Ep #14 Kayaking, mental health and the importance of community with Adam Edwards

In this episode of the Discomfort Zone Podcast, Adam Edwards, professional paddler and content creator, opens up about mental health, humanizing whitewater kayaking, and his journey from focus on the gnar to prioritizing relationships on the river.

Adam talks about how kayaking, and the Instagram reels he creates using kayaking fails, helps him work through his social anxiety and imposter syndrome. 

He shares his strategies for emotional regulation and the importance of seeking support when dealing with difficult emotions, situations and trauma. 

This is an unfiltered and raw conversation about the challenges we face when choosing to participate in extreme sports, and also the joy and growth that we experience that has us keep coming back.

About Adam

Based in Portland, OR, Adam works as an arborist and professional kayaker. With over a decade of experience in the outdoor industry as a guide, instructor, and other careers, he now spends his time trying to help foster a more positive and supportive outdoor experience for people of color and other marginalized groups.

How to connect with Adam:

Instagram: @adamchechireedwards

Website: https://www.adamchechireedwards.com/

Anna
My guest today, Adam Edwards, is based in Portland, Oregon. He works as an arborist and professional kayaker. With over a decade of experience in the outdoor industry as a guide, instructor, and in other careers, he now spends his time trying to help foster a more positive and supportive outdoor experience for people of color and other marginalized groups. I’m really excited to have him here, so thank you very much for being here, Adam.

Adam Edwards
Thanks for having me.

Anna
Yeah. So I wanted to start because, okay, I wanted to start with, I love your Instagram account. I love your Instagram videos that you put out, your reels. And it seems like you’re really comfortable with your discomfort zone, because what you’re posting to me looks like discomfort and you spin it with these wonderful, funny,life lessons, I call them life lessons, like when I go to watch them, that’s how they occur for me, life lessons. And so what does your discomfort zone look and feel like?

Adam Edwards
Yeah, creating the Instagram videos is actually like a way of dealing with that. I’ve had, I have like different mental health issues and strong imposter syndrome and well that’s not really a mental health issue, but I have really bad social anxiety and perception anxiety. So

And I’ve always wanted to, like, I’ve threatened my friends for years that I was just going to make them watch my stand up at like a captive event, like my birthday or something. So that’s kind of where it comes out of. It’s like confronting that. Public speaking side of things and public interaction. I’m a model, an actor and photo video worker, and that’s something for years that like I had two personalities, basically. I have like regular me, like.

the outdoorsy, whatever person. And then I had a facade or personality that I put on set to network and be able to overcome my anxiety. And in the last few years, I’ve really worked on letting that go and making sure that I’m one unified person. And so the coffee chats are still helping deal with that, but they’re also the outcome of that, being like, I’m fine putting my opinions out there and things like that, not hedging around a bit.

Anna
Yeah, well, I’m glad you decided to put them out there because they are, uh, there’s really great gems of wisdom in a really, well, I don’t know if everyone will think they’re hilarious. I mean, I don’t know if people who don’t whitewater kayak, when they see some of the video, they’re like, Oh my gosh, that looks, that looks terrible. Even there was one just, I think it was last week where you’re
following someone and they just like smack this rock in front of you and get worked and then you’re talking the whole time. So just to set it up for folks, these reels are happening and Adam has his coffee mug and I believe you have a peach on your coffee mug. Is that right? And he’s sipping his coffee and you know, giving us gems of wisdom over this video of kind of crashes, I will say, mostly in kayaking, whitewater kayaking. And so anyways, in the last week, you were following someone, they kind of smacked, looked like they smacked their face on a rock. And you were saying, don’t follow others too closely because you have to live, essentially I’m paraphrasing, you have to live your own life. And I was like, that is so great. I don’t know, I just get jazzed about the messages. And so, yeah.

Are you uncomfortable? First of all, is that always you? Like, is it always you with the GoPro or do you use different footage from different folks?

Adam Edwards
No, so like I originally it was always me. I think if you go all the way back, it’s generally always me. And then I kind of started just putting out a call for submissions and people have just started sending me videos. I get a lot of videos and some of them like, I appreciate that you sent me this, but I’m not, I’m uncomfortable posting it. It’s like, you know, like you see those swims or those things where you’re like, that’s really bad. So those are like, I think.

Anna
Sure.

Anna
Right.

Adam Edwards
I posted one last week, this guy had a swim at Big Falls on the South Fork pit. And that’s a really serious drop. And it’s, you know, that video has, you know, hundreds of thousands of views on his page. And he had sent it to me or someone sent to me and I waited a couple of weeks. It was like, and then I messaged him and was like, Hey, this is pretty rowdy, but like, I think I would love to talk over it. And I kind of came around to it, but then yeah, for the most part, people send me stuff and I just keep a little file.

