Tween Second Time Around

The teen years were crazy, without a doubt and of course there was the strange time before becoming an official “teen” but not a kid either.  This is how I feel…have felt…for awhile now.  “Not quite”.  I’m definitely not a beginner paddleboarder.  Or mountain biker. Skier.  Hiker. The list goes on.  I’m also not remotely that fearless badass chic that is exceptional and expert and all the things that many of my friends are (ladies and the guys too).  It’s next level and it’s admirable.  And it’s not me.

So as I approach this summer and an upcoming trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho I’m feeling all kinds of emotions.  Excitement, fear, anticipation (in a good way) and anticipation (in a nervous way).  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this river, it is considered one of the best multi-day whitewater trips in the nation.  It’s rumored to be spectacular for scenery and equally great for serious whitewater paddlers.  Let’s be clear–I’m not paddleboarding this trip (or at least not the III/IV sections which is most of it). I am sitting on a raft that will be oar-rigged with an expert oarsman at the sticks. However, especially at higher water it’s got numerous rapids that will flip your raft if you don’t nail your line and without question, I don’t want to swim.

Let’s back up though, because this post is actually not about my upcoming trip.  What I’m considering right now is the space I occupy as a Tween. Like I said, I’m not a beginner paddler.  In fact, I teach the beginners (both flatwater and whitewater) and if I can boast for a second, I think I do a pretty good job at it.  I’ve had the moments of “head swell” too.  Just last week you’d have thought Sam and I were champions with a couple families watching us from the riverbank as we cleaned a class II rapid on the Santiam.  I’m talking real cheering.  One lady literally running down the riverbank as she pumped her arm in the air “way to go!!”  If THAT doesn’t make me feel a teensy fabulous I’d be a liar.

On the other hand, I swam 5 out of 6 times the following week, upstream in a swirly set of rapids and with the water running a little higher it put me just inside my comfort level (because I know this set of rapids empties into a pool and eddy).  All good, but it wouldn’t have taken much more to make me uncomfortable.  I remember my level of anxiety on the Pacuare just 4 months ago.  I was following—well we’ll leave names out of it– a great paddler down the river like a baby duckling.  Here’s a woman who paddles incredibly and even though I know she has her fears, she tamps it down and goes for it.  This isn’t a post about comparisons.  I’m not saying my traits are bad or wish I could be anything different than what I am.  I’m simply stating my odd relationship with activities and where I “fit” in a world of outdoor recreation and how I challenge myself.

I am not excited by “easy”.  I’ve discovered and rediscovered this many times when I start to believe I don’t like big waves or technical trails.  There is nothing at all wrong with flat water paddling—or paved, double wide bike trails or groomed, Nordic skiing on flat trails. All of these activities have their place, are fun and I engage in them frequently. To genuinely get me excited however, I want a thrill and I want to work for it.

Here’s the truth though: when people flatter me with comments of my accomplishments on the river, I find myself feeling like a hack.  There’s a voice inside my head that’s telling me I’m a scaredy cat and I’m not “all that”. I can’t really hang well with the experts but I want a kick too. I imagine, just like when I aged past 12, I’ll find my place, and I’ll evolve too.  Will I ever be the fearless paddler of Class IV’s?  Hell no.  Do I care to be?  Not really.  I envy the variety and opportunities those capabilities open up, to see amazing sights, but as far as a skill set I just want to have fun and challenge myself within my “edge of comfort” level. Maybe I’m not alone in this and I’m not as “tween” as I think I am.  Either way, for me and for anyone out there, keep on keeping on if you’re following your passion. I am.

Thanks for listening.  See ya out there on the Frisky Ripples!

I’m Spoiled. And I Have Great Pants.

Shelter in has been somewhat challenging… but I’m not under any false pretense that my experience has been nearly the hardship or emotionally troublesome as for many people. I cannot imagine the difference in my life right now, if I lived in a city where I was surrounded by cement.  However, I don’t.  Instead, I live in basically two places…both of which afford me a somewhat idyllic existence.  Especially now.

I’ve paddled my board on my favorite stretch of whitewater the last two days because I’m lucky enough to have private access to the river… put in and take out.  Yep.  Spoiled.

