shelby taylor rose

Shelby Taylor Rose rounds a turn buoy while rounding out her career as an elite athlete. Photo: Gabriel Sepulveda

SUP Women | Shelby Taylor Rose

After competing at the national level in soccer by the age of 16, Kentucky's Shelby Taylor Rose faced an unexpected injury that led her to the dark depths of depression and an eating disorder, among other health issues. The mental and physical strains on her young body worsened over time, and, for the elite athlete, it seemed that her dreams of returning to a high level of competition were dissipating.

Fast-forward a few years, to 2015, and Rose is happy, healthy, and competing at an elite SUP level — an unlikely sport for a Kentuckian that grew up nowhere near water. After overcoming so much at a young, pivotal age, Rose is now out to not only compete and celebrate what her body is physically and mentally capable of in competition, but also to help youth find SUP. —Shari Coble

You've faced serious injury and illness early on in your athletic career; tell us about those obstacles and how they've affected you.
I wasn’t born a waterwoman, but my whole life I’ve always been a competitive athlete. I started off as a swim racer and soccer player–and when sports got more serious, I had to choose one to dedicate my time to; I chose soccer and followed it to the national level by the time I was 16. However, when I peaked at 16, I faced not only a knee injury, but depression set in from being out of sports. It lead to a bad eating disorder, which manifested in my body through auto-immune hepatitis (liver failure) at age 17.

I basically had come to terms with the fact that I would never be an elite athlete again. I’d overcome so many things that should have either killed or destroyed me, that I was focused more on being healthy and happy than winning medals. However, the athletic and active part of me was just on hold.

How'd you end up finding SUP?

I started SUPing while living in Sayulita, Mexico for my 'gap year' in college.

The water has always been a place where I'm comfortable; it’s peaceful and isn't intimidating to me. So, when I picked up SUP while working at Standup Paddle Mexico shop, I immediately fell in love. I could work my body as hard or as soft as I wanted to. Everyday I grew stronger and more confident. SUP turned out to be what saved me: it brought me out of the mindset of being content with being semi-active to being stoked to be extra-active!

What does SUP offer you that other sports lack?
SUP is so different than any other sport I've competed in; not only in the full-body workout and the 'high' after exertion, or the way that every race is 'best paddler wins,' or even the complete control you have over your own races, based on your individual prior preparation and mental endurance—but the incredible international camaraderie I've found since day one. Every race is a battle when we hit the water, but off the water, it's a reunion with best friends from around the world.

What are you doing to bring SUP to Kentucky?
My mother and I organized the first ever SUP race Labor Day weekend on the famous “Shaker Village” lake. Our hope is to target all the tourists on vacation to the lake resort and put on an 'SUP Showcase' for all people to see the level of talent from around the world, and give free clinics and demos to those first discovering SUP. It will have live local music and food trucks, nighttime glow paddles, a kids event, and will be a hilarious fun time in Kentucky! We'll have good cash prizes to offer pro racers, and hopefully attract come big names to the untouched area. I'll stay in the area for a while to do some local clinics with shops around the lakes to help boost awareness and participation.

You've said before you want to impact younger girls entering SUP, like your mentors have impacted you. How do you hope to achieve that goal?
In Sayulita, I've started a youth-SUP team with partner Javier “Bicho” Jimenez in conjunction with Standup Paddle Mexico. In a small town, right on the ocean, we just want to give kids a good path to follow—and [teach] accountability for their own lives instead of falling down the easy wrong path. The hope is to give local kids a place to come and find confidence and strength, purpose, and family.

Catch up with the fastest female in France, Céline Guesdon.

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Shelby Rose and Javier “Bicho” Jimenez started this youth SUP team in conjunction with Standup Paddle Mexico.