Since moving to the US, I have had numerous “first experiences”.
Basketball, Bull Riding, Thanksgiving, Snow, (driving in it, running in it, trying not to fall on my butt walking in it), Snowboarding, Cross Country skiing, freezing rain, chipping ice off my car window, paddling in minus 5, Superbowl, Walmart, driving on the right hand side of the road (no problem until I have to cross an intersection with none in front that I can follow), the imperial measurement system (great until you miscalculate your bench press weight and nearly get squished).
I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions, but I am big on setting targets. My target for 2014 is to never shy away from a new experience, and to add many “firsts” to my list.
Strange how it is always easier to do what is familiar, what is comfortable. It’s human nature. In everything.
With training, you tend to always work at your strengths, because you are good at them, and hence either do well and/or enjoy that part of training. It’s a process of re-reinforcement, albeit an unhealthy one. How will you ever improve if you keep doing the things you are good at? To become a better athlete, you need to focus on your weaknesses, especially if they are your least favorite part. Turn them into your strengths.
In life, we are creatures of habit. Well I certainly am. Phenomenal athletes, successful business owners, excellent public speakers, and great leaders aren’t born with that skill set. They have worked hard, every day, for many years, to become that way. Which is great news. Because then anyone has the potential to become better at a skill.
So go out there, and do the thing that you find the hardest. Work at it a little every day, and become the athlete, person, friend, leader, role model you have always wanted to be.
It’s that time of year again, when I get to look back at the 365 days that flew by, and reflect on the millions of experiences that were a part of 2013. I also try and learn something from the choices I made, and the situations that were a result.
2013 was always going to be a big year paddling-wise, with the inaugural ICF SurfSki World Championships taking place in July, in Portugal. My paddling year was centered around this one event, and with that being said, here are the highs (and lows) from my year in paddling sports:
ICF World SurfSki Championships, Portugal – 1st place in the tightest of finishes. Definitely my highest highlight from 2013. World Champion. Finally.
Here is the blog post from that event. The Top 3 women were all within 30 seconds, and all were South African, testament to the strength of the sport amongst South African females.
I had a total of 3 sprint finishes in 2013, run-ups the beach. I won 2/3. I have been working on my running, but I think these came down to grit more than running ability.
Thanks Nikki, Michelle and Bianca for pushing me to the wire!
In March, I traveled to a part of South Africa I had never seen before, and raced the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon. Even more importantly, I got to know the Kalahari Lion, Gawie Niewoudt, and had 3 awesome days racing on the amazing Orange River.
I became National River Champion for the 3rd time, by winning the Swartlands Canoe Marathon. I really love this race, paddling through the trees on the best 2 days/stretches of the Berg River in the middle of a crisp Western Cape winter, with snow potentially on the mountains really epitomizes the Cape River season for me.
Getting to do more than one type of paddling keeps me sane. Although I grew up in the ocean, and it will always be my true love, there is something really gratifying about mastering rapids in an unstable, small piece of carbon and fiberglass. River paddling in South Africa is the ying to my surfski yang.
And then flat-water marathon is the purest form of racing. No hiding, no easy way out, no relaxing on the runs, no fun rapids to ease the pressure. Just tactics, fitness and ability.
The final part of the paddling year, saw me take on the World Marathon Champs in Copenhagen. Despite feeling particularly strong in the K2 with Bridgitte Hartley, we had unfortunate boat issues, and had to DNF. It was a frustrating and heart-breaking experience, and a definite low light of the year.
Finally, in December, I managed a trip back to South Africa to attend a friends wedding (watching two people that love each other make THE commitment was my other highlight of 2013!) and luckily got the timing right and managed to race both the Cape Town DownWind race as well as the infamous Cape Point Challenge.
Both were fantastic, with pretty epic conditions. Although under-prepared, I really enjoyed myself. Being back in the surfski and ocean after living in a land-locked state for 5 months was exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.
The final event for 2013 was one that is close to my heart, the Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge, and this year was the 10th running it. R2.5 million was spent on children with special needs in my home town of Plettenberg Bay in 2013, an amazing achievement by this foundation, and one I am fortunate enough to be an ambassador for.
This year I got to paddle with my buddy Giovanni Primo, and we had a great battle with Neal “Steel” Stephenson and Gabriel van Wyk.
I also got to do a 10km trail run through the beautiful Kurland forest.
As much as I would love to paddle competitively forever, at some point you have to get a “real” job, and another major part of my 2013 was a move to a whole new continent, country, city and the beginning of a new phase of my career. Working for USA Canoe/Kayak has been a big step, and despite the daily struggle of not being next to the ocean, I am enjoying the optimism and positivity of the people here.
This city is trying hard to create a more healthy lifestyle for its residents, and I love the attitude to change here in Oklahoma City.
As usual I am surprised at how fast the year flew by. My takeaway for 2013 is to make every moment count. It sounds cheesy, but life seems to be happening at ever increasing speeds!
Thanks for reading,
50km of ocean paddling. Well done to each and all who finished this epic race!
A film shot in the UK and Ireland
Winner : Best Short London surf film festival 2013
Music by Massive Attack – A Prayer for England
Poem John Masefield
“Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.” John Gardner