence of being a boater- great escapes, great adventures, great people. I do not mean you by any means, but I do feel that unfortunately the term and membership as a dirtbag paddler is overused nowadays. I am closing in on 40 years old now, I work way too much, I live in a new region of the country so boating is usually solo (often unsafe and tough shuttle logistics). Anyways, my point is I don’t boat even close to a dirtbag level anymore.

    There is a passion for boating that exceeds the everyday paddler, even one who loves to paddle, that defines a Dirtbag. Like you said it’s not about how much you boat, what you boat, etc. that makes it. You could only boat 4 times a year and be a dirtbag because you live in Sahara town and the only whitewater runs 4 times a year and you hike a 25 mile shuttle to run it.

    When I worked on the river, even though we were paddling for pesos 5 days a week, we would hitch hike or just hike sometimes for miles to run our shuttles so we could boat.

    I had a buddy who in the early 00’s was able to compete in a cross country rodeo tour because he exclusively ate Ramen and PB for 3 weeks, filled his gas tank with a credit card he shouldn’t have owned, and stopped at each toll booth he encountered wrote an IOU letter and had the bill mailed back to Maine. Anyways, there’s so many similar stories, I hope you might follow this article up by exploring this side of it a little more in depth. I feel like you missed it a bit here.

    But great insights and story otherwise

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