This is one unique and beautiful spirit, with fabulous purple hair, who is 100% committed to SUP. Unique is also the essence of her story as to how and why SUP has helped relieve the intensely debilitating back pain Libby experiences on a daily basis…
You live up the hill, away from the ocean, how did you find out about XOTB and SUP?
I saw a SUP board for hire in Knysna and decided to look it up on the internet to find out what it was all about and that is where I came across Xpression. Once I learnt more, I just had to give it a try, as I love any water sports.
You’ve lived a very active life – and then a few years ago you were stopped in your tracks with major back problems. What happened?
I found out I was born with a spinal disease which caused me to stop all my sport activities. I lost all feeling in my one leg completely, so I decided to go ahead and have an op. The outside bones on my spine were removed as well as several haemorrhaged disks. My spinal cord is just under the skin with no bone protection. Unfortunately, I now have a lot of pain. My balance since the surgery has been extremely bad. I had great balance before that, as I did horse riding and many sports that required good balance.
For the last several years, you have experienced considerable pain on a daily basis and it restricts what you can do when it comes to keeping fit. What made you think SUP could be something you could do?
As I was such an active person, it is really hard for me to not try everything, even though sometimes I should think twice about trying certain things. SUP looked fun and I could not resist trying it. Due to the back issue I am so limited to what I can do, which is very frustrating. I can also no longer do weight training as my back is extremely unstable so core training at gym is a big ‘NO NO’. The first time I got on the board, I was just rocking all over the place and managed to spend a lot of time in the water. My balance was just terrible. By the end of the first session, my balance had already notable improved.
SUP has helped you activate muscles and relieve pain – considerably more than you ever imagined – and is something your physio is now promoting. Tell us more about it!
I spoke to my physio after a few SUP lessons. She was all for me SUP-ing as there is no jarring, so it will dramatically improve my not-so-good balance and strengthen my core. Most people who have this spine disease are inactive and are too scared to be active. I’m the opposite, I do exercise and overdo it most of the time as my back is extremely unstable. It is not possible for me to workout in moderation! I find that when I SUP I don’t hurt my back, it seems impossible to overdo it no matter how hard I paddle. However, this is not the case when I go to gym or I try a new exercise which is not good for my back, I go back to square one and need several physio sessions. Even fast walking stresses my back.
Since I started SUP, my pain has become a little more manageable and I am fitter. This will only improve over time.
You recently invested in your own beautiful Coreban 12’6 raceboard. What is it about your board that makes SUP even better?
Well my board is great, I can go faster which is marvellous as I really love speed. It is light and looks great. I can SUP any time or any place, so it is well worth having your own board.
What would you say to people who are filled with fear?
Life is short and should be lived to the full. I have to exercise to help with healing. Exercise is great for our health, wellbeing, our heart and mind. I can go at my own pace when we SUP. If you join SUP classes like those offered by Xpression, you can be sure to have the guidance and help you need to learn to SUP. They are eager to assist and ensure you are comfortable.
I love it, as I am carefree for that moment, it’s peaceful and it has helped my anxiety. There is no impact whilst strengthening my core, improving my balance and my fitness. I’m just grateful to be able to do some form of exercise that does not set me back. I cannot wait to try SUP in the ocean with the dolphins. I cannot imagine anything better.
I really want to thank you for helping me when I started and all the great advice. Now I need to try it in the ocean, I cannot wait. Keep the ‘Wahine Wednesday’ Girls SUP Squad going, almost everyone at any age could really benefit from this activity.
Last week Libby got on the ocean for the first time with her board. For someone with plenty of words, she was lost for words. A magical moment we were privileged to share with her.
Interviewed by Charlotte from XOTB Durban