Headshot of Buffy Burge racing the Green River Race in her green wig looking fierce.

Ep #4: Returning to Extreme Racing as a 50yro Mom with Buffy Burge

In this episode of The Discomfort Zone Podcast, Buffy Burge, a pioneer in Class V river running, talks about returning to extreme racing at the age of 50, after a 23 year hiatus, to race the Green with her teenage son.

She shares why she feels that it’s important to be a strong role model for her sons in the realm of pursuing her own passions and facing her fears.

Buffy asks Anna to remind her of a conversation they had back in 1998 on a river in Ecuador, where Buffy’s advice in an eddy was clutch in helping Anna finish out that run, and build courage and confidence in her paddling. 

In this conversation we touch on:

  • How learning from mistakes and focusing on the positive aspects of performance is important for upleveling your paddling, and your personal growth.
  • Strategies for getting out of your own head when facing a challenge.
  • Why surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is crucial for pursuing your passion.
  • How to prioritize for your passion as a busy Mom.
About Buffy

Buffy was raised a water girl in Florida’s Atlantic Ocean waves. She was introduced to whitewater canoeing at summer camp, and later became a kayaker on the James River while attending the University of Richmond in VA. Upon graduating college, Buffy moved to Colorado and started her journey to become a female pioneer in Class V river running. 

She was the first female to hike into and kayak down the Middle Kings, a multi-day Class V expedition in the high Sierras of CA. Buffy was a member of the all FEMALE first descents of the Waitaha Gorge in New Zealand and The Po Chu River in Bhutan, and she’s paddled in 10 countries around the world. Her extreme race results include being a 5X Gore Canyon Race Womens champion. 

After winning the Green Race in 2003 her confidence waned as she gave more time to mothering her 3 boys and less time to kayaking. Ten years later, she decided it was time for a comeback. In 2023, she set the goal of competing in the Green River Narrows race because her oldest son was going to enter as a first time racer and they could be the first Mother/ Son team on the course at the same time. After 20 years away from competition, she came back to win 3rd in this year’s Green Race Womens division, and 3rd in first ever Co-ed 50+ division!

How to connect with Buffy:

Instagram: @BuffyBurge

Anna
My guest today, Buffy Burge, was raised a water girl in Florida’s Atlantic Ocean waves. She was introduced to whitewater canoeing at summer camp and later became a kayaker on the James River while attending the University of Richmond in Virginia. Upon graduating college, Buffy moved to Colorado and started her journey to become a pioneer in class five river running. She was the first female to hike into and kayak down the Middle Kings, a multi-day class five expedition in the high sierras of California. Buffy was also a member of the first all female first descents of the Waitaha Gorge in New Zealand and the Pochu River in Bhutan. Buffy was also a member of the first all female first descents of the Waitaha Gorge in New Zealand and the Pochu River in Bhutan. She’s paddled in over 10 countries around the world and her extreme race results include being a five time Gore Canyon race women’s champion.

She’s paddled in over 10 countries around the world, and her extreme race results include being a five-time Gore Canyon women’s champion. After winning the green race in 2003, her confidence waned as she gave more time to mothering her three boys and less time to kayaking. Ten years later, she decided it was time for a comeback. In 2023, she set the goal of competing in the Green River Narrows race because her oldest

After winning the green race in 2003, her confidence waned as she gave more time to mothering her three boys and less time to kayaking. Ten years later, she decided it was time for a comeback. In 2023, she set the goal of competing in the Green River Narrows race because her oldest son was going to enter as a first-time racer and they could be the first mother-son team on the course at the same time. After 20 years away from competition,and they could be the first mother-son team on the course at the same time. After 20 years away from competition, she came back to win third in this year’s Green Race Women’s Division and third in the first ever co-ed 50 plus division. I will also add that ever since I started kayaking in the mid 90s, Buffy has been a role model of courage, confidence, and great paddling for me and I’m grateful for our friendship and I’m so grateful that you’re here Buffy. Thank you.

Buffy
Thanks for having me, Anna, and I’m proud to be on your podcast and the first one that’s pioneering.

Anna
It is. I know.

So my first question for you is why are you drawn to challenging yourself and stepping into your discomfort zone?

Buffy
I’m drawn to it because what happens to me when I go into my discomfort zone is that my brain really takes over. It turns on, starts overthinking, and I really like the process of me having to say like, hey, relax, you do this sport because it’s fun and you know it takes me kind of back to the roots and the reasons why I’m actually there and makes me more present on the river because I’m like you need to relax and this is a fun time and this is what you love to do turn your head off and just go be do go so that’s why I like the discomfort zone about my sport whitewater kayaking

Anna
I love that. What is the pro or could you describe the process for us if you have one of getting out of your head? I mean, you just told us that you tell yourself to do it. Is there is there a process that you use?

