At the risk of sounding cliche, there’s something about hitting the mid point in the year.
Wind the clock back six months and I was in a state of confusion and frustration.
The only thing I committed to was to live by the mantra of ‘Do Epic Shit’.
It’s been six months of rolling with the punches, diving into the unknown, embracing challenge, finding solutions and hustling like no tomorrow.
I took the leap of faith to go it alone, to live to my own set of rules – a stoically entrenched set of values that I knew I couldn’t deviate from.
If I was to continue to put my heart and body on the line, I had to be ALL IN. I had to back myself as how could I expect anyone else to have confidence in me if I didn’t have confidence in myself.
As today marks my kiwi birthday, the 4th of July celebrations in the United States and poignantly sits just after the mid point in the year, it’s fitting to cast a look back to see how taking the leap of faith and throwing myself in the deep end has paid off.
It’s challenged my like you have no idea. I’ve destroyed a shoulder, broken some ribs and had to suck it up. Like a bugger for punishment I decided to race my bike and throw my self into multisport as well as racing on the water. At the same time I’ve been neck deep in building a house at home and managing that from afar.
There have been more than a few moments of holy shit and hesitation. That feeling of having a lump in your throat wondering if you’re making the right decision to do or not to do. It’s pushed me, it’s challenged me and I’ve found a few new boundaries in the process that I didn’t know I had.
As America celebrates it’s birthday of independence on July 4th, it also signifies my kiwi birthday falling on the other side of the date line.
Ever guilty of being focussed on the future at the expense of celebrating the small things along the way, here’s a few moments and memories to celebrate one fine day in America and reaching another year older. Here’s a few of the many moments that have made 2017 a year that I know I’ll never forget
Big days out in the hills running the dates with mates programme
3 Weeks Notice Before 2 Days of Hell around the mountains of Wanaka, NZ at Red Bull Defiance
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 21st, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 21st, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 22nd, 2017
Team Stand Up Chance, Annabel Anderson and Sam Thompson perform at Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, New Zealand on January 21, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in the Wanaka, NZ on January 22, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 22nd, 2017
7x Consecutive NZ National SUP Titles – and a cyclone to boot
Did someone say #raceface? Any excuse to chew some dirt and throw some dust
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 21st, 2017
5x Consecutive Carolina Cup Victories
The year of events in extreme weather continued with the added bonus of a win at the Olukai on Maui
Last minute trips to paddle 30 miles around Bermuda and another win over the boys
The infamous Davenport Downwinder & a victory over the boys
A first trip to the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail, Co. 11x events, 4 days, 2nd in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge and being sent to some very dark places on repeat to find some new depths that I didn’t know existed
A chance to celebrate everything that is Live Like Jay at the Jay Moriarty Memorial Race in Santa Cruz, Ca with the one and only Kim Moriarty
While the first half of 2017 may be in the bag, there’s a monster of a second half of 2017 to contend with.
The month of July sees me in Maui, HI taking on four consecutive weekends of downwind races including three channel crossings culminating in Molokai 2 Oahu on July 30.
Looking ahead to September I have finally (for the first time in 5 years) said yes to taking up my position on the NZ SUP team to compete in the ISA SUP & Prone World Champs in Denmark from September 1-10. After turning down my place on the team in previous years for various different reasons, this year I have said yes. Like the rest of my year, this is also a self funded trip. If anyone would like to support in any kind of way, please get in touch.
To everyone who has supported, helped and assisted so far – THANK YOU. It takes a VILLAGE and it’s a village I’m proud to have behind me.
I was quoted last week as saying “to win once is hard”, “to win consistently is just plain tough”.
Life is cyclical and throws many curve balls at us when we least expect them.
In Olympic sports, athletes peak mentally and physically in a four year cycle, allowing a period of recovery at the end of each cycle before gathering themselves towards the next olympiad.
When you compete in non-Olympic sports which don’t operate on a four cycle, we don’t have the same space to recover and recharge. Everything is condensed and the expectation of delivering year upon year is real and it’s tough.
This past week was my fifth trip to the island of Wrightsville Beach on the coast of North Carolina.
For the past 5 years every Easter has signalled the end of the kiwi summer and flying half way around the world on countless flights bound to kick off my international season at the Carolina Cup.
How this small outpost on the Atlantic Coast came to be home to the largest annual gathering of stand up paddling is testimony to a small group of passionate locals who decided to invite the world to their waters to test them on what is possibly the toughest and most technically demanding course of the year.
