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Coolibar Athletes

Become a 2014 Coolibar Sponsored Athlete

Happy 2014! Are you looking for a challenge in the New Year to help reach your fitness goals? Consider becoming a 2014 Coolibar Sponsored Athlete.

Our athletes are fitness fanatics who are also concerned about sun safety. Whether your life is at the water, on the mountain, or on the court, we want to know about the extraordinary things you’re doing outdoors, protected by Coolibar of course, and share it with our sun-loving community. So bring on the sunshine, because it’s no match for Coolibar athletes.

Still not convinced? Hear from a few of our former athletes.

Sevve Stember, 2013 Athlete

I thought the whole athlete sponsorship program was super fun and it was really inspirational to be part of.” – Sevve Stember

Molly Baross, 2012 Athlete

“I loved being an athlete representative for Coolibar. My teammates were envious of my sun-protective clothing!”Molly Baross

Kristie Cranford, 2012 Athlete

“I am truly happy and lucky to have had this opportunity. I am deeply saddened it has come to an end.” – Kristie Cranford

Now accepting 2014 applications. Apply Now to become a 2014 Coolibar Sponsored Athlete.

Learn more about the program on our FAQ page.

Read about our 2013 Athletes.

Application deadline is midnight CST on Sunday, January 26, 2014. Can’t wait to meet you!

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Coolibar Athletes Sun Protection Clothing

Technology for a Cooler, More Comfortable Workout

Our newest fabric, Cooltect, now incorporates sweat-activated, cooling technology into every UPF 50+ Coolibar Fitness Shirt! When the body begins to perspire, tiny dots printed inside the fabric work to absorb moisture and activate a cooling agent that actually lowers the temperature of your skin. Check out this review from Coolibar Athlete Chad Hannon, an adventure race competitor and all around healthy living devotee.

I am the kind of athlete that gets hot when I compete or train. In fact, I get so hot that other athletes regularly notice my lack of clothing. No…I’m not “Shirtless Guy” at your local 5k. Although I understand that guy, I still maintain that a shirt should be worn in races. However, I am the guy that is caught wearing just a shirt in races in January and February. No coat. Remember, I live in Illinois.

For instance, last February, I ran an eleven mile race through Starved Rock State Park. The temperature was twelve degrees at the start, and at times when the course took us right by the ice filled Illinois River the wind chill would drop to zero or less. I ran it in an Old-school Coolibar long sleeve fitness shirt. Yes, I did have a hat and light gloves, I’m not totally nuts. You get the idea how warm my body burns though when I compete.

Fast forward to August of this year, and I’m racing the Thunder Rolls 24 hour Adventure Race and it’s 90+ most of the daylight. The humidity taking the heat index past 100 degrees through the hottest part of the afternoon. What am I wearing? Yep, an Old-school Coolibar fitness shirt. I did opt for the short sleeves. The same guy who only wore a shirt in zero is now wearing pretty much the same shirt in 100.

I can honestly remember saying out loud as I ran along “Coolibar needs a cooling shirt! I mean ‘Cool’ is in their name!”. So, I was excited to find out THEY HAVE ONE NOW!

First, from a style standpoint, I was happy so see they stepped up the style. Coolibar shirts always look nice, but they did the stitching in a more contrasting color and it really looks great. I love it.

Second, they kept it just as comfortable. That is to say, it’s one of the most comfortable shirts you will ever own. I have no idea why Coolibar shirts are so comfy, but they are. The fabric is stretching and soft and just feels awesome. I gave my teammate a Coolibar shirt to run a race with me and it’s become a standing joke between us that it’s all she wears now. I am constantly seeing her on Facebook wearing it to a mountain bike race, a long trek, or even to dinner. She swears by its comfort, and so do I.

So, I really can’t tell you how the cooling works. It’s science beyond me. I can just tell you from experience that it does. It is a welcome addition to an already fantastic shirt.

Let’s face it, the ultimate fitness shirt is one you don’t notice you’re wearing. This is it!

Chad Hannon testing out Cool Fitness Shirt
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Inside Coolibar Sun Protection Clothing

Fit to Wear Coolibar

Lupus Foundation of Minnesota Ambassador Chris Cronick spends a lot of time outdoors, teaching spin classes at the gym and traveling around the community to raise awareness for lupus along with her husband Patrick. Coolibar provided them with a few items to test during their busy month. Chris shares their thoughts on fit and function.

