Watery Gratitude: Thanksgiving Reflections

I look out my Bend, Oregon window this morning to a stormy sky and a gnarly wind whipping a snowstorm towad the mountain – the solid “wave we surf all winter. There is no paddle along a sunny stretch of water this Thanksgiving, but there is indoor time to pause, reflect, celebrate a mindful approach to living that has been honed sweetly by nearly eight years of standup paddling. As a pumpkin pie bakes I am full of watery gratitude.tg3

The sport, the physical training of SUP, the people and places, the challenges, the waves, the glassy lakes, the quiet moments of mindfulness, the adventure, the journeys and the incredible impact standup paddling has had on my life as I close out my 7th decade. I am so very grateful for the timing.

In November and on Thanksgiving it’s an easy practice to think about all we are grateful for. The gift of time on the water is a solid connection to nature. Grateful for surviving a thorough working over by the late takeoff or for the gift of being alone on a river stretch as the setting sun gilds ripples and blazes the sky in color.tg2

At events and competitions the inspiration for gratitude is there if we are awake and aware enough to see it.  Elite water athletes supporting while pushing each other to unimagineable limits. Being on the start line with all ages facing equal weather and water adventures. The smiles, the energy, the camaraderie within a solo sport that connects us in a caring community.

tg1Early in my standup and surfing experience I was impatient, anxious and often frustrated. I had a habit of focusing on what I didn’t have or do have rather than what I did have. By watching, reading about, listening to and paying attention to what so many of the athletes in SUP shared, I started to learn, to hone new habits of both awareness, acceptance, patience and gratitude. The ego always wants more, especially if other people have it, to satisfy our sense of worth, to satisfy our happiness. But the truth is, we don’t actually need anything to satisfy our happiness, our happiness lies within us. We have the gift of being on the water, catching waves, currents, the wind. Let’s not miss what we are so fortunate to experience.

Often we “Elders” take the time to share our experience, talents and time as mentors. What an incredible way to practice gratitude by giving. Sometimes the younger generation, from toddlers to elite athletes easily one third of our age demonstrate the power of living life with giving and gratitude. A Facebook post from Zane Kekoa Schweitzer brought this home to me this morning, “There’s no thankful without grateful.” Simple but true. Zane lives his #innovateandinspire life slogan by sharing and giving back tirelessly.  That really reminds me that “GIVING” might be the most important part of the THANKS.

From the website of Zane Schweitzer: ABOUT – Zane cares deeply for the wellbeing of others and the preservation of our planet. In 2012 Zane and his family co-founded “Stand Up for the Cure”; a Stand Up Paddle Event that has raised over $800,000 for uninsured cancer patients in the past 5 years alone. He founded his own “InZane SUPer Groms”; where he teaches children at home and around the world how to surf and share Aloha while taking care of each other and our oceans. He is a Global Ambassador for multiple organizations such as Mighty Under Dogs, Access Surf, Thera Surf, Surfer’s Healing, One Ocean, and more.


Happy to have been a part of two Standup for the Cure events in 2016

Recently, Zane has taken on the role of a motivational speaker at School’s here in Hawai’i and across the U.S, sharing his inspirational message of Innovate & Inspire by Sharing Aloha Around the World. Teaching the next generation the importance of following their dreams by finding what is important to them and then sharing it with others. Living a healthy and active lifestyle while learning our responsibility of taking care of our planet by making it a better place for all. Zane lives this daily.

Mighty Underdogs & Access Surf 2016 O’ahu from Mat5o Media on Vimeo.

Shelby Schweitzer – Power of One

shelby-famThere must be something unique in the water at the Schweitzer home. This closely connected family shares a powerful spirit of aloha and giving to community wherever they are in the world. Elder SUP recognizes Shelby Schweitzer, still in high school, and the way she connects her love of surfing to living a pono life. She truly demonstrates the POWER OF ONE. 

shelbyvheckHelping and volunteering with Thera Surf and Surfers Healing (video) has really influenced Shelby’s adult teen life.  In order to have the time and flexibility to travel Shelby decided to finish her senior year online before heading to college in Southern California.

According to Shelby, ”  Sports, travel, and volunteering run in our family. My father was 18 times windsurf world champion, my mom was a National Champion, my brother Zane is a windsurf, surf and Standup paddle champion, and my older brother Matty is one of the best big wave surfers there is.  We all travel to compete, and every where we go, we give back to the local communities by doing a free Schweitzer Sports– Sports Clinic.  We regularly donate boards, paddles, money, books to the communities we visit.  My family is very close and we love traveling together.”

Shelby starts at the beginning when she was just 13, “My first year traveling to Nationals to compete in the NSSA Surfing event in Southern California I was invited to volunteer at the Paskowitz Surf Camp in San Diego.  It was an amazing experience, and it made me realize that volunteering for others, fills my heart and I get more back than I give!!