The end of April signals the start of Spring in the northern hemisphere, but if the north winds are blowing the winds are chilling and the waters still frigid. If the south winds have been prominent the weather is considerable more temperate.
In my five trips to North Carolina, I think I’ve now experienced every possible mood of weather and as such come prepared for anything and everything.
If it’s your first year at ‘the Cup’, you have next to know idea what to expect other than the stories you’ve been told, the footage you’ve seen and what you’ve read, but nothing really prepares you for that first experience.
Unless you’re a local who boats, surfs and paddles these waters year round it’s nigh on impossible to truly understand the course and the affects of the weather in this part of the world.
The wind is fickle, Masonborough Inlet is notorious, the currents are strong and well….let’s just say that you’re going to quickly love to hate the grind of Intra Coastal Waterways (ICWW).
In all five editions that I’ve done, each year has been different. The first two years went South first meaning that we had to punch out through an incoming inlet to get the open ocean, the past three years we’ve gone north and surfed our way through.
But if I’m to make a call on what year the conditions have been the hardest, it would likely be 2017.
Saturday morning greeted us with a howling southerly blowing up the beach. As is the case with this race, they will send you in the direction that the wind is blowing on the ocean side to maximise a downwind portion of the race. While this might seem fun, the stronger the wind blows, the stronger that wind is to bash into up the back waters of the ICWW.
It’s the type of course that the conditions dictate how your going to play out your race. Regardless of if you’re starting to finish, to starting with the aim of finishing at the pointy end, the conditions will dictate how the race will play out. And this year, as I suspected, that is exactly what happened.
Coming into a race, I don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I was overcome with a sense of calm.
I’d arrived a couple of days early to catch up with good friends, to share laughter and reminisce. I had little expectation other than to have funned to enjoy.
As the first major of the international season this event comes with a lot of external expectations for many from supporters, sponsors and an industry.
Having paid my way, I felt significantly lightened from some of the burden of expectations to deliver what has become an expected result in previous years.
Walking the beach early on Saturday morning, I could feel the wind building and the intensity of the weather increasing.
No one could ever call a year at Carolina Cup ‘normal’, but these conditions were definitely the most extreme that I’d experienced and I knew that this would play a significant factor into how the race played out.
As the outriggers and surf skis, prone paddlers and elite men tore downwind, I quickly changed my position on the start line sighting what I saw was a more direct route to the turning buoy sitting just past the breakers.
If there was a day that playing your game to the conditions would reign, this year was it.
The end of the outgoing tide made getting in through the inlet far slower than previous years and based on my calculations, I knew that we were going to get slammed head on against the incoming tide as we made our way up the ICWW.
20-25 knots on the nose against the tide for the best part of 7-8 miles is probably not your idea of weekend fun. Judging by the failing form of the draft trains of guys I made ground on and passed, they weren’t finding it much fun either (as girls we paddle a shorter board than the men).
There was the odd moment of reprieve from the wind as the course wound around the waterways, but never from the incoming tide.
If the first part of the ICWW broke people, the second half destroyed them. Making our way past the Sound side of the Blocade Runner Hotel and past the welcome cheers of everyone watching from bridges and docks the wind and currents intensified.
Being shown the footage of what it looked like from a drone, it looked like we were creeping against an escalator moving in the opposite direction.
Having towed talented young hitter Fiona Wylde past trains of men for over an hour with a couple of moments of reprieve, I knew that I wanted to keep the pace on as I didn’t have a time gap as to where the next girls were behind us.
Having bided my time, just past the crowds I decided it was time to go. Within moments I’d broken, blown past the men in front and put daylight on them.
But this is where this race gets interesting and likely acquired it’s name ‘The Graveyard’. This is a race which breaks people in ways which they least expect it. People cramp, they drop their gels, the run out of water. It will usually happen when you get into the later stages of this race. From that point on, it’s no longer a race, but a battle of survival to make it to the finish as many of the pre-race favourites in the men’s event will attest to.
Coming into the 2017 edition of Carolina Cup, I had little idea of where my form was. It’s been a pretty disrupted off season, particularly in the past couple of months. A couple of nasty stacks landing on my shoulder racing my mountain bike, some badly banged up ribs and the most horrific summer weather on record my pre-season preparation on the water was limited and life on a day to day basis was summed up as being ‘suck-it-up-buttercup’ painful. To be able to do what I wanted to when I wanted to was extremely satisfying.
I’m not lying when I say that my pursuits were without a paddle. It was a case of making the most of what I had on my doorstep and kicking some life goals in the process.
