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  • Writer's pictureRachel Cantore

Why I Paddle, Paddle Surf

There are so many reasons why I love to SUP and paddle surf!

Ever since I can remember I have been naturally drawn to the water. I’ve always wanted to be on or in the water and doing something active. Since I was young I envisioned myself moving to the coast, living on the beach next to the ocean and waking up every day to start my day surfing.

I’m a Pisces at heart and it shows.

Growing up in the Midwest, I never saw myself staying there. I made the choice to move to Southern California in 2022 where I lived for a year before moving to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina where I’ve resided the last 10 years. It’s now the surf or beaches I quite envisioned but it had been a huge transformational step in the direction of my dreams which I’ve taken.

I first took up paddle boarding as a means to get on the water while also prioritizing my fitness, mental health and living an active outdoorsy lifestyle. I love to lift weights, but there’s something to be said about being fit and active beyond the gym setting which I’ve always believed and preached.  It’s for this exact reason why even though I am a personal trainer I have also never seen myself being tied to the gym with clients nor myself. It is also what has led me to pursue becoming a PaddleFit coach, creating my own SUP fitness class and course (Paddle Fused Fitness), and choosing to take ownership of and continue running a stand up paddle board business.

I have been an athlete my entire life, and I own businesses in fitness, health and wellness as well as a stand up paddle board and paddle sport business. The feeling I envisioned living on the beach and being able to go and surf embodied that of freedom, simplicity, and peace. At the same time, the ocean and water scares and intimidates me and cold water can be a shock to my nervous system. Nonetheless , Its vastness, beauty and abundance leave me in awe.

Paddling and paddle surfing has taught me so many life lessons that which carryover into nearly every other area of my life; beyond the water, and beyond fitness.

I paddle for the mental clarity it gives me and for my personal wellbeing. Being on the water is my time to recharge, reset, clear my mind, and refocus. Sometimes I want to push hard, other times I just want to take it easy. Paddling allows me to do it all, I can challenge myself and test my limits, or I can lay back and relax. Either way it’s still both fun, exciting and enjoyable. All which energizes me and gives me feelings of satisfaction and bliss.

Being out on the water, in nature and sunshine, lifts up my mood and energizes me. I can disengage from technology and everything else happening in and around my life and the world. While I am on the water my entire focus and attention gets to be on just the water, my surroundings and my self. And during my time on or in the water is when my best thoughts and ideas arise; my creativity and intuition..

I feel at peace, I feel free, when I’m on the water paddling and paddle surfing. It’s like pure bliss.

I get to push my limits. I often have to face and overcome my fears, or push past discomfort. And on the other side of all that I’m left feeling empowered and excited and motivated. Driven to get back out and do it again. It’s that “runners high” you hear people talk about but it’s even better than what you get on land.

What are some of the lessons I’ve learned paddling?

  • Surrender - To let go and relax. That I cannot control the waves and waters. But when I accept that, fight less, and learn to move and flow with the water rather than resist things become way easier, more doable and even more enjoyable.

  • Awareness - Both self-awareness - my body, my abilities, my physical and mental state, my intuition. And the awareness of my surroundings - of the water, waves, wakes, conditions, winds, boats, other paddlers, etc.

  • Focus - Where my attention goes so does everything else including my energy and mood. If and when I’m distracted I tend to end up in the water, falling more than on my board or catching waves.

  • Patience - whether it’s the work, commitment and consistency I need to put in in order to improve. Or just waiting on the next set of waves to come. Even staying focused on my breathe, form and technique, and surroundings during longer distance/station paddle sessions rather than just trying to get to it done.

  • Practice and Persistence - to keep showing up and doing my best (however that looks at the moment). That’s how you get better. I’ve learned a lot about the technique, paddle stroke and skill SUP and paddle surfing; and I am STILL learning, mastering and improving. It’s an ongoing process I continue to work on. I work toward perfection though I also understand perfecting things is an art that is ever evolving.

  • Self-confidence and Ownership - when I choose to go out and Own It, to go all in/all out in my effort, and to trust myself and have faith in my ability, I perform and paddle better. It’s not about having an Ego or being better than, it’s about being confident and keeping the faith. This applies whether it’s during a race or competition, while I’m demonstrating sup fitness exercises, practicing footwork, beach starts, or technique skills; or catching my next wave; or navigating choppy waters and rough conditions.

  • My physical strengths - what I have personally accomplished in taking up SUP and learning to paddle surf shows me what I’m made of, that I am strong and fit and physically able, and beyond capable of things I once just envisioned. I love seeing where I can take my fitness and what next level of athleticism I can reach.

  • To remain calm and composed - Rushing, forcing, and allowing my fears, uneasiness, discomfort, or the unknown get the better of me limits me. It freezes me in my tracks and keeps me living in survival and safety mode. The alternative is to relax, breathe and remain present. To have faith and hope and trust.

What else do I value about SUP, paddling and surfing?

  • The people - the community. I have met so many amazing, wonderful, inspiring people! I have also been gifted the opportunity to have a positive impact on people who come to me to learn and improve and join me on the water. The more people I meet, and the better I get to know them, I find the more we connect on deeper levels.

To begin to sum it up, I can paddle just for fun. I can play. I can push myself. I can race or compete. I can paddle and surf to stay fit and healthy. I can do it to recover and reset..

Paddling has transformed my life. It has been a game changer. It’s opened up my eyes to possibility and potential and much more.

For these reasons and more, it’s my mission and vision to expose others to SUP, paddling and paddle surf. To have an impact on people. One that serves to empower, enlighten and educate; to heal, grow and expand.

This is why I paddle. This is why I surf.

Rachel Cantore, Paddle Racer

Find me on IG @rachelsfusion and @paddle_racer

Follow my businesses @stand_and_paddle and @fusion_retreats

Paddle with me in the Lowcountry of Bluffton/Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Garza, Nosara, Costa Rica. Maybe I'll even come to you for an event (send a message and let's talk!).

All things SUP and Paddle Surf, Fusion SUP Retreats, and Life, Wellness, and Performance Coaching.

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