Coolibar is an awesome sun protective clothing line for those with lupus (like me) because we need UV protection, yet want fashion and comfort. My husband Patrick and I had the opportunity to try some fantastic items throughout the past couple of months.

I don’t know about you, but when I shop, I’m always curious to know the size and measurements of the model so I can visualize how it may fit on me. I’ve included some pictures so you can see how Coolibar fits on real people. I’m 5’8” and about 130 pounds. I wear extra small and small sizes.

Chris (pictured middle) wearing the Coolibar Vera Resort T-Shirt

One of my favorite Coolibar items is the Vera Resort T-Shirt (size small). I love this shirt so much that I now have it in Fig and Turkish Blue! It didn’t cling around my waist and was longer for my arms, providing great coverage. It’s the softest (almost silky) long sleeved shirt I have ever owned. I’m all about layering, especially living in Minnesota. This shirt can be worn alone or perfectly layered underneath a short-sleeved t-shirt, under a button-down shirt, a light jacket or vest. In fact, I thought it would make a great Christmas gift so I’m getting a couple more for my family!

I sported the Vera Resort T-Shirt, along with the Fitness Jacket in White/Iron at the most recent Twin Cities Lupus Walk for Hope event. There’s reflective piping which makes this the go-to jacket for walking the dog at night (picture upper left). There’s a zippered pocket perfectly situated on the front chest. I found this to be a nice, handy home for my cell phone. I also like the wrist cuffs which double as gloves. How ingenious is that? This lightweight, breathable jacket provides all the sun protection I’ve come to know with Coolibar with the same fitness savvy details you find in more expensive brands.

Chris and Patrick

_ I also wore the black ZnO Long Sleeve T-Shirt for the Lupus Walk for Hope in Duluth, MN. I like this T-shirt because it has a sturdier cotton/spandex construction perfect for a cooler yet sunny day. Again, the ZnO is another great layering staple. I needed to be comfortable for the two-plus hour ride to Duluth, so I wore the ZnO Long Sleeve T-shirt paired with the ZnO Beach Pants. I like to be comfortable when I travel but still feel put-together. As you can see, these beach pants are also great for doing the elliptical at the gym too! You can wear them for virtually anything. They really are an everyday pant, not just for the beach.

Chris wearing ZnO Beach Pants on elliptical

My husband Patrick does not have lupus but has very fair skin and burns easily. I encouraged him to try Coolibar as well, so he wore a few pieces to each walk. To give you an idea of his stature, he is 6’1”, about 220 pounds and mostly wears extra-large. He is tall with broad shoulders and long arms. He finds Coolibar fits his frame perfectly with a little extra “give” where he needs it. He really liked the Men’s Fitness Jacket in Limelight/Iron and the XL fit him great. The sporty colors combined with the functionality and design of the jacket made it perfect for layering up or down. There is a zippered pocket on the sleeve that conveniently held his cell phone and zippered pockets on the front that held our car keys and some money. Lightweight, breathable 3D dri SUNTECT® fabric makes this jacket sun-protective and the surface grid wicks moisture for quick-dry performance. He wears this to the gym all of the time.

I welcome any comments or questions you may have about the items I mentioned. I also want to extend my gratitude to the wonderful people of Coolibar and the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota who opened my eyes to sun protection clothing. I wish you all the very best of health!

LFM Ambassador Chris Cronick received free sun protective product for the purpose of this review.

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SunAWARE Wellness Warriors

SavageMan Competitors Brave the Ultimate Triathlon Course for Melanoma Awareness

The 7th annual “Win-The-Fight” SavageMan Triathlon Festival at the Deep Creek Lake State Park in western Maryland attracted nearly 1100 elite athletes from 30 states and several countries including Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand on September 14, 2013. Athletes competed for more than a medal as the event raised vital funds for the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation, a voice for melanoma prevention, detection, care and cure.

According to the Foundation’s President, Greg Safko, “The ‘Win-The-Fight’ SavageMan Triathlon Festival has garnered much international attention as arguably the world’s toughest and most savage triathlon at the half Ironman distance.” Besides attracting the world’s most accomplished triathletes to test themselves and compete in the “#1 Hardest Race on Earth!” as rated by Triathlete magazine, the event also informed athletes, spectators and donors that melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer among young adults ages 25 to 29, and if not prevented or detected early, is extremely formidable. “We’re very proud that our signature “Win-The-Fight” fundraising event for the Foundation is supported by a multitude of athletes, team members and sponsors such as Coolibar, to further the JMNMF mission of melanoma education, advocacy and research,” said Safko.