And depending on how I’m feeling, I pick a clip that I think matches what I want to riff on for the day.

Anna
Okay. Yeah, that’s cool. Well, it’s so for me, it’s really interesting because you’re using, so most people, most folks use social media as a highlight reel, right? Of like making themselves look as good as possible. And you are choosing to use videos that are, I mean, some folks in kayaking would even say they’re fails right? And so if you’re posting fails of yourself, okay, quote unquote fails of yourself kayaking, is that when you do that, is that part of being uncomfortable? Are you, it seems like you’re comfortable doing that. Do you experience discomfort in doing that for yourself?

Adam Edwards
No, that’s actually that part is not uncomfortable. I’ve been paddling for I started when I was like 21, 22. So I was kind of a late start accelerated very quickly. So I have had a lot of failures like we all swim. We all have crashes. But like because the me and the folks I’ve paddled with, you know, last 13, 14 years, we develop force ourselves to develop so quickly. Like there was a lot of carnage, there’s a lot of saves. And then I just, in the last two years, Dagger signed me to their team. And I think I made a conscious decision in that, like both between all my, lack of a better term, activism and stuff, I was like, I don’t want to be the same, you know, pro-Kaiak or on social media. That’s just like, these are my stout lines and my super greasy lines and things like that.

I find my fails and my screw-ups really funny because it happens to all of us. I think one of the greatest ones, I don’t have video of it, but we were doing a shoot for NRS with Brooke Hess and Alec Voorhees, and I swam in front of them on a class two wave. Freakishly embarrassing, but one of the funniest moments of my kayaking life.

I wish I had that video because I would post it and I would dog on myself for that, but also do like, you swam in class two versus class, just things like that. I’m not ashamed of that stuff. I think it’s important to share. And within my friend group, that’s something like a lot of us became either pro kayakers or high up in the industry in the last five to 10 years. And that’s something that we all noticed was like, all the brands, even outside kayaking, it’s all gnarly, it’s all perfect lines and things like that, or it’s like, terrifying stuff and I feel like just showing that everybody makes mistakes and they can be learning opportunities is the biggest thing. And it also kind of humanizes Whitewater to me. Again, because like for years, you know, the entirety of Whitewater, till I would say like the last few years, it’s always go big, go home, the gnarliest stuff possible. And I think the industry is changing. And I think that by showing people like…

people’s fails and showing that it’s okay and if you have a good support network, that it makes that more accessible and more accessible and more relatable for people.

Anna
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And we, it’s easy to say we’re all in between swims. My experience, and I coach folks in that, like we’re all in between swims. When I have a fail, I find it challenging. Sometimes I’ll beat up on myself, I have like a perfectionist streak. And also coming up in the industry when I have, I have experienced kind of being people being hard on me, especially in the beginning, when I first started paddling, especially when I was the only woman in a group of predominantly men and really high performing men in class five river running. Folks would say things like, if you’re not at the bottom of the rapid, if you’re walking and you’re not at the bottom by the time we’re done running it, then maybe you shouldn’t be out here or we don’t wanna have to wait for you.

So, you know, for me, when I’m, so I agree and with what you’re doing, not that you need people to agree or not agree, but I think it’s a great thing, what, you know, to, yes, to humanize ourselves. We’re all in between swims. We all, you know, stuff happens and it’s fun and it’s a learning experience. So I think that’s really important.

Adam Edwards
Thank you.

Anna
One question I have for you with that is when you, because when I post my quote unquote fails, cause I think they’re funny too. Recently, just this golly season, I posted a fail where I was trying to splat a rock and I ended up like dragging, dragging my knuckles and it was on GoPro and I thought it was hilarious and I posted it and then what happened is a bunch of guys started to give me advice on the post like, oh, this is how I splat and maybe you should have done it this way. So do you ever get that? Because I find that when I post my fails and I think they’re funny, I end up getting unsolicited advice.

Adam Edwards
I think, unfortunately, that’s unique to women in the industry. I haven’t… I’ve had that privately in certain situations where it was necessary. I think…

I made a post last year about my trip to try to paddle the Stikine and I had to swim like two days before. And it was a more like thoughtful, not funny post. But that was, you know, even that was that was an advice. But people were like, oh, yeah, we had in fact that like I didn’t go because of this. You trusted your gut. That’s good. The I think one of the last times that publicly that happened to me was when I started running the Little White and I posted a very bad line. And

You know, that culture, like little white culture, it’s similar to like green culture is very like tight knit. And there are reasons for that. But I got a lot of pushback until I was like, no, I know this is a terrible line. I know I could have run it better. I suffered the consequences. I just wanted to show this. And I think it’s trash that. Men think that they need to explain like that.

