Candice Appleby: “Why I’m Not Racing The Battle Of The Paddle This Year”

Candice Appleby Battle of the PaddleBoss Man’s note: Candice Appleby is a four-time winner of the toughest event in SUP racing: The Battle of the Paddle Elite Race. She has one of the most recognisable names in our sport and is always in contention at Dana Point (Candice has competed in every single BOP and her worst ever result is second…).

So needless to say a lot of fans were going to be watching Candice closely this weekend to see if she could regain her BOP crown. However, for reasons Candice explains below, that won’t be happening: The four-time champ has withdrawn from the 2013 Battle of the Paddle due to injury. Here’s the full story in Candice’s own words…

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I’ve been in a bit (well, a lot…) of denial about the lack of progress of my injury. I had surgery in April and once the bandages came off and I got the “Okay” from my surgeon to get back in the water, I threw myself back into competition and training.

“Let pain be your guide,” was his advice to me. Probably not the best advice for someone like me who has a pretty high pain tolerance. Not sure what that even means anyways. That advice, combined with pain medication and a desire to compete and to be a part of our sport that I love in every way possible, made for a pretty destructive recipe.

My first race back happened on a whim. Anthony Vela and I traveled to Connecticut in June to put on a clinic as part of the Soundsurfer Waterman Challenge. I wasn’t really planning on racing, but when I got there, saw the equal gender prize purse and $2500 1st place payout and met an enthusiastic community that was excited to see me race, it was really hard for me to say no.

The local shop graciously let me borrow one of my signature Surftech/Bark models off the rack and I was able to pull off the win. Doing a 10-mile race, untrained and just out of surgery was probably not the most professional decision and I felt it all over.

But after I did that race, I convinced myself that I was recovered and threw myself back into competition and training, all while battling my own body. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to prepare and get my body in peak form, but I keep hitting a wall. I’ll have a few good days of training, but then my hand will be too painful and swollen and I then I won’t be able to paddle for the next five days. I got through Molokai (regaining much or my inner strength), the Gorge Paddle Challenge and the Ultimate SUP Showdown, but not without the help of pain medications (Meloxicam, and anti inflammatory/non-narcotic pain med).

After the last event in Waikiki, I took myself off the pain meds cause I read about some gnarly intestinal side affects that I didn’t want any part of. I was also afraid that if I didn’t feel 100% of the pain, I might just hurt myself more (which I was).

In the last month, I continued to fight my body and prepare for Battle, however I’ve been beating myself up. I can’t fully grip my paddle with my left hand and the physical and mental pain of it all has just become too much to bear. Surfing isn’t so bad, cause all it takes is a few strokes to get into a wave, and then like any surfer knows, once you’re on a wave, there is no pain. The waves have a way of washing it all away. But even so, I have to pull back from sup surfing and give my body time to heal. But when it comes to racing, I just can’t compete through the pain anymore.

In the past I used to have to win to prove my self-worth.

I got picked on a lot as a kid and was in some bad situations as an adult as well, so when I excelled in SUP, the feeling of winning gave me a lot of self-validation. But in working through my injury, getting past the anger of how it happened, the shame and self-loathing, I’ve gotten to a really good place in my life. I know it wasn’t my fault, I’m not ashamed anymore and I know who I am. I can honestly say that I love myself and I don’t have to put my body through physical and mental pain anymore to prove anything to myself or anyone else. It’s time to give myself a break and be a responsible Professional Athlete; rest my body and let myself heal.

The Injury

In February of 2011 my hand got in the way of someone’s foot, as it was on it’s way to kick me in the chest. Yes, truthfully/sadly enough, my injury is a defensive wound from a past abusive relationship.

Over the course of 2 years, I had multiple appointments with various doctors and specialists, trying to figure out exactly what my injury was. Being that it’s a soft tissue injury in the Metacarpal Phalangeal Joint (left index knuckle), diagnosis is very difficult, as is making a fist and holding a paddle. I begged for an MRI for two years, explaining to my doctors that I’m an athlete and my hands are my livelihood, but their response was cortisone shots.

So for the past few seasons I was racing injured covering up my injury with the “band aid” of cortisone. My left side had become progressively weaker as I was unable to do the typical strength training exercises like pull-ups and using free weights.

Finally in March of this year, after refusing another cortisone injection into my hand, I was given a referral to orthopedics where on my first visit, my surgeon said, “We’ll definitely give you an MRI.” I waited two years to hear that. A week later I had the MRI and he determined I would need surgery.

I had surgery in April, which is why I missed event #2 of the Stand Up World Tour of Surfing in Brazil. Before my surgery, my surgeon told me that I would be ready to compete in the Carolina Cup, three weeks later. Haha. Yeah right. I couldn’t even pick my nose if I wanted to, let alone grip a paddle. I had a positive distraction during my initial healing process, as I was busy planning the Performance Paddling Junior Pro & Youth Sup Fiesta with Anthony Vela.

Well, fast-forward almost six months and my hand isn’t any better than it was before my surgery. It hurts every day and I can barely open a zip loc bag or even hold a cup of coffee in my left hand. I have faith that I have found a great physical therapist now and that I’ll be able to get my hand where it needs to be eventually. But in the meantime, I know I have a lot to offer our SUP community beyond racing. All of my sponsors, friends, family and fans have been super supportive and I am so grateful for that.

All I ask it to keep me in your prayers and for any one out there who is in a bad situation like I was a few years ago, please learn from my experience and know that you are good and worthy of being treated with respect.

– Candice

 


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