Ice dodging is a rite of passage for young members of the Southern Water Tribe. It is a ceremonial test of wisdom, bravery, and trust.
Tribe members participate in the ritual at the age of fourteen. The child's father takes them out to sea in a sailboat, then challenges the child to take over and sail the ship safely through dangerous, iceberg-filled waters. The father remains in the boat to observe the child's performance, but does not interfere. If the child succeeds, their father uses cuttlefish paint to place a mark on the child's forehead, symbolizing the virtue they demonstrated most prominently during the test. Participation in this ritual can earn those not born in the Southern Water Tribe recognition as a member of the tribe.
Sokka never had the chance to perform the ice dodging ceremony, as his father, Hakoda, left the Southern Water Tribe before Sokka had reached the required age. Sokka encountered an old friend of his father's, Bato, who, realizing that Sokka had never completed his rites of passage, suggested that he and his friends perform a variation of the ritual, dodging jagged rocks instead of icebergs, with Bato himself standing in for Hakoda. Taking up Bato's offer, Sokka performed the ritual. He steered the boat and coordinated Katara, who took the mainsail, and Aang, who controlled the jib. With teamwork and Sokka's decisive leadership, the group completed the ritual without injury. Sokka was awarded the Mark of the Wise, Aang, the Mark of the Trusted, and Katara, the Mark of the Brave.