Ep #16 Rush Sturges on how perspectives about the river and anxiety change with age

In this conversation, Rush Sturges, renowned kayaker, filmmaker, and musician, shares stories of facing fear and uncertainty in kayaking and filmmaking, and the risks he takes to pursue his passions. 

Rush opens up about turning to tools such as meditation and breathwork to manage a recent uptick in anxiety he’s been experiencing, and we talk about how to manage stress on and off the water. We also discuss the risks involved in kayaking, and the perspective change that can happen over time as we experience losing friends and community members.

Learn how he took inspiration from Girls at Play (my OG brand) to help start and support the non-profit Rios to Rivers and the impact that their Paddle Tribal Waters project is having on Tribal youth in his home state of CA.

The conversation weaves the theme of discomfort zone in the areas of kayaking, filmmaking and creating music and how they affect and interlace with each other.

About Rush

Rush is widely considered one of the world’s most influential kayakers, a prominent action sports filmmaker & a genre-defining musician.

Raised on the banks of California’s Salmon River, Rush started splashing around in kayaks before he could walk. By the age of 12, he had devoted himself to learning his way around rivers and cameras.

Rush studied film at The Art Institute of Vancouver, B.C., and has honed his filmmaking and paddling skills on location in some of the planet’s wildest places from Pakistan to China to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, Rush founded River Roots, a media production house based in his adopted hometown of White Salmon, WA.

Today, Rush is a successful documentary filmmaker and director. With a focus on high-adrenaline action sports content that invites audiences to fall in love with the majesty of nature,  Rush is also passionate about uplifting the voices and messages of Indigenous communities around the world, and in 2022 he co-founded the “Paddle Tribal Waters” program with Rios to Rivers designed to teach tribal youth the sport of kayaking. 

In addition to paddling and filmmaking, Rush is a dedicated musician whose songs have racked up millions of streams and touched the hearts and minds of a new generation of music listeners.

His latest album “Lessons in Folk Hop”  is available on iTunes and Spotify, Blending hip hop beats and deep cuts of Folk and Americana records that you’d hear on a backwoods porch in the mountains, Rush’s sound is a direct reflection of his life experience — non-linear, inventive, expressive, and progressive — just like his life on the river.

Connect with Rush:

IG: @rushsturges

Website: https://rushsturges.com/

https://www.riostorivers.org/

Anna
My guest today, Rush Sturges, is widely considered one of the world’s most influential kayakers, a prominent action sports filmmaker, and a genre -defining musician. Raised on the banks of California’s Salmon River, Rush started splashing around in kayaks before he could walk. By the age of 12, he had devoted himself to learning his way around rivers and cameras. Rush studied at the Art Institute of Vancouver in British Columbia and has honed his filmmaking and paddling skills on location in some of the planet’s wildest places, from Pakistan to China to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, Rush founded River Roots, a media production house based in his adopted hometown of White Sam in Washington. Today, Rush is a successful documentary filmmaker and director with a focus on high adrenaline action sports content that invites audiences to fall in love with the majesty of nature.

Rush is also passionate about uplifting the voices and messages of Indigenous communities around the world. In 2022, he co -founded the Paddle Tribal Waters Program with Rios to Rivers, designed to teach tribal youth the sport of kayaking. In addition to paddling and filmmaking, Rush is a dedicated musician whose songs have racked up millions of streams and touched the hearts and minds of a new generation of music listener. His latest album,

Lessons in Folk Hop is available on iTunes and Spotify. Blending hip hop beats and deep cuts of folk and Americana records that you’d learn, let me start that one over. Blending hip hop beats and deep cuts of folk and Americana records that you’d hear on a backwoods porch in the mountains. Rush’s sound is a direct reflection of his life experience, nonlinear, inventive, expressive, and progressive, just like his life on the river.

Anna
I’m really stoked to have you. Thanks for being here with me. So when I say, I just like to jump right in. When I say discomfort zone, what comes to mind for you? Sure.

Rush Sturges
Yeah, thanks for having me Anna.

I think fear of the unknown is probably the first thing that comes to mind. High water, that always makes me uncomfortable too.

Anna
Can you do you have a recent story or a story from any time where you found yourself in your discomfort zone and you came through the other side like a new person or having grown and learned a lot about yourself?