Buffy
Can you describe the process for us, if you have one, of getting out of your head? I mean, you just told us that you tell yourself to do it. Is there a process that you use? Well, it’s funny because…

I think a lot of it is just breathing and trying to be present, more like taking in what’s happening around me in nature. If the sun’s shining, if I could feel a little wind on my face, if you know which way the water’s hitting my boat. Also I’ll like take in more of the features instead of just like brain turning on, I’m like having to seek external reinforcements of why I’m there, why I’m present. And also I like to tap into the crowd I’m with. I love to feed off the people I’m with, and that gives me a lot of feedback and strength. So luckily I have so many great friends from the sport of whitewater kayaking and usually.

Most of them are on the river with me and I like to tap into their energy also. And that helps me to kind of get out of my head. So, and also always put a smile on your face. That just helps all situations. Anytime you’re feeling nervous or like too in your head or getting a little too, like serious, just put a smile on your face. That’s helps me a ton.

Anna
Has getting out of your head helped you on the river? Has, let me start over that question. We’ll just edit that out. Has the process of getting out of your head on the river helped you in other aspects of your life?

Buffy
Getting out of your head helps you on the river. Mm-hmm. Okay. Sure.

Buffy
Uh, the getting out of my head on the river has helped me in other aspects of my life. I’m also a mountain biker and I can tap into that some days on the mountain bike, but it’s not as successful as kayaking. I just, um, have an easier time with water. I rocks and dirt seems so hard. So, um.

But yeah, sometimes on the mountain bike, I seem to be able to do that, but it’s not as consistent as in the kayak and in water. So, yes. Yes.

Anna
I hear you. What have you learned about yourself from stepping into your discomfort zone over and over again?

Buffy
Wow, being able to step into your discomfort zone over and over again and being able to overcome what happens to me, which is I get too much in my head. It’s very empowering and also gives me like the biggest sense of relaxation because you can get so nervous and overwhelmed on Class 5 water and so

Being able to overcome that just gives you a new level of, whoo, I got this, you know, I could do this. And that helps me out a ton. Actually in other parts of my life, just day to day, like I said, in mountain biking, it’s kind of inconsistent, but in day to day life, I feel pretty calm and pretty confident in just how I conduct everyday matters.

Anna
Yeah, what I hear you saying is that in order to build confidence, stepping into your discomfort zone is key. And that’s what I like to coach my clients with as well, is that building confidence, there’s no magic pill or magic practice that will, if you stay in your comfort zone and hope and wish, wish and hope that you gain confidence, it’s not going to happen. The confidence happens on the other side of is that in order to build confidence, stepping into your.

And that’s what I like to coach my clients with as well, is that building confidence, there’s no magic pill or magic practice that will, if you stay in your comfort zone and hope and wish, wish and hope that you gain confidence, it’s not gonna happen. The confidence happens on the other side of our discomfort zone. Yeah, so I mean, you have to go there to go to the other side, so, yes.

Anna
Right? It’s like running a rabbit. You have to paddle down. You have to take action. You have to peel out of that eddy.

Buffy
Mm-hmm. Yes. Right, right. And that’s the beauty of white water, because you have to go forward. The river is always moving forward, and that’s nice in life, too. It’s just kind of you see that part of life and you can relate it to the river. Must go forward. It’s taking you there.

Anna
Right. It’s taking you there. You’re going with it just like lifetime. It’s moving and so you have a choice to how you want to position yourself relative to the current. You know? Yeah. Where do you feel your discomfort zone in your body? Like how do you know you’re there? You are in your discomfort zone.

Buffy
Yeah, yeah. Just like life time. Right. It’s moving and so you have a choice to how you want to position yourself relative to your environment. Right. Yeah. Ha ha ha.

Buffy
Where do you feel your discomfort zone in your body? Like how do you know you’re there? Well, yeah, like I said, unfortunately, my discomfort zone where I feel it is in my head. It’s not in my stomach. It’s not like in my lungs. I’m not like breathing fast, that kind of thing. It is in my head. And I can tell when my head’s getting tight, like as far as stressed and like overthinking. And that’s when I do have to..like take a step back and just, you know, breathe and just start to take in why I’m actually there and that to get out of that head.

Anna
Yeah, so that’s interesting. So it’s not a body sensation for you.

Buffy
No, definitely not. Ha ha ha.

Anna
Interesting. Do you have an early memory or what is the first memory of stepping into your discomfort zone?

Buffy
Do you have an early memory or what is the first memory of stepping into your discomfort zone? Well, I played high school sports and I think that anytime I’d go up to say the free throw line in basketball or have to go up for a serve in volleyball. So it’s anytime I had to have all eyes on me and like I had to make the basket myself. It wasn’t like the team involved. It’s just a to the either the free throw line or the serve line all by myself. I think those are when I really felt it that I could remember.

