“The Asphalt get us rough”: Flow state in Outdoor Adventure Sports

Recently the researchers of the group Lucas C. Carneiro, Bruno C. Castro, and Gabriel M. Faria developed a study about the flow phenomenon in sailing and mountaineering practitioners. The flow is known when we feel immersed in a task, present, fully connected. The researchers went to verify how it occurs in outdoor adventure sports. Among the 292 answers received it was possible to realize some aspect of the meaning of outdoor activity in the lives of practitioners.

I strongly believe that intense experiences make us spiritually stronger. Connection with nature makes us more sensitive, and we become human again. The asphalt gets us rough.

– Participant statament

The experience of putting yourself to the test in a natural environment, such as practicing sailing or mountaineering, involves tension, risk. This tension is discussed by psychology in Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, for whom the human being, instead of avoiding tension, seeks it. The author also points out: “it is clear that it is not about crushing man with a gigantic tension. What he needs is a healthy, dosed tension” which sport, as a human phenomenon, tends to create (Frankl, 2014, p. 70). This tension can be provided with purpose which makes us “spiritually stronger”.

However, a fine balance is needed. The individual should feel challenged while having some control of the situation. It is in the right measure between chaos and order that learning takes place most intensely (Peterson, 1999). Seen from this perspective, the flow state tends to occur when we enter unknown territory (chaos), with the learning already acquired integral to the known space (order). A significant engagement is experienced when the mediation between these two forces is done correctly, that is, when one has some control of the situation but, at the same time, is challenged.

It is in this sense that “Connection with nature makes us more sensitive, and we become human again” and the “asphalt gets us rough“. When someone is in the growing space, engaged in flow, balancing order and chaos, the tendency is to grow spiritually and become more sensitive. Whereas, if the individual lets himself be dominated by an excessive order, represented in the account by the word “asphalt”, he gets rough.


CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, M. Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. Nova York: Basic Books, 2020.

PETERSON, Jordan B. Maps of meaning: The architecture of belief. Psychology Press, 1999.

FRANKL, Viktor E. The will to meaning: Foundations and applications of logotherapy. Penguin, 2014.

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