The esteemed National Geographic Society has, for the last 10 years, selected candidates for the title of Adventurer of the Year. Candidates are chosen based on "his or her remarkable achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation and humanitarianism." According to the Society, this year’s honorees "embody the spirit of adventure in diverse ways — an exploratory surfer seeking the world’s most remote waves; paragliders pushing the boundaries of their sport; an activist challenging the status quo; filmmakers using art to drive conservation; blind kayakers redefining what’s possible; and five other feats."
The "exploratory surfer" who was selected as a candidate is none other than Liz Clark of the Santa Barbara-based Cal 40 Swell. Nine years ago, we met Liz, now 34, just before she took off for Mexico, Central America, the Galapagos, the Society Islands and Kiribati. During the last five or six years she’s been sailing mostly singlehanded and often surfing alone in French Polynesia. Liz frequently contributed to Latitude 38, particularly during the early years of her adventure. We even have a report from her in this month’s Changes.
While we personally think it’s crass and contrary to the very spirit of adventure, the Society encourages readers and interested people to vote — maybe even stuff the ballot box — for the person they think "most embodies the spirit of adventure." It seems to us that you either have the spirit of adventure or you don’t, and the spirit of anything is something that can’t — and shouldn’t — be ranked, let alone voted on. What next, the general public asked to vote for the Buddhist they think best exemplifies the spirit of Zen?
Our objections notwithstanding, the voting ends on January 31, 2015. You can read about all 10 of the candidates by Googling ‘National Geographic Adventurers of the Year 2015.’ While we hope you vote for our friend Liz for her sake, we also hope you encourage the Society to rethink this contest of ‘adventureness’. In our opinion it would be far better to simply recognize all 10 as being among the more noteworthy adventurers of the year. What do you think?