Lina Augaitis, a 34 year old Canadian adventurer from Vancouver, propelled her paddling career to the forefront of the international stage in 2014 with a string of victories and top finishes at events such as the Battle of the Paddle-California (1st Distance Race / 2nd Technical Race / Overall Event Champion), ISA World Championships (1st Distance Race / 2nd Technical Race), Lost Mills (Fastest Female Paddler on Earth / Overall Event Champion) and the Stand Up World Series (Overall Event Champion). 2014 was the first year of international competition for Augaitis, although when viewing her accomplishments and consummate professionalism one could quite easily come away with the impression that she is a seasoned veteran on the international stand up paddling circuit.
Even so, while the aforementioned wins and notable finishes will no doubt be chronicled by future historians looking back on the early days of stand up paddleboard racing, they are merely the tip of the iceberg when considering Augaitis as a whole. In contrast to many of her contemporaries in the international SUP racing scene, Augaitis has a full time career away from the water in a seemingly unlikely place – as a highschool teacher.
In 2014 she made the decision to see just how far she could take her SUP racing career and took the year off from teaching full time to commit to the rigorous schedule and lifestyle of a professional athlete. With a sponsorship from SIC and Werner Paddles, Augaitis embarked on a quest which in many ways resembled the adventurous expeditions she had grown to enjoy.
2014 may well have been her first year on the International SUP circuit, but Augaitis is no stranger to competition. Her rapid ascent to the pinnacle of SUP racing and unwavering humility are testaments to her character and commitment.
Augaitis has been stand up paddling for the past four years and has a strong athletic background in gymnastics, where she competed at the provincial and national level for 11 years. At the conclusion of her gymnastics career, she dabbled in everything from dance (tap and jazz) to touch football. “I was really trying to find ‘my sport’ after I quit gymnastics,” she told me. “For many years I tried just about everything.”
During her university studies, Augaitis took up up running and gravitated towards triathlons, where she competed in the University Worlds and Long Distance Age Group Worlds categories. Over time, she met a group of outdoor enthusiasts and took up rock climbing, mountain biking and ski touring which gradually evolved into a career as an off trail adventure racer and a host of international competitions. Knowing her full background of competitive endeavours, it is hardly surprising Augaitis eventually took up SUP racing – and excelled.
Augaitis enjoys riding her bike to and from work, as well as when she is out running errands. “Bike commuting is a great way for me to stay fit while accomplishing something I need to do,” she said. Still an avid runner, Augaitis appreciates the sport’s simplicity. “I love to run. It’s simple and equipment free.”
Her adventurous spirit has transferred over to a number of expedition style paddling trips. Back in 2011, she became the first person to stand up paddle the Yukon River along a route taking her and husband Andrew (he accompanied her in a kayak) along a 676+ km journey from the Yukon Territory capital of Whitehorse to Dawson. A couple of years later in 2013, she became the first Canadian woman to complete the famed Molokai to Oahu channel crossing in what was a timely prelude to her future relationship with SIC.
I asked Augaitis what type of races she preferred, sensing I already knew the answer. “My favorite are adventure style races… like Molokai, or I am sure if I could make it to 11 Cities one day I would love that one… I like races in new places that are different in nature,” she said.
With a background in flatwater paddling, Augaitis enjoys the mental challenge of pushing herself and claims to have a love hate relationship with the feelings of discomfort and hurt. She also enjoys surf races and has experienced both the frustration and triumph that accompanies the uncontrollable element of luck when competing in those conditions.
Reflecting on what she enjoys the most from SUP, Augaitis said, “I like how freeing it is… You can really move around on the SUP, you can jump off and get on easily, sit down, stand up, do exercises, yoga, etc… With inflatables you can take them anywhere and enjoy them with friends.” One of her favorite places to paddle is Lake Garda in Italy – a spot she was able to visit last summer with fellow SIC teammate Sonni Hӧnscheid, among others. She has fond memories of that trip, along with her expedition down the Yukon, her first Molokai crossing and of course, last autumn’s Battle of the Paddle-California. “I always dreamed of getting the lays and crown…Also pretty stoked crossing in the top three in the technical race,” she said.
Looking towards the future, Augaitis is striving to combine her passions into a career espousing all the attributes she has come to enjoy. “I love teaching, being outdoors, competing and exploring…the goal is to combine all of these amazing things into one amazing career…eventually,” she said with a smile.
