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Brittany Parker poses for a portrait in Canmore AB.


The Inertia

Have you ever thought deeply about what it would feel like to pursue a dream relentlessly? Every day of your life, trying to fight for what makes you happy. Brittany Parker has. Not only has she thought about it, she has spent years working away at it. It all started pretty young. A passion for the outdoors fueled by a deep desire to escape a stressful home. Her mother suffered a brain tumor when pregnant with her and had come out of it struggling with depression, falling into addictions.

She doesn’t really have a life, she just sleeps and lays in bed and doesn’t really do much, still to this day. Nature was always a way for me to, maybe escape it a little bit. Growing up I would just take the bus to the ski resort and go snowboarding. I was always skateboarding or hiking, anything I could do to be outside. To me, it just was a way to be present and not worry about her as much.

Escape grew to be an essential part of her life. She fell in love with snowboarding and dreamed of becoming a pro. Every day, she was on the mountain putting in time to make it happen–but life had other plans for her, it seems.

I was pushing really hard for that dream. I moved to Breckenridge. I was living at the base of the mountain, snowboarding every day. I fractured my tailbone, tore my ACL, fractured my tailbone again, broke some ribs. I just kept getting hurt. Then I thought, ‘this is not for me. It’s not going to happen.’

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Brittany Parker suits up for a winter river surf session in Canmore AB.

She burried the the snowboard dream. She had to move on. During one of her summer jobs as a raft guide, she noticed some people going downriver, paddling while standing up on big boards. The girl that was into pretty much every board sport had her interest sparked immediately.

When I saw them stand-up paddling, I was asking them about it and they invited me out and provided me with all the gear. I went out and did this class III section my first time. It was super fun. I swam the whole river but I really, really loved it. SUP surfing came about a year later for me. I’ve always wanted to surf but living in Colorado, it’s not super easy to get into. This was my opportunity and I love that more than I love any other part of the sport.

Surfing and stand-up paddling consumed her life. She was in love with it and learning. Fast. Because SUP was still new, she realized she had the opportunity to be a pioneer with it when it came to river surfing. She made it her sole focus.

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Brittany Parker surfs the wave in the Kananaskis River in Canmore AB.

I was out every day. I always invited people to go. I attended events. When I started, there were very few but there were some stand-up paddling events and I’d go to them and compete. I talked to Badfish Stand-up Paddle. They liked my enthusiasm and my persistence and invited me to be on the team. That provided me with even more confidence to keep pushing.

For Brittany, it wasn’t just the professional dream with the river life. She discovered that she enjoyed sharing her passion with other people, sharing the love.

I started instructing and traveling around the country with my business RVR 2 RVR. I teach stand-up paddling, river surfing, river safety, just getting people out on the water is what I really, really love. It’s changed my life and I know everyone who’s tried it, it seems to have changed theirs.

This lifestyle allows her to do what she loves the most, travel to surf and paddle rivers all over the country. It’s  not always easy to make a living, but she wouldn’t want to do anything else.

I don’t make a lot of money but with all of my experiences, I feel really wealthy. There’s a lot of ups and downs but my happiness outweighs the struggles. To be able to do this for as long as possible and just get a lot of people in the water is really important to me. I like the idea of being part of this movement of river surfing where these river waves and whitewater parks are being built all over the world. It’s just bringing people closer to the water and connecting them more to the river which in turn, is good for them but it’s also good for the river and for nature.

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As she’s progressed in the sport of river surfing, she’s found that it benefits her health more than anything else. Which is more important than any career aspirations.

It started out being an escape for me and it ended up being more just a necessity. It’s as essential as air is for me. It enhances my life in such a way that nothing else has been able to. I think if I didn’t have nature, my life would be very different. If I didn’t have that option, if I grew up in a city, and nature was far away from me and I didn’t know the effect it had on me or it could have on me, I could have gone down a really bad road and definitely not be where I am today. It’s definitely nature that, in a way, saved me from myself.

 

Editor’s Note: Searching for Sero is a mental wellness project created by professional photographer, John Rathwell and writer, Tracy Guenard. Sero being short for serotonin– the chemical believed to contribute to the feeling of happiness. The photo project shares the stories of people who are passionate about outdoor adventure as the key to happiness, well-being and balance in their lives. Find out more at Searchingforsero.com

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