Twist & Shout

guide to outdoor battle cries

A guide to outdoor battle cries.

The battle cry is something we all have in us. From the gladiator arena to mountaintops, from the football field to whitewater, each one has its time and place. Varied in form from eloquent one-liners to guttural grunts, the battle cry is a symbol of triumph, challenge, and celebration—of life and its blood-pumping impermanence.

The Howl
A cry as old as time and an expression of kinship with our fellow adventurers. Identified by a long, fading crescendo in which the howler imitates the ancient call of a wolf. Most often heard after a group of close friends summits a peak, survives a close encounter with an apex predator, or shotguns beer around a bonfire.

The Wahoo
Energetic and lively, the wahoo is a staple for all outdoor excursions. It sounds just as it’s spelled, and may also be drawn into a lengthy WA-HOOOOOO depending on excitement level. The wahoo is most often used when the crier is in an exhilarating situation—the middle of a bike descent or tail waves of a rapid—but is comfortable enough to let everyone around her know that she’s having a good time. And hey, why shouldn’t she?

Relatively nuanced and typically restricted to climbers. The sound is an organic noise provoked by extreme and short-lived physical exertion. Most often heard from sport climbers when committing to the crux move in their climb—and nailing it. Or later that night when said climber tells the story to all of his friends.

The Yeehaw
When you hear “Yeehaw!” think speed—the type of speed that makes your hair light on fire and your eyes puddle with water. Originally deployed by cowboys to express excitement for the blazing pace of galloping horses, the phrase has been widely accepted by most other outdoor tribes. Often heard before dropping in or after the chaos has ended. Stress the first syllable or the last, depending on what you’re feeling; either way, it’s pronounced best with a thick western accent.

From its roots in skiing, this expression has been extrapolated to just about any dryland activity out there. Practically, “Dropping!” is cried to inform and alert buddies and bystanders that the crier is about to embark on an epic battle with gravity—and there shall only be one winner.

“Come & Get ‘Em”
Used to respond to a cocky challenge—say, when your friend suggests a race, then adds that you don’t have a chance of beating him. Its origin is the famous retort by King Leonidas of Sparta, when the Persians, with a far superior force, asked the Spartans to surrender their weapons. (The actual phrase in ancient Greek is “molon labe.”) We all know what happened next—didn’t you see the movie 300?

“Who Will Carry the Boats?”
This phrase was popularized by retired Navy SEAL, ultra-runner, and all-around badass David Goggins. Albeit unusual, this cry (originally, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?”) is a call to suppress one’s fear and/or fatigue, and get the job done. This cry can be used to push through grueling workouts, lengthy rafting expeditions, and difficult relationships.

“It’s a Good Day to Die”
While sources of this phrase are conflicting, most point to the leaders of the Lakota Sioux in the 19th century, when Crazy Horse and his band of warriors defeated the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Popularized by the films Star Trek and Little Big Man, it’s now a common mantra among overly dramatic skiers, climbers, whitewater paddlers, and bridegrooms.

Got a cool battle cry of your own? Send it to [email protected]. Better yet, call the office and scream it into the phone. 406-582-8068.