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Valerie Stewart

Coolibar Athletes Valerie Stewart

The Athlete Within

Valerie Stewart - Kayak

By Valerie Stewart

In fourth grade I ruled on the four square court. NO one could knock me out of the server’s square. My family didn’t know and I didn’t receive any blue ribbons, but I knew and it made me feel great.

Thinking back, I realize that I took no specific pleasure in beating the other kids. The payoff was the sense of power that being the best gave me. In an era when parents and teachers didn’t constantly stroke and support children, it was up to us to find a sense of identity and pride. I see now that it was incredibly satisfying to beat all the boys at a time when girls weren’t encouraged to be athletes.

As an adult, what I don’t like about competition is making the other women feel badly when I beat them. What I do like is the sense of power and personal accomplishment that winning gives me. Many athletes say that they are really competing against themselves. Which is why timed competitions are so much more satisfying than judged ones; the former are not subjective, and athletes can accurately measure their own progress.Valerie Blog2 A

I define “athlete” as a person who has decided to commit to a physical activity, while working to improve their skills.  In other words, anyone who chooses to can be an athlete. You may be drawn to a sport, or you may want to try out various activities to find the right fit. Don’t worry about your age or past experience or what you “should” do;  if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.

I joined several kayaking groups last summer as a newbie, and am thrilled to have found another sport that I love. I’ll compete in some casual Class 1-2 kayaking events, but kayaking is primarily my safe and peaceful sport. A chance to discover the rivers, lakes, and bays of Northern California, while meeting lots of men and women over 40 who like to do the same thing. We share the delight of seeing eagles, herons, egrets, osprey, pelicans, geese, seals, otters, sea lions, turtles, even sharks and whales in their natural habitat as we float by. A year ago I didn’t realize that these experiences existed.

When I started snowboarding, I was totally unaware of snowboarding competitions. I hadn’t competed in anything since I was a kid in Horse 4H. But my willingness to try a new sport at an “old” age opened up a whole world of unforeseen experiences. I found myself competing on a national level against other women my age who also loved the sport. I produced two award-winning snowboarding videos, and interviewed pro boarders from around the world as they competed to qualify for snowboarding’s historic entry into the Olympics. I competed alongside Shaun White as he evolved from a promising nine-year-old into a multiple Olympic gold medalist. And I found a sport that expresses exactly who I am.

So be open, and ignore your doubts. And the doubts of others. You never know what life may bring if you’re ready to let it in.


Valerie’s Product Pick:

Valerie Stewart - Coolibar Swim Tights

If you thought you could never swim in public again because of your “imperfect” legs, you were wrong. Coolibar has introduced a new age of swimwear – the Active Swim Tight.  It comes in two styles; with or without an attached skirt.  And it’s offered in three lengths; above the knee, below the knee, and above the ankle. The SUNTECT® fabric is UPF 50+ and resists chlorine and saltwater. I own three of these, and will buy more when they’re offered in more colors.

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Coolibar Athletes Valerie Stewart

Learning to Win: Coolibar Athlete Does It Her Way

Valerie Stewart - Coolibar

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Snowboarding is the sport that makes me feel truly alive. I’m fully present when flying down a mountain on a race course, or carving powder in the trees. My thoughts are not cluttered or stuck in past or future; I am completely in the moment. For me, snowboarding creates an ideal state of mind.

I’m a self taught boarder because snowboarding teachers didn’t exist when I started 21 seasons ago. The first few days were tough, but then it clicked. I decided to compete in the Lake Tahoe division of USASA (United States of America Snowboard Association) when I heard I could win a snowboard.  I had no idea that it would lead to years of competing on the national level. USASA has an Open Class category which any age can enter if they are good enough and brave enough. Olympic medalist Shaun White was in that group as a very young teenager.

Intently observing the Open Class compete is how I learned to win. I watched the racers with laser focus. What was their body position in the start gate?  Their angle out of the gate? Where did they land, and what happened – did they hit a rut or patch of black ice?  When did they initiate their turn around the first gate? Did they fall in the trough formed by all the previous racers, or did they cut the gate a little wide to avoid the trough – losing a hundredth of a second, but still standing to charge the next gate? Observation is a marvelous teacher. My other “teacher” is simply time on the hill, always pushing myself to go faster and carve like a pro.

Valerie StewartWhen I’m boarding, the only skin that is exposed is part of my face. I always wear a helmet and goggles, so the big issue is my nose and mouth. Zinc-based sunscreens are definitely the best protection. Blue Lizard is a great brand, because the zinc disappears instead of making me look like a ghost. I also apply it to the back of my hands for when I take my gloves off.  To cover my neck, I wear Coolibar’s Sun Gaiter, which comes in a rainbow of colors. If it’s cold out, I pull the gaiter up over my nose and can still breathe without fogging my goggles. My other protective strategy is to do some stretching before and after boarding to avoid injury.

The Waterfront Pullover is ideal for a spring day on the slopes, or over a swimsuit in the summer. It’s super stylish, with ruching at the shoulders and wrists, as well as very technical. The aqua SUNTECT® fabric resists chlorine and saltwater, stretches four ways, dries quickly, and is super breathable. The half zipper allows for temperature adjustment, and the thumbholes protect hands from the sun. There’s even a hidden zipper in the side seam for money and keys. The fabric doesn’t wrinkle, and doesn’t shrink when machine washed and dried. I’m lovin’ this shirt, and own it in three colors.

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