Rush Sturges
Honestly, I find myself in discomfort zone a lot. I live here in White Salmon and we have some amazing kayaking right out the door, but it’s honestly can be kind of a scary place to live when the water’s high. And I feel like every day I kind of go out there and the water’s, you know, maybe sort of like at a higher level. I’m always scared, apprehensive, nervous beforehand, but then you go and you paddle and you get off the river and you feel amazing afterwards. And you sort of have like kind of…

overcome that a bit. And then the next day you kind of repeat the process. So, um, you know, that’s like on a kind of micro level, like my day -to -day sort of like discomfort that I deal with, but then there’s also, of course, the complexities of life and, and, uh, you know, business related discomfort and, and, you know, fear of taking risks, just generally speaking. Um, so yeah, there’s all kinds of ways that I feel this comfort, I suppose.

Anna
So I think if for folks who are listening who are paddlers, they will relate, I think, to the discomfort on the river. What are some, if you don’t mind sharing some discomforts off the water, like you’re talking about life, business, what makes you most uncomfortable or what risks make you most uncomfortable in life?

Rush Sturges
Yeah, I think from a filmmaking standpoint, you’re kind of always taking a risk with a story. You never are totally sure that it’s gonna be received in a way that where the film does well. And so in my case, pretty much every project, I feel like I have to usually put my own money upfront for the project and try to basically create that I can then hopefully sell to a producer or a sponsor. And it’s frustrating because I’ve been doing it for a long time. And I feel like no matter what the project is, I still have to create something before I can actually kind of get the project going. And so you’re just always rolling the dice a little bit. And I mean, even doing like the River Runner project, which ended up doing well in the end, like that was a project could not get funding for it all in the beginning and had to just kind of like totally take this gamble on it. But I think in my experience, the thing that I trust is my intuition. And I’ve done it enough times now that I’ve learned that if you feel passionate about something, it feels strongly that it’s going to be successful. You just kind of have to go for it. And you definitely fail sometimes. It doesn’t always work out. But it’s worth taking that risk just to see.

Anna
Yeah, thanks for sharing that. There’s a couple of things I just want to dive a little deeper on with what you just said. One question I have is, do you think that when you talk about that you really trust your gut, which I also think is really important, do you think that your paddling experience has helped you with that off the water? Because I feel like that’s something that is very important to develop and that whitewater kayaking has helped me develop is that…

gut feeling. Like, you know, if I’m looking at a rapid or wanting to run a river, that trust in the gut is so important. And I think over time, kayaking has definitely helped me with that. Would you say that’s true for you as well?

Rush Sturges
Yeah.

I think absolutely, it’s definitely been helpful. I mean, I think there ends up being times in your kayaking life where you maybe don’t have that gut feeling and you go for something anyway and it doesn’t necessarily work out. And that might not even be like something you’re, you know, your own like sort of personal experience. It might be a situation you’re in with somebody on the river who, I don’t know, like you just don’t follow your intuition on what you should do in that situation and it kind of ends poorly. So, you know, I definitely tap into that feeling as much as I can, whether it’s work related or, or kayaking related. I really genuinely do believe you’ve got to like feel passionate about your decision.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah, agreed. The other thing I wanted to say is that I have the same feeling. Like I’ve been in the industry for 30 years now and, you know, putting out different projects and even having sponsors for a long time. And I, I’m, I to some degree, I always feel like I’m still proving myself, which is frustrating. Like on the one hand, I just do my thing.

Like I didn’t, you know, like for instance, this podcast, like I’m, I want to do this now. My, you know, I’ve grown and been in it long enough that I do have the funding, which feels so good to just be like, I want to do this project. I’m passionate about it. I’m going to sponsor my own, my own podcast, you know, which is a really empowering feeling. And at the same time, why I’m like, bringing this back up with what you said is I think that folks and I’ve had clients say to me, Oh my gosh, you must, you’re programs must fill like so easily. You probably don’t even have to do marketing because you’re so well known, like in my lane of the Whitewater world. And I’m like, no, marketing is so important. I still have to work at it. It’s putting in the time, putting in that consistent action over time. And I think that folks could look at you and be like, oh, it must be so easy for him. People must be throwing sponsorship or whatever it is. And I think that…

It’s important for all of, well, I think it’s important to understand that we’re all still putting in the work and it can be frustrating and part of doing the work is continuing to do the work.

