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This is a lesson every kayaker should learn. The unhappy baby idea comes from one of Stephen Wright’s legendary speeches at Keeners. I thought every keener had heard it but recently learned it is a rarity.

It’s pretty hilarious to look at pictures of unhappy babies, but not always fun to paddle with one. The unhappy babies pictured here represent what a kayaker looks like when he or she pouts. The expression is most commonly seen after someone misses a line, messes up a trick, or flat out fails at anything. We are all bad about thinking that we’re hidden by whitewater and no one can see our sadness/frustration- but we do see you!

Baby crying SAMSUNG

Stephen made it a rule for Keeners that you weren’t allowed to make these faces EVER. If you failed, you had to celebrate by smiling, pumping your fist in the air, or in any way you saw fit! After three weeks of being forced to claim failure, it became my default way of dealing with frustration on the river. Smile, accept whatever happened, and move on.

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I’ve started to notice unhappy babies all over the river ever since. People too often scowl and mutter curse words to themselves. They ignore those that try to cheer them up and bring the mood of the entire group down. Not that getting frustrated or angry is never allowed (there are times), but for the most part unhappy babies aren’t helping anyone. Every time you fail it’s important to analyze what went wrong and learn to improve. What’s so bad about learning to improve? Your mistakes are also helping others see what they could be working on. There are so many wonderful things about failure! Remember the faces of these babies next time you get sad or mad on the river. I promise it will make you laugh, and then it becomes so much easier to let it go and have a wonderful day of paddling!