The owner Izzy, is such an awesome, inspiring guy, a former pro surfer, who stopped professionally surfing when his child was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Since then I have been so blessed to have worked with kids with special needs teaching them surfing with Thera Surf, Surfers for Autism, Standup for the Cure, and our own Schweitzer Sports Kids Clinics.  Every time I volunteer at an event  it is such a spiritual experience!”

Volunteering for TheraSurf in Mexico with my brother Zane, is an another event that really impacted Shelby.  Jimmy Gamboa and his wife Kim have a son with special needs which inspired them to create TheraSurf, an organization takes kids with special needs surfing.  They serve youth that would never have the experience otherwise.

Most of these kids had never been in the water, never mind never on a surfboard.  They end up having the time of their life.  Shelby explains, “The children we taught, in Sayulita, Mexico did not speak my language, but communication was not needed. The look on their faces was more than words could describe. The parents of the children said that they had never seen their child so happy in their entire lives.  That is exactly what we instructors absolutely love to hear. No feeling can compare to the feeling of changing a child’s life.  It was my first time working with children with extreme handicaps, and seeing their faces light up when they are in the water.   I am proud that my brothers Zane, and Matty have done clinics like these all over the world for underprivileged children as well.”

shlkeby-cure1Standup for The Cure is the Schweitzer family’s biggest source of pride.  Their aunt, Judie Vivian founded this organization 3 years ago after struggling with breast cancer.  Judie Vivian and Shelby’s mom, Shawneen,  came up with the idea while on the beach one day. Then Rob and Judie Vivian took the idea and turned it into an annual event that has raised almost  $200,000 to date for Susan G Komen Foundation.  They set a Guinness Book of World Records for the Largest Standup paddle lesson in the world!!!.  This year’s event is May 3rd in Newport Dunes, California.  They expect over 1,000 people this year, and will be teaching people to Standup paddle for free all day. 


For Shelby, it’s personal, “I feel so blessed and honored to be apart of such an amazing event. Working at Stand Up for the Cure has given me gratitude for my health and motivation to help others.  Every year we raise over a hundred thousand dollars towards finding a cure for breast cancer, which is important to me since my grandmother and my aunt have breast cancer. We can watch it change peoples lives right in front of us!”

The amazing experience Shelby had working at Stand Up for The Cure inspired her to work with Surfers Healing.   This is a volunteer program that gives autistic, handicapped and challenged children the opportunity to go surf.  Shelby’s life has been changed, “I can’t help but tear up thinking about how happy and joyful the kids are when they are out in the waves on a surfboard with me. And I just keep volunteering.  I love to surf, and I love to be in the water, and I want to be able to share that small joy with people who other wise wouldn’t be able to!”



Shelby’s Bio:

SHELBY’S BIO:  Born and raised on Maui, I have been surfing with my family my entire life and competing in NSSA Hawaii, an inter island  scholastic surfing tour since I was twelve years old. I love flying over to compete at contest’s on Oahu, Kauai, Big Island, and my home island Maui. At the end of the NSSA year, tour surfers who qualify are eligible to compete at Nationals in California. I have had the honor to compete in California three years in a row and I will be surfing at Nationals again in 2014. Its always  fun to surf with some of Americas best surfers. Other California events I have been qualified to surf in were the Jr US Open of surfing. Ten of the top short boarders of Hawaii are chosen every year to compete in it. I felt honored to have been chosen for the 2012 competition. I also am on the invitational listing for the Sayulita SUP Classic, last year was my first time to the country and I loved the experience! Since I am very close with the family who run the HSA and NSSA contests I personally convinced (and politely begged them) to get a standup paddle division in their 2012-2013 tour. I was ecstatic to get an email back from the NSSA event organizers confirming NSSA will have a women’s and men’s SUP division. The first  contest I was the only woman competing for SUP, but it has continued to grow. The 2013-2014 event has grown even more, and I got to watch it grow and grow every contest seeing guys and girls get out and shred on stand up paddle boards.

I definitely know that I, along with the rest of this years SUP competitors, have the honor of competing in Hawaii for the first full NSSA Standup season!  And I am proud to be representing Hawaii to compete at Nationals in California for the Standup Paddle Championships.  I hope to follow in my brothers’ footsteps and be able to travel the world competing, sharing my love of the ocean and spreading aloha where ever I go.

shelby-guitarOther passions of mine are windsurfing, Bikram yoga, singing and art.  I hope to one day have my own line of activewear for yoga and ocean sports for women and as I travel to compete and I can promote my clothing line and music. I have also been featured in Starboard catalogs since I was 11 years old for windsurfing and standup paddling.

I had so much fun competing at the kekei fun windsurf races at Kanaha when I was younger. Free Surf magazine also has featured me both surfing and modeling for my sponsor; Pakaloha Bikinis.

I have also gotten a full page in WSM (Women’s Surfing Magazine) for short boarding, and most recently featured in Sup the Mag on a story about our family.  I am so proud to be part of my family and love being able to be a part of this awesome sport I love so much! I hope I will always be able to share my passions with the world through my volunteer work!