My First REAL Public Speech!

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Public speaking has been a fear of mine since I was a kid. In school I'd rather take an incomplete rather than stand in front of the class and read my book report. It was really bad. But since I've gotten into paddle boarding my comfort level with public speaking has constantly been tested. It started with simply talking to a camera and has evolved ever since. The fear is still there but it's exhilarating and almost addicting. 

Last year at Outdoor Retailer I was asked to give a speech at a Colorado Outdoor Industry event. I couldn't have been more honored and more terrified. But I jumped at the opportunity. I pull so much of my inspiration from TED talks and have really taken to admire and appreciate good speakers. I've always wanted to be one of them. Maybe this wasn't the TED stage but I took it just as seriously.

When I got up to speak in front of a room of no more than 60 people I was visibly shaking. But with every word uttered my confidence grew. I was met with applause and approached by many, receiving praise for my writing. It was a high I didn't want to come down from. There's something soooo gratifying about pushing through your comfort level and being received so positively by those around you. I wanted to share my speech with all of you...and I hope this is only the beginning of my public speaking career! 

"My name is Brittany Parker I was born and raised in Colorado and I stand up paddle board down whitewater and surf river waves. This is my job and when I tell people this they sometimes laugh; my favorite response was,

“Yeah and I’m a professional four-leaf clover picker”

Yes, it’s certainly an obscure career path and had I found paddling anywhere else besides Colorado I’m not sure I would be where I am now or have received the support I did when I decided in 2010 that I wanted to do this professionally. I was pretty sure such a title didn’t exist but I was ready to make it so. Colorado being the hub that it is for outdoor recreation is a place for mountain athletes of all disciplines to thrive; I knew there was a spot for me and my love to paddle rivers standing up.

This dream came to be when I met the grassroots board company Badfish Stand Up Paddle out of Salida, CO. I wasn’t a particularly skilled paddle boarder at the time but my passion and dedication was what inspired Badfish to sign me on as one of their athletes. My stoke fed their stoke and next thing I knew I was part of a community I had no idea existed.

Whether I’m paddling downstream or sessioning a river wave there’s always someone around who is just as excited as I am to be on the water. We’ve found this thing that connects us to each other and brings us closer to our natural waterways. Sure, some think we look goofy with our helmets and life jackets; sometimes swimming more than standing but we’re goofy together and every year that we’re out there helping each other progress the less we’re swimming and the more we’re propelling the sport forward and pushing the limits. 

I’ve witnessed this sport grow at a rate unlike any other; with whitewater parks popping up in every river town. The accessibility couldn’t be any easier and has resulted in Colorado becoming the mecca for river SUP hosting the highest concentration of whitewater stand up paddling events. Waves are popping up across the state that are surfable on stand ups or short boards. Colorado has been known for it’s ski, climbing, and biking culture and now it’s become recognized more and more for its surf culture. Not only does this result in that landlocked surfer not needing to travel to curb his or her's surf hunger but surfers from all over the country are now planning surf trips to Colorado…who would have thought. 

There’s a movement happening and I’ve dedicated most of my time, money, and energy to be a part of it. I want to see the sport grow and ensure that it does so in a way that’s positive and safe. Which is why, last year, myself and fellow Badfish athlete Natali Zollinger started a business called RVR 2 RVR. And that’s exactly what we do, we move from RVR 2 RVR, partnering up with local paddling shops to provide paddlers with weekend long clinics to share our knowledge that we’ve acquired over the years. People want to get out, they want to enjoy nature, they want to be part of a community sometimes they just don’t know where to start. 

It’s our goal, to manage risks, build confidence, share knowledge, and grow a community that spreads across the globe.

Colorado is a state based on people making a living out of what they love. Paddling it’s rivers has changed me and provided me with the machete to blaze my own trail. This isn’t the age of working back breaking hours at the mill; this is the age where a four-leaf clover picker with enough passion can turn it into a career.

Following your passion may seem easy on the surface. Especially when you look at my Instagram feed and it’s all sunshine and rainbows but cutting your own path, machete or not doesn’t come without it’s cuts and scrapes. 

Starting a business has been no easy task. We spent our Winter reaching out to shops trying to explain and sometimes convince them how they would benefit from us coming to their town. We’re two girls living in our vans, with no previous experience in business, our business model built from the ground-up, and no case studies to show any proof of success. 

As we reach the end of our tour, working out the kinks, we’ve proven to those shops and those paddlers that community is everything. Between getting everyone together the night before our clinics at the local brewery talking about goals and things we’re most excited about in our lives, to getting someone to surf a river wave for the first time while the rest of their tribe hoots and hollers as if it was them surfing the wave themselves. It’s undeniable that what we’re doing is good. That the struggle and hard work pays off in those moments. Leaving each town a little bit more connected then when we got there is worth everything."

Big thanks to Luis Benitez and Colorado.com for giving me this opportunity it was a life enhancing moment! 

Costa Rica: The Rejected Essay

I wrote this short essay about my experience in Costa Rica quite some time ago. I had written it in hopes of getting it published. I sent out many submissions and only heard back from one telling me it wasn't really their style. This is a piece I still really love despite its underwhelming response. Heather Jackson took some beautiful photographs that really conveyed the beauty and emotional experience of that place. I miss it sometimes and am forever grateful for Paddle 9 making this beautiful experience possible. Enjoy! 

 

 Traveling, some people live for it and some choose to stay within the comforts of their home town, state, and country. It’s no secret that traveling can enrich your life, give you a new perspective on the world, and make us more rounded human beings. So, why do people choose to avoid it? I live in America where many rarely leave their hometown; let alone the country. I’ve met people in their early 40’s who have never had a passport to stamp and some who believe traveling puts them at greater risk of terrorist attacks, rape, and murder. It seems as though the media chooses to misinterpret the world as a whole and has made it their personal mission to instill fear into the American people.