Anna
Yeah, I love what you just said because I think it’s an important thing to come up against is that you said you all eyes are on you and you have to make the serve or the basket. And I think that is also what I come up against. That’s why actually competing in freestyle kayaking was challenging for me. The all eyes on me.

Buffy
The thing to come up against is that you said all eyes are on you and you have to make the serve. Right, right. And I think that is also what I come up against. That’s why actually competing in freestyle kayaking was challenging for me. Me too. It was all eyes on me. Yeah. Right? Yeah. And it adds an added layer of pressure where it’s racing. When I did race, I felt like I could get into a groove and yes, people are cheering you on, but you’re not.

Anna
Right? It adds an added layer of pressure. Whereas racing, when I did race, I felt like I could get into a groove and yes, people are cheering you on, but you’re not static with everyone watching your every move. And yeah, that, uh, I also remember as a growing up, coming to that realization that no one can do this for me. No one can do this thing called life for me. And I think that

Buffy
with everyone watching your every move. Exactly. And yeah, that’s, I also remember as a growing up, coming to that realization that no one can do this for me. No one can do this thing called life for me. And I think that whitewater kayaking in particular, but like you said, I guess any sport really can help us embody that.

Anna
Whitewater kayaking in particular, but like you said, I guess any sport really can help us embody that. And again, it’s a confidence and it’s having the courage to say, I can do this. And it’s not about not having support around you, right? Because that support, as you’ve already said, is really important. Because at first, I think I can remember feeling disempowered

Buffy
And again, it’s a confidence and it’s having the courage to say, I can do this. And it’s not about not having support around you, right? Because that support, as you’ve already said, is really important. That con first, because at first I think I can remember feeling disempowered with the idea of, oh, no one can do that. Like I have to do this for myself. But then it’s transitioning to I get to do this for myself. I have the power and the choice to do it. That’s right. I think that’s what you said, it’s the choice. And that’s very important to remember in anything you do in life. I chose this, I can get through it. And when I get to the other side of this task, I’m gonna be sailing. So I think that’s important that you said it’s the choice.

Anna
Yeah, that’s something that I do for myself on the river quite a bit when I, you know, get scared or nervous or, you know, and I, the immediate question that comes up is why do I keep doing this to myself? And that, you know, the answer I answer myself, yeah, you chose this because you think it’s fun and you’ve gained so much and you chose to be here. So just remember that.

And the immediate question that comes up is, I like to ask myself, and I answer myself, yeah, you chose this because you think it’s fun and you’ve gained so much. You chose to be here, so just remember that. I like that. Do you have a teacher or guide or mentor

Anna
Yeah, it’s helpful. Did you have a teacher or guide or mentor that helped you learn how to face discomfort?

Buffy
you learn how to face discomfort? Well, I want to say a role model, and that would be my mom. She never outright taught me, sat me down, say, hey, listen, this is this discomfort zone, and that kind of thing. But she was definitely a lady that brought me up to be strong and independent. She just let me go.

Said you got this and always yeah, you can do it and also, you know, she was joining our family adventures whitewater rafting and snow skiing like following my brother and me around out there on the black slopes when she probably was in way over her head, but she Went and she did it and she is this lady from Florida like out there in Colorado skiing on you know, the black slopes with her two kids and

And definitely I knew she was so scared. But man, she was just like, loving the fact that she was skiing around with her kids. And she definitely was not very great at it. But boy, she was having a good time.

Anna
That’s awesome. I love that. And you picked that up a little bit, or to some extent this year when you came back for the green race to race with your son, West, well, not race with him, but race in the same race as him. And you came third in the women’s division at the age of 50. I just want to point that out because it is, I think, awesome and you’re just blowing away the old stories that society can narrate about once you’re 50, life goes downhill and all that BS. So I love that you, it’s really cool that you, your mom did that with you and you’re doing it with your sons. You are definitely, you’re an exceptional paddler and you have your strategies, so I don’t think you were scared out there. Uh, like your mom was scared on the slopes, but I mean, I’m sure you were nervous, but anyways, I love that you were out there with West and, and racing the green at 50. It’s so inspiring.

Buffy
Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, that was a really fun time. And again, you know, that, it actually was a huge endeavor for me to get back in the race scene, especially on the green. It involves this one rapid gorilla that’s kind of like my nemesis. And I definitely, you know, I was scared. I don’t think I was scared for race day, but all the steps that it takes to get up to race day, I definitely was scared. And it was a huge undertaking for me and I had to overcome a lot of, as I said, being in my head, I had to overcome a lot of that nervousness up in my head. Race day was amazing. I don’t know how, but I felt so calm. I had a smile on my face and I got to the finish line and I came zooming across the finish line and I’m like, I saw Cory, my friend Cory there and I’m like, I pulled it off. I pulled it off. He’s like, you more than pulled it off, Buffy. And I was like, I did, didn’t I? So yeah.