That’s very upsetting to me because a lot of my, the person who introduced me to Whitewater was a woman. A lot of the paddlers I respect the most are women. I’ve always considered women the standard of people to paddle as far as emulating. Like I do emulate my friends. Most of the folks I paddle with are male. We have some amazing female paddlers in that circle of friends. And the style of paddling in comparison to men is just so much different and in my opinion, better.

So I tend to try to emulate their style a lot. But yeah, I think it’s unfortunately unique to women in the industry. I don’t even get that kind of feedback privately from the general public. I get that from my friends. And so that’s a completely different tone and thing like that.

Anna
Sure.

Yeah, oh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, I always think about that, I take advice from people who have earned my trust or who have earned the right to give me advice, so to speak. And when you have a friend group and you have community, I think that a supportive community, I mean, it doesn’t even happen, honestly, in my community. It really happens with folks.

online. So yeah, I was just curious. So I think it’s great that you can post that stuff and folks are not getting on you for it. You know what I mean?

Adam Edwards
Yeah, sometimes I wish they would just to like the rare occasion I feel like being a keyboard warrior It’s very rare. I try to just Not respond to if it were to happen not respond so

Anna
Hahaha!

Anna
Yeah.

So why are you drawn to challenging yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone over and over again?

Adam Edwards
I for me, it’s like I actually used to be a very I grew up a very shy, very like self-contained kid. And it was a lifelong process, like beyond wallflower kind of thing. And it took me a long time to figure out, like, find my niche and like what I really liked and what kind of person I wanted to be. So, yeah, it’s kind of like or that’s kind of where it comes from is.

was a desire to just like find my pathway and like kayaking for a long time. Kayaking was like my identity, et cetera, et cetera. And as I was coming out of that for a variety of reasons, I remember reading a comment on the Internet from a female paddler. I respect a lot in the, you know, Northwest community right after and no, no shade to Scott Lindgren and those folks. But it’s like right after his film came out.

And she just made this passing comment of like, great film. Another like hardcore bad boy actually growing up and becoming a man. And like that at the time I was in was like, oh, oh crap. Like I’ve put my entire life into this thing and made it my identity without actually, you know, taking advantage of the community it creates and like the actual like interpersonal benefits, just being like.

We’re going to go around the Little White this weekend. We’re going to find this gnarly thing and just like focusing on the next adventure, next adventure and not actually like, I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe that part, but if that was a turning point for me, a pivot as far as engaging with the discomfort of it in the last couple of years, you know, there’s 10 guys and a few women I’ve paddled with the entirety of my kayaking career and no matter what’s running.

And some of them have stopped paddling class 5, or even paddling on a regular basis. And no matter what awesome run is in or what mission I want to go on, if one of them calls me and is like, I want to go run this class 2 section, I want to go run this run, we haven’t run in a while, I will bail on everybody just to go paddle with them. Because the relationship just supersedes the paddling experience and actually makes it the paddling experience better. So.

Yeah, that’s… I’ve waited a long time to get here, so it’s nice to be there.

Anna
Why do you think you’ve waited a long time to get here?

Adam Edwards
I just was unwilling. I had a, you know, in some ways a lack of direction, like early, like lack of direction. There was some trauma involved in like, you know, friends and family passing over those years. At one point I just, I was in finishing up post-bac trying to go to medical school and my father was really sick and I just decided I don’t want to do that. Moved to Alaska, became a river guide. I was already a river guide moved there, became a guide, and just kind of bounced around for a few years up the West Coast just not dealing with stuff and replacing not dealing with stuff with kayaking. So it took me going back to therapy, really starting to communicate with my friends about what was going on with us, what just regular day-to-day life stuff or our personal issues in that, and several failed relationships because I was so obsessed with kayaking. Um, and then I started looking back at that stuff. Uh, and unfortunately, like the final turning point of that was we were in California for like a couple of day trip, um, paddle, like the sand, like a, what is it, Nordenheimer and we went and did like, uh, the Yuba and we were present for a pretty bad accident on the Yuba.

um and you know tried to do everything I could one of my best friends that was on that trip as a doctor I was a EMT at the time and we were unable to help um or you know yeah and that experience and coming back from that was just like we run all this gnarly stuff and not that we don’t think about it but like this is what can happen and we know that but like

At no point have we been like, hey, man or hey, lady, I really love you. I want like us to do this forever. I don’t know. That just, that changed things. It really changed. However, you paddling at the level and I paddle at in not necessarily who I paddle with, but just what it meant to me. Like if we can lose so much, I think one of my old bosses and a mentor at one point was like, he stopped paddling class five because at a certain point his wife told him, she was like,

It can happen anytime. I don’t know and I know you love it, but the odds are inevitable, like either a friend or you or someone else. And I haven’t stopped paddling class five, but there’s just, it’s a whole different mindset from that. And it has evolved from that experience to now. Yeah, it just makes me. Value time spent with people over the big drop or the cool rapid. Now if I can combine the two, that’s great, but it also doesn’t need to happen all the time.

