Unfiltered: Shane Perrin’s Waterway to Recovery

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Photo courtesy of Amy Schromm

Unfiltered: Shane Perrin

Going the Distance On The Waterway To Recovery

"2016 was the worst and best year I've had," Shane Perrin titled a blog post this spring. Perrin, the ultra-distance paddler who stroked more than 100 miles in 24 hours and became the first standup paddler to compete in endurance events like the Florida Everglades Challenge (300 miles), Texas Water Safari (260 miles) and La Ruta Maya in Belize (179 miles), was working as a logger when a tree he was falling knocked him unconscious on a rainy Missouri day. The incident and its mental aftermath led him to pull out of what would have been his biggest race yet, the Race to Alaska (750 miles) and replaced his SUP addiction with an addiction to alcohol. Three months after he got clean, we gave Perrin a call to talk about family, recovery and his future in SUP. —WT

The day after Christmas was rock bottom. My wife had to catch me on a day I hadn't been drinking or wasn't hungover. She said, "You're going to kill yourself or someone else. I'm not going to watch our kids go through this." I thought more big-picture then. Like, "I could lose my kids, my wife and everything I've worked towards." It was a moment of clarity that made me think, "What am I doing? I have to get out of this."

You learn a lot about yourself and life once you get down to that low point. I'd never really hit that but once you crawl out, you're like, "Wow, I really have a good life."

Everything built up and for the first time I just didn't have the control I've always had. I never understood depression. This is the first time I get what depression is like.

I have an addictive personality so when I do something, I go all in. With SUP, the next thing is always on my mind—training, getting there and pulling it off. Everyday, that's what's going through my head. When things fell apart, I didn't have that and there was alcohol. Instead of paddling for six hours, I could drink for a couple hours and that was the substitute.

I started going to AA meetings and marriage counseling. I was fighting it at first, but those things were going to get me towards normal again.

My best friend Darren was an alcoholic and has been sober for eight or nine years. Just having someone to talk to is priceless. I call him when I'm stressed out and he says, "Let's go paddling."

The headaches are pretty much gone. If I'm doing some hardcore training I might get a small one. I still have quite a few memory issues. If I go to bed at night and there's something I have to do the next day, I write it down because otherwise I'll wake up and have no clue.

Standup paddling is back in the forefront of my mind. Usually around March, I'm around 75 percent of where I need to be to pull off something big. I'm about 20 percent of where I normally am. I'm a newbie all over again. It's fun.

Originally appeared in the 2016 Gear Guide

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