Read: Our 4 page spread in 'In The Moment'
Updated: Jan 18
In The Moment is a beautiful, practical lifestyle magazine for the modern-thinking creative woman. It is globally known and distributes to retailers worldwide.
We were delighted to feature in a huge 4 page spread, dedicated to Women in Extreme Sports and the truth about how you face your fears, jump over them and become the lady shredder that is hiding within you.
Grab a copy at your nearest retailers, or snuggle up and have a read through the full article copied below, in full text beneath if you need it.
Our fears can stop us from getting hurt, but they can also hold us back. When we face and embrace them, we grow in all aspects of life, says kiteboard instructor Josie West
Photography: Patrick Klostermeier
Written by: Josie West Fear. It is such an emotive word. A mental state which can be so powerful and uncontrollable that it manifests itself physically. That bubble in your stomach that pushes your bladder down and your lungs up; makes your breath short and your muscles weak.
Of course, the emotional and physical reaction is entirely unique to each of us. When I hear the term, ‘to be afraid,’ I assume vulnerability, anxiety, nerves, that feeling described above. But, as an extreme sports instructor, the association I have with the word ‘fear’ is very different. It reminds me of adrenaline, excitement – a determination to go faster, jump higher, push harder.
Kiteboarding is my passion. Of course, this hasn’t always been the case. My ex-boyfriend can certainly attest to that! He was the poor soul that took up the challenge to teach me how to do it, and the journey was bumpy, to say the least. One minute I would be laughing, declaring my appreciation and love for him and the sport, and the next I’d be yelling at him to stop telling me I was doing it wrong and feeling like a failure. I firmly believe that teaching your significant other should sit in the ‘don’t ever do it’ chapter of the Kiteboard Instructor Manual – the responsibility lay with him, so every high, and low, was his fault. I was afraid, I was out of control and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it.
We sadly parted a few years later, and when we did, it dawned on me that this manifestation of fear in me was totally subjective. There was no longer someone there who sympathised with me, felt sorry for me, wanted to protect me – and there was no one left to shout at. If I wanted to succeed it was down to me alone. Almost overnight, I replaced fear with determination. I took on all of the responsibility, went back and tried again and again until I finally found control of my body and my emotions. Kiteboarding became my release, my passion, my meditation, and I decided to become an instructor to share this with others.
When I began teaching, I started to recognise two different approaches in my students. There are those with full-power determination, for whom ignorance is bliss when it comes to safety and who just want to try and fail and try again. They may hurt themselves doing this, but their determination takes over. Then there is the other end of the spectrum; those who approach with apprehension, who pay attention to safety, who listen to the instructions and ask questions to double check that they’ve heard it right before taking any kind of action. If they fail, they instantly stop and question why. What’s interesting is that both of these approaches are a response to experiencing fear. What’s also interesting is that the former are almost always men, the latter almost always women.
We should never deny our differences: we should acknowledge them and celebrate them. Physically, men are bigger, stronger and sometimes faster. Women are smaller, agile, and often have more finesse. Mentally, it’s harder to conceive and admit those differences. But it is my firm belief that the different physical approaches of men and women in extreme sports revolve entirely around the mental manifestation of fear. I’ve also found that the more cautious approach can sometimes prevent women from fully enjoying and experiencing the sport – just like me when I first started.
The problem comes with the dangerously fine line between accepting fear and allowing it to engulf us. I’ve heard so many women apologise for being scared, or for not succeeding at first, feeling that their fear is a failing in itself.
When anxiety and fear overwhelm us we isolate ourselves as different or weak; we tell ourselves that a sport ‘isn’t for me’. We give up. And of course, this doesn’t just happen with kiteboarding or other extreme sports. When we get into a habit of being afraid of failure, we apply it to other areas of our lives as well, holding ourselves back from trying new things or taking on new challenges.
In 2019, I launched She Flies, a social enterprise on a mission to grow the global wave of women in extreme sports. The extreme sports industry is slowly opening more and more doors to women, and I want to make sure that we are ready to walk through them – rather than letting our fears stop us in our tracks. We’re building an online community, as well as hosting trips, talks and events to share these ideas and hopefully inspire women across the world to try sports that they may have never considered before.
The thing to remember is that we evolve through risks, through falling and getting back up again. Extreme sports wouldn’t be extreme if they didn’t provoke adrenaline, mental strength, the ability to feel. We want to be a little afraid, a little fearful, we want our heart rates to rise in order to succeed; to stay alive and keep our body safe; to experience that thrill.
When we learn to face those feelings, to embrace them, we can use them to overcome the challenges of the sport.
When we can accept our anxieties without letting them stop us from trying, we start to gain the control which allows us to grow.
As women, we don’t need to change our approach – we need to use it to our advantage. That analytical and observant attitude, planning every move, helps us to succeed; to finesse our technique and learn how to use our strength when we do ride.
So hold your breath, clench your teeth and embrace your power, because once you’ve taken control of the fear, you really start to fly.