Anna
Yeah. What have you learned about yourself through stepping into your discomfort zone?

Adam Edwards
I’ve learned that I’m very reliable in terms of how much I’m willing to put out for the people I care about. And that’s not just in Whitewater, just in life. It’s not patting myself on the back. It’s something I didn’t think I was capable of with how much social anxiety I had and how much lack of commitment to anything outside of the sport I was doing.

So that’s been a huge thing and it’s given me a lot more confidence. It’s allowed me to do things outside of Whitewater. I stepped into working as a photo video. I took photos my entire life, made kayaking edits, and I’ve been a maudlin actor for 14, 15 years. But I always had this desire to step behind the camera. Never did it, you know, as I got to that point where I was like really comfortable outside of anything, I just kind of was like, all right, I’m going to do this now. And I’ve started doing that. I’m building a studio in my basement and doing product photography and, you know, BTS shoots. So like being able to step out of that zone has just opened up. A lot of things that I dreamed about doing, but I was too scared to. And they’re still like, oh, this is daunting. It’s still scary, but.

I don’t almost enjoy it. I guess a point that might illustrate it is I’m an arborist. I’m a climbing arborist. And I’m towards the end of my tenure as a climbing arborist. You usually stop somewhere between 30 and 40 because it’s hard on your body. But I’m actually terrified of heights over ground. No problem with waterfalls. But standing at a cliff, looking at the ground below, being up 100 feet in a tree and looking at the ground, scares me a lot, but I learned how to deal with that in a very healthy way that like I’m proficient at my job. The stress isn’t generally so bad that I feel like I’m having like severe like adrenaline reactions or adrenaline depletion or cortisol, things like that. And so I wouldn’t be able to do any of that without having learned how to be comfortable outside of what I really am like, okay, this is the safe space.

Anna
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Do you have a strategy that you use when you say you’re… Because it sounds like you’re doing some nervous system regulation for yourself or being able to calm yourself down, either in the tree or at the lip of a waterfall, or even in the experience you described, trying to save someone’s life, which would be an experience that’s unexpected, right? Like…

in the morning you know you’re climbing the tree for work or you’re going to run a waterfall or a tough drop. But then there’s also the coming up on a situation where you’re trying to save someone’s life, you’re involved in a rescue. Do you have a strategy for either both? Like when something goes down, what’s your strategy is my question.

Adam Edwards
So, I was saying I was a very like, wallflower shy child and I was very reactive, like the smallest thing would be a catastrophe in my life and I’d be like, I was emotionally volatile, I’d just like freak out, things like that. And my dad at the time was just like, a little hard on it because like you, you need to figure out how to deal with this. Like, example was like he would

He had during his PhD, he had to leave for months. And anytime he visited, I was like, ah, this is terrible. Rightfully so. Your kid, your parent is gone. He’s like, we have to figure out how freedom emotionally regulate. And there were some not so great ways, but at this point in my life and throughout that, I kind of. Just get very objective and logical. I don’t separate myself from my emotion anymore, but I’ve learned how to like quickly, be like, okay, this is what this feels like. Is this something I need to do or want to do? It’s like this stepwise approach. I’m like, I’m having this emotional response to what’s going on. Is it natural? Okay, I’m scared of this. Is there a good reason for me to be scared? Like maybe I’ll fail at this.

And what are the consequences of that? And I feel like that’s acceptable. And then I move on to like, all right, you need to focus and calm yourself down. And that’s when I become very logical, where it’s like looking at a waterfall. I’m like, this is where the, I just stay in that space of this is where the line is. This is what your body’s gonna do. These are what, this is what might happen if you mess up. How are you gonna account for that? So in controlled settings like that, it’s just this list of things in my head. And I, the more, uncomfortable I am, the less scared I get because I just become more logical and more objective and it allows me to like separate the ego from what I’m doing. Like specifically in kayaking or climbing like I’ll be I’ll be like I don’t want to do this. Like I’ll get there have been several trees in the last year where for whatever reason I didn’t sleep enough they were too scary and I’m I was leap climber it’s not like I technically had the option to bail on these things and I’d get up and be like, no, I’m not doing this. I’ll come down. And that’s, that’s money lost. But my, you know, knowledge of myself would be like, it’s more dangerous for me to continue. And in kayaking, you know, it took me a long time to get to that. A lot of crashes, thankfully, few severe injuries from kayaking, but the ego for me is gone, at this point, like I will, if a friend wants to walk, I’ll walk with them. I’ll walk like I used to run spirit every single lap for years and. Not going to don’t have a lot of damage from that, but these days I’m like, I’ll go a whole season without running it. This is like, that’s a lot of consequence. And I’m such and such age. I don’t heal as well. Like, why do this all the time? And then to the question of like an unexpected situation, that is full on switch into logical objective mode. And that actually comes out of like, I went, I worked how I learned a lot of things, but Portland States outdoor program here in Portland, Oregon. And, you know, I had my woofer at my wilderness, EMT, all these things over the years and all this experience guiding and like, both experiencing emergency situations and training for them. And that’s also like a big nerdy hobby of mine is like,

I love the idea of risk management and triage and things like that. So when I come upon things like that, and I’m basically a poop magnet, some, I think sometimes, because I somehow come upon situations more frequently than my friends do. Um, but yeah, when that stuff happens, I’m just fully objective. Like, what do we need to do?