I grew up in a small town in Colorado called Rifle existing in this in-between landscape, not quite the mountains nor the desert.The name Rifle suited the town well. I remember when I was in highschool we’d have parties up in the hills, if you didn’t have a lift-kit and four-wheel-drive you hoped your friend did. While one boy would be displaying his machoness by walking through the fire wearing Carharts and steel-toed boots another would be practicing his constitutional right by shooting down trees with his shotgun. The tree would fall and the teens would hold up their cans of keystone light cheering. It was morbid and from an early point in my childhood I knew I didn’t belong there.

My liberal tendencies were an anomaly amongst the gun toting, engine revving, grade-A Americans. I was starved of culture and began to find ways to curb my curious hunger. When I was 20, I used what was left of my student loans and went to South Africa; alone. I returned back humble with a tenacious drive to continue my self-exploration through world exploration.

About four years later in the month of November 2016 I hopped on a plane headed for Costa Rica where I was to live for the next five months working as a guide. But, before we go into that let me back up a little bit; two weeks prior to my Costa Rica departure I had been in Japan to paddle it’s rivers and get lost in a culture I knew nothing about.

Japan was mind boggling, another planet existing just on the other side of the world. In Japan I witnessed a strong effort to preserve tradition and maintain a lifestyle free of the burden of possessions. It gave me hope for mankind and made me question my American lifestyle. I was coming back to the States a better version of myself.

I had a week in Rifle before I was to fly to Costa Rica. The gas-guzzling vehicles and needlessly extensive suburban homes filled me with a strong contempt for my country. Japan was simple, homes were filled with necessities only, the cleanliness and respect for nature was astounding. Once I left my cultural awe was quickly replaced with a bad taste in my mouth. The moment I walked into my grandparents door in Rifle, CO I was suffocated by the news. Videos of police running through the streets of Paris carrying machine guns wearing helmets and bulletproof vests. Civilians screamed as gunfire echoed off the walls of the historic buildings. My Grandfather sitting on the couch saying things like,
“What has this world come to?”

“I was afraid this was going to happen.”

Not long after those words left his mouth he began complaining about how much this catastrophic world event was being covered and was instantly bored of it. My cheeks filled with blood and my muscles tightened. I had to get out of there and there being my home country.

So, there I was, laying on a cold tile floor during my overnight layover in the Houston airport. Between the country music, intercom announcements, fluorescent lights, and janitors I probably slept a total of 30 minutes. It wasn’t just my uncomfortable sleeping arrangements that kept me up, it was the unknowing of what was at the end of this one-way ticket.

The plane jolted me from my buzz — brought on by the friendly conversation and white wine shared with the Costa Rican sitting beside me. And as I stepped out of the air conditioned San Jose Airport; a new kind of buzz was being administered. Immediately, I was ambushed by 30 sweaty taxi drivers pushing and shoving their way to the front, like a pack of wild hyenas fighting for scraps, yelling
“taxi, necesita un taxi”
My new boss Brian, a wiry guy from Philly, picked me up in his dented black suburban saving me from the pack. We arrived in Quepos in darkness; exhausted, I collapsed on the bed of his spare room not knowing what my world was going to look like when I woke up.

Out on the balcony the next morning I could practically feel time slowing as it moved through the riotous jungle surrounding me. I walked into town and what I found was a strange contrast of untroubled chaos. The cars sped by in a frenzy ignoring the traffic laws that I had always adhered to. Men whistled, my blonde hair labeling me as an exotic and vulnerable foreigner. My clothes clung to my sticky skin. It wasn’t long before my wardrobe was stripped of pants and anything with sleeves.

As the weeks passed and my skin got darker; I was beginning to look and act less like a tourist and more like all the other American transplants. After a couple of weeks living with my boss and his gorgeous Latin-American girlfriend I found my own place up on the hill of Manuel Antonio. This apartment, this little piece of mine, turned out to be the center of my world for those three months.

Manuel Antonio feels a bit like a bubble, one of the most touristy towns of Costa Rica, as it is home of the most visited National Park in the country. My apartment was tucked away beside the busy Main Street, the only thing separating my unguarded studio was a locked gate and a chain-link fence. Broken concrete steps took me away from the incessant honking and into a sleepy commune decorated with tropical foliage; even a couple banana trees. It was my paradise for only $300 a month.

The property owners and caretakers were two young tico brothers assuming responsibly of the property after the tragic drowning of their mother a mere two months before my arrival. The only other tenants of the commune was Monty & Duke. Monty was a frail, hard-of-hearing lawyer with a strong distaste for clothing and Duke a heavy-set American retiree’ who made excellent banana bread and lived for football. Three flea infested dogs that I found irresistible roamed the property. Milagro, the tom-cat, was a sleeper by day and an expert gecko stalker by night. And almost every morning the monkeys would visit; raiding the trees of their freshly grown fruit.

Costa Rican’s are referred to as Ticos and Ticas. When I would show friends my new apartment they said it was very ‘Tico'. Meaning, it’s very simple, no screens on the window—bars on some of them and no air conditioning (a luxury in Costa). My shower head had electrical wires coming out of it; of which would smoke from time to time mid-shower. Ants marched across my counters, invading my space by walking over my computer and crawling on my legs as I worked. It’s an uphill battle trying to get rid of the pests—so they stuck around waiting for me to forget to put food in the fridge; which I did. But it’s what I wanted, I didn’t want the gringa apartment I wanted the apartment that would take me out of my comfort zone because that’s where the magic happens.