Typically when writing this blog, I am not trying to sell anything nor go heavy on product reviews but I have to here.  Because, as someone who wears wetsuits and neoprene A LOT I’ve got to give a shout out to what will undeniably be a game changer for me moving forward.  I might have previously mentioned the non-neoprene 1 mm Carve-brand pants and jacket I’ve recently begun using. I could not be more impressed with this set up. Here’s what’s great about them.  Number one–comfort.  Not only does it not get the yucky neoprene smell on your skin, but this material is literally “soft”.  It feels good.  Not “oh this neoprene gear fits right etc” but it genuinely feels nice.  When I wear my neoprene’s, even if I don’t get water on me, my swimsuit is dripping wet from sweat…ugggh. And I’m not even a “sweater” in the scheme of things.  This material doesn’t have the oppressive qualities that a wetsuit has.  Also…and very importantly, it works!  For the splash that got on me, it repelled the water easily.  I didn’t feel the cold.  Admittedly, I didn’t swim.  Let’s be clear, this is not a replacement for a wetsuit.  This is a replacement for my 1mm neoprene pants/jackets that I’ve been wearing for four years, in the warmer weather.  It allows me to paddle more athletically and with less constraint.  The comfort of this material prompts me to also suggest using it for  more than whitewater.  If you enjoy paddling shoulder seasons on flatwater…say early morning or cooler days…this could be your answer.  For paddleboarding OR kayaing.

Where do you purchase these?  It’s Carve brand and we carry Carve at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe (where I work). I am wearing the jacket in picture below…cool graphic on pants too. Hit me up with questions…

Thanks for listening, and see ya out there on the Frisky Ripples!

Sue Pacuare

As the World Turns…

Does this soap opera still exist…As the World Turns?  I remember it being a thing when I was a kid.  Could anything compare to life right now and the drama we’re all experiencing with a health crisis on our hands?  As we navigate through the balance of living our lives with any sort of “normal” routines, I realize that it’s ok to not have a normal routine.  Personally, I believe much of our infrastructure was slightly fucked up to begin with.  But I don’t want to focus on the negative.  There are silver linings we can derive from the tragedy that is COVID-19 and perhaps apply those lessons moving forward.

I write posts of daily gratitudes on my Facebook page.  Ok, I write gratitudes.  I’ve found that I’m not in a “ducky” mood every day.  I hear this sentiment from many people who express similar feelings…they’ll be going along feeling everything from “ok to hopeful to even marginally happy” and then BAM– a day filled with anxiety, worry, sadness, feelings of being detached or alone.  I’m including this pattern for myself here, because as humans I think that most of us are survivors.  But this is some scary shit.

Talking with one friend in particular, we consistently ask ourselves “what is the right thing to do in this moment”… and bounce the decisions off each other. It feels like the answers aren’t black and white.  Excluding those who are on the far side of “this is just bull shit and I’m going to do whatever suits me…not shelter in, ignore the mandates, etc” it seems a constant navigation of moral right and wrong.  Or maybe the better descriptor is “safest, best choice” in the moment. For example, is okay to walk with a friend who has also been self-isolating for a month, wearing masks and remaining at least 6 feet apart?  For me, the answer has become “yes”.  Or, as I wrote last week, I’ve begun whitewater paddleboarding again.  Not in a group but with one friend on a “frisky”, forgiving section of water with access from the road.  All on the up and up.  But is it?  We aren’t parking on anything that is technically closed and that river is open.  Am I “dialing it back” as best termed by Jaymo of Backyard Bend (and great friend that I respect).  I’ve talked with other friends who engage in adventurous activities and it seems that most I’ve spoken with, seem to be still having their fun, but also purposely “taking it easy”.

In fact, I was interested to hear the perspective of a young man I’ve known since he was 15 (now I believe around 21-22 years old?).  He’s a class five boater and has historically taken his share of risk.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear him talk about his approach, dialing it way back to rapids he isn’t particularly challenged by, and running his own shuttle.  This “kid” (I call him that with almost motherly-affection) represents the paddling community well, in my opinion.  He’s also done his part to encourage other cohorts to do the same.  Some aren’t taking it down a few notches and have actually had near-miss situations that could have resulted in ER visits (or worse) which instigated some pretty heated FB posts.

I think it’s all still a debate and what we individually choose in the moment is probably a judgement-call. I’ll leave you with this little anecdote…  When I paddled the short section yesterday,  I was on my new board which I’ve absolutely loved.  Starting the run I felt a little…mmmm…for lack of a better description, “squirrely”.  We all have days where we crush it and then others where it feels like we’re challenged simply walking.  Maybe this was just one of those days where I wasn’t totally “on”. It wasn’t like I was paddling horribly.  Just felt a little off and figured it’s from being largely out of practice.  I mean hey, this time of year I’d typically be paddling a lot more.  At one point, I was surprised to miss my line–not a hard move, which resulted in a quick swim.  No biggee, but really?  It was still an amazing paddle and there’s NOTHING more cathartic than getting on the water. However, when unloading the boards I realized I’d forgotten to put my fins on my board.  Ha!  Rookie move.  A little redemption though, and great for a laugh.  Because laughing is the absolute best, and maybe in short supply these days.

