A case for the racer-mother-career balance and why it’s never too late to get started.
Being a mom is challenging. Being a mom with a job is even more challenging. Being a mom with a job and a burgeoning SUP racing career? Sounds impossible, but that’s not what 43-year-old mother of three Ginnie Odetayo will tell you. She jumped into the SUP racing scene mid-motherhood and a few years later she represented her home country United Kingdom in the 2018 ISA World Championships. While Ginnie will be the first to tell you the balance is challenging, she’s also proof that it’s possible. In fact, she makes a pretty compelling case for why you should give it a try.
I found the world of SUP racing in summer 2015 when the Eurotour came to a local beach near my hometown in Cornwall, SW England. As a spectator I was immediately drawn in by the dynamism, skill and sheer fun of what I witnessed on the water. I was desperate to have a go myself, but as a 41-year-old mum of three boys my assumption was that it was too late. Fortunately, a few competitors I spoke to convinced me otherwise.
Fast-forward 3.5 years and I just returned from representing the UK at the ISA World Championships in China, where I managed a 16th in the technical and a 9th in the distance race. Last October I also took out the Masters competition at Pacific Paddle Games.
It might sound strange for me to say, but I started training with some embarrassment – it was hard to explain to my non-competitive, non-sporting friends why I was doing it. Both they and I found my desire to go fast a little amusing, maybe even child-like at first. Unlike many other SUP racing parents I know, I was not already an athlete prior to having kids; I started from scratch while raising three of them. I used to refer to the desire to race as my ‘inner 12-year-old acting up,’ and her voice only got louder.
In time of course, I learned that racing is far more sophisticated than the desire to go fast. And the rewards are far more than anything a podium has to offer. For me, racing is about learning to control my emotions under pressure. It’s guided me towards nourishing and strengthening my body correctly, it’s teaching me how to read weather and water conditions and most importantly it’s helped me find a strength and courage I didn’t know I had before. It’s also led me to experience beautiful connections with the ocean and other paddlers. I have lifelong friends in this sport now whom I consider the best health insurance policy out there—we’ll be pushing each other to stay fit well into our 50s, 60s and beyond!
Racing gives me benefits for parenting as well. I’m now able to pass on to my kids a deeper understanding of key life skills I may not have fully grasped before. I’m able to talk to them about being determined, about pushing through disappointment and hurt, about overcoming fear, about the importance of repetition and practice, about being resilient and getting back up after failure, about listening to their gut and pursuing something they love even when others disapprove.
I’m often asked how I fit it all in—how I manage to juggle kids, work and racing. My answer is always ‘imperfectly.’ And that’s OK. Many people in life choose to focus on one thing—either their career, their children or their sporting life and so juggling all three naturally involves compromise and imperfections, or a ‘dynamic flux’ as I like to call it! Plus let’s face it, as much as we love our children and our job, the domestic life can get a little tedious. Racing injects an element micro-adventure and excitement into it. Equally, having kids and work grounds you as a racer and safeguards against becoming that overly self-absorbed athlete.
With regards to training, my workouts are confined to the weekends and weekdays before the kids wake or after they’ve gone to bed. Winters are tough! It helps so much to follow a program—I use PaddleMonster, where I’m coached by the awesome Seychelle. She helps me with consistency, accountability and progress.
I don’t have a TV, but I do have lots of awesome paddling gear. I love all my equipment, which makes training a joy every time. I have been using the HYDRO S78 for some time now; I adopted the paddle when it first came out and it has served me well. I was also recently introduced to the crew at SIC Maui, who have helped me a lot with board selection. I am loving the SIC RS with the TIGER and SONIC fins in it!
Words: Ginnie Odetayo & Black Project
Pics: Aaron Black-Schmidt & ISA
Follow Ginnie on Instagram @Ginnie.beats
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Stroke Technique Tips: Five Steps to a Proper SUP Race Stroke