When I imagined my nights in Costa; I imagined falling asleep to a jungle orchestra of frogs, crickets, geckos, and rain dancing on leaves. Instead, as I lay in bed I would reminisce about the moderate mountain climate while sweating into the mattress, the maddening hum of the fan distracting me from my dreams but the only thing stopping the mosquitos from devouring me as I slept. My nights were not nights one from Colorado would consider particularly pleasant. I missed the crisp air, the weight of blankets on top of me, and the peace and quiet.

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But, the Costa Rican mornings, this is when I felt the magic I was looking for. My body clock would have me up at 5 a.m. every morning. Before the roosters. Before the sun. My coffee dripping slowly into the pot filling the room with the sweet aroma of costa rican beans. From 5 to 7 my porch and rocking chair was my favorite place, the temperature was a perfect 70 degrees and while sipping my coconut coffee I would watch the jungle come to life.

First, the green parrots would squawk loudly to each other on a nearby tree, probably bothering those still trying to sleep but I ate it up. Then, off in the distance, I would see little capuchin monkeys jumping from limb to limb; swinging and playing. As a group they would make their way to mine and the other surrounding apartments. They mostly came to harvest the fruit off the trees but every now and then they would get lucky and someone would leave a fridge unlocked or food out on the balcony. To the locals they were a nuisance but I would watch them with a childish curiosity that never went away.

Inspiration seemed to be riding on the backs of those monkeys as they made their way towards me each morning. The jungle life may as well been a cup of coffee in itself. The buzz of activity awakened my creativity and my writing was blossoming; words flowing out of me with fluidity and confidence. I’m a firm believer that changing our surroundings and moving out of our comfort zones lights a fire under our creative selves and the parts of us that had been sleeping for lack of stimulation. Costa Rica may not have been everything I thought it was going to be but it was everything I needed.

I may never see my old boss Brian, Monty the nudist, or my modest little apartment again but every now and then a smell, a song, or event triggers my memory and takes me back. And I’m there sitting in my rocking chair, watching the monkey’s, and listening to the rooster crow. I feel no regret, just a distant admiration for the place that helped me uncover a piece of myself that has been waiting, patiently, for the right time to make it’s presence known.

Travel brings me balance, it puts my life into perspective. Deprived of comforts I never thought I cared about helps me appreciate where I come from. I came back from Japan so bitter, so frustrated with my country's skewed consumer belief that ‘bigger is better’. I didn’t want to be put in that box. My Costa Rica experience made obvious why travel is important. It replaced that resentment towards my own home with a gentle appreciation. Before, travel was a form of escape — a way of being someone new and free of all obligations that sit waiting impatiently for my return. Now, travel is simply a reminder this world is big and I am small and home will always be home.

So, I say TRAVEL! Don’t do it for the postcard, Instagram posts, or t-shirts. Do it because there is a part inside of all of us that needs to satisfy the curiosity. Do it because you have this chance to see and take the world for what it is; a scary, chaotic, beautiful collection of lessons and experiences. And when you find you’re way back home, you will have found another piece of yourself that could have only been found outside of your comfort zone.

A Tribute to a Dame Unlike any other

Today is the day one of the most badass ladies I know was brought into existence. For all of you who know Heather Jackson you know she epitomizes what it means to be a powerful and confident woman. It is because of her that my life was changed. If she hadn't been brought into this world there is a very good chance I would have gone down a very different path. She helped me shed this shell of a woman who thought she was valued by how sexy her clothes, makeup, hair, and nails were. I had lost myself to appease a man and had found myself again because of a woman...this woman. 

It was in drawing class in 2008 at Metro State that I knew I had to meet her. While I was dressed in a skirt and heels she was in lose jeans, a flannel, and a beanie. She reminded me of the part of me I had lost to a highschool romance. She would speak up in class and she reminded me of the woman I wanted to be; outspoken, confident, and uncaring of how she was received by others. 

It took me a few weeks but I eventually got the courage to talk to her. I knew she was a snowboarder so I went with this opening line,
"So you like to snowboard? Where do you go?"

That was probably the only way she would have given me the time of day. I did not look like her type, a girly girl, there's no way we would have anything in common. It caught her off guard and from then on we were friends. I shedded the heels, threw away the expensive makeup, and didn't go to a hairdresser again for at least a year. I shedded my superficial shell and finally let my true self breath and feel the sun on her skin...all thanks to her.

 I left the city to move to Frisco with her and return to the life I loved so much -- mountain life. We both took a break from college to live the ski bum life. She was a snowboard instructor and I worked in a snowboard shop. One of the many chapters in our friendship but the one that really brought us closer. 

We've seen each other grow, we've cried together, we've fought, and we've laughed to the point we couldn't breath. She's stuck with me through some dark times and has been more honest with me than anyone I know. She'll always call me out when I'm being a dumbass. We laugh at each other's jokes and often we're the only ones laughing. I never knew I was funny until I met her. 

She's one of the most generous people I know despite her financial struggles. I call her mama bear because she'll always stand up for her friends. She'll always send something back at a restaurant if it's not good. If she feels like I'm getting ripped off she won't hesitate to tear the representative on the other line a new one. She's taught me this is your life, it's valuable, there's no time to beat around the bush and honesty will always get you further in life. 

Although there's distance between us that friendship flame never flickers. She's my soul mate and I love her to no end. Heather thank you so much for always being the light in my life. For always being there when I needed you the most. But most of all thank you for giving me a chance in drawing class nine years ago and seeing a friend buried beneath the rubble of a broken relationship. To many many more adventures together. Happy Birthday! 

