I decided to run away to Sarasota, Florida. The land of the circus. To pursue adventure, horses, and paddleboarding. I hardly knew anyone. But I didn’t have anything tying me down in the west. Winter was coming and I’ve never enjoyed having to wear clothes in order to not die. This is what I told tables I served while working nights at a restaurant this past winter. “Wow, you are really brave!” Common Response.
The reality was this: I was scared. I cried. I got cold feet. But I did not let it stop me. I didn’t consider backing out for a second just because it was scary.
As I’ve traveled and told people my story, I have come to realize that most people wish they could do it. They wish they could do the activities and adventures I do. But they don’t. Why? There is always an excuse, but I’ve come to realize that…
Fear holds us back.
So you do gymnastics on horses? “I would fall off!”
So you paddleboard down rivers? “I would swim the entire time!”
And you’re going paddle boarding in Florida? “I would be afraid of getting attacked by an alligator!”
This reminds me of something I read in the NOLS River Rescue Guide. The words by Nate Ostis say it best:
"There was a popular bumper sticker that came out in the early 1990s using the simple phrase 'No Fear.' This is one of many examples of how society has misguided our perceptions of fear and adventure sports. Many people have the impression that fear and being scared are embarrassing emotions for an individual to have. Consider adopting a different culture: Embrace your Fear."
There will always be a thousand excuses to not try something new. But if you find yourself letting fear cripple you from doing something that you truly are capable of doing, then it’s time to practice embracing the fear and going for it! It took me 16 years of practice to do the things I can do on horses. Do I ever fall off? I prefer to call it unplanned dismounts, but you betcha! But I sure as heck did not start off doing the tricks I do now.
You see paddleboarders jibbing, surfing, and cleaning class IV rapids and think to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could do that, but I’d probably crack my head open on a rock!” Well, truth is, if you did try that - you probably would! But that does not mean you can’t put a helmet on and start on class I rapids. You are capable. We all started somewhere.
When I made the move from Colorado to Florida last November, I was scared to paddle in the ocean because I knew nothing about it. So I found local paddlers and water lovers who were very knowledgeable and willing to teach me. Before I knew it, I adapted. I felt comfortable going out by myself as well as leading excursions and getting friends out on a paddleboard.
And to answer a question I get a lot, I did not get attacked by any gators or sharks or pop my Hala board on oyster beds. But I did get to see some killer views, beautiful fish, dolphins, and manatees, as well as make lots of awesome new friends who loved the water as much as me.
Moving to a new place is scary and nerve-wracking, but through each move, I have been able to explore the territory and make friends through paddleboarding. It’s such a unique sport and paddle boarders happen to be some of the coolest people I know, everywhere I go!
Cami Swan is a team rider for Hala Gear.