Rush Sturges
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I think that any type of sort of, I guess, you know, like being an entrepreneur, I think in any industry is challenging just because there’s constant change. And I mean, you know, I, I’ve been also at this for, for 20 plus years and have witnessed like how, like the industry has changed so much from when it used to be like when you and I first met forever ago, like, you know, it was like all about.

you know, being getting in the magazines and getting your photos in there. And that’s how you kind of like gotten sponsors incentivized. And now it’s like, how many followers do you have and how much engagement? And then, you know, it’s like, things are just like always kind of changing. And sometimes like that’s frustrating for me because it’s hard, it’s hard to keep up. And at a certain point, I can only speak for myself, but I just, I kind of care a lot less about some of that stuff, but it is still important. Um, you know, it is, it is still important to do, especially cause like in my case, like I’m still you know, earning some income through kayaking and through, you know, doing different deals with sponsors and car companies and things like that. But then I’m also on, you know, trying to manage this film production company and that in and of itself also has like promotion and stuff that you sort of need to do for it. So I don’t know. I mean, I like, I like the challenge, but yeah, it’s not, it’s, it’s, I’m not going to say that it’s easy. Like I definitely, I, I wish people were just throwing the deals and the money at me. But frankly, it’s like a day to day hustle. And I will say right now, things are actually, I do feel like it’s nice to have enough projects under my belt that when I’m chatting with…with companies and brands and stuff, it’s like they know my work and it’s like they’re more likely to trust me now. It was definitely harder when I was first getting started. I get that question from younger kids a lot, like how do you even start doing this? And I think my advice is to just start, just do it, don’t worry about…

I genuinely believe if you’re passionate about something and you love it enough, like the money will eventually find you. But I feel like a lot of people give up before that point just because it is really hard and it does just take time, repetition, and even once you’ve like quote unquote made it, it’s still difficult. So, but you know, keep going, that’s my advice.

Anna
Yeah, that’s great advice. Yeah, for sure. And get started even when, you know, like you said, even when you feel, if you feel passionate about something, trust your gut. I mean, a lot of people, when I first, first started and I was doing like instructional DVDs for women back in the day when DVDs were cool, I had so many people tell me like, that’s like, why would you do that? Women and men, like they had all the reasons why I shouldn’t. And it was like the best thing I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t have done that and taken that chance. So yeah, well said. So earlier you mentioned that you find yourself in your discomfort zone a lot. So why do you keep doing that? What’s the payoff to putting yourself in your discomfort zone over and over?

Rush Sturges
Totally. Yeah.

God, it’s a really great question. I’m not sure. It’s interesting because things are definitely, I feel a biological change where I don’t really want to be in those, especially let’s talk about just like kayaking specifically. I don’t really want to be in that fight or flight mode all the time. And I think it’s become increasingly challenging because…

I have that feeling already with so much other work related stuff in my life. So just in my day -to -day practice here, like if I’m, um, worried about, you know, going out to do a lap on the river and it’s going to be kind of stout and scary, which actually is a day like today. That’s what I’m going to do right after this. Um, plus I’m managing all this other business stuff. That’s kind of hectic. Like it’s, it’s stressful, honestly. And so I’m dealing with more sort of stress in my life and, um, but also like being more comfortable with just saying no and not having the FOMO and not feeling guilty because I’m not out there pushing it super hard. But that has not been easy to get to that point. It’s taken me a number of years of kind of just like, I don’t wanna say letting go, but I think sort of readjusting myself to a level of like sort of normal and just not feeling bad about, okay, I’m not.

I’m not going to go out there and be pushing it as hard as the younger kids are right now. I’m just like, you know, and it’s not because I don’t feel like I’m there physically, because in some ways I think I’m actually still paddling like the best I’ve ever paddled. But mentally, mentally, I’m just not there anymore. I’m just it’s it just feels scarier than it used to. And I think that’s because life just sort of has a way of, you know, sort of there’s just all these other things in life stacked on top of it now to plus, I think just a general connection to like mortality and that being a more sort of prominent thing in your mind as you as you get older.