I LOVE YOU! 

 

We are River Surfers. Part one: Jacob Kelly Quinlan

Hey BP, thanks for sharing this opportunity with me.  I have read your blog for a very long time.  The We Are River Surfers post definitely pulled me in.  I think you have done a great job at shaping the culture of our sport in a number of areas.  Keep up the great work!

***

Dear River Surfers!

BP and I, among others, have been having an ongoing discussion about leash systems since probably the first day we met so I guess it seemed natural when she asked if we could move some of our conversation online to her blog. The thing we found ourselves discussing most wasn’t what would be the safest option for the river. No, it was how we may be able to open people up when it seemed people were already set in their ways. It’s not that either of us think we know everything there is to know about river surfing safety but our concern was that people weren’t seeing the whole story.

I came across this video that may have the answer.

In the video the presenter describes two mindsets. The Soldier mindset and Scout mindset. In a Soldier mindset we defend our opinions in hopes that our team will win.  A Scout mindset tries to look at the bigger picture, even if it means they will have to admit to being wrong.

The presenter goes on to tell a story of a French soldier who was accused of sending secrets to the German army. The man was falsely accused and locked away in prison. The soldiers who falsely accused him were quick to find evidence that would support their theory but didn’t break their pride and seek out the truth. Finally, someone asked the question, what if we’re wrong?

This is the thing that stands out for me in river surfing. As the world forms opinions about leash use in rivers we may be motivated to make our decisions based on a cognitive bias. It can be as simple as, well I already had an ankle leash from surfing in the ocean and that’s what I’ve used and because I’ve never seen a problem, I’m going to stick to it. But the truth is, leash death is real issue in our sport. Even though there has been very few cases of death, the sport is new and the number of surfers in rivers is small.  As the population grows so will the number of deaths if static leashes without a quick release system continue to be used. If leash death continues it makes it increasingly more difficult to build more waves.

I won’t go into detail of which leash systems are out there as there is good information on Riverbreak and on the walls of River Surfing Association’s pages. What I want to point out is the video presenter talks about a solider mindset choosing a side.

There seems to be division in our sport regarding which side of the argument to be on. Sides may be formed because of where you surf or what companies you support. Or perhaps old habits are hard to break. Maybe the leash alternatives that exist now still need further development before they are fit for river surfing. What is certain is that this argument should only have one side when it comes to leash death. If ankle leash users ask the question, “what if we’re wrong” the same way the soldiers did in the story the fatal consequences are clear.  If we see the whole story it is easier to work together on solutions to the problem.

Rather than falling for old habits we can help the next generation of river surfers break them before they set in. Rather than complaining about clunky systems that don’t work well with a surfboard we can work to refine or create new ones. River surfers are an incredibly diverse and capable bunch. I know if we work together the future is bright.

The thinking behind Surf Anywhere starting the River Surfing Accident Database was once people know the severity of what can happen in the river, it's harder to claim ignorance. Good information leads to good decisions.

BP, I know you feel more passionately about the issue as safety is number one with you. Especially when it comes to the next generation of river surfers. I love all the work you are doing with RVR 2 RVR. You have challenged my personal beliefs on leashes and helped me seek out alternatives to using a static leash on bigger waves. I hope others follow your lead to take whitewater safety courses and have a “Scout mindset” when thinking about the truth behind river surfing safety.  After all, we’re all in this together. We are river surfers.

- Jacob Kelly Quinlan

 

 Big thanks to Jacob Quinlan and all he does for the river surfing community. If you're interested in other works by Jacob visit his website www.jacobkellysurfs.com

 

"Don't be such a Pussy!"

“Don't be such a pussy, just do it.”

Peer pressure statements like this infuriate me, these statements can sometimes have fatal consequences. 

When I am introduced to a new river I tend to fall on the more cautious side. It’s important for me to get to know a river, understand it’s dynamics, assess it’s dangers, and show it respect. Deadly consequences carry serious weight for me and I’m not one to just jump right in knowing such consequences are possible.

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Motivation Mondays: 'The Tribes we Lead'

Ted talks have always been a great source of inspiration for me. Jacob Kelly turned me onto this video and it offers great insight on leadership. Tribes are what change the world, tribes turn into movements, and I'm all about finding and/or creating your tribe. A common desire in humans is to be connected and to be missed. So if you're trying to start a movement ask yourself these three questions (courtesy of Seth Godin)...
1. Who are you upsetting?
2. Who are you connecting? 
3. Who are you leading? 

Doing it for the Rhinos!

Pacing back and forth in the living room, cell phone pressed firmly to my ear I was wrestling with one feeling we are all familiar with…fear. On the other end was a concerned friend and mentor. His advice played to the fear even more, 

“This isn’t a jab at your abilities but you’re probably going to swim the entire thing. You’ll take some sweet picture of you dropping into a rapid that you probably won’t clean. I don’t believe any paddler could successfully paddle the Zambezi River. It’s gnarly—those rapids are fucking huge.” 

I knew he was right. When I was invited on this trip to be one of the first to attempt the mighty Zambezi River on a SUP I went through four stages of emotions: excitement to the point of shaking, overwhelmed with a motivation to do everything in my power to make this happen, doubt in my abilities, and then the ever crippling fear. 

By the end of the phone call I was 90% decided I wasn’t going on this trip. The thoughts of violent crocodile attacks and possibility of long hold-downs were overwhelming. But still, despite these feelings (of which I was keeping almost entirely to myself) Nadia and I pushed forward with our proposals to make this trip happen. 

We only had two weeks to raise the money. Often times, when I’ve gone to sponsors on such short notice, the response is always the same. 