Can we do it effectually? What resource do we have? And I stay in that space until the thing is resolved, for better or worse. And then after that, the emotion comes in and then I have to deal with that.

Anna
And then, so how do you deal with that? Any, what are your strategies for dealing with the emotion afterwards? Maybe difficult emotions that are really uncomfortable.

Adam Edwards
In my, like, I wouldn’t say amateur, at this point in my life, I talk to my family and friends pretty quickly. I have a very strong and healthy support network, both in kayaking and, I mean, those friend groups overlap. So when things like that do happen, you know.

After I’ve gotten to a point where I’m like, OK, to talk about it. I just am like, hey, all like this is going on and I talk it out with them. And if it’s still something that’s pretty traumatic, I’ll go to therapy. Don’t mind spending the money like. At one point, I was going to therapy once a week because trauma from kayaking, trauma from some stuff happening outside of kayaking. I was like, I can’t safely function at the level that I want to without.

having some external help and having, like I was being objective, having someone also objective listen to me and be like, hey, this is what you’re missing. This is what you might wanna work on.

Anna
Yeah, it sounds like you get really focused and very thoughtful. Is what comes across.

Adam Edwards
Yeah.

Yeah, I try to be. Doesn’t always work.

Anna
Sure. I’m… Well, we’re all human. So yeah.

Adam Edwards
Yeah.

Anna
And we’re all walking around with coping mechanisms. I mean, and that’s why we, I think sometimes conflict happens is because we’re not recognizing that it’s like my coping mechanism, butting up against your coping mechanism. And that can, if we’re, I love that you’re talking about being objective. I like to, think of it as a fact versus story, or that’s how I talk about it with myself and with my coaching clients is, there’s the fact of what happened and then there’s the story that we’re telling ourselves about what happened. And most of our suffering lives in the story that we’re telling ourselves about what happened. And sometimes, so for me, in relationships, in kayaking, in life, if I get upset,

I like to remind myself, okay, what happened? Like, what are the facts? And then what am I telling myself about this situation that’s creating so much suffering? Because we can collapse the story we tell ourselves with the truth, and that’s when things can get really tricky. So I love that. I mean, that’s what I heard some of in your like, yes, I’m objective, very logical, like what needs to happen? What’s the next step? You know, I’m gonna focus on that.

Adam Edwards
I would say it’s still a defense mechanism. As beneficial as it is in all of those situations, how it used to be for me, it was a full-on dissociation. It took me a while to be able to put the emotional aspect back into it. When my father passed, I didn’t have…

I had an emotional reaction when it happened. I had an emotional reaction at the service. And then I had nothing for two years. And then because I didn’t deal with things effectively, I was out of the country trail running or something, and it just hit me. And it was like, had this several hour meltdown in the middle of nowhere, finally, at first, uncontrollable, and then finally being, OK, you need to deal with this shit. You got to talk it out.

It can go both ways and it’s hard to bring the emotionality back into that objectiveness.

Anna
Yeah, I can remember when my friend Maria passed away and I found out, and I actually didn’t have an emotional reaction in the moment. And I was like, what’s wrong? Almost like, what’s wrong with you? I just, it was so unbelievable because I was actually on the river the same day, but I had been in front of her group. And so, you know, we didn’t see anything. We weren’t involved at all. We were just like, got back from a great day of paddling. And a lot of time passed, and I did have some emotional release, but it was like a year or so later, and I was paddling the same river, and I just was overcome with emotion. So, I mean, I think that grief is a…

is not a straight line, it is a spiral. And I’m not an expert, it just seems to me that, it’s like a spiral and that there’s probably, there’s nothing wrong with that, that to allow that and that we are all human and we’re all unique and not hold ourselves or each other to having to deal with things in a particular certain way, I think is important because we’re all different and have different life experience and we’re going to process things differently.

Adam Edwards
Yeah, every, yeah, 100% agree. Every life experience from grief to joy, like putting them on a linear spectrum is like, it’s not accurate. Like, each of those things, I think, like stay with you. If it was, if it was deep, or like if the relationship was deep, or if the experience, it could be with a stranger, but or if the experience was deep, it’s a part of you, it integrates or affects you just, it never goes away. You just learn how to, you know, address it for lack of a better term.

