The Inland Paddler: Non-Paddles of Thanksgiving

Lisa Schell Columns, The Inland Paddler Leave a Comment

What a whirlwind, these last few weeks! What with the last race of the year at the Surf to Sound at Wrightsville, the post-season let-down, followed by a national, non-paddle event that has affected all of us one way or another here in The States. I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted. I am ready for a rest. From all of it.

So, it’s probably no surprise that I am going to #OptOutside.

And tomorrow, or today for that matter, I hope you and your families will too.

The Healing Power of Nature

Jerry Stritzke, the CEO of REI, who happens to be my employer, noted in a recent blog post that time in the outdoors makes us healthier and happier–as individuals and as a society.

“In my experience, the outdoors is one of the great conveners–able to help people bridge divides,” he wrote. “We tend to put aside differences when we are presented with the magnificence of being in nature, no matter our beliefs or allegiances.”

As paddlers, I am pretty sure we all know about how the water can be a healing force in our lives. But this time of year, as many of us take breaks from paddling – either for training recovery or because weather conditions force us to – we can find that force in other places, off the water and land-based, as well.

Now is a great time to step off the board and into something different, to open up to new perspectives, exercise some different muscles and share the experience of Nature with the people closest to you.

And offer thanks that we have wonderful, wild and beautiful places in this great country of ours where we are free to explore.

Earth + Sea

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I’ve been enjoying reconnecting with my First Sport Love, mountain biking.  The gorgeous Fall weather here in central North Carolina has been just perfect for flying through the woods with good friends, laughing and enjoying  the burn in different muscles in different ways.  Mountain biking to me will always be the closest thing I’ll ever get to experiencing to those Speeder thingies in the “Return of the Jedi” Star Wars saga.

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I’ve been riding with a group of friends who also work for REI. Some of them paddle, some of them don’t. We come from a variety of backgrounds and range in ages – I think I might just be the oldest in the crowd. But we are United Outside, and the experiences in the woods with them are just as meaningful, fun and inspiring as my time on the water with my paddle ohana.  It is fantastic that a group of people, brought together because of their place of employment, enjoy spending time with each other outside of the workplace.

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While I am more than comfortable in the cockpit of a mountain bike, I am not nearly as comfy on the crag, in  a harness, trying to climb up a rockface.  I am not even comfortable going up a simulated rock wall in the controlled environs of the climbing gym, but I am determined this winter to get over that.  My REI team mates are encouraging, supportive and are more than willing to help me get there.  I know that getting over this crux in my continuing outdoor education, pushing my limits and facing my fear head on will only help me next time I face whacky swells on the Maliko Run on Maui, or an angry Mason’s Inlet at Wrightsville Beach.

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It’s easy sometimes to think “Oh, no, I am a PADDLER. That sport isn’t what I do.” And that’s okay, but when we open our minds and bodies up to new experiences, it only enriches us.  And it makes us better paddlers.  Case in point – I have totally been inspired by Katie’s new found love of running.  I have never been a runner, and when I do it, I do so begrudgingly.

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But watching Katie learn how to do it right, embracing it and relishing in it has been transformative for me.  I ordered a new pair of trail shoes and have totally been enjoying my trots through the woods with Cooper, my exuberant black Lab.  He gets his ya-ya’s out and I get better endurance and stronger leg muscles. Which I am going to need come the 2017 paddle season.

Oh and by the way, Katie just finished her first 5K!!! AWESOME!!!!

So yes, I am missing the salt water and the ocean – but I am so glad for this time to get back into the other parts of Outside.  And when I do so, I am reminded about how it is all connected, and all must work together.  The trees in the woods need clean water in the streams and the streams and lakes feed our rivers and our rivers flow into our oceans. As we explore new places and new things,  I think we ultimately open up our hearts and minds to other possibilities, ideas and we better connect with others.

I am thankful, oh so thankful for those opportunities and the people to do them with….and like the boss says, I think we need them now more than ever.

“I really believe that if we can get outside and have these conversations, no matter how diverse our perspectives are, there’s really an enormous amount of agreement of our love, care, and passion for what the role of the outdoors is and how important it is for life.” – Jerry Stritzke, CEO, Recreational Equipment Inc.

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