“This sounds awesome, we wish we could help, but it’s just too short of notice and our budget is being used elsewhere.”

Fair enough. 

I thought, why would this be any different? Within two days of sending out our proposals we were fully funded. Nadia called me, ecstatic! 

“We’re going to Africa!!”

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Photographer: Heather Jackson

In that moment, all of those fears and doubts went away. The world seemed to open up in that moment, ripe with possibility and I was in total shock and awe. 

So, here we are. Drinking South African white wine on our 13 hour flight to South Africa. 

I’ve proposed many adventures in the past and what always seemed to be lacking in those proposals was purpose. There’s something about giong to a company, that’s already hard up for cash, and asking them to fund this awesome paddling adventure that they’ll get some sweet social media shots out of the deal. It just never felt right. 

This trip is different. This trip has a cause, I’m throwing myself down one of the most notoriously rowdy rivers to save the rhinos. That’s right, rhinos. What does stand up paddling have to do with rhinos? Nothing really. The point is that this attempt to paddle the Zambezi is so nuts (the craziest thing I’ve ever agreed to do) that it’s bound to get some attention. Our mission is to use that attention and direct it towards something bigger—the poaching crisis in South Africa. 

Our friends at RAW Adrenaline have created a campaign with the NPO Care for Wild called Stand Up 4 Rhinos. We hope that all the content around this descent shared by our sponsors will inspire people to donate to this cause and help us meet our goal of $10,000. 

Photographer: Chantelle Melzner

Photographer: Chantelle Melzner

All we need is 1,000 people to donate $10!!! That’s one and a half cocktails!!! That $10 can have a huge impact in the preservation of an entire species. Care for Wild takes in and cares for baby rhinos that have been orphaned due to poaching. These offspring are the future of this species. With the Northern White Rhino species nearly extinct, with one male and two females left, both incapable of reproduction we may witness this species go extinct within the next two years. Please let’s not let this happen to the Southern White Rhino. 

Thank you to everyone at http://rawadrenaline.org/ for making us a part of this incredible mission! 

Visit www.standup4rhinos.org to learn more about this mission, the team involved, and to donate your $10. 

This trip wouldn't be possible if weren't for our sponsors. So a big shout out to IceMule Coolers , LifeStraw , Big AgnesHeidi Michele Design , And Shes Dope Too, Huppy Bar, and Local Honey Designs.

Follow me on my Instagram @bp.surfs and facebook (https://www.facebook.com/brittany.parker.52012). Everyday, Nadia and I will be doing LIVE Facebook broadcasts from our accounts to give you regular updates on our adventure. So be sure to keep checking back!

Wish me luck! 

I Didn't Surf Skook

When your body tells you no and you listen to it. It takes a few mistakes of ignoring your bodies wisdom before you shut up and take it seriously. This week I went to Skookumchuck. One of the most beautiful standing waves in the world and one that can have great consequence if you’re not prepared. 

I sat on the sidelines all week. Watched the edges of boards move through a face so green it would make any surfer weak in the knees just at the sight of it. Drank beers and listened to recollections of some of the best surfs of that day. It was hard and I did my best to hide my disappointment. 

Some of you may not know I have compartment syndrome in both of my forearms. When I paddle hard, non-stop, for extended periods of time my forearms swell up, I rapidly lose strength to the point that I can’t take another stroke. Even on a SUP, if you fall off the back side of the wave you’re only chance of staying on your board is getting down on your stomach and paddling with your hands (the swim out consists of violent crashing waves and whirlpools that’ll grab you by the ankles taking you down as deep as they can before they lose energy). It’s this type of paddling that rapidly cause my arms to swell. 

The swims are only gnarly if you can’t manage to hold onto your board. The moment you’re off your board you’re going down. So, what happens if my arms shut down, if my hands are two weak that I can’t hold onto my board? 

On day 2 I grabbed my SUP and paddled into Skook. My timing was off and the wave went completely green and flat flushing me off the back side. By the time I paddled myself back to the eddy my arms were toast, I had to rest before paddling the rest of the way to shore. Not a good sign. I decided to call it a day. 

Day 4 rolled around. After laying awake in the van for a good portion of the night I thought “Ok, I think I’m ready to give it another shot.”

This time I’d take out the shortboard, it’s smaller and easier for me to hold on to were I to get tossed in a wave or spun around in a whirl pool. I stood above the wave, fear was churning my stomach…it didn’t feel right. I turned around, walked myself and my board to the eddy to paddle around and see how my arms felt. After 30 seconds of paddling my wetsuit got tighter around my arms and the pressure was too much to bare. I put up the board and pulled off the wetsuit. My forehead furled and my stomach had that fluttery feeling it gets right before a good cry.  

Looking out at the tour I wrestled with the realization that I wouldn’t be surfing Skook at all this trip. 

So, I did what I never do, I sat on the side lines the whole trip and took video.

Our bodies are full of wisdom. It can take years of us ignoring our bodies before we choose to stop and listen to what it has to say. Two years ago I would not have stopped and could have easily gotten hurt or endangered my life because of it. 

I'm so grateful to have been there with such an amazing crew. Not once did I feel pressured or made to feel like a pussy. Of course the insecurities were there that people were thinking these things (only because I was) and I felt like I had to continuously justify my decision--not by anyones doing but my own. I truly love every single human that was there.  

This injury has taught me a lot over the past two years. But the most important lesson is patience and acceptance. After cheering on my fellow teammates at competitions, cutting my surf sessions shorter than I’d like, and now not surfing Skook I’ve realized that saying no was way more challenging to my character than competing or surfing Skook. The gratification for such action isn’t immediate but built upon each and every time I choose to not jump in the water. 