Anna
Yeah. And I think we’ve been talking a lot about like difficult and challenging situations around paddling and life, which is important because again, we’re all human and, you know, just like there’s waves on the river, we’re gonna have ups and downs in our life. So what keeps drawing you back to kayaking, you know, with in the face of all of the tough stuff, what do you love about it?

Adam Edwards
I, you know, this year’s been weird. I haven’t paddled a lot at all. I was, you know, had some, yeah, had some mental health issues that, you know, sprung back up. I was injured. And I still missed it. I had a twinge of that, like, I can’t paddle. I’m depressed. And I was like, dude, you’re not in that space anymore. And what keeps me coming back at this point is, like, I love the people that I paddle with, like, that.

That group is more than just my paddling partners. They’re like my best friends. And the other one of the other things is like it back to like why when I was obsessed with kayaking, I chose paddling to be the thing that I wanted to become really, really good at. And that mastery, like it’s not perfect. I always think I can improve and I always like try to learn new things from my friends and watching people. But like having something like that is really important to me and having a longevity with it, which I think will come out of the change in how I view paddling now. There’s some paddlers I have hung out with and their friends over the last several years that really instilled that, if you wanna paddle the rest of your life, at any level, you’ve gotta be smart about it and really just be intentional. So that’s basically always taken me back.

I also just love spending a ridiculous amount of time in nature. I love camping. I love exploring. So the last couple of years as well, I kind of have stopped doing the classics to a certain extent out here and spent more time just like I want to go find this random creek or this creek that hasn’t been running years. And that’s what I want to do this weekend. So just like and it doesn’t have to be class five. It’s just that you.

The experience of uniqueness, of being places that people haven’t been in a while and being able to see that is huge for me.

Anna
Yeah. I love that for me paddling takes me places that not a ton of people have gone, right? Even around the world even. And I think that’s really special what you’re saying. You get to travel via little plastic thing down a waterway, you know, and not a lot of folks get to do that. Or choose, it’s not that, yeah, I mean, there are barriers to entry for sure.

I think that a lot of folks also choose or they don’t know how amazing it can be. And so, yeah, I think that’s really cool.

Adam Edwards
Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about with the coffee talks is like, do I expand it to other things? Because there are people that don’t paddle, that watch it and comment and send me messages, but it’s like, you guys are crazy, like this. And I haven’t figured out how to dissuade people from like, we’re not crazy, we’re just, we committed. Like, a lot of people can’t get over that hump.

Like there’s a lot, there are a lot of barriers to access. But once you even once you even get the access, it’s you know, you’ve instructed. I taught for you do instruct and I taught for a long while. And I would say like one in ten that I still see like I have a handful of people in the gorge in Portland. I was like, we started together. I remember when you like your first role class and now you’re like paddling class for like you’re very solid kayaker.

And the retention rate is low because I’m uncomfortable being upside down. Like, I don’t like that the river moves in one direction constantly. Can’t find people to paddle with all that. So, yeah, that’s definitely a part of it for me.

Anna
Yeah, and I think that if folks don’t have a strong support system or… You know how you said when you… You’ll talk it out with your friends after a challenging situation, or you’ll go to therapy, you don’t mind spending the money. I think sometimes in kayaking, I think some folks would do themselves a great service to spend the money on professional instruction at certain important points to help…

overcome, just to get a different perspective on how to overcome some of that, you know, that mental, that mindset, the fear, how to face that fear. Because I think that, I think that our buddies can only, you know, teach us so much. And then if we’re really coming up against something, just like, yeah, for mental health, we go to a therapist, right, in kayaking or in anything, whether it’s golf or skiing or mountain biking, whatever it is, I think it’s worth the money to spend on some professional instruction to get you over that hump can be really helpful. And I think there’s sometimes too much of a in white water kayaking traditionally, especially white water kayaking, like resistance to instruction. I don’t know. I think that’s changing for sure. But as I was coming up over the last 30 years, it’s changing slowly, but definitely there’s this resistance to it.

Adam Edwards
I, yeah, 100% agree. Like, I still take classes. I mean, not as frequently, but like, I think a year or two ago, I took Evan and Isaac’s Whitewater Masters course, and that was huge. Like, just having another paddler, but obviously another level of paddler, just kind of look at your kayaking and be like, hey, this is where you can improve on this, this is where you can improve on that. And so, you know, some of my friends are…

still ACA instructors and things like that. I’ll send them a video like, hey, what did I mess up on here? I think it’s super valuable. I wish I did take a lot of instruction and I jumped very quick once I could roll. I was like, I’m teaching people how to roll. And once I could run a river, I was like, I’m teaching people how to run a river. So I learned a lot through trial and error while instructing. But yeah, I think it’s so valuable. Like the Whitewater Masters course for me was at a point where I was like.

