I want to talk about how a trip to the ISLE Surf & SUP warehouse sale has changed my life.
I’ve always thought that I was fat. For my ENTIRE life, I’ve thought this was my truth. That I was as big as a house, and that my sheer existence would disgust people if I didn’t cover EVERYTHING up.
And by all societal standards here in the US, I am. Claiming that set me free. Being called fat is no longer an insult to me because I’m not in fat denial.
I read Shrill by #LindyWest, and when she talked about “coming out” as fat and how that shifted her perspective, I was like, YUP, I WANT TO FEEL THAT FREEDOM.
I can think of exactly zero times when I was comfortable in a swimsuit when I lived in Orlando and Tampa, and zero times I’ve been comfortable in a swimsuit in California, until a few weeks ago.
Barry and I, before I left for Paris, started looking into SUPs, where to get them, what they cost, how and where to do it. When I got back, Barry mentioned that Isle was having a warehouse sale. So we went.
We had never been paddleboarding before, but we walked out of there with two inflatable boards, and I knew this was going to be an exciting new chapter in our lives.
For those of you who don’t know our story, Barry and I met seven years ago today. He taught my first jump course at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. The four years that followed will remain some of the best memories of my life. Chasing the sunshine, competing with my teams, hosting incredible events, just living the dream.
And all those years, and for all the years before then, I hated my body. Hated it.
Barry has always known me better than I know myself. He’s older than I am so it’s like having a secret password for life, he knows what I’m going through, knows how to get me through it, but he doesn’t do it for me.
He sits, patiently, knowing I’ll get there, but that sometimes I have to go around the block to get next door. Sometimes, I have to take the scenic route to the lesson I need to learn.
So, to start a new activity, completely inexperienced, to make that investment in gear without knowing if we’d like it – it was another leap of faith.
We get to learn this together. We get to explore San Diego together. Skydiving was something we did together as well, but he had been in the sport for 10+ years when we met. He was the teacher.
This? This is OURS.
So, back to the sale. We got the paddleboards, then we went to REI to get life vests, and if you remember, I had a mind-blowingly positive shopping experience and walked out of there with two swimsuits I adore.
And every time we’ve taken the boards out, it’s another confirmation that my body in a swimsuit isn’t a threat to anyone’s existence. We paddle, and nobody is dying after seeing me. I’m not harming anyone by existing in a swimsuit.
Every. Time. We. Put. Boards. In. Water. I. Am. More. Free.
If we’ve been friends since before I started skydiving; you might see a pattern here. Sydney finds an activity, Sydney likes said activity, Sydney only talks about said activity for extended periods of time, Sydney rearranges life to have more time to do said activity.
This is different. This is more than skydiving.
To me, this board is my vessel. My vessel to freedom.
Freedom from the patriarchal beauty standards that kept me playing small for 31 years.
Freedom from what the diet/fitness industry has told me is the prescription for health, wellness, happiness, and having it all: a thin body.
This board gives me permission to exist, as I am, in all of my glory.
I’ve always said, “I’ll do ________ when I get down to my goal weight.”
Write that book.
Go for that speaking opportunity.
Take that yoga class.
Wear a swimsuit in public.
No more. Life is happening now. Not when I reach some arbitrary number that some man said I needed to reach all those years ago.
This board is my version of radical self-care.
Every time I get on this board, I love myself a little more.