If you visit PaddlingLight often, you might have noticed the new advertisement in the sidebar that proclaims “Recovery Can Be Life’s Greatest Adventure.” You might have also been attracted to picture of a book cover with a man in a kayak under a waterfall who’s grinning a wide grin. If you haven’t, just look at the picture at the top of this post. It looks similar. The ad is for a new book called The Fat Paddler.
Sean Smith, aka THE Fat Paddler, wrote a book about his life and how discovering paddling (and eating sausages — well, okay, maybe not sausages but his website does reference them in the header) helped him through rough times. That’s a theme that I’ve personally seen manifest in kayaking students of mine. There’s something about paddling that connects us to a good inner core of humanity that can get hidden or lost from day-to-day. Personally, I think that learning paddling takes us back in time to our youth when everything we discovered was new to us. It takes us to that time in our youth when we dug worms, built forts in the forest, tromped up creeks and played outdoors. The motions involved in and feel generated by paddling are so foreign to our bodies that it reminds our subconscious minds and our muscles of what youth was like. I think that reminder connects us to the inner core and rejuvenates our life. And because water changes almost every time we paddle, it stays fresh. But I digress. There’s an underlying current of discovery in this book, and astute readers looking to change their own lives may infer that discovery provides motivation. Sean uses kayaking as a means of discovery, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use biking, hiking, climbing, photography or anything else that constantly puts you into the outdoors and new environments in the same way.
Here’s what the back-cover blurb of The Fat Paddler says:
As a hard-playing, hard-living rugby forward, Sean Smith was used to putting his body on the line. However, that soon changed when two severe motor-vehicle accidents left him with devastating physical injuries, and unable to regain his past physical fitness or his zest for life. After witnessing firsthand the 2002 Bali bombing, Sean also found himself suffering from post-traumatic shock. Compulsively working long hours in a stressful job and battling to find time to be with his wife and two small daughters didn’t help either. A losing battle against obesity and an ongoing struggle with depression followed.
After being told by doctors he was a prime candidate for a heart attack at just 36, Sean decided enough was enough. He took up kayaking (a sport that could accommodate his injuries) and then decided to tackle one of the toughest paddling competitions in the world: the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Canoe Classic.
What follows is an entertaining and inspiring account of Sean’s journey back to health and fitness. His many hours training on the waterways of Sydney, and a trip to Alaska paddling amongst icebergs and running away from bears, fueled a new appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors and recaptured his enthusiasm for living.
Sean’s story is an uplifting experience for those looking for motivation to regain their fitness and enjoy life to the full.
The book got my attention with it’s opening by Cas and Jonesy the authors of Crossing the Ditch:
In The Fat Paddler, Sean Smith takes us on an intensely personal journey of an ordinary bloke who has more than his fair share of faults.
That felt refreshing to me, because I also have lots of faults. I’ve also had a debilitating injury that kept me from doing what I love. Also, because I’ve been reading lots of adventure stories and books lately where the adventurers may talk about their faults, but it’s secondary to the adventure. In Sean’s story, the faults are center stage. He doesn’t put up some fake adventurers facade, like in some stories when the writer just seem so super human, fueled by unlimited sources of funding and a desire to be the first at something. I’ve been there. My failed Around the Great Lakes Expedition was suppose to gain me fame and fortune by being the first, and I have a friend that has done many firsts with massive budgets. Sean’s not worried about that. He’s worried about getting better for himself and the sake of his wife and kids. That’s refreshing.
I’ve been following Sean on Twitter and via his website, Fat Paddler, for a number of years and remember some of the events described in his book, so it was fun to read about what motivated him to get to the point where I started following him. After there, I got to relive his first race, his first roll and other things that I had heard him talking about online. That was fun for me.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable book. If you like reading about paddling and about personal rediscovery, I urge you to get a copy at the FatPaddler.com.