25 Mar 2020
By HPSA student Brianna Orams
Paddling on a vast deep blue sea, inhaling a breath of fresh air and watching the gannets pierce the glassy water to retrieve their evening meal. My morning trail run has become a necessity for me, passing forest covered hills and appreciating nature untouched by humans. These are simple things that my daily training's consist of; it is what I would consider normal.
A week ago I packed my bags, deferred university and moved to Thailand in pursuit of a sporting dream.
Paddling here is determined the air pollution level, predicted by a map each day (https://aqicn.org/map/thailand/). I play it safe on my pivot turns as the murky brown lake doesn’t seem so appealing to fall into. The only sign of marine life are small silver fish that float to the surface…dead. On my morning run I put on my sneakers to avoid my feet blackening due to the pollution. I pass mountains, but they are mountains made of plastic. It saddens me to say this is normal for some people.
The link between sport and environment is often overlooked. Outdoor sports depend on the environment and when it deteriorates because of anthropogenic impacts it causes you to feel a sense of responsibility. Competing as an athlete has allowed me to be exposed first-hand to the destruction humans are causing on our planet, and so I decided to do something about it.
Recently, I deferred my environmental science studies to pursue an eco-internship at Starboard HQ, Thailand.
“Starboard is a water sports company striving to bring innovation, quality and inspiration to the world of wind, water and waves. They strive to not only be the best in the world but the best for the world.”
Ever since I was little there was no such thing as beach days, my whole life consisted of beaches, yachts, and water sports. For 6 years I have competed in SUP, and in this internship I aim to combine both my passions; SUP and the environment to support companies such as Starboard to lead the way to a more sustainable future
Although I have only recently starting on this so called ‘adventure’, I have three pieces of advice I wish to share:
- Sometimes it isn’t just about results.
Fellow sports people will understand that competing is often heavily results focused. Wow look at their new gear! They look stronger this season. Are the conditions in my favour today? These are just some things that run through athlete’s minds, including my own. Then I asked myself the most important question, why do you do sport? My answer was – because I enjoy it and the lifestyle of striving towards something bigger than a 1st place on some podium.
I started to enjoy the journey rather than the final destination. I found I had far less pre-race nerves, I performed at a higher standard, and I could focus on something bigger than myself. For me that is the environment.
- Set your mind to something and you will surprise yourself by what you achieve
I am recently new to this whole athlete thing, and sometimes people tell me that I’m lucky I’m good at something. The truth is when I first started SUP I didn’t like it at all, I was so unstable I paddled on my knees for 2 weeks, but everyone has to start somewhere! I didn’t do any special training, I actually didn’t even start training until I began University, all I did was dedicate myself.
I truly believe that anyone can be good at a sport with the right dedication and attitude.
- A simple approach to complex issues
Climate change, air pollution and waste disposal are complex issues that have no easy solution. I found one of the best approaches to these issues is to simply become environmentally conscious with your daily choices.
This can be as simple as bringing a keep cup to cafes or ‘taking 3 for the sea’ (picking 3 pieces of rubbish up every time you go to the beach). These are things everyone can do, and if you are an environmental nerd like myself there is a world of opportunity to make change, just go out there and seek it.
Most of all…when you are training, competing or just outdoors take at least 1 minute to admire what a clean environment looks like and don’t ever take that for granted, because one day it may just disappear.