Anna
Hmm. Yeah, definitely. So when you are approaching your discomfort zone now, what are some strategies you use? Like what are some strategies you use to like, oh yeah, this is scary. I’m going to do it anyway.

Rush Sturges
Yeah, I mean, I guess right now, in terms of like kind of stress management or like, you know, fear management, like I have, I have been getting more into meditation and breathing exercises and just kind of general mindfulness. And that’s actually kind of a newish thing for me. And I’ve been finding that to be really, really effective. And also just like,

There’s also alternatives in a day. If I’m really stressed about going to run the river, it’s like, I don’t need to be putting myself in that position. And it’s OK for me not to be putting myself in that position. So just, I guess, kind of giving myself permission to not feel sort of bad about.

you know, missing out on something. And then also like applying that same energy to something else, you know, like I’ve, you know, in more recent years, I’ve gotten really into going to the gym and, you know, trail running and wing foiling. And there’s, I feel like kind of all of a sudden this whole other world of sports and activities that are, you know, you know, I mean, kayaking is always going to…

for me anyway, kind of be the ultimate. It’s the most sort of dynamic and amazing thing that I’ve ever done, but there’s also plenty of other ways to enjoy your day. So sometimes it’s like, man, I don’t need to stress myself out today. I’m just going to go do something that’s going to be actually fun and not too overwhelming.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah. Well said. That has been my experience as well as I’ve moved through life as there’s other activities that I really love and enjoying them a lot. Like when I think about to my twenties and early thirties, all I wanted to do is kayak all the time and then it shifted, you know? And I think, yeah, that’s normal. Plus you can learn a lot through other activities to bring, bring to kayaking or other areas of your life for sure.

Rush Sturges
Yep.

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So much like crossover with, with the other sports, I think, and in a lot of ways actually help improve your kayaking and certainly your fitness. So it’s, it’s helpful.

Anna
Yeah. So when you say that meditation and breath work is newer to you, what had you start exploring that, those things?

Rush Sturges
You know, so I started getting into more meditation and breath work just somewhat recently due to dealing with honestly, stress and anxiety and that becoming a little bit more present in my life, especially surrounding sleep. And yeah, like I sort of have this tendency to not really stop very much and

That makes it hard at night, you know, and like, I was just, and I think everybody deals with this to some extent, but you’re, you end up waking up at three in the morning and you’re like drafting some email in your head. You know, that’s like not what you need to be doing at three in the morning. Um, and so, yeah, just like kind of trying to keep a little bit more of a clear mind. And I’m.

I don’t know, it’s challenging. Cause I think for me it’s like, it’s hard cause I wake up every day and I’m so excited to get to work. That’s like oftentimes what impacts my sleep is I’m like, I’m excited to wake up and start working. But you know, when it’s like, you get up at like six and then you, you know, you work till like 11 and then you paddle for two or three hours and then I’ll, you know, work till nine or 10 at night a lot of times. And I am trying, I am starting to realize after a long many years of kind of this like sort of routine that it’s maybe kind of catching up to me a little bit. And so I’m having right now to just kind of scale that back a little bit and, you know, so kind of dealing with some, some challenges on the sort of anxiety side of things, which is honestly kind of confusing just because I’m like, I love doing all this stuff. I don’t feel like it makes me anxious, but it it’s impacting my sleep in my nighttime. So I got to kind of figure it out.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah. Well, our nervous systems can adapt, but then at some point, if they’re always adapting, I think then it becomes too much, which is probably what you’re experiencing, right? To some,

Rush Sturges
Yeah, I think so. And I think like, there’s definitely, I don’t know, it’s interesting. And I don’t know if there’s like any research on this or not. But I have other friends who are dealing with similar things at a similar age. And a lot of us have this background of…

you know, kayaking and it’s amazing, but it’s also, it’s like a lifetime of putting your body in this like fight or flight, like just constantly over and over and over again. And I don’t know, honestly, I think that’s really healthy in a lot of ways too, but I think it can also be unhealthy just depending on how you’re applying it in your life.

