With over a decade of experience training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and newcomers, avid paddler Casi Rynkowski knows all about the benefits of standup paddling. Unfortunately, after watching several of her friends battle cancer over the years, she’s also keenly aware of the debilitating effects caused by cancer treatments.
A few years back, a lightbulb went off in her mind. Rynkowski realized she could use the benefits of standup paddling to help cancer survivors on their journey to recovery. And just like that, the idea for Paddle for Recovery class was spawned. Here she explains how her program has touched the lives of cancer survivors, how she hopes to expand the program and how you can help get involved. -JH
Origins of Paddle for Recovery
I have six friends who are cancer survivors; six too many for me. I’ve seen how treatments destroy them both physically and mentally and wanted to provide help that would affect their lives immediately. So I took my closest friend, Penny, who just finished treatment for breast cancer, on an ice climbing outdoor adventure trip. That’s when I saw her come alive.
Shortly after, she tackled rock climbing and then paddleboarding. But it was paddleboarding she loved most. Not only did it provide her with a physical challenge but a mental clearing as well. It was the one place she could find peace. She bought a paddleboard immediately and I hatched a plan to offer free classes for cancer survivors in the New England area.
SUP Benefits for Cancer Survivors
We often see the obvious physical struggles survivors have after treatments but the mental struggles are just as real. Confidence and poor body image keep many survivors from pursing physical activity, not to mention the constant worry if cancer will come back. It can be a vicious cycle. Then there’s the fatigue.
“Rest or sleep does not “cure” the type of fatigue you may have after cancer treatment and doctors do not know its exact cause(s),” said the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “And the only way to fight fatigue is to stay active.”
It’s no secret that Mother Nature can help heal and we paddlers know this first-hand. Just step outside after a stressful day and you immediately start to feel relief. Add in movement or exercise and the benefits grow. New studies have shown that outdoor activity can aid in recovery from disease, reduce stress, increase concentration and improve your overall health and well-being.
Paddleboarding can provide all of these benefits for recovering cancer survivors and its accessibility makes it the perfect vehicle to reach a wide audience. There is no fitness level required and there are many different SUP niches for them to explore. A gym can’t do that.
Growing Paddle for Recovery
It was always my goal for Paddle for Recovery to organically spread across the US through the kindness of business owners, instructors and the SUP industry donating their time or goods-like BIC Sport and SIC Maui who are donating a fleet of boards to be used for classes in the New England area.
The only requirements for those who want host a class is to use the Paddle for Recovery name and provide a free class giving survivors everything they need to know about gear, safety and basic paddling instruction. In turn, I help spread the word and contact various survivor programs.
Currently, I work with Dana Farber, Boston Cancer Support and the YMCA Livestrong program which is a national organization. Imagine the survivors we could reach if we had a few free classes in each state? Currently, we have 11 classes running this summer located in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia, with many more coming.
How You Can Help
Share Paddle for Recovery Events Class listing. Even with social media and the internet at our finger tips, getting the message regarding FREE SUP classes for cancer survivors is still a struggle. Any help spreading the word is truly appreciated. After all it is FREE!
Offer a Paddle for Recovery Class. More classes means the more survivors we can reach and help with their recovery. We will add your class listing to the website and I can help assist in contacting your local survivor groups. Just send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org