The Battle of the Paddle was the first race that I registered for that I knew I wouldn’t win. Yes, that might seemingly be a negative thought to most, but I consider myself to be realistic. I knew this race would be a a self acceptance competition. I know I have the potential to do my very best, but I always want to challenge myself to raise the bar and push my expectations of how well I can do.
In competition, I become so focused that it feels like I’m the only athlete on the course. I black out and go into what is called “the flow state.” In the flow state, I have had mental and physical breakthroughs. That’s what keeps me competing. In July, I went to Encinitas, CA to surf and visit my amazing sponsor, Boardworks. They gave me a temp job answering phones and helping around the office. They said I helped around the office, but I think it’s because they just like my energy and the fact that I sometimes giggle too much. So, I ended up renting a room and focusing on surfing and training for the BOP. I tagged along on every training in the North County I could find and bothered so many people picking their brains on “training.”
All I knew was that–
- I am a sprinter at heart
- I have enough surf skills for a river girl
- I am really good at dealing with chaos
- I had no endurance training
- Lastly I knew I could do it!!
I had three months to train. I went for it even though I was out of my river element. I was intimidated to register for the elite race and super nervous for the conditions. I became nervous because when I stand beside any body of water, I feel small. I have so much respect for water that sometimes I turn that deep respect into fear. Water has almost taken my life too many times to count, and I have felt its real power.
I was definitely out of my element when I was standing in the sand looking at the huge waves breaking on the reef and being lined up with 40 other women waiting for the horn to sound. Up until now, I had been weighing my options about wearing a helmet or not. Just before the race began, I grabbed my sweet protection helmet. This helmet and I have been in some very intimate situations. I call it my “shit running” helmet, and I only wear it in the most gnarly conditions.
I have achieved so many personal records in this helmet: my first creek race on Homestake, my first 40ft waterfall, survived epic beat downs, and countless celebrations. As soon as I slipped my shit running helmet on, I felt the power of all those experiences and how I over came them. I have compared my helmet sanctuary to thunder coats that dogs wear. All of my knowledge felt like water rushing over me. This gave me the confidence that I had been searching for. When I put my helmet on, I turned all of my nervous energy into strength and self love. Preparing to begin such an unfamiliar race, my helmet became the only familiar thing to me and I transformed into a warrior. I was ready to charge!
In my race, the first course lap was my best with an 11:42 minute lap time. We launched from the beach in front of the break. This lap was the shortest and the most technical lap of the entire race. The other course laps included running the chicane and ended at a small channel that made it easier to get out of…if timed correctly. I was completely fired up on how well I did for the first lap, but slowly I started to slip down the rankings once the flat water increased. In the end, I couldn’t care less about how I placed. All I wanted to do was to finish the race and do the best of my abilities. I completed my personal goal.
After the race I realized that there had been a death on the course……a personal death of doubting myself, my self worth, my potential, my intuition, my fear, and my knowledge. Since BOP, I refuse to have any doubt towards what I can accomplish, how hard I push myself as a competitor, a woman, or as a random girl you see with a paddle. However, I really don’t give myself enough credit for everything I do and for the things I ask my body to do. Why is that? Why don’t I praise myself and send myself positive, encouraging energy? I constantly get lost in all my day dreams of what’s next for me, and what different variations of SUP or Kayaking that I want to learn. I don’t always trust myself. In the back of my mind, I worry. I ask myself, “If it doesn’t work out what’s gonna happen with my sponsors?” Or, “if I don’t win prize money how can I be sure I will be able to afford to make it to the next event?” I need to remember to believe it’s going to happen and it’s gonna work out. It always works out. So why would I doubt it now after seven years?
“There is no thought that you cannot eventually have— just as there is no place that you cannot eventually reach from wherever you are– but you cannot instantly jump to a thought that has a vibrational frequency very different from the thoughts your are usually thinking” Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks See read more about Haley and follow her blog go to her blog : http://haleyemills.blogspot.com/ Photos by Flux Photography