Anna
Yes, that was, we were cheering hard for you. You did more than pull it off. You came third, which is amazing. So what was your process after stepping away from competition for 20 years? What was your process to get yourself back to competing in one of the most celebrated important extreme races in whitewater kayaking?

Buffy
Stepping away from competition for 20 years, what was your process to get yourself back to competing in one of the most celebrated, important extreme races in whitewater kayaking? I definitely just had to go kayaking more and it didn’t have to be on extreme hard water, it’s just time in the boat. And luckily, with my boys being older, two of them are kayakers. And so…

I was able to get on the river more, just kayaking with them. And also, being in whitewater kayaking, there’s two different styles. There’s creek boating, which is a little more technical. And then there’s play boating, which you’re in a, it’s more relaxed, more fun. And I did a lot of play boating and that also prepares you because you’re rolling a lot more.

It puts you in all these weird currents, weird situations, and you’re just like rolling and rolling. And that’s also a building block for confidence in our sport. And then I also had to start back in May and think, oh, I gotta run gorilla again. And I was so fortunate because I surrounded myself or they actually called me, hey, you wanna go? Yes, I wanna go. And…

Surrounded myself with just a great group. And I knew when I got to Gorilla the Rapid that I had great safety and really good energy around me. And I don’t know if you want to mention this, but it’s Anna’s husband, Andrew. I mean, he was huge in me doing Gorilla again and just knowing that he was at the bottom waiting for me. And so that was back in May and I started running Gorilla again. And that was part of the…

the process was just getting the right people with me on the right day to choose to go over that rapid again. And so that’s, that’s how I did it. And honestly, the runs on gorilla were the, were what let me go, okay, I can race this. I got this. Yeah. In the past, I know you’ve had, like, you had a pretty bad crash off the gorilla in the past where you broke your jaw.

Anna
Awesome. In the past, I know you’ve had a pretty bad crash off of Gorilla in the past where you broke your jaw. I’m bringing that up because you have had what most folks would consider a pretty bad crash with consequences on a rapid, and yet you didn’t let that stop you from coming back.

And so I’m picking that up because you’ve had what most folks would consider a pretty bad crash with consequences on a rapid, and yet you didn’t let that stop you from coming back and running it and then racing over it very successfully. I mean, your line in the race was super smooth. So can you tell us how, and I know that was a several year process, but maybe can you give us the highlights of…and running it and then racing over it very successfully. I mean, your line in the race was super smooth. So can you tell us how, and I know that was a several year process, but maybe can you give us the highlights of how you came back from that particular maybe incident or what is your strategy from coming back from bad experiences?

How you came back from that particular maybe incident or what is your strategy from coming back from that experience?

Buffy
Well, I’ve had two kind of crazy experiences on guerrilla. One was I did break my jaw, but that was easy to kind of like justify because it was low water. So it was a really dumb situation. And it was back when I was in my twenties.

um, before I was 25, before I had my frontal cortex fully, fully developed, but the water was too low. And, you know, it’s, it, this is interesting because it does relate to the topic of this podcast. Um, I hadn’t run guerrilla, I hadn’t been on the green in a long time and it was just two people that went down. My, my friend and I, and we were, just going down together and I got to Gorilla and I didn’t even get out and scout. And back then, you know, there wasn’t a lot of online chatter. You didn’t join any Facebook group that talks about water levels, things like that. And so I didn’t know that it’s like super dangerous to run Gorilla at a low water level. I didn’t know that. I was naive, really. So, and I didn’t get out and scout. My friend was like, oh, I’m going to walk this. And I, I’m like, Oh, I should walk it too. And this little, and I don’t know why it’s a man. A man talks to me in my head. And I guess that’s my subconscious. My subconscious was like, you should walk this also. And I said, I like overpowered that I’m like, no, you got to run this blah, blah. And so then I did. And I crashed super hard. And I tell my kids that story many times, you know, I broke my jaw, my teeth shattered, the whole deal. And I tell my kids, you know, when your subconscious is talking, you better pause and listen. And, you know, at least you needed to get out and scout the rapid. But I didn’t. So that was, I could chalk that day crash on Gorilla up to being young and naive and not scouting. And I’ve…

Anna
Mmm.