I want to level up my paddling because I have these goals. And that’s actually, this is actually a good context. I did not attain that goal, even though I thought I was ready, like things happen. And this season, like going into it, now that I’m coming out of being injured, I like put a lot of work into mental health around paddling and in general and getting healthy again. You know, I reached out to Todd and some other paddlers, like, hey, these are the things I want to work on, would you be willing to paddle with me every now and then and really focus on this stuff? And, yeah, totally. So I’m really looking forward to that when we have, A, when I have time, I’ve been working a lot, and B, when there’s just a little bit more water.

Anna
I hear you. Yeah. So what advice would you give listeners for facing their fears, like facing discomfort, facing their fears?

Adam Edwards
Take a step back. Hopefully, they’re in a situation where they didn’t get so far in that they don’t have a choice of taking a step back and assessing. So this is from that point of view. Take a step back. Try to figure out why this is uncomfortable. It’s big. It’s something you haven’t done. It has some very serious consequences. Or just you don’t want to be embarrassed.

See if that’s real. Like, is it just an anxiety reaction or is it like a legitimate you don’t somewhere any of you don’t think you can perform there and there is a line where like, it’s important to cross over that and that’s getting out of that discomfort. And there’s the side where it’s like, no, you need to listen to that. You’re not. Today’s not the day. And I like to think about just because it doesn’t feel bad doesn’t mean it’s good.

Like something that occurs for me still is like, we’ll go. Actually happened like a week or two ago, we went to run this big slide that’s like 20 minutes from my house and it only runs on flood. So it comes in very rarely. And I’ve run it before, like lower than it was. But I took one of my buddies out there. He was super excited to run it. And he’s like, well, do you want to run it? And I was like, no, today is not the day for me to run this.

I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t but I don’t feel good. Actually, the thing I was going to say is. The one thing I have a problem with or that freaks me out still in my paddling is when I approach certain things that are highly consequential. I. I think the more scared I am, the less I feel. I remember going to Sahelie Falls, like, maybe five or eight years back a while ago.

Um, with a group of very solid palors, I was in one of my very solid, sendy phases and I couldn’t feel anything. Like everyone was talking about how scared they were and that I didn’t have the shakes. I didn’t have it. And I knew I should be like, I should have more like, not unhealthy anxiety, but I should like be like a little twitchy, a little like, Ooh, this is going to be, or really exciting. Or like you got to think about the consequences. And I felt nothing.

And that’s what worried me actually about the drop. It wasn’t that, like eventually it wasn’t like, oh, this is a tricky 80, 85 footer, I was like, you are not scared. And it’s not like a happy, you’re not scared. You just don’t feel anything. You’re not being objective. You’re just like, there’s the line. You’re going to do it. Um, and some people may value that, but like, I spent so much time being in tune with my fear that not having it feels very strange for me.

Anna
Mm hmm. We mentioned earlier when we were talking that you used to dissociate. So do you think there’s a connection there from like that dissociation from the body from emotions? And so that’s like a red flag for you.

Adam Edwards
Yeah, because I think like, you know, I’ve had lifelong mental things. I’m bipolar. I have generalized anxiety, I have depression. So yeah, like, and how I used to deal with that was dissociating, being like, I don’t have a problem. I’m fine. Like this will, this will go away eventually. I won’t have these things in myself and in my life and learning to be like, no, that’s, it’s fine. This is who you are. This is what it is. That helped me stop dissociating away from myself. So like anything that kind of triggers that dissociation definitely puts up a red flag with me like, yo, you’re, you’re backsliding right now. Why are you backsliding? Is this valid? Like what’s going on?

Anna (
Mm-hmm.

Yeah, it sounds like you also practice that radical acceptance of yourself and that helps. Yeah.

Adam Edwards
Yeah, yeah, took it. Still going. Every day.

Anna (
Yeah, I hear you. It’s a lifelong journey. For sure.

Adam Edwards
Yeah. Exactly.

Adam Edwards
The driving force for me like towards the last decade of paddling. I know, you know, started late, trying to go forever. But you know, saying like, my dad got sick right after I was finishing my post-pack and I had gone home and was like visiting in the hospital every day. He was just like, why are you here? Like, he’s like, I’m still going to be here.

You should go out and play. You should go do like, you want to kayak, you should go kayak, you want to rock on, you want to rock on. And I just flew with that. And that still like is a high, a very integral portion of my identity as a whole. It was just like, at the end of the day, my dad was like, all of this stuff is important, but the most important is like, connecting with yourself and having a good life. And kayaking has helped me do that.

Anna
Hmm. Yeah, that’s beautiful.