There’s still fun out there to have.  We will get through this, hopefully as a (distanced for now) community, but stronger for it in the long run.

Thanks for listening, and see ya (eventually) on those frisky ripples.

Back on the River

Through this time of shelter in, I’ve made two important epiphanies.  One, life is too short to not be doing what you love (in general, again, I hugely support staying home and saving lives) and second, what I love most is paddleboarding on the river.  On the rapids on the river.  I won’t say where, but I stuck to the government guidelines and didn’t break any rules.  I also didn’t run any rapids I haven’t paddled many, many times and felt confident I wasn’t doing anything too crazy to risk injury. But I accessed a place I feel more content then ever…on my board on the frisky rapids.  In fact, I made my maiden voyage on my new Hala Atcha 9’6 and I LOVE it. I love it so much I can’t stop talking about it. I try to avoid sales pitches on this blog but seriously, if you want to get into whitewater SUP you need to demo an Atcha.  Thank you Nadia for letting me try yours in CR!! Game-changer!

So let me tell you what I love about whitewater SUP and then, what I love about my new Atcha….

When I’m on the water, I’m typically in rural areas away from people, devices, and pollution (air and noise).  When I’m on rapids I’m mentally away from everything too.  It’s a very dynamic activity so I’m in the moment–like surfing on an ocean wave, I feel “one” with the water (even if the water is busy kicking my ass).  It’s athletic, which means I’m fulfilling my seemingly constant need to exercise and move. And finally, I realized the other day that I really do like adventure…a little fear and a little challenge.  It makes me feel alive. And it’s just damn FUN.

Now about the new Atcha.  I swore by the piercing-nose earlier generation Atcha that served me so well through most of my experience with whitewater SUP.  The new Atcha has more rocker and a less pointy nose so you maintain maneuverability without losing stability.  I’ve honestly never used the middle fin on previous boards, therefore paddling with one is a new experience…supposedly helping me track better.  It’s retractable so paddling the bonier stretches I paddle often, isn’t sketchy (or any sketchier than they’d be with my normal two thruster set-up). My apologies for those of you who don’t care a lick about product reviews.

What I’ll finally say is that what I feel on the water, while unique in my personal experiences seems to resonate with SO many people.  Even if I didn’t grow up paddling and doing it just about every day,  my connection to the water is as real as those who did…and those people who don’t work in the industry or paddle every week? Well it’s just as real for them.  For so many of us, water possesses a special quality that is therapeutic unlike anything else.  Be respectful of our need to be safe right now and “take one for the team” by staying close to home, not grouping up and social distancing, but within those parameters, if you can get out there, do.  It’s the best elixir for what is emotionally ailing us in these crazy times.

Thanks for listening….see you out there on the frisky ripples!

Gratitude

I gotta say, this has been such an interesting experience, this pandemic.  Something none of us have ever endured in–my lifetime, anyway.  Let me first say that regardless of what I’m about to write, I am deeply saddened by the hardship that so many are going through–especially those hospitalized or losing loved ones to this disease (or circumstances complicated by over-stressed infrastructure, etc).

With that said, I want to share with you my personal experience.  Mine.  Not speaking for anyone but me, and without judgement to anyone else’s approach.  Let me lay a little background for you.  My boyfriend was gone on the east coast for many weeks prior to and after this all hit, caring for his dad who is unfortunately, in hospice care. My dad is in a care facility with Alzheimer’s.  I have a great job which had recently restructured, bringing our small team together, stronger than ever, and was looking forward to the best, most exciting season yet (this will be my 10th year with Tumalo Creek).  I’d just purchased a brand new paddleboard that I loved, having demoed it in Costa Rica and was SO excited for the paddling season. I could go on forever, but you get the gist.

When COVID-19 hit and things started getting “taken away” by our governor, I basically had a melt down.  It was shocking and it was hard.  I felt thoroughly alone and without trying to sound too dramatic I was “traumatized”.  Our small management team and company owner met to discuss the crisis.  Now what?  Basically we have to shut down.  How do we pay bills?  How do we communicate with vendors, partners and existing customers.  We decided that it was crucial for us to support the “shelter in”, and encourage our customers to do the same, so we came up with a plan to keep the shop closed except for “appointment only” customers and decrease our hours dramatically with just a skeleton crew…we’d try to get by.