JMNMF President, Greg Safko (right, in blue) cheers on fundraiser and Team Win-The-Fight member, Mark Himelfarb of Lititz, PA, up the Westernport “Wall”.

The SavageMan 70.0 race features a 1.2-mile swim in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland’s largest freshwater lake, followed by the crown jewel bike stage featuring an over 6,000 foot vertical climb including the most savage ascent in all of triathlon – the Westernport “Wall”. After a 55.6 mile bike-ride, competitors run 13.1 miles on a lakeside trail and end the race with a panoramic lake finish.

Is SavageMan in your future?

U.S. Olympian Susan Williams (pictured) and 6x Ironman World Champion Dave Scott are notable finishers under the SavageMan banner – with D. Scott autographing all 1st place awards for each of seven years of the race’s history to support the JMNMF.
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Partner Athletes Sevve Stember

Why Climbing Matters

Coolibar Athlete Sevve Stember is a natural born climber, always seeking the next mountain to climb. This summer, he and his wife, Andrea, moved from Minnesota to Colorado to pursue new opportunities and climbing routes. Sevve shares why climbing is important to him and journals his favorite moments during his first summer in the Rocky Mountains.

I often ask myself, “Why climbing? Why do I care about it so much? Is it significant?” I am very aware of the priority that I place on climbing in my life, so it’s important for me to grapple with these questions. I’ve distilled my reflection down to these three themes:

1. Human connection
We all seek to belong to something and to be understood. In climbing, I’ve found more like-minded people that I can connect with on many levels than I could’ve ever imagined. The journal entries below are all really special days in my life that I will look back on with fond memories and good times. Despite the obvious individual aspects of climbing, there are many profound implications that climbing has on the people that share it together. Trust, sacrifice, failure, success and frustration…these feelings are shared with my climbing partners through a common love of being outdoors and challenging oneself.

2. The Bigger Picture
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal the body and soul alike.” -John Muir

When working in Yosemite National Park, I used to share this quote with visitors as an eloquent way of getting at the significance wilderness has to a person. There are many different belief systems about how the world came to be. For instance, as a science teacher, I believe the world is very old and has been slowly changing for billions of years. When climbing, I can connect with the many different processes that occurred before I could enjoy its continuous crack system or perfectly sculpted pockets. Being in nature helps humans tap into a state-of-mind that is hard to come by elsewhere, it helps us connect with our beliefs—whatever they might be.

3. Progression, Goals, and Self-betterment
Climbing routes are graded by difficulty, providing climbers with data to see personal improvements. Personal growth is something that drives me in all aspects of my life. The motivation I receive from trying to climb harder routes spills over into other aspects of my life, such as being a better teacher or learning how to be a more supportive husband. This matters because it helps me be a more productive, efficient and passionate member of society.

It was a summer to remember, to say the least. Seeing new sites, sharing beautiful vistas with friends, sleeping under the stars with my wife, and I continue to learn along the way. Although at times I do have doubts about how I spend my time, I know that finding that thing that drives me to new places: good friends, higher goals, are critical to living a fulfilling life.

South Platte

Summer 2013 Climbing Journal: My First Summer in the Front Range

June 11
After a fantastic evening on my aunt and uncle’s back porch in Rapid City, South Dakota, Andrea and I stopped briefly for a couple climbs in Spearfish canyon. We were closing in on the final leg of our move from Minneapolis, MN to Denver, CO. I hung draws on a route called “Wow!” and climbed it on my next try without falling – very gratifying!

June 17
Today I met Matt and Linde, friends of mine from Minnesota, in Boulder, Colorado. We climbed a 4-pitch route (route with four stops) called “Athlete’s Feet”. Towards the top of the route a large thunderstorm rolled in, and we descended just as the first drops hit. Linde met us and we rolled to a different crag (an outcrop of rock) to do some shorter, harder sport climbing routes. Matt is a climber that I looked up to a lot when I lived in Duluth, MN years ago; it was fun to swap leads with him all day and work a route that we both got on our second attempt.

Sevve sending Animal Riots Activist (5.12a) shortly after Matt showed the way

June 28
Eldorado Canyon is known as one of America’s premier climbing destinations. I had never been there before today. Frank, a good friend of a friend, and I climbed the classic “Bastille Crack”. It was great to experience a new piece of American climbing history while getting to know a new friend.

