Journal Article

Pinned on Karma Rock: Whitewater Kayaking as Religious Experience

A. Whitney Sanford

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 75, issue 4, pages 875-895
Published in print December 2007 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Pinned on Karma Rock: Whitewater Kayaking as Religious Experience

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This paper argues that whitewater paddling constitutes religious experience, that non-western terms often best describe this experience and that these two facts are related and have much to tell us about the nature of religious experience. That many paddlers articulate their experiences using Asian and/or indigenous religious terms suggests that this language is a form of opposition to existing norms of what constitutes religious experience. So, investigating the sport as an aquatic nature religion provides the opportunity to revisit existing categories. As a “lived religion,” whitewater kayaking is a ritual practice of an embodied encounter with the sacred, and the sacred encounter is mediated through the body's performance in the water. This sacred encounter—with its risk and danger—illustrates Rudolph Otto's equation of the sacred with terrifying and unfathomable mystery and provides a counterpoint to norms of North American religiosity and related scholarship.

Journal Article.  7585 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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