Anna
Yeah, well, the nervous system is designed to go in waves, right? So in the natural world. So yes, the discomfort zone is healthy. That’s what we’re talking about, like challenging ourselves and having our nervous system kind of max out to some extent. But then it’s really important for it to relax. And like you said, you go, go, go, and that can be for a lot of us. And we don’t actually…

value rest, especially when we’re younger. And that, so we don’t allow our nervous systems to completely come down. And that can, yeah, that I think that’s where the growth is. And that’s where it can really be helpful to work on rest, breath work, meditation. I mean, there’s tons of studies that show how beneficial meditation and breath work is to that. And even, yeah, yoga, resting, Tai Chi, whatever it is that has that meditative movement. Also from an Ayurvedic perspective, I’m an Ayurvedic health coach. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga. And when you’re a Pitta, which is a fire, like fire constitution, which you are definitely, anyone who whitewater kayaks has a lot of fire in them, that when at nighttime, the Pitta types, if you go past 10 PM, then you get a second wind because 10 PM to like 2 AM is fire time. And so if you don’t go to sleep early enough for pitot types, then your brain like kind of gets a second wind, but it’s not good for that cellular rejuvenation of the brain. So that can be tough for folks. Like if you’re working till 11 PM, just a side note, I don’t know, came to mind.

Rush Sturges
Totally. Yeah, no, and that I’ve 100 % been trying to wind things down by eight and then like I’m in bed by nine or nine thirty every night now just because it also takes me a while to kind of get to get to sleep. So yeah, it’s a process.

Anna
Yeah, for sure. Have you read the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker?

Rush Sturges
No, I haven’t.

Anna
That’s a good one. He’s a sleep scientist. So he has a lab and he’s studied over a thousand people. His book is really good. And also for the breath work piece, have you read the book Breath by James Nestor?

Rush Sturges
And that’s been recommended to me a few times, but no, I haven’t checked that out. I’ve been doing a local class here in White Salmon with Adam Spillman, who’s an amazing breath coach. And so it’s been just doing his classes. Yeah.

Anna
Awesome. Right on. So thanks for going on that tangent with me. I appreciate it. Meditation, breath work, yoga is my jam. So I love hearing how folks are playing around with that. What have you learned about yourself through putting yourself in your discomfort zone over and over?

Rush Sturges
What have I learned about myself? I mean, I think when you put yourself in your discomfort zone, and I think especially like in the context of river trips, I think people’s true colors are often shown, you know, when you’re in really stressful situations and, you know, it becomes pretty evident who’s sort of…

I don’t know who’s got your back and who’s kind of able to sort of manage that discomfort, you know, and I think like…

I honestly believe that being in so many uncomfortable situations, like so many times, like you get better, it’s a skill that you can get better at as well. And you can kind of learn to manage that fear and you can learn how to be, you know, a better teammate, to be more helpful, to be sort of a better kind of team player, I guess. So, um, I don’t know. It’s, I feel like it’s, it’s also, yeah, discomfort has, has taught me things about myself that I didn’t necessarily know that I was capable of, whether that’s like in a rescue scenario or, I don’t know, even just a physical thing like getting out of a situation. I mean, I think we’re capable of so much more than our brain actually tells us. And until we’re sort of pushed to that limit, it’s hard to actually know what you can really do.

Anna
Yeah, yeah. Is there a specific experience that you’d be willing to share where you grew your sense of what you’re capable of?

Rush Sturges
Um, specific situation I grew in. I mean, there’s, yeah, I guess, I guess I’ve been in a lot of sort of scary situations over the years. And really kind of specifically, I think between the periods of like kind of 2009 and 2014, I sort of like, you know, was kind of at this period in my kayaking career where I started having a lot of different sketchy incidents happen on the river and was involved with like multiple near death rescue experiences of friends. And, you know, I think all those situations definitely.

it plays a toll on your psyche and it kind of, I think for me anyway, made me a little bit more maybe hardened or just kind of, I think, understanding of what the realities of the sport are. And I think it really made me more conservative in the end. And I think that’s something that happens to a lot of us is that over time enough of these experiences build up that the sort of…

fearlessness or bravado that you might have had in your like mid 20s, it starts to kind of dissipate at a certain point. And I think that’s a that happens as a result of a collection of negative experiences on the river, the loss of friends, and really just like, you know, the harsh reality that this sport is, is, is dangerous and, and, and the reasons why we do it are, are

sometimes like I don’t think totally understood even by me, especially because it’s it is such a big risk and it’s like, it’s it’s sort of one thing, you know, even just for yourself to take that risk. But you know, when you’re actually witnessing the impact that loss has on a family or a friend, it’s like, it really kind of makes you question like, okay, why, why are we doing this stuff? So I guess answer your question. It’s like, yeah, I guess I guess growth, you know, is kind of like what I’ve learned from all this stuff and kind of like in some ways it’s made me maybe even more more confused than it has understanding of like the why behind all of this but you know yeah.