Buffy
Definitely learned a huge lesson from that when in doubt scout, you know, there’s no big deal So then I had another race Jerry’s battle, which is a different race and I came through gorilla and I’m paddling through and there’s this really narrow Spot above the rapid it’s lip and I chocked my paddle in the notch and my paddle flew up into the air and then I kept going and I was upright still luckily but then I was backwards ran gorilla backwards and then at the bottom of grill I hand rolled up with the help of live bait there was live bait there at Jerry’s battle that year for some reason and I rolled up and my paddle floated right next to me and I was able to grab my paddle and just kayak down the river. And at that point I’m like, dude, I am retiring, Gorilla. That is it. No more. So I actually had written, Gorilla, off. And that was, I think that was in 2008. That was the last time I ran, Gorilla. And so I had to, this year, 2023, I had to like, like overcome my decision to retire gorilla. And the way I did it again was just to tap into this energy of all the folks with me on the river. They’re just having a blast out there. And it’s people that are very competent paddlers. And I had to say you are a competent paddler too, Buffy. You know, you have to give yourself credit and kudos. And you’re a very competent pal to paddler also you’ve got the skill. And these guys are running, they’re having a blast. You know, there’s no reason you don’t, there’s no reason that for you to like, keep walking this rapid all the time. So that’s definitely, just give yourself some credit. Yeah. Give yourself some credit. Yeah.

Anna
Yes, I love that. Give yourself some credit. And what I want to add to what you just explained is that you’ve been paddling the green the whole time. So even though you hadn’t been running gorilla, you had been paddling the green and kept up your skill. I’ve paddled the green several times with you and you have fun. What you just explained is that you’ve been paddling the green the whole time. So you, even though you haven’t, you hadn’t been running gorilla, you had been paddling the green and killing your skill. And you didn’t, you know, I’ve paddled the green several times with you and you have fun whether you’re paddling gorilla or not paddling gorilla and having fun with the folks you’re paddling with. And I think that that’s important whether you’re paddling gorilla or not paddling gorilla and having fun with the folks you’re paddling with. And I think that that’s important also to that for our listeners who are paddlers really understand that that, you know, we see the highlight reels and there’s the hard moves in easy water that are happening. I don’t say that the rest of the green is easy water, but you know, that you’re keeping up your skills.

Also so that our listeners who are paddlers really understand that we see the highlight reels and there’s the hard moves in easy water that are happening. I don’t say that the rest of the green is easy water, but that you’re keeping up your skills and having fun.

Buffy
That’s right, yes, yeah. One rapid doesn’t define your skills and not letting one rapid define whether you are having fun or not.

No, definitely you don’t have to be running the super hard rapids on that any run. It’s all relative to what you think are the hard rapids because all the in-between white water is a blast. I think it’s all about challenging yourself like, you know, hey do I have a hard time making eddy moves, ferry moves, and just try those out on the safe spots in the river and it actually fun things to do. Also like, oh, can I catch this tiny Eddie in the middle of this rapid? That’s a safe rapid. You know, that’s just that’s fun stuff. And then also, you know, you’ll if you can watch the people that are around you and maybe a little bit better than you are, and they’ll start to do moves. You’re like, I gotta go for that. You know, it’s, it’s great.

Anna
Yeah. One question I have for you is in regards to motherhood and extreme sports, because I hear, I see some folks, not necessarily in our direct paddling community, but just out in the outdoor industry. When I’ve seen high profile, whether it’s female mountaineers who are moms or skiers, and they take big risks and some of it goes sideways, and then folks will judge them. I think that there’s still an idea that once you become a mom, maybe you should stay in your comfort zone for the health of your children. Have you ever encountered that type of critique from folks? How do you manage that? What are your thoughts around that?

Buffy
I definitely haven’t come across that critique from other people. I just think that the people in my social circle, hey, maybe they’re thinking it, but no one has ever said anything. But I don’t even think they’re thinking that. But I definitely have challenged myself with that question from me. Should I be doing this? That type of thing. And I think that whatever brings you home at the end of the day, making you feel happy and calm and present with your kids. There’s nothing like going outdoors, exercising, mountain biking, kayaking, taking a hard hike or something, where you come home at the end of the day and you’re just really present and calm and happy with your children because you actually went outside and did something for yourself.

I think that’s really important. And also again, you know, it’s nice. Unfortunately, I don’t have any girls, like daughters to see, but again, I think it’s really good that my boys see me out there challenging myself and saying, you know, hey, my mom, she like goes for it and she comes out the other side more confident and happy and strong and.

I mean, that’s something very valuable for young sons to see also.

Anna
And I will add that I think you’ve been an amazing role model to not only your kids, but also young paddlers because around the green race, when folks were training and I was out there, you know, paddling and having fun because the community is really fun. And I ran into some, some of those young men and they, I feel like compared to when we started in the nineties.

Granted there weren’t a whole lot of young younger Paddlers, I would say there were some and there were some exceptional ones who were a meat had amazing thoughtful respectful personalities for sure I And I think that what I see when I speak with them is they have a respect for all paddlers They don’t have this idea which I feel like in the 90s there was like a paradigm of kind of male domination of
the dudes are the best paddlers and like the women, the girls are okay. There is really, I feel like a shift happening of equal respect for the young women who are out there pushing themselves. And I think that does come from moms like you who are setting, who are being great role models by pushing yourself, challenging yourself, paddling out there with them. And also, they also have respect for older women, which I find lovely. So they’ll ask me for advice sometimes, you know, and just on a line or, you know, and I just I love that because it is an opportunity we all have something to offer. And I love that the younger generation, especially of young men, see that older women in the sport have something to offer them as well.

