'Richard Hammond's Crash Course' Recap: 'American Bullfighter/Paddle Boarder' (2.03)
Hopefully he'll do better when he goes to Maui to try paddle boarding. According to Richard's voiceover, it's "the fastest growing sport in the world," and he'll train in Hawaii before heading to Oregon to compete in a race. His help for this 'crash course' is "surf legend" Dave Kalama, who will be not only training him but joining him in that race. Dave gets Richard into the appropriate outfit (more shorts) and explains that learning stand-up paddle boarding will be a process of trial and error.
Richard gets a decent start in the water (after complaining about the water temperature and wondering about sharks), and Dave lauds his first-day performance. On day two, Dave explains to Richard how he hand-crafts each of his paddle boards. and enlists Richard's help in making one.
A tape skip and a jump ahead, and they're in Hood River, Oregon, preparing for the race. They'll be facing "high winds [and] big waves," the presence of which instantly deflates Richard. "Clearly, I'm gonna die," he moans as Dave tries to explain to him that it's really not that bad. Richard's lack of enthusiasm is warranted, though, as it's so windy that he has problems even getting set before the starting horn. A few minutes into the race, he falls off his board, and then later on he curses out a passing barge. As if that's not enough, he falls off a few more times before having to be rescued by a lifeguard. Needless to say, he doesn't win the race.
Dave might be "extremely impressed" with Richard even attempting to become a paddle board, but Richard himself is happy that this particular 'crash course' is over, and heads for the nearest bar.
What did the audience take away from this episode of Crash Course? As mentioned in last week's recap, the show is not quite as strong when it features two careers in an episode, rather than one, because it cuts in half the time viewers get to spend with each occupation. Whereas the pair combined last week were in the same city and sometimes do actually go together, this installment doesn't quite mesh as well, unless you count that both 'crash courses' made Richard fear for his life.
There's some insight here into what makes these folks potentially risk their lives for sports, but it feels as if the show's only scratching the surface. Clearly, these are people with a certain amount of fearlessness, particularly the bullfighters, whose whole job description involves intentionally putting themselves in harm's way. While the episode certainly increases respect for those folks, Clint and Dave both probably have all sorts of stories to tell, and it's a shame that there wasn't time to get more of them from either man.
It's also interesting to see Richard when things aren't working so well for him. He's no shrinking violet; he's been through quite a bit over the years, and he's very bright, and fans of Top Gear are used to him generally emerging out the other side with a smile on his face. Even if he does mess things up, he usually takes it in stride. It's surprising to see his rodeo day come to a halt, or to watch him curse as he struggles to paddle board. That's not typical for Richard - but it also reminds us that even folks as resilient as he have their bad days. Most of the time, they're just not shown on national television.
That's the point of Crash Course in action - not that Richard failed, but the experience of seeing him try and realizing just how much some of these unknown or unsung occupations take, both physically and mentally. If Richard Hammond can't do it, then that's really saying something.