Anna
Yeah, it is. I think it is hard to understand for outside folks and for, yeah, I agree. When I think about that, like, why do I keep wanting to do this? Cause it’s so fun. I don’t know. There’s something inside of me that still loves the river. And I think that the beauty is that you can, I think what I’m hearing you say too, I may or may not be on the right track is it helps to get clear on what’s important in your life. And so, you know, for me, fun, being with fun people, being outside is important. And so that makes it easier for me sometimes to let go of certain rivers or rapids. Because like, for instance, the green, I don’t need to run any of the big three to be out there and have fun and be with awesome folks and enjoy nature and to challenge myself. Right. So it doesn’t. And that’s what’s important to me. And I think experiencing loss and the danger of it. I don’t know, it’s helped me at least hone like what is important to me? What do I want to get out of this? Not like what do other people think I should get out of it or whatever that is.

Rush Sturges
No, absolutely. I mean, I think we’re all chasing the same kind of thing. And I think what’s special about kayaking is you can get that, or at least I can get that same sort of just feeling of sort of oneness with nature and like an amazing experience in the outdoors by just going and running some class two, three with my dad. Like that’s a really special day for me on the river, equally as special as, you know, some super high water Little White lap with my friends. And I guess it’s taken time and age for me to sort of recognize that those are both very important experiences. And yeah, like you said, priorities. It’s like, what am I really trying to do? And the days are limited in this lifetime as well. So yeah, really kind of prioritizing, what do I actually kind of want out of this?

Anna
Yeah. So you put yourself in your discomfort zone by putting your art out into the world, whether that’s films or music, and that can be really vulnerable. And I’m sure, well, I mean, we can’t please everyone when we’re putting our art out into the world. It’s vulnerable already. And I think it can be so scary being like, will people like this? And then…

then there might be comments of why people don’t like it or what, you know, what, whatever people’s opinions are. How do you, if you do experience this, like doubters, kind of haters, if you do, if you have experienced that, how do you handle that? Like how, how is that for you? What is that like? And, and what’s your thoughts on that?

Rush Sturges
Yeah, I mean, it’s impossible to please everybody and that’s just, that’s the reality of making art. And yeah, of course there’s gonna, I don’t expect everybody to have a connection to my music or the films I make or anything like that. It’s like, that would be an unrealistic sort of goal, I think. So, I don’t know. I think, yeah, sometimes it’s tough to take criticism, but also I think sometimes people also have good points and you can learn from critiques and maybe improve on your art or make it better. And, you know, especially when you’re starting out, you know, like you’re developing and learning. And I don’t know, I guess it doesn’t, at this point, it’s kind of like, this is who I am and this is my art and this is what I’m creating. And if it connects with you, great. And that’s awesome. I’m glad that it does. And if it doesn’t, then that’s totally fine too. You know, I don’t expect, yeah, don’t expect everyone to love it, but you know, thankfully, I’d say like to be honest, by and large, the feedback is usually positive on the stuff I put out there, but at the same time, for sure, there’s haters and that’s a good thing.

Anna
So do you have any questions for me?

Rush Sturges
Um, yeah, I mean, we haven’t, you know, for listeners who aren’t, who don’t know, we’ve known each other for 20 plus years. You were a teacher when I was at Adventure Quest when I was like 16 years old. So, uh, I’d love to hear more about what you’re up to, but I don’t know if this is the spot for that right now or not.