Through this process I was able to find some structure.  I began doing my workouts first thing in the morning as before. I slowed down.  I did projects at home.  And eventually I began to realize that in all this mess, there are actually some pretty profound blessings. How often do we force ourselves to have an abundance of time and MUST spend it alone?  Then, what do we do with that time?  Sometimes I think I avoid dealing with my own “stuff” (emotionally speaking) because I can distract myself with other people and activities.  In this new dynamic, I’ve been able to remind myself that I like me.  I mean I genuinely like me.  And I also have some weaknesses.  Some personality traits I’d really like to improve.  I can be off-putting, especially when I get tired or feel attacked or unsure.  I can be judgmental and opinionated.  I can also be apologetic which is a good thing, because I f@$k up frequently.

These realizations make spending time “sheltered in” a hell of a lot more pleasurable.  It’s ok.  I can be curious and seek out things to learn, which I’ve been doing.  I can also grant myself binge tv watching which I don’t typically do.  I’ve gained an incredible gratitude for simple things I’d begun to take for granted…like the place I live!!!  Holy cats.  This morning, I decided to go for a mountain bike ride from my house since trailheads and developed rec sites are closed.  I wore a face-covering that I could pull down when no one was around which was basically the whole time.  I passed perhaps 20 people total, on the urban part of my ride (giving them over 6 feet space) but eventually I got up into forest and it was great.  Actually every turn of the wheel was great.  I DON’T live in an apartment in a big city.  What we Bendites take for granted as un-inspirational (I don’t think that’s a real word) is honestly beautiful. For awhile I was on a paved bike/ped trail but there were huge Ponderosa pines and manzanita surrounding me.  It was beautiful. For the record, I kept all my biking very sedate.  I believe in the idea of dialing it back so we’re not potentially creating more demands on our medical system.

I live in abundance. I’m not a jillionaire, but I thankfully, have enough income to pay my monthly bills.  I have food.  I have a comfortable bed and technology to keep me connected to friends and family.  This is not a “lock down” as much as an opportunity to transform and see what I can create and appreciate with new (temporary) rules.  It’s a refocusing from the over-full schedule–professionally and personally.

I know everyone has their own dynamic and what I once deemed a misfortune of being “alone” while sheltered in, I’m counting as a blessing.  This too will pass, and I hope to make each hour a learning moment in the meantime.

Thanks for listening.  See you out there…eventually…on the frisky ripples.

Bike COVID

Getting After it During a Pandemic?

If someone had told me a month ago that I’d be sitting my butt at home for the better part of the day, while the mountains are getting solid snowfall and the weather has mostly been great…well it just wouldn’t have seemed possible.  This whole situation has blown up so fast and we’re just at the start of it.  I’ve tried to balance what the state has mandated, with physical and mental health, but as (mostly) a rule follower who sees the reason for the strict rules I’ve drastically reduced my adventures.  Did I go cross country skiing last week before the snoparks closed?  Absolutely.  Did I hike in the national forest while the trailheads were open.  Yep.  I desperately miss downhill skiing, biking and paddling and I understand that under certain criteria I can still do these activities, yet it’s still a balance.

As referenced last paragraph I sometimes bend the rules.  For sure.  I tend to use judgement as my guide versus hard law.  What I have never had much patience for is the mindset of people who think…”well it’s just me breaking the rule and just one person won’t make a difference”….said 7.4 billion people on the earth.  It feels selfish since we know with this disease you can be entirely asymptomatic yet infect other people.

So how do I “get after it” under our somewhat fuzzy guidelines?  Well for one, I’ve realized that sticking to schedule and structure is a really good thing for me.  The first week of Stay Home Stay Safe, I waited until the weather warmed or just hung out because I could.  That super- sucked for my emotional well-being.  Now, I get my exercise done first thing, as I’ve done for decades.  I run locally, out my front door early–even better if it’s raining/snow as the trails are empty. I could hike out in the forest (not accessing it via a trailhead) but choose instead to walk to those “essential” places I need to go.  Walking to work, as one example.  We’re not open, but one of us, each day works at the shop to accomplish those tasks we need to do, to keep the ball rolling for that magical day in the unknown future where we CAN open and service the public (I’m guessing, still, with fairly strong restrictions). I walk everywhere I can.  Why not?  I have time and I need to burn off energy I’d otherwise expend riding the trails.