July 4-7
Being the patriotic people we are, my friends Garrison, Dan, Frank, Katie and I headed into the heart of the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming to celebrate the 4th of July with some real cowboys. I’ve driven through Tensleep before, but never had the pleasure of climbing there. It was phenomenal to say the least. I set several benchmark onsights (climbing a route first try without any information) and flashes (first try; but with prior information). The trip was complete when we saw a full on cowboy brawl during the street dance. Wyoming must be the most unchanged state over the past 50 years.

A typical view in Tensleep, Wyoming

July 14-15
My buddy Dommer flew in for the weekend and we headed north towards Estes Park. A good crew of friends were waiting for us upon arrival, and as we waited out an evening storm a double rainbow appeared over the breathtaking view of Longs Peak. The next day, we climbed granite spires and soaked in the sun.

A good crew of goofballs enjoying the double rainbow
Sevve

July 24-25
Rifle is one of the most sought after crags in the American sport climbing scene. My wife Andrea had a week off from her residency duties and we took the chance to go check it out. From the parking lot, the approach was about two minutes. Once the sun hit the side of the canyon we were on, we’d walk two minutes to the other side of the canyon. Such good rock! Although Rifle has a reputation of being super challenging, I was encouraged by how I climbed while visiting. We also tagged the summit of Mount Massive, with a not-so-alpine-start, leaving the parking lot at 11am.

Andrea and Sevve on the summit of Mount Massive, near Leadville, CO

July 31
Summer draws to a close. Our friends Dan, Bron and their son traveled from Minnesota to visit for a couple days. Dan and I had been getting stoked all summer to climb the face of Longs Peak; a feature called The Diamond. In 2007, while living in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I became familiar with The Diamond. Since that summer, I had always dreamed of climbing it.

We woke up at 1:30 a.m., slammed coffee and jammed to tunes on the five mile drive to the parking lot. Amidst dozens of peak baggers, we quickly ascended the six mile approach to Chasm View and rappelled onto Broadway ledge, which marks the beginning of the routes on the Diamond. Pitch after pitch went by as we kept a watchful eye to the east. We witnessed many thunderstorms roll in, but to our good fortune, they were always several miles away. I got to lead the crux pitch, which is one of the last pitches on the route so the full day’s toils had definitely taken their toll. I meticulously made my way up the finger crack section, followed by a full on chimney that deposited me onto the final crux bulge. With horrendous rope drag, I managed my way through the crux, and belayed Dan up. An hour later we were on the summit and our luck had run out. Sleet started to fall and we opted to make our way down the Keyhole Route instead of rappelling the Cables Route; which I predicted would have some scrambling on exposed (and recently wet) slabs. We made it back to our car feeling exhausted, but so fulfilled. Dan is embarking on a “50 noteworthy climbs by the time he turns 50 years old” adventure and this was his 1st of 50. I met a personal goal and felt really competent in a complex environment. This was a day to remember the rest of my life.

The gratifying sunset on the hike back after climbing The Diamond

Like the shirts Sevve is wearing in the photos? Shop Coolibar UPF 50+ Short Sleeve Fitness Shirt and Long Sleeve Fitness Shirt

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Events Sun Protection Clothing Wellness Warriors

The Sunscreen Squad is Out to Save Tennis Fans

Excitement is building as the Western & Southern Tennis Open in Mason, OH wraps up this weekend, making way for the US Open! This tournament is the perfect venue to call attention to the number of hours both fans and players will be spending under the sun in the next few weeks. Coolibar has teamed up with the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation Sunscreen Squad and outfitted volunteers with UPF 50+ clothing to distribute sunscreen samples to remind attendees they need sun protection.

The hours spent on the tennis court, under the sun, add up. Some of the best players on the court have dedicated themselves to promoting skin cancer awareness and sun protection, including tennis pro Andy Caress. Andy, also founder of the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation (formerly Mela-KNOW-More), had one wish before his untimely passing from skin cancer at age 24, to tell people the message of his life – “People should know more about melanoma.” Andy’s family and volunteers continue to spread the message of early detection and sun protection, especially at events Andy was passionate about.

Andy Caress, Founder of Mela-KNOW-More

Last year, ACMF Sunscreen Squad volunteers passed out 45,000 sunscreen packets and distributed 10 gallons of sunscreen to spectators, athletes, ball kids and volunteers throughout the grounds at the 2012 Western & Southern Tennis Open. They, along with Coolibar, hope to knock last year’s record out of the court!

The Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation is dedicated to the prevention of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, through awareness, education and support of research to find a cure.

The Sunscreen Squad is a program designed to distribute sunscreen at public events and tennis and swim clubs around the country. Gallon sunscreen dispensers will be installed in as many locations as possible. Donations fund this effort directly.

Young ladies playing it sun safe the the Andy Caress booth by applying sunscreen!
A glimpse of Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Tennis Open

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Coolibar Athletes

SUP Yoga for Beginners

Are you ready to take your fitness to the next level? It’s time to put on your Coolibar gear and try SUP Yoga – yoga done on a stand up paddle board. Coolibar Athlete Krista Kennedy talks about her love for this practice and provides her advice for those interested in getting started.

Yes you read this correctly, yoga on a stand up paddle board! Increase your flexibility balance and strength all with one workout. Don’t be fooled — this looks easy, but I can tell you it is far from it.

The creator of SUP Yoga is still up for debate, although the first recording of this new craze was posted by Kathy Holesapple with Paddle to the Core in Las Vegas, on her Facebook page in early 2009. Being an avid paddle board enthusiast and instructor since 2008, Kathy thought it would be a challenge to try some of her yoga poses on her board. She invited a friend and shortly after introduced classes. Now, SUP Yoga classes are popping up near water all over the U.S.!

For those interested, I highly recommend gaining a base knowledge of yoga on solid ground. You should know what poses you are comfortable with on the ground prior to trying them on a board. It’s not as easy as just falling in the water if you mess up. The extra balance and strength required to complete the poses on a board can cause injury if you are not properly prepared. I would highly recommend taking a class! The SUP Yoga classes at Paddle to the Core in Lake Las Vegas are so much fun and affordable (visit www.suplv.com for a class schedule)! Look for classes in an area near you where an instructor can supervise and instruct you while doing the poses.

Okay, so you have taken a few yoga classes and you are ready to try SUP Yoga. First get to know your board, find your balance. Then start with poses that allow you to have both of your hands and feet on the board as this gives you more stability. Important things to remember when dong these poses are to take your time, go slowly into each pose, feel your balance and then push yourself further into the stretch when you exhale. The poses I recommend for beginners are:


Downward Dog: As seen here, this pose will stretch your hamstrings and calves while working on the strength of your arms, shoulders and upper back. While in this pose you should let your heels drop towards the board with the goal to eventually get your heels to touch the board. At the same time you will push your tailbone to the sky with straight arms and back. Once you are comfortable with this pose you can add a variation by raising one leg and then the other. This will add another element of core strengthening and muscle work.

Upward Dog: In this pose it is important to remember to push your shoulders down to elongate your neck and when you feel you are ready push your arms straight to lift your upper thighs off the board. This pose is great for both stretching and working out multiple muscle groups!

Pigeon: (My favorite stretching pose!) As you begin this pose, keep your foot close underneath you. As you advance into the stretch you will move your foot away from your body to create a 90 degree angle. (If you don’t feel this stretch, you are most likely not doing it correctly! Adjust or seek yoga instruction).

Camel: The demonstration pictured here shows a variation of camel with one arm stretching back. To begin, keep both hands on your ankles until you are confident with the stretch, balance and strength needed.

Other beginning poses include: Child’s Pose, Cat and Cow, Plank and Dolphin Plank. These poses can be completed in sequence; however, you should create a series of poses that are comfortable for you. As you become more relaxed with these poses, you may add variations to increase the difficulty level. There are also poses that will require you to test your balancing skills by taking a hand or foot off the board. These poses are more advanced, so I recommend that you only try them with the supervision of a certified instructor.

SUP Yoga is a great workout that focuses on all aspects of fitness, and if you love the outdoors as I do, SUP Yoga is the perfect way to enjoy both!

Krista Kennedy
Coolibar Athlete and Lover of SUP Yoga

Like Krista’s swim shirts? Shop the Short Sleeve Paddle Swim Shirt and Zip Font Rash Guard.

Disclaimer: The information provided by Coolibar and its contributors is general information and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional advice.


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Events Inside Coolibar

USTA Tennis Arrives in Downtown Minneapolis

Live in a metro area? Ever watch an outdoor match of tennis in the midst of towering skyscrapers? An unusual site, but once a year, you’ll see this in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota (Coolibar’s state headquarters).

