Assessing risk is important.
And people are notoriously bad at assessing risk. Some activities that look very risky might not be, whereas something that looks innocuous could actually be quite dangerous. Compound that with the reality that people are varied and our risk assessment can be quite subjective (although of course there are some absolutes).
It's important to think about risk though: if we overestimate risk, we live a colourless life, devoid of adventure. IF we underestimate, we may experience injury.
So striking a balance is key. Some questions to help assess an individual's risk may include (but are not limited to):
- Who is doing the activity?
- What's the skill level?
- Previous experience?
- Cautious, reckless, or somewhere in between?
- Egotistic or humble?
- Self- aware or clueless?
- Peer referenced or internally motivated?
- Is the individual prepared, trained, in-shape (physically and mentally)?
- What's the individual's injury history?
- Well slept, well fed, and sober?
- Nervous or calm?
- What are the conditions of the course / trail / slope, etc.?
- What is the condition of the equipment?
- What's the weather?
- Is there an audience?
- Is it being filmed?
I could go on and on.
We don't want to bubble-wrap anyone and we don't want to preach and tell you how to live your life. Positive stress, i.e. challenging yourself to the edge of your ability and a bit beyond (if the situations warrants it) - invigorates and enlivens us.
We do want you to recognize that risk compensation happens. Risk compensation occurs when we negate / cancel out the protective effect of our equipment by going bigger and harder (than we can handle) because of the perception of safety our equipment provides.
I'm not talking about the pros here; about the people whose jobs are to go bigger and go harder. They have chosen to get paid to push the envelope. These guys and gals have a different relationship with big consequences. I am talking here about the rest of us - those that engage enthusiastically, and that love the activity - but who have other responsibilities and demands that we want and need to get back to when playtime is over. Make sure that you are examining what variables inform your threshold for risk, and make sure that what you choose to do is not so much of a stretch that you are relying on your equipment to keep you safe. A lifetime of physical activity is predicated on use of safety equipment in a way that doesn't negate the protection it offers you.