He has either been in, on or around water nearly all his life, so it’s no surprise that water is where Michael Amster, M.D., director of the NorthBay Center for Pain Management, heads when he needs to unwind.
“I grew up in La Jolla and did a lot of ocean sports and played water polo,” Dr. Amster explains. “I’m very comfortable in the water and I know how to read it.”
Knowing how to read water is an important skill for river rafting guides, and that is yet another water-related hobby he has mastered.
Dr. Amster was introduced to river rafting as an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. When he came to UC Davis for his residency, he joined the school’s Outdoor Adventures club and signed up to lead rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River. He started volunteering as a guide eight years ago, and leads as many as 10 trips a year.
When rafting,”you’re connected with nature and it’s very therapeutic and healing. A day on the river clears my head. It’s so much fun and I just let go. As doctors, we have a lot of responsibilities, especially for our patients, and when I get on the river I can just let all that go.”
Dr. Amster believes river rafting is a metaphor for life. “When you’re on the rapids, you can be in a state of bliss, and at times life can be like that. But, you can hit rocks and turbulence and feel out of control and stuck, and life can be like that, too. Rafting is a spiritual experience.”
For those seeking a similar sensation, heading up to the South Fork of the American River will have its advantages. “The river is close by, and it has safe and easy rapids.” Trips, through organizations such as UC Davis’ Outdoor Adventure club, are open to everyone and are led by experienced guides well versed in the river’s every twist and turn. And, for those who fear fast-moving water may put them out of their element, rafters are well protected with helmets and life jackets, he says, “and the river itself is almost like an amusement park ride.”
Dr. Amster plans to lead a number of trips this summer. To learn more, call (530) 752-1995, or go to http://campusrecreation.ucdavis.edu and click on the link to Out- door Adventures.