The Why, Behind the Conquest of Changing Paddle Racing.
We ask ourselves the "why's." Especially when it pertains to others actions. Why did they pay it forward and get my coffee? Why did they say those kind words to me? And on the other side of the coin. Why did they cut me off? Or why did they do that not so nice thing?
More often than not, we will never understand or find the true reason, of the why.
I wanted to share some insights on my whys. As they pertain to my perspective. And how I have arrived here. This will allow me to be transparent. And put out my agenda in the open. With a bit of back story.
My journey is ever evolving. Just as my career has and continues to do so. I have changed my jersey, a sports saying meaning changing teams, however in this application it relates more so to careers than teams. As ironically I have not bounced around in an athletic capacity much.
My career began at 13. Where I worked as a gas attendant at the local marina. Starting my connection with working around the water.
After my few years of pumping gas. I started passing through the ranks of the work world. Retails sales, wakeboard coach. All while being a student athlete, both high school and collegiate. As well as a sponsored athlete, wakeboarding.
Then a massive change. Construction, digging ditches. Civil Engineer. Construction Project Manager.
Followed by the fleeing of the structured work world. And entering into the platform that put me where I am at today. It started with a brief stint as ski bum and then back to a wakeboard coach. Then threw my hat in the ring as a Real Estate Agent, which provided me a valuable lesson in marketing and motivational coaching.
As my world begin to stabilize. Bringing me to the arena most of you are familiar with. My career in the Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Industry. Brand Manager, Team Manager, Paddle Coach, Athlete. And a SUP Yoga Teacher.
Each one of these parts of my life I am grateful for. As they have provided me. And still do. With lessons. As well as valuable skills and mentors. During the past ten years I have set on a journey where I have challenged myself in the biggest capacity. Learning more, and finding my voice and place in my world.
Last year I took to my blog and social platforms to open up discussion about the state of the stand up paddleboard industry, specifically the race scene. As I banged the drum, the feedback was loud. And supportive.
There were some that asked me to speak, well, in my words less transparently. In their words, less offensively.
Two weeks ago I re-shared the blog that kicked it off about a year and a half before. The energy was inspiring. And I knew I had to reopen the conversation.
Resulting in last weeks blog, Why do we Stand Up Paddleboard Race?
Again received by the majority with open arms. Supporting the messaging. Sharing the reasons on why they paddle and love the sport we all are a part of. The pats on the back always make me feel good, as the messaging I am sharing is resonating with many. And I appreciate the words, stories and experiences you all have shared and continue to do so. But more importantly, how you live these words at the events and in your paddle communities.
What excited me the most. Was the ones who are questioning my agenda. Not in a negative manor. But asking why am I saying things like, no podiums, no cash and why I ranted for a paragraph about being a "sponsored" racer who became focused on winning and not having fun.
Here is some of the background.
That was me.
No one else. Nor an attack on pro paddlers, sponsored ones or even those on the path to become sponsored. As you all have earned and are earning those titles day in and day out. And in all honesty are an essential part to this sport we all love.
What I shared, even though a bit embellished, mostly in order to drive the point home. I did all those things in that rant. And I watched the fallout happen. Not just in this sport but a few others I was apart of. And if I didn't speak up about it, then I did not learn from my past.
As individuals we have every right to be focused on our hard work we put in. And get excited for the results that occur from it.
As a coach, and an athlete, I know that if we attach to the highs and lows of any moment or event. We create hurdles for ourselves taking away from our goals and potential our success. The saying of "not to high not to low" is one I use often. As it was said to me by my college Ice Hockey Coach Bill Bowes. If we boil it down, it is the truth. Too high and we will crash. Too low and it makes the climb back up even harder. Even keeled is where we can weather any storm.
Another piece of this is looking at the big picture of the endeavor. Is it for instantaneous fame and growth? Or are we doing the work for a better future?
Now we apply these principles to the state of racing.
We all want racing to gain popularity, like that of Iron Man, Crossfit Games, Tough Mudder or Spartan Races. In order to reach those levels, sacrifices have to be made. And when we make a mistake we need to discuss it and sort out how to change it accordingly.
Unfortunately talking about our downfall is taboo. Even though races have folded. And most race participation is on a decline. While participation in the sport as a whole, not the racing component. Is up.
This is the underlying reason why I am standing on my soap box. Not as a martyr. But as someone who knows and believes that going against the grain changes things. Or at least asks others to entertain the possibility of change. Allowing us all to think outside the box.
The statements I made about removing podiums, cash and prizes was not directed at existing races that are thriving. And when I say thriving meaning attendance on all levels increasing. New paddlers. Kids. Short course. Long Course. And etc.
Race director know these numbers and can see first hand what is happening and where. And I'm asking them to look and see if a change is needed. If it feels as a personal attack, look at your event closer as obviously I struck a nerve. But remember. I want you to thrive. Not pull the plug and disappear.
Change is hard. It is uncomfortable. But a necessity to grow. Look at any sport, store or product that is still doing well after 25 or 50 years. Some where along the way, they came to a place where they had to make a massive decision. One that paved the way to where they are today.
We have an example right before our eyes. The APP. Even though it only caters to the top athletes in the world. They have a vision. And a place for the top athletes in the world to compete. One of the biggest things I encourage in all my discussions is the need for the opposite of that. A heavy focus on the amateur side. Let the local races be about fun. New paddlers. And what the majority, almost all of you, including myself, paddle for.
That is why I've asked us all to look at the podiums. Prizes. And especially cash as a prize. In a new light.