My transformation started with a BIG exhale and a gentle voice, ‘Ahhhhhh, here you are. Where have you been?’ The voice was my own.
It was the summer of 2013 and I had just hopped onto a paddleboard for the very first time on Kawawaymog Lake. In the weeks leading up to this moment I knew that I was searching for something, but I was unsure of what. Now, looking back at the photo of my first time on a SUP I can see clearly what I was searching for. I was looking for my voice, for my way. I was looking for the confidence to stand up taller and shine a little brighter. I was looking to feel more like myself.
As I left Northern Edge after a weekend of SUP (I’m going back this month to paddle — wanna come? Learn more here: www.courtsinclair.com/algonqui
As the summers went on I made paddling friends through social media. I connected with awesome people who shared the same interest as me – SUP! They taught me skills and we explored new places together. I got involved with more community based SUP events like Stand Up for CHEO and met even more incredible paddling folks. I connected with a mental wellness project, Searching for Sero, and shared my experiences with paddleboarding as a tool for wellness in the outdoors (read the article here). I took classes, fell in the water, and paddled further. I became more passionate and more confident with every moment spent on the water.
In 2014 I completed the Paddle Canada Advanced Flatwater SUP Instructor certification, allowing me to teach and grow alongside other new and experienced paddlers. What a joy it has been to introduce others to the world of possibilities that is opened up to us when we are on the water – stillness, playfulness, sunrises and sunsets, fish jumping, loon calls…
I’ve come a long way from the first 13 km paddle to Pembroke and now really love overnight tripping. My first overnight excursion was with a group of friends paddling on the Ottawa River from Swisha to Pembroke. We set off on a foggy morning and watched a float plane land in front of us. Later that morning a flock of geese (it sounded like hundreds) took off in the fog beside us — it was so eerie as we couldn’t see the birds but could feel them lifting off from the river. It was amazing to tune into my senses in this way like never before and actually feel like I was a part of the river. In August of 2016 I joined in a SUP expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest in northern British Columbia where I paddled with a humpback whale and sea lions while on my board. These experiences have changed me, shaped me, taken my breath away, challenged me, helped me to see what I love and what is important to me.
The past two seasons I shifted my focus towards accessing my courage. I moved into developing whitewater SUP skills and into river surfing (still lots of work to be done here!). I have never swam as much in my life as when I got on a paddleboard in moving water or tried to catch a standing wave. I had also never felt MORE PROUD in my life. Proud that I showed up. Proud that I tried. Proud that I fell and didn’t give up. Proud that I overcame my fear. Proud that I caught the wave for 2 seconds before a face plant. Proud that I went back. Proud, proud, proud.
In 2017 I stretched this courage a little further and decided that I would try paddling marathon distances on SUP. I signed up for the Ontario ultra-distance paddling races without having a real sense of what distance I could or couldn’t do on a board. I showed up out of curiosity for what was possible. As each race went on I learned more about gear, how to pace myself, how to fuel to sustain the energy levels needed, and that I could in fact finish the distances – even if I was always one of the last ones across the finish line. I paddled in the dark overnight from Smith Falls to Ottawa and watched the sun rise on the Rideau River in a headwind. I got dehydrated on the Mattawa River and spoke words of encouragement to my cramped hands and feet to coax them towards the finish line (it worked). I paddled and portaged 15 hours straight in the grueling heat (where I lost a soggy sandwich to the river) to become the first SUP paddler and female to win the Ontario Ultra Paddling Points Series.
Reflecting on this today — I could not have seen what that moment in 2013 on Kawawaymog Lake would lead to. I could not have known that it would show me the most courageous, passionate, and confident parts of myself. I could not have guessed the friendly faces it would bring me and the memories I would experience on the water.
Today I am still in ‘transformation‘ as I continue to simply show up into the spaces that call my name and see where it leads. My wish for you is that you create room in your life to listen deeply for your voice that says, ‘Ahhhhhh, here you are. Where have you been?’
In adventure and empowerment,