Many of USTA Northern’s best tennis players compete for over $5,000 in prize money in men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles.

Our friends at Twin City Tennis Camps invited Coolibar to not only watch the action, but talk with tennis fans and city strollers catching a glimpse of the excitement. Of course, who can resist free sunscreen samples and sun protective clothing when it’s sunny with a heat index of 100+?


If you live near Minneapolis and still want to catch a game, it’s not too late. Women’s finals are tomorrow, Friday, July 19, 2013. You’ll also see Coolibar there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stop by and say hi if you’re in the area.

Event details:

The 18th Annual Canadian Pacific Aquatennial Tennis Classic runs July 8-19 at Canadian Pacific Plaza (2nd Avenue & 5th Street) in downtown Minneapolis. Matches begin weekdays at 9:00 a.m. and continue until approximately 5 p.m., weather permitting, and spectator admission is free. In cases of inclement weather, matches will be moved to the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus.

The qualifying tournament is July 8-10 at Canadian Pacific Plaza, followed by the main draw, July 10-19. The men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles finals are set for July 18 beginning at 10:00 a.m., followed by the women’s singles and doubles finals on July 19 beginning at 10:00 a.m.

For more information, please visit www.aquatennial.com or call 612-376-7669.

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Events SunAWARE

Tennis camp teaches sun safety on and off court

If you play tennis, you know it’s sometimes difficult to find shade on outdoor courts. So this summer, Twin City Tennis Camp, a local Minnesota business, is taking great strides to educate youth and their parents on the importance of using sun protection both on and off the court.

Since I started the organization in 1999, Twin City Tennis Camp has been committed to providing kids interested in tennis a healthy, fun and athletic atmosphere. Tennis is a lifetime sport, and we want campers to have fun and stay safe!

To promote sun safety on and off the court, I reached out to Coolibar- Sun Protection You Wear to help me educate parents and players on the importance of sun protection. Coolibar is a part of our local community and once I saw the superiority of the different fabrics, I knew we had to work together. I love the 3d dri pro SUNTECT® items for tennis!

Twin City Tennis Camp

This summer, we are providing sunscreen during tournaments and informationa to educate the importance of sun safety. I want to set an example for the kids and show that wearing UPF 50+ items and broad-spectrum sunscreen is not only cool (pun intended), it will keep me safe from the sun. I am excited to begin educating the kids, while still helping them perfect their tennis stroke.

– Dan Nabedrick

“Many have the will to win, but few have the will to PREPARE to win”

To learn more about Dan Nabedrick’s Twin City Tennis Camps and commitment to safety, visit http://www.twincitytenniscamps.com/

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Vanessa

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. Hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE. Read Vanessa’s story.

I grew up in small town Idaho where life revolved around nature and the Great Outdoors. Any and all free time our family had was spent outside: camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, riding horses, and playing sports. I naturally excelled at athletics, and my family was amazingly supportive as I bounced around from court to court trying out the newest sport that inspired me. But eventually I picked up a volleyball, and it stuck.

Volleyball has guided me through life. I played DI collegiate volleyball, I coached DII collegiate volleyball, and within the last few years, I learned to love a new format of the game that was introduced to me while living on the east coast – beach volleyball. I quickly discovered that beach was a perfect match for my game as it enhances my speed, agility, smarts and well-roundedness on the court. So I threw myself into training and competing against the best beach athletes in the region, and nation. My career yielded great results and in summer 2012. I competed in18 tournaments in seven different states. I was, and am completely addicted to the game, so at the end of the year I decided to further pursue my dream and passion of playing professional beach volleyball at the top level. In January 2013 I relocated to Hermosa Beach, California – the hub of professional beach volleyball in the US – to start a new life. I am happy to be much closer to family, much closer to the mountains, and much closer to the best in beach volleyball athletes where I can train and continue to build upon a new and exciting career.

Summer 2011, I was enjoying a day of waterskiing with my family when my older sister (who is a doctor), noticed a mole on my stomach that she thought looked questionable. For precautionary purposes, she suggested that I have it removed. It was a mole I had seen every day of my life and I hadn’t ever thought twice about it; but trusting my sister’s advice, I agreed to do so. Within the next week we had removed the mole, sent it off to the labs, and returned to our normal lives. At the time, I was living across the nation from my family, so when the lab results came back, I received a phone call from my older sister with startling news – that small mole was in fact melanoma.