While the post event headlines have been about five-in-a-row, this past weekend signifies so much more.
I’ve been challenged in many ways the past few months, but I still turned up and still did what I knew I was capable of.
It’s been unconventional and far from ideal, but it’s dealing with the curve balls that keeps you on your toes while building tenacity and resilience. It’s not about delivering when the times are easy, it’s being able to get it done when currents of life get a bit turbulent.
What I do know is that I had a truck load of fun this past week and that the fun train will be in full force and rolling for the months to come.
Five consecutive wins at Carolina Cup is no accident and a lot of people have been a part of helping make this happen.
Number 5 is for you, thank you for your continued support.
To those that helped this weekend – thank you. Without your help, this would have been considerably harder
A few to mention:
Mahiku Activewear – I’ve worn my Black Mamba tights religiously at this event since 2014
Betty Designs – for always channelling one’s inner bad ass
Running Skirts – the most epic long sleeve crops to keep the sun off and chafing at bay
CamelBak – always ensuring I have fail safe hydration systems that stand up to the task
Brian Szymanski – creating boards that are more works of art than pieces of foam and fibre glass
ZRE – the paddles I’ve used since the very beginning
NSP – for making me welcome and part of your posse all weekend long, it was a lot of fun!
The Blocade Runner Hotel – incredible hospitality
Katie & Patty – it just wouldn’t be the Carolina Cup with out you two!
On It Pro – always ensuring that my boards make it to the line in ship shape and looking pristine
Chris from Carolina Paddleboard Co – thank you so much for your help with logistics
Spencer, SUP ATX – coordinating shipping and making sure everything arrived on time
Greg Panas – always there to capture the shot and shoot the shit on the problems of the world
Oh dear….what the HELL did I just let myself in for?
Did I really think about the consequences of saying ‘yes’ without giving full thought as to the repercussions of what just rolled off my tongue less than a month out from an event like this?
I think I may have firmly thrown myself in the deep in on this one, the exception being that for most of it I’ll be high and dry and I really should have dedicated a minimum of six months to a proper preparation.
It was never officially in the plan to do Red Bull Defiance, the gruelling two day, two person teams multi sport race around Lake Wanaka, but when you drop a couple of loose words into conversation that you’d ‘be up for it’ you have to be careful what you wish for.
Sure enough the phone started ringing to see if I’d fill in for an injured half of a team.
‘Yes’ seemed to roll off the tongue before a deluge of a few ‘oh shit’ moments started running through my mind as the reality of what I was committing to began to sink in.
Don’t get me wrong, I spend a fair bit of time running and riding around the hills of Lake Wanaka, the Southern Lakes and Central Otago when I’m at home, often with some of the best in the adventure racing and multisport business, but it’s a very different proposition going from some fun in the hills with your mates to lining up on a start line of a multi discipline, multi day event.
Call it respect for the craft of others and respect for how others ply their trade – but multisport is no joke and these are some of the baddest hard-asses you’ll ever come across.
Racing back to back over two days and with one of the harshest run courses you’ll come across, there’s a reason they called this one ‘Defiance’. It’s more than likely that one half of your team will be suffering at some point and teams racing is vastly different to making it from the start to the finish under your own steam.
But when the opportunity arises to step out of your comfort zone and get down and dirty in the hurt locker, it’s hard to say no. I’m stepping into the unknown and it will be as much about doing and experiencing as it will be finishing.
Managing the highs and lows of a team dynamic, avoiding costly and frustrating mechanicals and operating in a state of physical deterioration is just the challenge that has been needed to spice up the month of January.
To think two years ago that I’d be even contemplating doing something like this on a knee that has had 9x surgeries and countless injuries is testimony to the benefits of regenerative medicine and rehab.
Stay tuned for some of the logistics and preparation that go into preparing for an event like this, i’ll be putting the best of my planning experience to work on this one to ensure we hit the start line in the best possible shape to make it from the start to the finish on January 21 & 22.
If someone tapped you on the shoulder and said you’d drawn the golden ticket to spend a fortnight on a tropical island, it’s quite possible you’d be jumping for joy, bouncing on beds and swinging from the rafters.
Sun, sand, warmth, possibly even some waves!
Sounds Ah-mazing right? Possibly even a tan to boot…pack that bikini now girl!
For most, this is precisely the image that is conjured up – it’s one heck of a sell. “Who” wouldn’t want to escape to paradise, you’d be positively nuts not to.
