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Once in a while, I hear someone say something to the tune of, “I don’t do _________ very often. I suck at it.” My response is always the same, “it doesn’t matter if you are good or bad. It is just about having fun.”

As a teacher living in Colorado, I enjoy a very short and sweet kayaking season. I usually get a few weekends in May and then all of June and July before the water drops and I go back to school.

However, in the past three years, I have suffered three serious low back injuries. In both 2017 and 2018, I “threw out” my back while kayaking in early July.

Then in May 2019 I suffered the same injury while playing ultimate frisbee. It was devastating to think about losing another kayaking season, and I spent the month of May doing daily physical therapy and visiting the chiropractor and massage therapist twice weekly.

Start of the Numbers Race at Paddlefest in Buenva Vista

I was already registered for the freestyle competition and down river race in Buena Vista on Memorial Day Weekend. I knew that I couldn’t kayak aggressively, but I wanted to try to do something. I drove to Buena Vista not knowing if I could sit in a kayak. My thought was, “just try and do what you can.”

I got in my playboat and warmed up thoroughly. The last time I was in a kayak was 11 months and two back injuries ago. I couldn’t lean forward, backward, or twist right, but I could twist left. I took a practice ride that consisted of 2 spins and a 2 point left cartwheel. I could cartwheel left and I had a plan.

When it was my turn, I paddled into the feature and began cartwheeling left. I proceeded to continue cartwheeling for the entire 60 seconds, which was enough time to do about 70 ends.

The judges awarded me 40 points for that first ride. 30 points for a cartwheel and a 10 point huge bonus. It was my “worst” competition ride ever and I finished dead last by a huge margin.

However, it was fun to be out there. The crowd was extremely supportive and I think I received more applause than any other competitor. After the event, countless people congratulated me. I have never, in 14 years of competing professionally, received so much positive praise.

Despite what you may think, people don’t care if you are good or bad. Spectators just want to see people getting out, trying hard, and having fun. Next time you want to try something new, don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. Go out there and do what you can. Go out there and have fun!