I joined Rip City Dragon Boat Team in March of 2017. It was a huge deal for me to go and try this. I have never been known for my athletic prowess. I have always been a little clutzy with poor eye hand coordination. I was not only the last person picked for teams growing up; I was the kid who people REALLY didn’t want on their team! They would say “Do we have to have Sarah?” So, I have spent most of my life avoiding team sports of any kind- because of my lack of ability.
What changed? Why did I have the confidence to try now? I didn’t have the confidence. However, through my daughter’s battle with Cancer I learned that life is short and to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. When I was joining the team. My daughter had just finished up her final round of treatment and was celebrating being Cancer Free. I knew that before long she would be going off to college, I had a husband who was never home and I didn’t know very many people in Portland. I knew that I was going to be in trouble if I didn’t start preparing for my impending empty nest. When I saw the signs advertising Dragon Boating I got very excited and immediately started to find a team!
The night of my first practice was a cold rainy spring night in Portland, Oregon. It was one of the moments that at the time seemed insignificant but I now realize my life has never been the same since. I am so grateful that I took the risk to try something new.
I was determined to be worthy of being on the team. It isn’t too surprising that Paddling did not come naturally to me. But I made the decision, I would keep coming until they told me not to. They are such a supportive and encouraging group of ladies- no one made me feel bad for not being good at it. The coach did a great job explaining things to me and continued to work with me so that I could improve. I will never forget the day when I was the “good” example for another paddler. I still had tons to learn but- I cherished the moment- that maybe I was finally doing one thing right! It still brings a smile to my face thinking about it. It is amazing how far a few words of encouragement can go.
The more I paddled, the more confidence I gained. The past few years have been full of stress. My Dad had recently been put on hospice and has had numerous times when we weren’t sure he was going to make it. I could go to practice upset and through paddling I was able to relax and find peace. I often went to practice on the verge of tears and came home calm and relaxed. Paddling literally is my Zen.
By the end of my first season of paddling my dysfunctional marriage was in trouble. It was becoming inevitable that my marriage of 20 years was over. I don’t know how I would have made it though this challenging time without Paddling. Through Paddling I learned that when there is a will there is a way. I learned to believe in myself. I have also learned that I need to take care of me. I wouldn’t say Paddling made me make the decision to end my marriage. But I think it gave me the confidence to realize that I deserved more. For the first time in my life I was doing something for myself.
Last Friday a week before I head to Peru to Paddle in the World’s Longest Raft Race my divorce papers finally arrived and I am officially divorced. It seems like such perfect timing. As one chapter closes the next chapter is opening. This seems like a perfect way to launch my 2nd chapter. Especially as Paddling has become a huge part of my life and has helped me find myself! I am no longer the weak girl that was terrified to come to the first dragon boat practice. I am full of confidence knowing that I am up for the challenge ahead of me. Last night at Outrigger Practice one of the ladies in my Outrigger Canoe Club commented on what a strong paddler I am. It feels me with pride knowing how far I have come. Amazon you watch out! I am coming for you!