SUP, Body Image and Empowerment



It’s not new to me to be the ‘bigger’ woman within a group of athletically talented women. Throughout my competitive career in whitewater kayaking I was usually one of the curvier women on the circuit. In my mind I had all kinds of projections and judgements about the skinny girls and that made me feel better about myself and made me ‘right’ and them ‘wrong’. Over the last 15 years I’ve gained wisdom, gained confidence, have become a disciplined student of yoga and Ayurveda (health/healing sister science to yoga) and am actually healthier and ‘thinner’ than I’ve ever been in my life at 41. Even so, when I was brought on to the BIC SUP ambassador team some of those old projections and judgements started to come up again.IMG_6698

I know that I’m a good SUP paddler, instructor and instructor trainer, but when I looked around the room during our first ambassador summit at the other women who were either models – literally models – and/or super fit and skinny I started to get insecure. I didn’t allow myself to get to know these ladies because I made the assumption that because they were the mainstream ideal of beauty,that I didn’t have anything in common with them. It was easy to label and judge making me ‘right’ and them ‘wrong.’

Fast forward two years later to the second BIC SUP ambassador summit and I decide to take a different approach. This time I set the intention to drop the judgement, get to know these women and be an open space for connection. We had been encouraged to work with each other to take photos and create content for social media so I specifically set out to work with every woman ambassador and/or hang out with them and get to know them. What I learned is we are more alike than we are different and we all experience challenges and vulnerability no matter what we look like. That when we understand how our unique strengths and IMG_6711contributions complement each other the work we do is much more impactful. I really got for myself  how my biases and judgements about other women in the past created division and lead to missed opportunity for connection and collaboration. Now I feel like I’m part of the best ambassador team out there because of  how the women respect and support one another. This respect, support and understanding is what truly promotes confidence, empowerment, community and peace.

While reading for my Ayurvedic studies I came across this quote from Dr Vassant Lad, MD and Ayurvedic Dr: “Do not accept another person’s judgement. If you

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bring awareness to the judgement and criticism of others, you become like water, and a sharp sword cannot wound water. Water is non-resistant, open and flexible. When someone criticizes you, just be like water and you will not get hurt.” I also say do not accept our own criticisms and judgements of ourselves or others. Be like water and get to the bottom of them – usually insecurity and fear – which are both illusions and keep us from living our passions and sharing them authentically with others.

The ambassador summit was very joyful and fun for me, not just because I got to SUP surf all week, but because I chose understanding and collaboration over judgement and division. That is powerful.