Why am I avoiding the things I really love when technically, I could do most of it “legally”, with some very small inconveniences such as parking by the side of the road versus a developed trailhead?  Well for one, St Charles and related urgent care centers have suspended all “elective” surgeries “indefinitely” which includes injuries such as torn MCL’s, ACL’s, etc.  Basically, all resources have been redirected to support the already overwhelmed infrastructure.  I don’t typically live in fear of getting hurt and chances are it would be fine.  Here’s the thing though.  I feel like following the requests, as have been put out there, is a sign of solidarity.  I’m not a health care worker, risking my safety going to work every day to serve the ill.  But I have plenty of friends who ARE, and they’re scared of catching it.  I can do this.  I can stay my ass at home, for the most part, and hope this helps (if everyone does) shorten the duration in total.

Check out this video (link below) produced by my buddy Jaymo.  It features Alex McClaren who Jaymo and I interviewed last year at “Trail Tales”.  The guy was a pro-mountain biker who after witnessing a horrible car accident, walked away from the pro circuit, went back to school and eventually became a paramedic.  He’s the real deal.  Pretty much sums it up. Thanks for listening….

Dial It Back- Backyard Bend

 

Life in a Time of True Challenge

When this Coronavirus Pandemic really started it’s slow but imminent path toward Oregon and the US, I was writing about the challenges of aging and realizing one’s mortality.  Now, on a personal and global level we’re confronted with some very scary but genuine hardships.  I’m not talking about the hardship of social distancing (although I will).  We’ve all talked about “flattening the curve” which is, broken down to it’s basics a question of math.  Exponential numbers.  The numbers are hard to wrap our head around because it starts so ridiculously small… and we’re all somewhat sick of talking about it (if you’re paying attention at all).  What I find fascinating is some people’s disregard of this situation as if it’s not their problem… maybe because they’re young, or don’t have (as far as they know) underlying risk factors, or perhaps just of the mindset that this is all hyped.  For whatever the reason, as a nation, we delight in watching the countless Hollywood movies about something coming to destroy the earth…man against the asteroid that’s going to wipe us out, or man vs the natural disaster, or man vs the aliens or man against…oh wait…a disease that can’t be contained and it’s deadly.  Well, that disease is here folks.  Let’s be clear…the world will survive as will many of us.  But it’s going to be different and it’s going to be hard and what I find interesting is the thought that somehow our lives of ease and plentiful resources is somehow untouchable.  Not too long ago…in many of our parents’ lives, they lived through the great depression and WWII.  Life CAN be hard guys.  It can be “other” than traveling the world, adventuring, socializing for funzies.  Indulgence.  And y’know what?  That’s okay.  I think in many ways that’s actually GOOD.  I live in the Bend (or you might even say the Pacific Northwest) bubble.  We’re a town of athletic, “pretty”, fairly well-off (to VERY well-off)…might I say spoiled, community.  Am I on my soapbox?  Yep.  It’s my blog so I get to be.  PEOPLE!  Get over yourself, is what I want to say. 

The premise of this blog is making the most of your life by doing what makes you feel content, and a pace that feels good to you.  Acknowledging those people that might not be elite athletes but are still getting after in on their…dare I say NOT full carbon bikes without full suspension. In some ways I’m calling myself out.  This blog is trite when you’re looking at the many, many people fighting for their life right now.  For real.  And it WILL hit home.  All of us will know someone who is permanently affected by COVID-19.  The numbers don’t lie.  If you think you’re “immune” (metaphorically) to it touching your life, well take a moment to reflect.  On grandma, mom, or your 42-year old friend battling cancer because that’s prevalent these days too.

Again calling myself out…I struggled REALLY hard the first week of social distancing.  For the most part, because I believe in it, I isolated myself.  No social outings.  No carpooled trips to the bike trails.  Not even work. I live alone (besides my two spoiled Maui cat rescues). Now, I’ve found a slower pace, and an opportunity for personal growth.  Am I the sage offering my superior wisdom, bestowing on you my jewels of advice?  Fuck no.  I’m still stumbling my way through this with the rest of you, but I’ve come to the conclusion that our petty “wa wa’s–I can’t hang with my homies for a few weeks” is pure and utter bullshit.  This is the real deal folks.  Just get over yourself.  Engage in a movie marathon.  Read a damn book.  It’s all going to be okay if we can just stop worrying so much about how life is when we feel good and don’t have to be inconvenienced.

These are my thoughts today, and it comes and goes in waves…I don’t expect the emotional rollercoaster to stop any time soon.  My apologies to those offended.  I honestly don’t mean to judge or condemn.  I simply ask everyone to reflect on themselves, their actions and the bigger picture.  Can we somehow contribute to the improvement of the situation, or, if nothing else don’t harm it?

Be well, be HAPPY (I woke today, genuinely happy and excited for the day…for reals).  We can do this.  Together.  Thanks for listening.  See you out there on the frisky ripples–just please respectfully stay 6 feet from me.