Buffy
Yes, and I see that too. And I mean, I wanna thank that generation because that also feels nice because it feels like they’re trying to include you. And that’s really cool to feel included with the young teenager crowd. It’s fun. Again, it’s really nice because when you see those guys out on the river and you brush up against them and they’re chatting with you and they’re making moves all around you, you do. You pick up on their energy and that’s what I’m talking about. I like to tap into that. So it’s good to have that teenage energy or younger energy even, you know, of course there’s a lot of younger paddlers out there than I am, but it’s just good to pick up on their energy.

Anna
Definitely. It helps to put me at ease when I’m paddling with a group and they’re trying all kinds of stuff and doing rock spins. You know, I’m nervous and then I’m like, why am I so nervous? They’re doing rock spins everywhere, surfing that wave, trying to splat this thing, you know? And it helps me remember, like, it’s good to be out here. There’s, you know, nerves are, I think, healthy and all, you know, this whole podcast and what I, you know, Mind, Body, Paddle when I do my coaching, it’s about how do we not let those nerves overwhelm us and keep us from following our passions and following what’s important to us. Yeah.

Anna
Buffy, what advice would you give listeners for facing fear and stepping into their discomfort zone?

Buffy
My advice is to try to deconstruct your fear. Try to ask yourself what is it that you’re actually afraid of that will happen. And if that’s justified, you break it down. When you get down to the basics, if it’s justified, well, I could see really crashing and breaking my back here.

Then hey, maybe walk this, walk this line on your mountain bike, turn around on a hiking trail, I don’t know. Maybe come up with a different solution. But when you deconstruct your fear and if you are like, well, I don’t really see what I’m so scared of, like, this rapid is safe or this mountain bike line, nothing will happen to me even if I just slide out. That’s all right.

You do have to fall or have miniature crashes every now and then if you’re pushing yourself. If you’re not going to gravely injure yourself, then hey, why am I so afraid? And then maybe you could be like, well, there’s no reason and then charge from there. And also, again, like I said before in this podcast, I think you can also start to shift your fear from…

So in the moment, like, Oh, this is just so crazy, blah, blah to see like the overall picture of, man, I am out here in nature. This is a gorgeous day. I’ve got all these supportive people around me and kind of tap into a different source other than your fear. And that always just seems to help being able to tap into some different source of energy than your own, like feeding of fear.

Anna
Yeah, I like to say that you can’t hold a thought of gratitude and fear at the same time. I use that strategy as well when I’m on the water. I like to get on the water and put my hand in the water and look around and express the thought of gratitude for being there. And that really helps me out.

Buffy
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it, Anna.

Anna
That’s amazing. I also love what you said that you have to expect to have mini crashes, right? And that’s how we know we’re growing. Because with my clients, sometimes I see people get so discouraged when they flip or they swim. And I can relate because I have that perfectionist streak in me. So I can understand and relate.

That’s how we know we’re growing. Because with my clients, sometimes I see people get so discouraged when they flip or they swim. And I can relate because I have that perfectionist streak in me. So I can understand and relate being really. Throughout my life, I’ve definitely been too hard on myself and put too much emphasis on quote unquote failures. And I think that it’s really healthy to know that they’re part of the process, you know, and instead of thinking of flipping upside down as a failure, be like, it’s part of the sport. It’s a recovery. We learn how to roll because we know it’s going to happen. And same thing with swimming. It’s easy to say we’re all in between swims and then when a swim happens, it’s sometimes hard to remember that it is part of the sport.

Buffy
It’s sometimes hard to remember that it is part of the sport. You’re so correct. And also, it was great around the green race because there’s all these high-level athletes here and there are pros in town. And leading up to the race, there were people crashing, pros crashing, pros taking terrible lines.

I mean, I don’t wish for somebody to take a terrible line, but again, you know, it’s like, man, even the highest level athlete in your sport is not perfect all of the time. And therefore, you know, you being, you’re gonna, you’re okay, it’s okay. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to take a fall. And I think that, you know, I…

I think that it would be great to take a lesson from you, Anna, or anybody that realizes it would be a great way to teach to lead with that into their introduction to kayaking or introduction to mountain biking. Hey, you’re going to fall and that’s okay. There’s going to be tons of falls and it’s not a big deal. But yeah, it’s trying to let that expectation go that you have to be perfect all the time. You don’t.

It’s for fun. It’s a hobby. It really is. Even for those guys that are pros, I mean, it is for fun when it all comes down to it.

Anna
Yeah, and there is no perfection. You know, that’s like a construct that we have. So what’s the biggest misconception people have about whitewater kayaking?

