Julia Nicholls Chattajack Stand Up Paddleboarding

I’m not a pro-athlete and I’m not a medical professional. I’m just someone who has chosen stand up paddling as her sport of choice and now I’m injured. This is just my journey, not advice or direction. Just my story.

I’m Injured-CRAP!

Sorry, no nice way around saying how I feel about being hurt. I’ve got a partially torn rotator cuff and need to address it with medical professionals. CRAP! That said, I am adamant that this is going to be a journey for me, not a destination. I love paddling too much.

You’ve heard the story of the teddy bear that gets all its fur loved off, right? Well my fur has definitely been rubbed off by my love for anything active. I’ve competed in karate, biked, run, swum, triathlons, and paddled; you name it, I’ve done it. Most of the times to excess, ok, ALL the time… And, I’ve torn my meniscus twice, broken bones, had black eyes, bruised ribs, chipped teeth, crashed my immune system, torn tendons and am probably forgetting multiple injuries. The funny thing is, I’m a nice “oldish” woman. But I might just be the Queen of overuse, being the endurance junkie that I am. I admittedly have gone over the training load cliff one too many times, but sometimes, injury also just happens.

IT Happened to ME!

Paddling is a not necessarily new to me; I’ve been recreationally paddling and racing for 3-4 years. I’m not a hard charger you’ll see on the podium unless there’s no one else in my age bracket (although in my mind’s eye, I’m an older version of Candice Appleby.) I’ve tried to find a balance between other sports and my absolute love for being on the water and the people I get to be around. In 2014, I thought I had done everything right training-wise. I built up with base mileage, I worked with a personal trainer to get my whole body strong, I’d gone to a shorter paddle with a smaller blade, I cross trained, I worked with a paddling coach (the awesome April Zilg) for technique, gone to clinics specifically geared towards injury prevention, paddled different types of boards to break up the monotony of one stroke, etc. Yet, this shoulder CRAP just happened. I feel cheated and I’m not at all happy about it. IT happened to ME and I’ve got more fur rubbed off.

Good Company/Great Resources

stand up paddle boardingFor me, I’ve experienced a whole emotional path with injury. WTF Denial. Anger. Depression. Education and finally Action. An article by Riding Bumps (http://www.ridingbumps.com/2014/04/27/our-experience-with-shoulder-surgery-for-the-prone-paddler-sup-racer-swimmer-and-surfer) has a chart predicting levels of insanity in how many weeks following shoulder surgery. I’m sure its tongue in cheek, but I’m at the top even before I hit the ground. Riding Bumps (www.ridingbumps.com) and their articles are one of the best resources we have for training, injury prevention, and rehab if needed. Suzie Cooney (http://www.suzietrainsmaui.com) also has some great training videos along with blogposts on injury prevention (did you know we can get knee injuries as a paddler?) Our sport has some great sites and articles to help educate ourselves before, during and after seeing a medical professional.

Additionally and lucky for me, I’ve got paddling friends who have gone before me through the injury maze. They’ve been patient with injuries and have lived to paddle another day. John Beausang, Mr. Mullet himself, suffered a dislocated shoulder at a Battle of the Paddle. He rehabbed patiently and is now back at it. Katie Elzer-Peters, Cousin Mullet, broke an ankle while stand up paddling. She did what the docs said, used a knee scooter (with tassels and flashing lights) and prone paddled almost all of 2014. She’s back to stand up and her bone is healed. (And she’s found a new love for traditional paddleboarding!) So I shouldn’t panic; rehab can and does happen. It’s not like I’m going where no man (or woman) has gone before.

Prone paddleboarding

Practice What I Preach

The hard part for me will be practicing what I preach. Sometimes I do act like a know-it-all and I’ve given advice to others. (Hah! Me?) I’ve told injured friends to ease up on paddling, do interval workouts on a bike, run, or go slow to get fast. I’ve told them to listen to their doctor and physical therapist. I’ve told them to volunteer at races instead of race. Now it’s my turn to practice what I preach. That.Will.Not.Be.Easy. Unfortunately with inactivity comes more coffee. Be calm, be patient, rehab, listen to the doctor, do my exercises…yeah, I’m going to have to work on that. I also have an inordinate fear of ending up on “My 600 lb Life” when I’m injured. I know that’s stupid, but it’s my fear and I own it.

Bottom line, I’ll be darned if I’ll let this be more than just one corkscrew of a boat wake that knocks me off my board. I will be good, I promise. Or at least I’ll try. I plan on seeing YOU on the water, I might be on the shore cheering loudly, but I WILL be glad to see you.


  1. Julia, sorry to hear about your rotator injury….definitley feel for you. Ive been fighting degenerative discs in my back for many years, and recently had a setback. Been going crazy not being able to exercise like I want and getting very impatient. Yours will definitley be a long journey. Have faith and practice those things you preach. I hope to see you at some races this year whether its volunteering and hopefully on the water sooner than later. Take care, Mac