When you got home, there was a letter. It detailed everything about the trip and what to take, but it didn’t say when.
Each week you checked the mail, hoping for another letter with some more information about this ah-mazing golden ticket to paradise.
You’d told all your friends, promised to send pictures to your mum, the anticipation was building, but you still didn’t know when you were going.
After weeks of waiting you called the number on the golden ticket and got the answer phone. You left a message. Actually, you left messages every second day in the hope of getting something other than the answer machine.
As the weeks rolled on and the information didn’t come, life threw you a couple of curve balls. That early excitement was fast starting to fade into low level anxiety when combined with all the other things that were lining up in your life.
All of a sudden you got the information you’d been waiting months to receive…and you could feel the pressure of all the balls you were trying to juggle starting to mount.
I’ll cut a long story short – this is a some what accurate analogy of the build up to this year’s ISA Prone and Paddleboard World Champs.
Months came and went and we still didn’t have information about where it might be. Fiji was mooted and finally announced as the host months after the initially schedule dates of the event while any other information was scarce to find.
The dates were set, the dates were changed. Given a small amount of information as to where it might be be held, this then changed again.
Having won the NZ Nationals for the 6th consecutive year in both the distance event and the surf racing event . I accepted my position on the team as the female representative for SUP racing based on what I knew I would be able to commit to back in February….fast forward a few months and my world got a little turned upside down and shaken around.
While there is not need for the details of my world being turned upside down and all around to be aired for public consumption, it definitely began to affect the decisions I was making and it necessitated a reconsideration of my plans and schedule. Was any of this in my control? Only the decisions I was making in the wake of the information I was faced with.
Fast forward to October and I made it home with all my gear in tow prepared for anything and everything. I was fit, I’d just finished up a season highlighted with some incredible highs and I finally had the chance to get my head around the planning and execution of this ‘fortnight-in-paradise’ that was fast turning into a nightmare-covered-in-chocolate.
While the proximity of Fiji seems relatively close to NZ, the reality soon began to be anything but. As I costed everything out, it soon became apparent that this little jaunt to the South Pacific was rather to be a rather pricey affair.
At the same time, some other, shall we call them ‘life commitments’ started rolling in at 100% over budget with a time line coinciding with the dates of Fiji.
Time was running short and it time for some fast decisions to be made.
As with any decision you make, there is always the cost of what you’re not doing. And often what you’re not doing is a hard pill to swallow.
Looking at the facts objectively as to what was best for me (not what was best for others) the decision was simple.
And as with all decisions, there is always the potential ramifications and fallout of the decisions that you make. Good or bad, you take it on the chin and roll with the punches.
But when some of those punches come a little below the belt, are of the red card variety, and the hits at your chin miss leaving you with a bloody nose and the start of a black eye – it’s probably time to take stock of the situation and yes, there were a few cheap shots sent in my direction.
Gotta love a good round of chinese whispers in the era of Facebook eh? Nothing like a bit of banter eh? What, someone took a screen shot of what you just posted? Yes people – don’t be the person about to give themselves a MEGA PALM FACE…..
There are a number of reasons that contributed to the decisions I made a week ago. Some were concerns surrounding the event (which instead of debating publicly, I raised directly and constructively with the ISA) as I was more than aware that others shared similar concerns.
Asked why I had not gone down the route of crowd funding to assist in covering some or all of the expenses associated with attending this event, it came back to personal values.
While crowd funding and the likes of give-a-little are a powerful medium and most definitely have their place, I struggle with the deeper meaning of asking people to hand over their hard earned cash for my me to spend a couple of weeks in paradise.
Maybe I’ve always had to earn it, but I value just how hard it can be to earn a dollar. So when you ask for a dollar, there’s always some kind of ‘transaction’ be it in the form of a good, a service or an emotional deficit. A sense of ‘owing’ to those that have stumped up.
Quite simply, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for handout. I know of many others that are more than comfortable doing this and good luck to them. I’m more of the ilk that you save that kind of trump card for a time of serious emergency when the shi*t really hits fan and you are in desperate need of help or assistance. A fortnight in the South Pacific didn’t really fit the profile for me on that one.
So there you have it. This is not a decision I took lightly and it is DEFINITELY not for the reasons that some people have aired.
I take seriously the responsibility that goes with representing myself, my family, my friends, my sport(s) and my country which I do week in, week out for a large portion of the year and hold myself to the highest levels of personal delivery. I also have goals and ambitions both inside and outside of sport.