Anna
Yeah, well, I mean, I’m up to this podcast and yeah, my business is I’m really grateful that, you know, I started out with empowering women in whitewater and that is because all of the conversations or most of the conversations I had with women at the time, like let’s say, or,

late nineties, early two thousands, was that very few men in the industry were ever expressing any fear or vulnerability. Now that has changed. But back then it was, I was only having those conversations with women. So that’s kind of the path I took. I got really passionate about it. Plus I was always struggled with confidence and, and, and fear and that kind of thing. And I think now what I’ve come to is that it’s a human thing and which is why I’ve, you know, changed up to mind, body paddle and really focused on the mental agility side, which is part of this podcast of, you know, talking about learning, growing, getting uncomfortable. Things don’t have to look perfect kind of deal and helping folks. Yeah. Do things, you know, be scared and do them anyway. And I think bringing conversations with folks who people look to and are like, wow, they’re amazing. They do so much of this crazy stuff. Yeah.

Rush Sturges (31:59.438)
Absolutely. No, that’s something. It’s really cool. And I mean, I’ve always admired, you know, the work you’ve done. I mean, you’ve been doing this for a long time. And I remember, yeah, like seeing, you know, like I’ve sort of put like, you know, like the Girls at Play program, you know, programs like First Descent, like these sort of platforms that give people…

the ability to sort of be together or be around other people that might sort of have a similar life experience or, you know, and that’s honestly, those programs were honestly super instrumental in, you know, us starting this paddle tribal waters program, which for folks unfamiliar, that’s this indigenous youth kayak program that we’ve been running down in Northern California, teaching local tribal kids how to kayak. And, you know, that was sort of started.

I guess I kind of got involved with that organization because I grew up in the area and I didn’t know any native kayakers that sort of came from that zone. And so yeah, just giving folks the ability to interact with other tribal kids and then also learn the sport of kayaking. That honestly was largely inspired in part by some of the work that you guys have done and others over the years of kind of creating these kind of like little micro communities within the sort of larger communities.

Anna
Thanks for sharing that Rush. It goes to show that you just never know when you follow your passion and you do something, what the ripple effects could be and how you could inspire other folks or, yeah, give them some ideas. So that’s really cool. And I, I, I paddled, I got to paddle with two of the paddle tribal water, waters youth on the main salmon.

Rush Sturges
Oh cool.

Anna
Um, last September, I, uh, co -lead a trip on the main salmon with the canyons and with, uh, Melissa from Kelly collective and two of the girls from that program were on the trip and it was awesome. It was so, they shared so much about their culture and about how paddling has helped their confidence and they’re so excited to share it with their.

Rush Sturges
Oh, nice.

Rush Sturges
Nice.

Anna
community and yeah, it was just really great. I was, I’m so grateful to you and I can’t remember the other, who’s the executive director maybe right now? Weston, yeah.

Rush Sturges
Yeah. So, so Weston Boyle started, started, yeah, he’s the, he’s the founder of Riosta Rivers. And, um, yeah, I mean, it really is a special program. And if, if listeners haven’t checked it out, I encourage them to go and go and check it out. Cause we are, um, yeah, just like everything it is, it is a hustle to keep it, keep it going and keep it funded. But, um, it’s really exciting right now, actually our top, the top 13 students are doing a semester of world -class academy. So we have a full indigenous academy. They’re doing two months in Chile, another two months in the Pacific Northwest, which is, you know, it’s an amazing program. And this is like really an opportunity for that group of kids to do a deep dive into kayaking. And basically what our objective is right now is that this group of kids is going to lead the first whitewater kayaking descent of the Klamath river once all the dams are removed. And so we’re making a feature film about that story and kind of following their progress over these kind of couple of years, which is a journey because we’re essentially trying to train a group of kids to be grade four or five kayakers in the span of about two years, which is originally I thought was gonna actually not be, well, not that I didn’t think it was gonna be hard, but as time went on, I was like, whoa, this is actually a –

This is actually way harder than we thought. And really kind of the only way that we realized that we were going to actually be able to do it is by starting an actual indigenous academy where they could go and do their studies and learn to kayak at the same time. So they’re doing a deep dive into it, that’s for sure.

Anna
That’s amazing. Yeah, I think one of the girls that was on the main salmon is on that and she was so excited. So kudos to y ‘all for putting that together. And I also encourage all of you listening to go check that out. Rios to, is it River to Rios? You say it, so we get it right.

Rush Sturges
Rioesterriverus .org, yep. Or you can just search paddle tribal waters and you’ll find some videos and stuff on it.