I’m in that age (26) where we’re still learning to trust and listen to our bodies. Where our egos and fear of missing out clouds our judgement. But I urge all of you who are athletes or adventurers struggling with an injury to be patient with your bodies. The fomo will pass and the ego will eventually be silenced. 

Finally, when I get back from Zimbabwe and South Africa I will be getting surgery. I owe this to a very good friend of mine, Gentian, who is making sure I’m getting this done by one of the best specialist in the world. Recovery time is almost immediate and it won’t slow me down in any part of my life. I can’t wait to see what it’s like to have normal arms again! 

Japan Essay Series: DirtBagging on the Left Side of the Road.

Our GPS was yelling something in Japanese as we followed the yellow line guiding us to Kyoto where we were to meet Tsuyoshi for a paddle the next morning. Seven Americans navigating a foreign country with a foreign alphabet with only a Japanese GPS to guide them. This was certainly going to be an adventure. 

When we left Yacu’s home base he assured us it is perfectly legal to sleep just about anywhere, assuming it’s not private property. It was difficult at first for us to accept this relaxed approach to dirtbagging when the rules back home are so strict. 

But we took Yacu’s word for it as we zoomed out of our GPS scanning the surrounding area for a patch of green. The green could represent a serene meadow, a park, or possibly someones private property. It was late and we were willing to take the chance more than we were willing to pay for a hotel room. 

We found some green and aimed for it. While Bradley focused intently on staying on the right side of the road Zach directed him. The asphalt turned to dirt, switchbacks leading us up a heavily treed hill. At this point it was midnight and not looking promising. We agreed the next big pull-off we saw would be good enough. 

Parking the van on the furthest most edge to protect us from any oncoming cars we laid out our sleeping pads and fell asleep to the buzz of the electrical wires overhead. No car stopped to harass us, no police, nothing…I guess it’s true…you can sleep just about anywhere in Japan. 

Our green patches turned into coast lines. If we were anywhere near the ocean we would opt for beach camping. Late one night, searching for a place to sleep, we headed for the coast which was surrounded by a towering sea wall. We drove over it and parked the van on the ocean side. I’ll never forget waking up there and finding an old Japanese man standing at the top of the wall looking down and staring at us. It startled me at first until I realized that we were sleeping in a very popular place for joggers. 

Photographer: Paul Clark

Photographer: Paul Clark

It was clear they were not use to seeing a handful of American’s sleeping outside on stand up paddle boards. Runners would stop dead in their tracks; walking past us, mouth open, laughing.

Photographer: Paul Clark

Photographer: Paul Clark

Every time we had to search for a place to sleep it was always in the dark. One night, Zach lead us down some sketchy road where he felt there might be a nice private place to sleep right on the water. The road was windy and narrow with trees on both sides. It spit us out on a primitive loading dock that smelt of fish. There was no moon that night and a promise of rain. We couldn’t see anything…all we know was that it was flat enough and surrounded by water. 

With the promise of rain we created a SUP fort and pitched two tents beneath it and listened to the rain fall throughout the night. We awoke to turquoise waters and surrounding uninhabited islands. 

Photographer: Zach Mahone

Photographer: Zach Mahone

We saw things we would have never seen were we staying in a hotel. Our group became that much closer because of this spontaneous element. Traveling is about going with the flow and being open to new experiences. It can be really tough at times, especially traveling in a group, it strips us down and requires us to let go. I’d never felt more alive. Sometimes you’ve just got to aim for the green. 

Photographer: Zach Mahone

Photographer: Zach Mahone

PMS is Controlling Me

Hello Ladies, 

I'm looking for some help. Some of us don't feel the intense symptoms of PMS and I'm not sure if that's because you're superwoman, on birthcontrol, or know some ancient practice to help mediate your symptoms. But there's some of us, myself including, where PMS takes over our lives for one to two weeks.

The cramps and acheyness I can deal with but the borderline depression the week before my period I cannot. For two to three days I slip into this overwhelming sadness for seemingly no reason at all. My motivation extends to shoveling food in my mouth and watching Netflix, as a result I'm riddled with guilt for being so lazy...it's a downward spiral from there. People are counting on me but I can't muster up the energy to care. 

I'm learning to mark these days on my calendar each month so I don't schedule any work or meetings during this time. Is this surrendering? I'm learning to listen to my body and take time off when my body is trying to tell me to do so. But I understand not every woman has this luxury and I know I won't always have it either. 

Are there any women out there that experience this same thing? How do you live with it or have you found a way to control it? Thank you in advance! 

Japan Essay Series: But First, 7-Eleven

 

In spirit of my article ‘Spirited Away’ being published in SUP the Mag about my time in Japan, I’ve decided to do an essay series on all the things I wasn’t able to squeeze into the article. Some of the more funky topicslike loitering at the 7-Elevens, the toliets, Karaoke, sleeping outside, etc…. Enjoy!

The gang loitering in front of 7-Eleven.

The gang loitering in front of 7-Eleven.

Before you judge us and say,
“You’re in Japan, known for it’s culinary sophistication, and you choose 7-Eleven?”

I understand it seems sacrilege. It’s Japan after all, the home of sushi, soba, and many questionable delicacies. But forget everything you know about 7-Elevens here in America. Forget about the awful lingering smell of taquitos and forget about the fluorescent blue and green slushies. 

Replace all of that with sushi (sashimi, nigiri, rolls, etc), hot dog buns filled with spaghetti, hot coffee in a can (I was particularly excited about this one), gin & tonics, wine & cokes all in a can. My feelings towards 7-Eleven had to change and resulted in it being our home-base, our comfort, our one-stop shop. 

