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 for giving me this opportunity it was a life enhancing moment!