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Seek: The Purpose of Paddling #1

The Great Sublime

Seek – The Purpose of Paddling is our new blog series where we focus on voices within the outdoor community. We are looking for what drives people to go outside, what draws them to the water and how they are affected once surrounded by waves.

For our first entry, we took a look at the great sublime, a term used to describe that immense feeling of awe, of insignificance, when surrounded by vast seascapes, mountains or rolling hills. This is a feeling which captivates many, taking them outdoors in search of this very feeling. Perhaps, in a world where we are so constantly visible, it is a relief to feel as though we aren’t visible at all.

‘It makes all of your problems feel… insignificant,’ writes Erin, a 23 year-old Marketing Officer from Glasgow. ‘I jump off my paddle board and I sink into the ocean. There’s seaweed and sand and seals in the distance – they don’t care about me, about what I work as or how much I make. I’m just there trying to navigate the elements like they are.’

Left: Lock Eck, Whistlefield Inn. Right: Firth of Clyde, near Largs.

Edmund Burke is a philosopher who has written extensively on the sublime. He states that it is the most powerful emotion one can experience, and it is a sense of awe which is laced with terror. Erin echoes this, describing moments of fragility as her most invigorating.

‘It’s not that I’m a daredevil at all. To be honest, I’m quite the opposite. It’s more about feeling free, like an animal in the wild; I’m vulnerable to the conditions, to the landscape. I don’t mean anything, I just sort of am.’

Today, we are asked ‘Who are you?’ often. It’s demanded in Instagram bios, in LinkedIn profiles and Facebook pictures, but it seems there is something to be said about disregarding this constant search for identity and categorisation, and instead focusing on being.

And I feel this myself. On the water I can feel the vast sea swell below me, I can see glints of colour in the green depths and I feel the currents pulling me sideways. If I stick my feet in, I can even feel the flow – direction, speed, strength – a force so overpowering it’s almost hypnotic.

For Katja, it is this very force, this power, which draws her to the shore. She writes:

‘It’s a connection with a powerful force that I simply have to surrender too, and that’s why it has my heart. It makes me surrender if I’m sat on the beach awaiting a dip, or paddling, or swimming. I’m in complete surrender.’

Regardless of reason, there are thousands of us that flock to beaches, rivers, lochs and shorelines. We may be searching for the great sublime, but we also may be driven by some completely different motivation. In our next blog, we’ll look at what else draws our sort outside.

Thanks for reading,


West End Outdoors