Hot coffee in a can or a plastic bottle. 

Hot coffee in a can or a plastic bottle. 

The closest we could come to the type of breakfast we’re accustomed to was yogurt, croissants, and doughnuts. At first, the thought of mixing coffee with fish seemed rather repugnant but as the time progressed, I kinda liked it. 

Sake by the Liter in plastic bottles.

Sake by the Liter in plastic bottles.

None of us signed up for any kind of international plan so we depended on wifi entirely to communicate with others. Lucky for us 7-Eleven has free wifi and there’s one on almost every corner. Our mornings consisted of us standing like statues on our phones outside of the store. 

After our three weeks we were definitely tired of the convenient store food. By week three you’d find us staring at the selection of food for long periods of time hoping we overlooked the egg and bacon breakfast sandwich…we never did.

In the Japan article I talk about how Japan makes it so easy to be a dirtbag and travel on the cheap. 7-Eleven is one of the many reasons this is true. 

Next Week I’ll be talking about living out of the van with six other people and how we only paid to stay somewhere twice because you can camp just about anywhere in Japan. 

 

Submitting My Work

Photographer: Heather Jackson (Shrednest Productions) 

Photographer: Heather Jackson (Shrednest Productions) 

This month my first major eight-page spread came out in SUP the Mag. The article is called 'Spirited Away' and it's about my journey in Japan. I've had an article published in the magazine before but it was more of a technical piece. This was a story, with a timeline and everything. Needless to say, this is a big deal to me. It's given me the confidence to push forward with my writing. 

I'm taking this Winter to write. Not with the intention on making money off of it just to explore my creativity a bit more, uncover my style. I'm choosing not to put financial pressure--killer of creativity--on my work. 

With that said, I've written an article about my time in Costa Rica and it feels strong--start to finish. Heather was in Costa with me for a little over a week so I've got a nice collection of photography to compliment it. We thought why not try to pitch it to a few magazines. 

Today, I will be pitching a finished article to a number of publications. Formally submitting an article is a first for me and it's a lot more challenging than I would have thought. Many ask for just a paragraph summary of the entire piece. Writing something that sets you apart from the others and squeezing it into a tiny paragraph is an intimidating task. But I'm up for it! 

If you know of any publications that I should submit to please let me know in the comments below. Thanks everyone! Wish me luck! 

 

Outdoor Retailer: Five Products I'm Most Excited About

We just got back from Outdoor Retailer! O.R. is a great time to get inspired, reconnect with people, and get excited about new products in the outdoor industry. Here's five of some of the products I came across that I'm the most excited about. Stay tuned for another list of the products that I'm want to but can't talk about just yet. 

Badfish RiverShred

Badfish is coming out with a new inflatable whitewater board the Rivershred!!! This is huge news and I'm so pumped to have a whitewater board that I can travel with and kicks ass in whitewater like the 9'0" MVP. It comes in two sizes 9'6" and 8'6" as well as different thicknesses. Check out the video below for all the specs and to see it in action! (www.badfishsup.com)

All you know I live in my van and I'm damn proud of it. But sometimes I go at least a week without showering. Considering a swim in the river sufficient enough. I've seen the solar showers but there's not enough power in them to get the soap out of my hair. The rinse kit has a high pressure shower head which makes it my van shower of choice. (www.rinsekit.com)

Coala Tree's Kachula Blanket

Coala Tree is based out of Colorado creating product that's organic and sustainable. The Kachula blanket is there newest addition to their product line. It's up now as a Kickstarter which they've already received backing well over their goal. The blanket is virtually waterproof, sand, water, and dirt comes off in a shake. It's difficult to keep things clean in the van...this is a blanket I can take outside without being worried about bringing the outside in. It's not available yet but look for it in the upcoming months! Meanwhile, check out the rest of Coala Tree's product...their now offering some really great women's wear and hammocks. (www.coalatree.com)

Wilderness fragrances made from personally harvested plants. Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory. I attach a lot of my life experiences to smells and when I smelled some of Juniper Ridges fragrances I immediately felt emotional and was transported to locations that hold a special place in my heart. I'm so excited to fill my van and cover my body with their fragrances. (www.juniperridge.com)

Green Goo


reen Goo has an entire line of salves all created from organically grown herbs and plants. They have a goo for everything from first aid, pain relief, solar, skin care, the list goes on. Not one of their products comes from pre-made extracts they infuse all of their oils with fresh and dried herbs. Not only can I have confidence that my skin isn't absorbing any harmful chemicals but I can be sure that the river will not be impacted by any of Green Goo's product that will be washed off into it. (www.greengoohelps.com)
 

The Badass Women in my Life: Nadia Almuti

Photographer: Zach Mahone

Photographer: Zach Mahone

You are who you surround yourself with. I heard this awhile back, I can’t remember from where, but I believe it to be true. Ever since I heard this I am very careful and very selective of those that I surround myself with. This is a series tribute, highlighting all the strong women in my life. 

Nadia Almuti
With hair kinked and curly, a smile and laugh that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside she is one of the most positive forces I have ever encountered. She’s probably the one person who is able to keep up with me and one up me in both the realm of drinking and paddling. She can keep it together in times of discomfort and knows how to bring me back to reality when I’m taking myself too seriously. 
 

When I’m questioning something Nadia will give it a casual shrug and paddle into that class IV rapid or have another shot. We can parade along a Costa Rican beach in the middle of the night sipping from a bottle of vodka, run naked into the ocean, and stumble our drunk asses home. If I decide it’d be a good idea to moon someone she’d be right there next to me with her ass out of her pants.