I have always been an active, outdoorsy person, and on top of that I am the perfect candidate for skin cancer as a pale, freckled, red head. But I had never in my life gone in for a skin check, and I most certainly did not have a doctor lined up in Washington D.C. where I was living when I received this news. It was a frightening moment, but I had comfort in talking with my sister and together we researched reputable doctors in the area and I was able to get an appointment not too long after.

The first day I visited Dr. Ali Hendi’s office was eye opening. I was alarmed to see the impact melanoma had on so many patients as they came and went from the office. Most of them were decades older than myself, and walked out of the operating room having lost parts of their face, their ears, their nose, and more. It was a huge reality check on how sun exposure adds up over time.

I was informed that my case of melanoma would require Moh’s surgery, which I knew nothing about, but I was quickly acquainted. Moh’s surgery involves cutting out layer upon layer of skin, and testing each layer, until the Doctors determine that they have gone deep enough and the Melanoma is no longer present in that part of the body. Assuming the Melanoma is caught early enough, Moh’s is the final step in removing the skin cancer.

In my first Moh’s appointment, I left with 21 stitches that went two layers deep into my stomach, and a precautionary removal of 2 other moles. But not too long after, I received another phone call with news that one of those moles came back positive with Melanoma as well. So I schedule to have my second round of Moh’s surgery and thankfully this one wasn’t as deep. I was lucky enough to have caught mine early and never had to undergo radiation or further treatments, but I witnessed hundreds of others that weren’t as fortunate as myself, and I immediately made substantial life changes.

I am the perfect candidate for Melanoma – a fair skinned red head. But unlike most red heads, I tan very well. Throughout my life, I’ve been told many times that I am lucky that I get color. But having had this experience, I would argue the opposite. Because I tanned more than your average red-head, growing up, I likely didn’t pay as much attention to sun exposure than most carrot tops that burn like crazy. But I am just as susceptible. In years past, I wore sunscreen if I was outside for long lengths at a time. But I also liked how I looked with a tan. I liked to get color. And like most young females, I went through a stage where I would visit tanning salons.

Since then my life and views on sun protection have taken a 180. My participation on the professional beach volleyball circuit, and my passion for the game, make sun an inevitable factor in my life; however I have made substantial changes to my training routines to ensure I am being as safe as possible. Not only am I paying more attention to my skin, and taking steps to stay protected, but I have also made skin care awareness my main mission for the 2013 season I have coming up. I am thankful to have incredible Sponsors that believe in me as an athlete, believe in me as a person, and believe in my mission as well which falls in line with what they do as well. KINeSYS Performance Sunscreen keeps me protected in the sun. They produce a variety of sun protection products including a Zinc based ointment, spray on sunblock, facial sunblock sticks, and more that I wear religiously. I will be incorporating Coolibar sun protection clothing to my volleyball wardrobe for a physical block. And the Dermatology team of Moy-Fincher-Chipps in the South Bay of California, also encourage me to be as proactive as possible with their medical support. Since my diagnoses, I have had regular skin checks in 3-month increments, and I have had two other pre-cancerous spots removed. I don’t plan on having any more issues with Melanoma and I will do everything I can to keep my skin cancer free, and educate others on what they can do as well.

I still love the outdoors, and I still love beach volleyball, so being in the sun is an inevitable for me. But if I am not willing to compromise time spent outside, then I have to be, and AM more cognizant of how I prepare to do so. I am a freak about sunscreen, I always have protective layers with me, and I wear a hat nearly everywhere I go. I have two substantial scars of my stomach that act as a reminder of what I went through, and what could easily happen again if I am not careful. Those scars not only act as a reminder for myself, but they act as a conversation starter for other beach volleyball players who spend too much time in the sun. Hopefully my stories inspire them to be more proactive as well.

My advice for everyone is get a skin check – even if you are dark skinned, or barely spend any time in the sun, or think you are fine. It is better to be safe than sorry and a quick skin check will give you peace of mind.

Know the characteristics of irregular moles, and pay attention to those that you have. It is too easy to not pay attention, and not all of us have Doctor sisters looking out for us on the ski boat. If something looks funny, or starts to change, see a Doctor immediately. Wear sunscreen, hats, UPF shirts, and be safe. It doesn’t matter what your skin tone, it isn’t worth the risk.

Photo credit: Scott Allison Photography

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