All right, we’ve come to the rapid fire round. So yeah, here we go with rapid fire. What’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Adam Edwards
I wake up at 4 a.m. I have coffee by 4 15 I feed my cat and then she rides around on my shoulder till 6 and I have to do that every day If I wake up at 5 my day is not the same if I wake up at 2 my day is not the same to like Schedule I just have a weird schedule But yeah, I feel best when that happens

Anna
That’s awesome.

Got it. What’s a non-negotiable self-care practice for you?

Adam Edwards
Wednesday night is bath night.

Adam Edwards
Oh, every week. Mm hmm. And I often fall asleep in there. So a big reason we I’ve picked apartments and my girlfriend and I picked our current spot is the tub is big enough for a six foot one man, but not so big that I can slide down in it if I fall asleep.

Anna
Do you do Epsom salts and essential oils? Nice.

Anna
Do you have like a protective pillow you could wear? Like I just had this vision of like you could put one of those inflatable, like airline PFDs, you know, just to make sure. Sorry.

Adam Edwards
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve got like little we got one of those shower things in there and I like hook one arm there and the other. I usually only fall asleep after really long, rowdy days of work, but like it happens.

Anna
Oh, I love that. Wednesday night bath night. That’s great. Okay, what’s your favorite motivational book or talk?

Adam Edwards
Hmm. I don’t have one. Um, yeah, it’s usually just like figure it out. Like figure it out. Like one of the two.

Anna
Got it.

Anna
Okay, what do people get wrong about you?

Adam Edwards
I don’t really spend time anymore thinking about what people might think about me. Like, yeah.

Anna
Great. Great answer. Love it. Okay, throughout your life, have you felt like the underdog or the favored to win?

Adam Edwards
underdog

Anna
All right, so hard moves in easy water or flooding.

Adam Edwards
The first one to practice for the second.

Anna
I was going to say based on our conversation, I was going to be like, I think you like flooding. Yeah.

Adam Edwards
I do. I love it. But like, yeah, but every time I start on the easiest runs to warm back up and do all the hard moves there.

Anna
Right. Great. Awesome. I coach hard moves in easy water, but I actually have to say that if you look at my career, definitely flooding has been like throwing myself in has been what I’ve done. So until later years, now that’s not so true. Like it’s shifted, but yeah.

Adam Edwards (55:10.8)
I mean, flooding, rolling is easier in flood. You just catch that current.

Anna
Hahaha!

Oh, that’s awesome. Right? Okay. One word that describes your comfort zone.

Adam Edwards
As long as you’re not in the hole.

Adam Edwards
Helmholtz. Helmholtz? He’s a character in Brave New World who has a choice of going to paradise or going somewhere that’s trashy, or specifically the Falkland Islands, and he chooses to go to the Falkland Islands to better understand himself and what he can deal with.

Adam Edwards
I also have it tattooed on my chest.

Anna
Okay, you have a tattooed where? On your chest, right on. Cool. Okay, freedom through discipline or do what I want.

Adam Edwards
I’ve been leaning more towards freedom through discipline to be able to do what I want when I want to.

Anna
Mm, love it. Okay, in one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Adam Edwards
Acceptance.

Anna (56:34.051)
Is there anything else you want to tell our listeners?

Adam Edwards
Try to have the best day ever. And don’t assume it has to be this grand thing. I had a really good day the other day because I had a raspberry scone from a place I never had. It really set the tone for my day. Yeah, just enjoy the little things.

Anna
I love that example because I love baked goods. I mean, for my comfort zone, baked goods is definitely part of my comfort zone. Okay, so tell us Adam where folks can reach you and if you have any upcoming projects you want to tell us about, let us know where we can reach you, where we can find you.

Adam Edwards
You can find me on Instagram. It’s Adam Cheshire Edwards. Cheshire like the cat, but with a C. And I’m on Facebook. I don’t use it a lot. My email’s somewhere up there. And then Instagram is the best way to reach me. I check it a lot. Upcoming projects. I am starting to work on or working on. Starting to work on a film kind of addressing what we were talking about earlier with trauma and paddling and how people deal with it. So I’m hoping, and we’re doing kind of a multi-sport thing, kayaking and snow sports. But yeah, that’s the next project. It’s in the infancy. I hope to have it going in the next year. I’ve been thinking about it for years and finally it was like, just do it. So let’s see how it goes.

Anna
That’s great. I look forward to checking that out. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation and I really appreciate your courage and your vulnerability and your authenticity. That’s one of the reasons I started this podcast was to have authentic conversations with folks about discomfort zone, about facing fears. So I really appreciate what you contributed and I’m sure our listeners are getting a lot out of it. So thank you so much. And…

Everyone needs to go check out Adam’s Instagram account and the reels that he puts up because they’re hilarious and they will help you have the best day ever, I think. So thanks, Adam. I really appreciate your time today.

Adam Edwards
Thanks for having me.