“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.”
― Lao Tzu
Change. It’s human nature to avoid it. After all, we’re creatures of habit. But as the clouds roll in, the weather changes, the long days of summer get shorter and the seasons roll on we’re forced to adapt.
Like many things that scare us, change is good. It challenges us. It keeps us fresh, even if we resist or are scared of what it may hold.
In life, as in nature, there are many parallels and the past months have made me reflect on the past, the present and the future.
It is with the celebration of the past that has brought me to this moment, this moment of change.
A salute to an amazing four years and the achievements that have been made Photo: Camilla Rutherford Photography
Like a changing of the seasons, it is also time for me to make change. It’s a change that is more about growing and celebrating than anything else.
I’ve prided myself not accepting status quo for the sake of going with the known.
Status quo is like treading water. You stay in the same position. In an age when we must strive to keep moving forward.
I could never have scripted the past four years.
A whirlwind. A fairytale in so many ways. A roller coaster ride of trials and tribulations.
It taught me to let go. It taught me to live in the moment. It taught me so many lessons that I take forth and will stand me in great stead for the rest of my life.
It swiped me from a corporate sentence of concrete jungle gyms and conformity and a world I once knew as status quo.
Together we have paved the way and pioneered what will be now known as history in the sport of Stand Up Paddling.
From that inauspicious weekend of the Jever World Cup of 2010 when I turned up having paddled a board a handful of times and never ridden a race board to 12 months later making the podium at Battle of the Paddle, yes, we have created history.
A victorious return visit to Hamburg three years after the fateful event that started it all.
It has not been without it’s challenges. There have been some interesting comments made, and while some of those words have been of congratulation and celebration, others been hurtful. It’s what happens when a girl goes and beats all the men….by minutes.
Little did they know that it was more down to board design and reading conditions than anything else. It made the French news media take note and while doing the rounds of the online detractors wondering how such a thing could happen.
The board that would challenge status quo. That would be ridiculed but imitated many times over and that I helped salvage from the scrap heap on many an occasion. A legacy to innovation and belief that performance does not necessarily need to be beautiful, that results will speak for themselves.
But that’s what comes when you innovate. When you go against the grain. When you wear an “ugly shoe.”
Yes, I fought tooth and nail for that “ugly shoe” to be kept every year as it faced the annual scrap heap.
As did people that took the liberty to replicate its big bulbous nose for those rougher waters. Yes, the legend of Mr Szymanski was well before his time. But that is what they call innovation, the confidence to go against the grain, calm waters never making a good sailor.
For a good long while, many tried to replicate. Even nick naming designs as the ‘starboard destroyer’ in reference to coming up with new nose cones or shapes. The facts remained. Between Connor Baxter and myself we seemed to come out on top more than those around us. A pleasant coincidence you might say.
When we challenged design and innovation, we let the results speak for themselves. While a mildly tumultuous time to experience, it will be highly unlikely that the female side of the sport will rival the men as we/I did in the years of 2012 and 2013.
In 2013 I made the choice to go against the grain. With what I thought would be the right choice. Should the 2013 Battle of the Paddle women’s final been run with the men, it would undoubtedly have been the right choice. Less than a month before the event, the organisers chose to run the women’s final separately. My rough water board choice was likely not the right one, but with belief in the process and the work that had been done, we came out with an outstanding result. A win. And the confidence to make a decision and stick with it.
To win men’s events outright, on repeat is something that brought awareness to the sport by the general population as well as speculation. All I could do was stay true to myself, believe in the work I did and the gear I used. The facts were the facts and they will go down in history.
It proved that this is a sport where girls can compete on a comparable level as boys. It raised questions of how to deal with equality and has been a driver in my stance on making things better for the girls that join the ranks with me now and into the future. It is what has prompted me to take stance when I have not been in agreement with the inequality that has been presented with events. It’s been stronger to say no than to conform. As girls we often sacrifice more, often for less. Why? We do it for the love of what we do. I stay true to my stance of endeavouring to assist in making it better and championing those that have already recognized us as equals.
My 2012 and 2013 wins at Battle of the Paddle redefined the performance level of the women’s side of the sport. In 2014 controversy clouded what will stand as one of the greatest Battles of all time. To lose to a wave to a great competitor, I will be always be ok with. It’s not your ability to win, it’s your ability to accept with dignity the situations that you’re faced with…and to walk away being able to hold your head high in the knowledge that you were true to your values. That day and in the days that followed it was harder to say nothing than to speak up in the wave of controversy that ensued.
To stay true to myself, I’ve had to stay true to my values. To treat people equally and with respect. I thank Starboard for standing by my decisions to make a stand where appropriate, to challenge inequality and to make the decisions surrounding my schedule that have been the best for me to allow me to manage my body for me to achieve the results that have been achieved. Together we’ve achieved more in four years than could ever have been imagined. We’ve won multiple World Series, Battle of the Paddles and we’ve made history as we’ve crossed oceans from Ibiza to Spain, traversed the Cook Strait from the South Island to the North Island of New Zealand and captivated hearts and imaginations along the way.
And so my annual migration between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres takes hold. It’s a life of non-conformity, of living against the grain, but in harmony with the environment and all the things I love to do.
As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer.
It brings with it the cultural recognition of change and rebirth.
To an amazing partnership, a salute to all that has been achieved.
To breaking down barriers, to changing perceptions.
To innovating and having the confidence to do so.
Starboard, I thank you for four life changing years.
It’s been one hell of a ride. See you on the flipside.