I’ve been reflecting on my role as an athlete a lot lately. Having Natali, an athlete, around has been inspiring this inner dialogue. We spend a lot of time talking about the upcoming season. There’s a fire in her when she talks about competing. She loves it, you can tell. It motivates her when she works out and carries her through the Winter.
Being an athlete is something I always thought I wanted. I grew up dreaming of being a top competitor in snowboarding. But up until stand up paddling I hadn’t competed in anything besides school sports.
I’ve been competing in SUP for the past five years now. You’d think it would get easier as each year passed — it’s the opposite. The more I do it, the higher my expectations and the harder I am on myself when I don’t exceed them.
There are paddlers out there who really don’t care how they do and compete just for fun. I pretend like I don’t care but that’s not how I’m programmed. I care, I care a lot, but I don’t want to adopt the lifestyle of an athlete in the traditional sense of the word.
I think when we imagine the life of an athlete we think of people with a rigorous training schedule, strict diet, and little to non-existant social life. That’s not me. I suck at routine and I like to be flexible. Do I want bread along with my bowl of pasta? YUP. Do I want dessert. Uh huh. Do I want to drink beer around the fire at the beach. Fuck yes. I live for the moment, not for the podium.
Natali and I were discussing this topic of what it means to be an athlete over coffee one morning. I talked about how competing stresses me out more than it fulfills me. Surfing, exploring, and building connections through SUP is my bread and butter. She threw down the term ‘Athlete for Life’. I like that.
While some have their eyes on the gold medal mine are on seeing my writing inspire and making shiny new films to share with the world. Telling stories visually and verbally; letting water be the element that makes it all flow. This is where I thrive.
The professional snowboarder Travis Rice comes to mind. When I was striving to make it in snowboarding I idolized him. He was the kind of ‘athlete’ I wanted to be. Not known so much for his feats in the competition sector but known for pushing the envelope in backcountry and making the greatest snowboard films in the industry. I never fantasized about winning competitions, I’d listen to music and think about which songs I wanted for my first segment in the snowboarding film I was surely going to be in. I saw competition as solely a means to getting there, it wasn’t my end all.
That’s the kind of athlete I want to be. I want to be known for pushing the envelope in river surfing, for making the best paddling/surfing/adventure films in the industry, and being a pioneer, an explorer for the sport.
I’m not sure what this means for the upcoming season and where I stand on competing in the future. But I’m realizing my priorities and my role in this industry. I’m trying to release the pressure I put on myself to win and put my energy into what I’m good at.