If I’m feeling lazy and plan on leaving my wet river gear in a messy smelly pile she’ll be the one to put up a dry-line and hang up my gear. This is why I call her my river wife. While I’m having my slow morning, drinking coffee, and journaling she has rolled up my sleeping pad and packed away the tent. 

She cooks like a fucking champion and can make a gourmet meal out of nothing. Where I would just roll up some lunch meat in cheese she’ll have home-made spring rolls waiting at the take-out. 

Nadia did all the electrical work in her house and tiled her kitchen. If she doesn’t know how to do it she’ll learn. 

We are the same in many ways but she is someone I look up to; she gives me strength and always knows how to pull me out of any slump that I may be in. 

She’s thrifty and lives a life free of superficial desires and a thirst for adventure. 

She is one of the most special and unique people in my life and I am so grateful to have a friendship with her free of judgment and full of shenanigans.

RVR 2 RVR 'Ride the Mountain Swell'

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Photographer: Heather Jackson

As you may have noticed I've been a bit absent with my blogging lately. It's been a bit of a cram session since I got back to Costa Rica. We just launched the RVR 2 RVR website a couple weeks ago. Myself and my business partner Natali Zollinger couldn't be happier with the outcome. Big thanks to Jacob Quinlan for all his website design work. 

This paddling season we'll be traveling from the East to the West holding downriver and river surfing SUP clinics in the states. From there we'll be moving up to Canada and touring around B.C. and Alberta. 

We're partnering up with local shops and outfitters at each clinic venue to help support local business and help grow and connect the river SUP community. Our belief is that the community is what makes this sport so special and is the glue that holds it all together. 

We're going to have a great time during these weekend long clinics. Along with dialing in our clients paddling skills we'll build long lasting friendships. At the end of the day of our clinics we encourage you to stick around and come play yard games, sip, and swap stories. These clinics are just as much about paddling safety, skills, and technique as it is friendship and creating long-lasting bonds through our love for the river. 

So please, visit our website www.rvr2rvr.com to see what we offer and if we're coming to a river near you! 

Happy Paddling Everyone! 

It's Hard to feel Unique

Photographer: Paul Clark

Photographer: Paul Clark

I’m getting a Sprinter van and will be living in a van down by the river; this has been my dream ever since I became a river rat. I had an idea... 

“I could start a blog about my adventures in my van…” 

Great idea? Not so much. 

I scroll through Pinterest looking for van conversions; there’s some good stuff in there…hmmm a lot of people have van Pinterest boards. 

Then I had a gander at Instagram, and as I typed in @van a long list of results appeared below. Ok, so vanlifers are a dime a dozen. They all blog and they all essentially have the same feed polluted with #vanporn. Vintage photo of van in the woods. Laying in van looking out to some ridiculous view. Cooking in my van. Driving my van. Here I am on top of my van. Dog in van. French press coffee in my van. 

Needless to say, I’m not making any plans to start an IG feed all about vanlife. It’s become a trend and out of all the trends I’ve experienced in my lifetime this is probably one of the best. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not annoyed that the market for van bloggers is rather saturated. 

It’s hard to not be discouraged. All this content starts to raise the questions: 

“Am I really unique?”

“Is my life or lifestyle really that special?”

“Why would people choose me out of the millions?”

But! I shall not walk into that cold dark deep abyss of doubt and I shall rise above all the pretty van photos, all the blogs, all the vlogs, and build something that is me. And maybe, just maybe my van doesn’t have to be the heart of my success.  Van life here I come!!! 

A Four Seasons, Whisky Drinking, Dirt Bagging Kind of Girl

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Photographer: Heather Jackson

I've always said home is what you make it. It's not always a specific location, it can be multiple, it can be wherever you are in a single moment. I've spent a week in a new place and by the end of it it felt like home. Living in Costa Rica, a place that is so far from home in distance and  environment, helps me understand my sense of the word. Home will always be the mountains. 

Living in the jungle these past couple months I've realized I'm rooted much deeper to the mountain life than I ever thought. 

The jungle is busy, it's buzzing with life 24/7 and that energy fueled me creatively for quite some time. I'd enjoy the comfortable morning temperatures on my porch drinking my coffee dressed with foamy coconut milk and write for hours. My writing really took off here; the words were flowing so fast I could hardly keep up. But as time rolled on and the novelty of the jungle wore off my writing did too and I started thinking about the mountains so much I couldn't be in the moment. 

And so....I'm headed home. 

Although I've been missing home; money has been really tight here and it's been a challenge to sustain myself financially. The unpredictability that comes with the tourist industry makes it difficult to get ahead. Costa Rica is shockingly expensive.

Working with Paddle9 was amazing and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them and have a job that requires me to jump off waterfalls and paddle in the ocean. Me leaving is certainly not a reflection on Paddle9...they're onto something really good and I'm happy to have experienced even a sliver of it. 

But as the days seem to get hotter and the pace of life seems to get slower I find myself very ready to head back to the mountains. I miss the weight of blankets on my body as I sleep and the sweet sound of snow crunching beneath my feet. I miss the food; buying all the things I love at the grocery store without breaking the bank. I miss having solid shits.  And I miss my mountain folk. 

When something isn't serving me anymore I'm pretty good at doing something about it. I've never allowed myself to be a sob story. I won't sit around and dwell in my misery. If my discomfort is simply just that and no longer constructive then I will do whatever I can to improve my current state. 

Costa Rica is a beautiful place but it's very clear it's not serving me anymore. So $250 later I've changed my ticket for the 10th of Feb and will soon be freezing my ass off. I'm not a beach girl. I'm a four seasons, whisky drinking, wood chopping, dirt bagging, river surfing kind of girl and it's time to get back in touch with that.