Like all things I do – I see it in the context of ‘winning the game of life’. It’s a privilege to be having to make decisions where many will never have the opportunity to have either choice.
Good luck to everyone attending the ISA World Champs in Fiji later this month.
May you be safe, may you make your country proud, may you play to the best of your preparation and may you rise to the occasion.
Slap me across the face with a wet fish right about now…. I started trying to write this back in August, have tried to finish it on numerous occasions but for lack of a better reason you’re getting it lock stock and barrel now.
In fact, there may just be some keyboard diarrhoea ready to explode onto the inter web in the near future.
I’ve finally made it home, FINALLY managed to unpack and feel like at least part of my life has some kind of order and structure. It’s the small things like being able to open up your draws and find what you’re looking for at a glance rather than having to explode a bag and sift through the destruction on the floor that means you’ve actually made it home.
When I started writing this back in August, the second half of my season was on the verge of not happening. A lot was up in the air and I was on the verge of heading south in search of white gold and the lure of my own bed. The reports coming out of the Southern Alps were that the snow was all-time.
And when it’s on – it’s on….
With not much going on in the first half of the summer, it felt like it had been a good long while since I’d had some hard and fast racing on the water.
From the middle of the Pacific I made the call to fly east rather than west.
The next two and a half months were full to the brim, full-noise action and working out how many cans of nitrous had in the reserve tail at the ready to unleash (thankfully there were plenty!).
When I say I was close to not coming back, I’m not joking.
Every time you make a decision to do one thing, there is always the opportunity cost of what you’re not doing. But for some reason, I had a sense of unfinished business; that I needed to go and finish out the season and see where things were at.
It was a bit of a gamble, but knew that I was carrying some serious form from the first half of the year. If you’re not going to back yourself, why should you expect anyone else too?
It’s the ability to continually evaluate a situation and remain objective that allows decisions to be made on fact rather than emotion.
With a view to taking each weekend and each event as it came, I landed back on the West Coast at the ready to let the high speed roller coaster of racing, travel, more racing and more travel unleash.
From LA to Huntington, to Hood River, Oregon to LA, California to Japan back to LA, up to San Francisco, down to LA, back into the depths of the Orange Curtain and San Diego it was a roller coaster of planes, airports, some toxic chemical burns, never ending logistics, fun, games and plenty of banter for good measure….I’m finally coming up for air after the marathon of the past three months.
With pace in my favour and fitness on my side, a re-found willingness to gamble the odd risk that I haven’t had for a while, the confidence to change up equipment and roll with the consequences, and ‘that’ moment in surf race final of the Pacific Paddle Games when I decided I loved being back in the depths of the pain cave so much that I went for another lap giving away the win….the overall win ……and a decent amount of lunch money in the process, it’s fair to say – I was definitely ‘back in the game’.
Them’s the breaks.
With the willingness to take risks, the heart to charge and a re-found love to compete that has come back stronger than ever, these are the highs and lows that make you fall in love with sport all over again.
Heck I even busted out a couple of cross-country races in San Diego for shits and giggles and seriously surprised myself in the process (not to mention an off-the-couch 110+ miles on the roadie in Oregon on whim…).
Now the bags have been packed, unpacked, packed, unpacked, packed, repacked and finally Unpacked for the year, with only the ‘weekender’ version in the proximity of easy access.
There’s the familiarity of the landscape of home and the security and peacefulness of the mountains that I crave at this time of year.
The bikes have been dusted off and the puffer jacket is in full effect.Even though it is spring, there’s at least a weekly dusting of show half way down the hills and a climate where the changeability of the weather is ever-present in the decisions you make daily on what you are doing and how you are going to do it.
The yoga mat has been unrolled and my annual pilgrimage back to the warmth of the yoga studio has been embraced as much as the awkward positions that my body loves to hate at this time of year have become the norm.
The reconnection with old mates to fix the problems of the world over coffee, wine or a long ride through nature’s playground.
The cry of the mind and the body to simply go and play rings true and louder than ever – for these are the months that are the ‘jackpot’ for the hard yards and investment of energy and time away when you ply your trade from afar.
Following every period of expansion there is the need of the balancing period of contraction.
For me, that is home and it’s the contrasting environment of the mountains.
It’s a world away from the madness of the year. It’s a chance to reflect, recharge, refocus and rebuild the energy required to rise to the challenges of the months ahead.
Thanks for the support, it’s been a roller coaster of a few months – the extent of which most will never know.
I know I’m here for the right reasons and I’m stronger, faster, fitter and hungrier for more than ever before.