Anna
Rios to River.

Anna
Great. Thanks, Rush. I have some rapid fire questions for you. You pumped? Okay, first one is, what’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Rush Sturges
Okay. We’ll see.

First thing, coffee. And I go straight to work. Yep.

Anna
Nice. Okay, what’s a non -negotiable self -care practice for you?

Rush Sturges
Non -negotiable self -care practice exercise.

Anna
What’s a favorite motivational book or talk?

Rush Sturges
The Creative Act by Rick Rubin.

Anna
Okay, awesome. What do people get wrong about you?

Rush Sturges
Um, would people get wrong about me? God, I don’t know. Um.

Rush Sturges
I always struggle with rapid fire questions. I’m like, my mind just kind of goes blank.

Anna
It’s fine. You don’t have to have an answer either.

Rush Sturges
Okay, I don’t know if I have one for that one.

Anna
All good. Throughout the course of your life, have you felt like the underdog or the favored to win?

Rush Sturges
Underdog.

Anna
Okay. Hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Rush Sturges
Ooh, probably flooding.

Anna
My favorite. Okay, one word that describes your comfort zone.

Rush
One word that describes my comfort zone, fluctuating, I don’t know.

Anna
Freedom through discipline or I do what I want.

Rush Sturges
freedom through discipline.

Anna
Okay. In one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Rush Sturges
Motivation

Anna
Sweet. So what’s your last piece of advice or gem of wisdom for our listeners about stepping into their discomfort zone?

Rush Sturges
I guess my advice on stepping into comfort, discomfort zone would be to trust your intuition, you know, go with, go with your gut and, and build up to stuff. It doesn’t have to all happen overnight. In fact, it doesn’t usually it’s incremental. And I think one thing that’s always kind of helped me actually is when I think about, you know, making a movie, if I, if I, focus on the film as a whole, it will totally overwhelm me. But if I focus on section by section, we call them bricks, brick by brick, little two minute sort of pieces of the film. When I wake up and I start editing, like that’s what I’m going to work on for the day. I’m not even thinking about the rest of it. The same, I think, is applied towards class five kayaking. If I think about the entire river as a whole from start to finish, I’ll overwhelm myself with fear. But if I break it down move by move, you know, section by section, it somehow makes it a lot more attainable. So I guess I would encourage folks if they’re, whether you’re an artist or an athlete or whatever it is that you’re doing, step by step, incremental, don’t let the whole process overwhelm you and have fun with it.

Anna
Awesome. And if you, cause you mentioned earlier, you know, sometimes you take risks and you fail. What would be your advice to folks when those failure failures, I’ll put them in quotation marks, but when, when things don’t work out the way you think they’re going to work out.

Rush Sturges
I mean, I think failure is great. You know, like that’s some of the, the, the most growth that I’ve had has been from projects or things that didn’t necessarily work out or, or lessons learned the hard way on the river. Sometimes you got to learn those lessons like the hard way and the, and failure is a big, a big part of that. I think the biggest difference is that there are folks who, you know, uh, keep going and there’s folks that don’t get back up. And, um, you know, I think to be successful. You just got to kind of keep going. Just keep trying. It gets better with time and you’ll definitely make it.

Anna
Yeah, and not taking on those failures as a reflection of your self -worth, I think is important. Just, oh.

Rush Sturges
I think it’s a good sign. There’s always that cliche, if you’re not swimming, you’re not trying. And it’s like, I don’t totally agree with that all the time, but there is some truth in it. For sure, the times in my life where I was sort of pushing it the hardest or really trying to grow as a kayaker, I was having some wipeouts and having some swims. And not that that’s what you want to do, but…

Anna
Hahaha!

Anna
Right.

Rush Sturges
I just, I think that my point is that like, you know, with, with growth does come failure. Absolutely.

Anna
Where can folks connect with you Rush?

Rush Sturges
Folks can connect with me on social media or got a website Riverroots .com. Yeah.

Anna
I’ll put your Instagram handle and some links also to your music and to your website in the show notes. So I really appreciate you. Yeah, for sure. I really appreciate you taking the time today. So thank you.

Rush Sturges
Awesome, thank you.
No worries, thanks for having me, appreciate it.