Buffy
No.

Yeah.

Uh, I think as a person who doesn’t whitewater kayak, is that what you’re asking? Like what is a misconception or about people that don’t, and when they look at whitewater kayaking, I think that, um, when people see whitewater kayaking and, um, they probably see it on social media or YouTube and it’s all these people running like these huge drops or huge, um, water and that’s not really what it has to be. It’s, you know, it could be water that is what you feel comfortable in. And it’s just like a lot of people have been snow skiing, right? And in whitewater kayaking, there are green runs, there are blue runs, and there are black runs, and there are double black runs. And if you’re comfortable on the green runs, then you know, that’s what it is.

It’s okay to be on the green runs as long as you’re having fun. And that’s what I think, uh, it’s hard about social media now, cause they don’t show people the green runs just with a smile on their face. Do you think that the industry does a much better job of that?

Anna
I do think the ski industry does a much better job at that. I think probably the resorts do a lot better job at that. Showing people on the blue and the green runs, having fun. That’s a conversation in the whitewater industry that’s been going on ever since I’ve been in, so 20 plus years. And yeah, I do think that with social media, luckily there is more and more of people showing their own journeys. And so there are more and more of the class two, three, four fun. That’s also why I like playboating too. Playboating is high fun, low consequence.

Buffy
Yeah, I do too. Yes.

That’s also why I like playboating too. Playboating high fun, low confidence. Right. And it’s usually deeper water.

Anna
Yes, true. I remember when I first moved to the southeast, or especially, you know, I did spend some time in West Virginia, but there, you know, the Gauley, the New, there are definitely deeper spots. And I can remember being really nervous. I mean, that’s what made me nervous about the green is the transition to low volume, steep, tons of rocks when I had spent so much time on the Ottawa, you know, and on the dries of the New and I moved to the southeast, or especially, you know, I did spend some time in West Virginia, but there, you know, the Gauley, the New, there are definitely deeper spots. And I can remember being really nervous. I mean, that’s what made me nervous about the green, is the transition to low volume, steep, when I had spent so much time on the Ottawa. Yeah. The dries of the new and it is a, it’s a change in mentality and of course, there’s some differences in the technical aspects. Yeah, yeah, that’s. I’m glad that I’ve, yeah. I think having experience in all of it is so fun and makes you a great paddler.

Buffy
I think having experience in all of it is so fun. It makes you a great paddler. Yeah, well-rounded paddler. Yeah, and that’s what’s neat about kayaking. There’s so many different varieties of types of rivers. And so, yeah, but it’s interesting too, because I remember going to Big Water for my first time. And of course, you know, that was so different.

Wow, I really have to paddle, take some strokes, dang, you know. So that’s cool. And I have a question for you. I can’t remember all the details, but I met you in Ecuador and you always told me the story of me telling you some advice on the river. Do you remember what that advice was? Because maybe I should take my own advice.

Anna
I do. Yes, this is in Ecuador in 1998. You were one of the pioneering women. I was so excited to paddle with you. We were on the lower Hondachi. It was higher water. It had rained. I remember the river being really brown. I don’t think it was super high. The brown water sometimes plays with my mind when it’s brown. You know, each one of the pioneering women, I was so excited to travel with you. And we were on the lower Hondachi, and it was higher water, it had rained. So I remember the river being really brown. I don’t think it was super high. I just, the brown water sometimes places.

Buffy
Yep, you’re right. Yeah, me too, me too. And I have to add, we were probably in some interesting boat choices.

Anna
Yeah, I was probably in a wave sport X or something like that, you know?

Buffy
Yeah, I think I was in a perception 3D. And this was, it was, it was high water. It was high water, I remember. And it’s big creaking, big kind of creaking.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah, I would say it was class four plus probably. I think, and I was a newer voter, so I started boating in 1994. So, you know, relatively, I’d been boating quite a bit, but I didn’t have like the depth of experience. So I was out there and I think I flipped over a few times and I felt so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed that I’d flipped over cause I felt sketchy there and I think I flipped over a few times and I felt so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed that I flipped over because I felt sketchy and I was with you and Land and a few other folks who I really respected and I remember pulling into an eddy and I was almost, I remember my eyes were filling with tears because I was so frustrated with myself and you came over.

And I was with you and Land and a few other folks who I really like respected. And I remember pulling into an Eddie and I was almost, I remember my eyes are feeling with tears because I was so frustrated with myself. And you came over and I checked in on me and I think I expressed to you like, oh, I feel sketchy, I’ve been flipping over. And you said, you look.

