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Unpopular Opinion: There Is More To Life Than Paddling


By Shira Lander

When I first started kayaking, it was all I wanted to do and all I thought about. When I was with other paddlers, all we talked about was paddling and whenever I was with non-paddlers, I would drift off in thought about paddling. I spent a lot of time on American Whitewater checking out water levels and release times, even if I couldn't possibly make it to the river that day. I resented weekends where there were family events planned, causing me to miss out on a day of paddling. 

"If non-paddling friends wanted to hang out, I thought "but what will we do?"

Perhaps you can relate to this sentiment or have been there before. Running whitewater can be quite addicting…

From a Marketing standpoint, I should probably encourage this and tell you to paddle as much as possible so that you register for more clinics with us and buy more from our Outfitters Shop. But what I have come to realize is that paddling is a lifelong sport and – unpopular opinion – there is more to life than paddling.

If you're going to do this for the rest of your life, balance is going to be extremely important. Yes, I want to paddle and paddle a lot – but I also want to hike, climb, swim, practice yoga, rest, read, craft, and spend quality time with the important people in my life (even if they don't paddle, too). 

I think it's important to do whatever makes your heart feel full, rather than what your mind tells you that you "should" be doing.

These other activities will actually help you in your paddling. Other outdoor sports will help build strength, flexibility, and endurance in parts of your body that are sometimes neglected in paddling. Yoga will help strengthen your core and back muscles, and ease back pain from paddling. Art and music will boost your creativity and increase your mental health, which can be helpful for your paddling headspace. Taking time to rest will recharge you so that you can come back to the river with more energy. And if all else fails, you'll at least have other things to do when the rivers are running low or another pandemic comes around! 

Sometimes what stops us from taking a weekend off paddling is FOMO.

If you're unfamiliar with the term FOMO, it stands for Fear Of Missing Out. It was first used in 2004 and is now an official word in the Merriam-Webster English dictionary.

From Spring to Fall, there's something to paddle every weekend. You might feel the pressure to always get after it and a fear of missing out on the fun. Especially with the use of social media, it's easy to scroll through on a Monday morning and see just how much fun you missed out on. However it's important to check in with yourself and decide whether you really can or even want to be there for every paddling event. Try putting down the phone and have a personal check-in about what you really want to do.

Recently, Paddlesports Manager Amanda, was struggling with this exact conflict. She had planned all summer long to attend Beaver Fest and was really looking forward to it. But in the days before the festival Amanda found herself torn as to whether she really wanted to go. She explained her dilemma to me and was asking for help in making a decision. She said she had really been looking forward to spending that weekend up at the festival with friends who are in the area from farther places. She knew she loved that river and that there would be a lot of amazing socializing. But she also had been going really hard recently – with rescue courses, working, paddling, etc.

My advice was one that another friend had given to me when I was faced with a decision. I told her to go to the river and put her feet in, then take 3 deep breaths, close her eyes, and ask herself what she really wants. She told me that funnily enough, she was in the river barefoot that morning taking photos, and when she had stopped and looked around, the thought came to her mind, 

I could really just stay here for the weekend. Amazing how the river has all the answers.

After the weekend, I asked her what she ended up doing. She told me that she had finally accomplished a goal she had created a few years ago and was really proud of herself. Her and her partner had hiked all Seven Sisters, then swam across the Connecticut River, and then hiked up and over Mt. Tom. I was excited for her to have followed her heart and accomplished something that had meant so much to her, rather than falling subject to her FOMO.

Plus, Amanda said that when she went back to paddling, she felt rested and refreshed. She had a new sense of joy while paddling, rather than it feeling like a chore.

In order to be good at something, it takes a lot of practice. The more you paddle, the better paddler you will be. And if the passion is there, let it flow! All I'm saying is, if you need to take a break once in a while to explore who you are outside of paddling, don't let the FOMO or the guilt of not paddling overcome you. Instead you can be proud of yourself for finding balance in your life and incorporating variety into your world. This balance will make paddling more sustainable for you so that you can continue to run rivers, and love paddling, for many years to come. 

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Monday, 15 July 2024