Insights From Lina Augaitis
The accomplished athlete, educator and outdoor adventurer offers the following tips for fellow paddlers as they embark on their own journeys through life.
On setting a goal
For some, goals keep us motivated throughout the days, months and years… For others, goals provide a sense of purpose in life. For some it is a way to keep learning. Goals mean different things to different people, but what I have learned throughout the years is that we all should set goals. Creating and completing goals definitely provides a sense of accomplishment and usually provides focus in a world where it is easy to lose focus. Goals help organize your time, help you take pride in your achievements, and provides vision and motivation.
Goals will look different for different people. An obvious athletic SUP type goal would be completing a certain race. Another goal might be to complete a certain manoeuvre on a wave. Or yet another goal might be to complete the Maliko run in a certain time. These are just examples of different styles of goals. The cool thing about goals is that they are unique to the creator of the goal and therefore should not be judged or duplicated in the same fashion by others because they won’t mean the same thing or accomplish the same feeling.
- Write your goal down: I like to write my goals in places I will constantly see them. I like the self reminders of what my goal is and why I am trying to complete it. I like to write it down in a journal, or sometimes I use sticky notes and put them in different places.
- Tell someone about your goal: Once you say your goal out loud it makes it feel credible and real. Once it is said out loud someone else can also hold you to it. It’s action time…I like to share my goal with my husband, a close friend, a family member or a colleague at work. Who I share my goal with kind of depends on the goal, but I will share it with someone important in my life that I trust.
- Make it measurable: It is key to be able to know when you have reached your goal, so making it measurable will help you know that. Also, creating a measurable goal will help you get a sense of its achievability to you at the time the goal is created. Being able to measure your goal will really help to define it. It will allow you to know when you have achieved or not achieved your goal.
- Set a timeline: You need to give your goal a timeline or there is a very high chance you will never achieve it… it will just linger and linger and linger and you will likely make excuse after excuse after excuse about not working towards it because you can…and eventually you will likely forget about it or lose interest in it. Remember, your goal is pliable, so setting a timeline does not mean you cannot change it, you can…. but the point is you need to set a timeline.
Achieving your goal
The best advice I can give to achieving your goal is to create stepping-stones towards it. In other words, create lots of smaller goals that work towards achieving your bigger goal. Creating baby step goals will really help with motivation, as you feel like you are constantly moving toward your goal instead of feeling like the light at the end of tunnel is just not there. Also, by creating some smaller goals working towards your main goal, you will be able to constantly readjust your goals to ensure it is still realistic and achievable in the time frame developed.
Your smaller goals should also have measurable abilities and timelines. Remember, goals once set can be changed and tweaked; they are not written in stone, so don’t be scared to realize you might not achieve your goal. Instead of being upset or de-motivated, tweak your goal in a way that it is achievable once again. It is also important to not make your goal too achievable or easy. By making it too easy it defeats the purpose of creating a goal and eventually you will not gain anything from it. It definitely takes practice to create goals that are right for you, so it’s important not to get frustrated but instead be aware and learn. We all tend to learn the most from our mistakes.
Reflect on your goal
Take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of achieving your goal. Celebrate and embrace the fact that all your hard work paid off. Once your main goal has been achieved/or not achieved it is time to do some reflection.
Ask yourself these key questions:
- Did you achieve your goal? Why or why not?
- If you did achieve your goal, what helped?
- If you didn’t achieve your goal, what could you do differently to achieve it next time? Was it realistic? Not enough time?
Remember, it is totally okay not to achieve your goal. Don’t get down on yourself, but also don’t leave it be and move on. You need to understand WHY you didn’t achieve your goal and what you would change next time in order to better help you achieve it.
Reflecting is a really important step that often gets missed out. This is a key step in the learning process. You can better understand yourself, your desires, needs, strengths and weaknesses by reflecting. This process is called learning from experience. We tend to learn from experience our whole lives, but it is important to take the time and really reflect to really learn.
Some people keep journals/diaries, some reflect with a partner/friend/family member or coach and some people just take time on their own and reflect in their minds. It’s important to find whatever method works best for you and then do it. I like to reflect during long solo runs or flatwater paddles. Setting goals is a wonderful action you can do on your own with someone you care about. It will really help you focus, motivate and learn. I strongly encourage you to try it out if you don’t do it already.