And I checked in on me and I think I expressed to you like, oh, I feel sketchy, I’ve been flipping over. And you said, you look fine to me. You’re having good lines, you’ve rolled. And you said, it’s really important that you focus on the things you’re doing well. It’s good to learn from your quote unquote mistakes. But you said, every day at the end of the day, I look back on my run and I acknowledge the things that didn’t go so well. And I learned from them. And then I celebrate what I did well. And that was really, and I acknowledge the things that didn’t go so well and I learn from them and then I celebrate what I did well. And that was really amazing. I mean… amazing. I mean, that might seem like maybe quote unquote normal advice today, but in the mid 90s, people were not talking like that, at least the people that I was paddling with and raft guiding with. And so that really blew my mind and it helped to build my confidence. And that’s why I think it is important for when we’re on the river that we do check in with folks. And I love to acknowledge people and help them feel heard and seen because that’s what you did for me that day. You helped me to feel seen and that helped to boost my confidence. And so thank you, Buffy.

Buffy
Well that’s cool yeah. Thank you. Well you’re welcome. Yeah and I mean I think that you do a good job of that and I feel that that’s what I’ve been talking about on this podcast. It’s kind of the group around you. You know make sure you’re so you’re kayaking or doing your sport with people that are supportive and you know a lot of people these days know the whole Marie Kondo method of their home and home organization and to let go what does not bring you joy. And if you’re out there with some people who do not bring you joy, maybe it’s time to figure out a different group or different folks to paddle or do your sport with and people that do support you and just surround yourself with positive folks that can give you, you know, good energy.

Anna
Yes, agreed. Do you have any other questions for me?

Buffy
No, I just love to hear that Ecuador story because I don’t… It’s like, wow, I was very enlightened back in my 20s.

Anna
You were. I appreciate that very much from you. Okay. I have a set of rapid fire questions that are really supposed to be like a one word, you know, max one sentence answer.

Okay. What is a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Buffy

I wish I had a better morning ritual. It’s mostly just dealing with my kids, so I don’t have one.

Anna
Okay. What is a non-negotiable self-care practice for you?

Buffy
uh, stretching and mobility.

Anna
Great. What is a favorite motivational book or talk that is your go-to?

Buffy
A motivational talk is when you show up at your sport, you’re already winning. I’m here. I’m already winning.

Anna
Awesome. What do people get wrong about you?

Buffy
People get wrong about me is that I’m there to compete. I am not much of a competitor. I am there to meet my own goals.

Anna
Throughout the course of your life, have you been considered the underdog or the favored to win?

Buffy
I’m considered the favorite to win because I’m a positive smiley person and who doesn’t want a positive smiley person to win?

Anna
I love that. Own it. I love it. Okay. Hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Buffy
Hard moves in easy water or flooding? Well, I know my answer should be hard moves in easy water, but I still do prefer the adrenaline of flooding.

Anna
I hear you. What’s funny about me is I coach with hard moves and easy water a lot. But what I find actually works well for me is the flooding. Just go for it, bushwhack, run the thing. It’s funny. What’s one word that describes your comfort zone?

Buffy
Mmm comfort zones, a warm, sunny, fluffy, water day.

Anna
Great. Freedom through discipline or do what I want.

Buffy
I like to say do what makes me happy.

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

Buffy
Positivity.

Anna
Great. Is there anything else that you want to tell our listeners about your discomfort zone or stepping into discomfort zone?

Buffy
Um, I think that being female, it’s easy to really get stuck in a low confidence chapter of your life. And I don’t know what it is about the female brain that makes that happen. And I just want to say you’re not alone. Um, high level female athletes have been there, and you can get out of it. I think it’s best to try to just breathe and take in the fun part of your life and just don’t sweat the small stuff as they say.

Anna
I have one more question for you. What is your advice for following your passion?

Buffy
My advice for following your passion is to probably define your passion, get it out there so you know exactly what it is, make goals on how to achieve your passion, and try to eliminate things that are getting in the way, time suckers, of what is getting in the way of you achieving your goals to make the most time for your passion.

Anna
And if someone were to say, well, I’m just too busy, what would be your response?

Buffy
My response is if you’re just too busy to get out there to do your passion, again, I mean, you need to review what’s taking your time. For instance, I know what is eating into my time are things like Instagram. So you know, maybe remove your Instagram account, things like that.

Anna (
Yeah.

So where can folks find you, Buffy, on social media? Speaking of Instagram.

Buffy (50:38.154)
Yeah.

Yeah, well, I do have an Instagram account. I think it’s at BuffyBurge. It is private, so forgive me if I don’t accept you, because I pretty much only accept my friends that I know. But you can find me through Anna or out on the Green River. And thanks for watching Anna’s podcast and listening.

Anna
Okay.

Anna
Thank you so much for being here today, Buffy. Thanks for taking the time. You’ve always been a huge inspiration to me and I’m so grateful that we get to paddle together and I get to absorb your vibe on the river and that joy that you’ve talked so much about today. So thank you for being here.

Buffy
Thank you, Anna. Have a great day, everybody.