The Women of Badfish: Featuring Natali Zollinger

 In Team Riders

Photographer: Heather Jackson

Let’s start with a little background for those that don’t already know Natali Zollinger before we jump into the interview. Natali has been with us for 3 years. She’s podiumed over 20 times. Last year she placed first in the GoPro Mountain Games SUP Cross event. But she’s not just a paddling pro she’s a fitness freak! She dedicates a large amount of her time in learning ways to live a healthier life and improve her own personal fitness routine. When she’s not doing either of those things she’s helping manage a Vietnamese style restaurant called 98 Center, co-owned by her partner Alex Borchevsky, in Moab, Utah. This girl she really does it all!

Photographer: Heather Jackson

So Natali, what has been your focus for the 2018 year?

My biggest focus has been finding balance back in my body. Many years of river guiding, rugby, swimming, diving, and waterpolo has lead me to a strong body with not much flexibility. So, I hired a coach for this year to help me get back to a healthy and functional foundation. The program he has me on has already made huge improvements, and I’m stoked to see what else he has in store for me. If you’re on social media you should definitely check him out! His name is Cody Mcbroom, or @codyboomboom and he’s a wealth of knowledge. Definitely worth a follow!

You recently attended Laird and Gabby Hamilton’s XPT retreat in Hawaii. What was the most valuable lesson you learned from that experience? 

Oh man, there were a lot, but I think the biggest take away for me was breath. I’ve been breathing wrong for a long time, so having to re-program my body to learn something new has been really hard, especially in the gym. But lately, I’ve been slowing down exercises so that I can really focus on the new patterns and how to integrate them. Having to slow down is hard for me but I know that it’s the only way to set a new motion in place and slowly nurture it into a habit.

XPT Life Photographer: Lorenzo Menendez



XPT Life
Photographer: Lorenzo Menendez

You’ve got a pretty substantial following on Instagram. Do you think social media has had a positive impact on your life? Do you have any advice for the women out there who are trying to build their following while maintaining their authenticity on social media? 

Social media had a huge impact on my life, especially when I decided to race. The year I decided to get into stand up paddling was the year I got an instagram account. The first people I found and started to follow were Brittany Parker, Mike Tavaras, Dan Gavere and Nikki Gregg. I couldn’t even believe that there was another culture out there that was that connected to the river that I didn’t know about. It was such a new sport for me that I knew I had to jump in full force.

Social media allowed me to message and interact with these people in a new way that made meeting them actually feasible. Since then I’ve really tried to use it as a tool for growth and not as a platform for competition. I follow those that inspire me, challenge me and my beliefs and those that empower me. My advice would be to set times you check or post on Instagram and keep it at that. If you allow Instagram to consume your whole day then you start to lose yourself and your purpose in life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had those years with Instagram where it meant a lot to me with how many likes and followers I had. Turning on all notifications for that instant gratification. But it lead me down a road of depression and jealousy that took a long time to bounce back from. I know that I can get addicted to it if I allowed myself to go back to that mindset, so I keep a healthy distance from social media so that I can stay clear and focused on who I am and what I’m working hard for.

Guiding in the Grand Canyon PC: Lynn Myers

What does your morning routine look like? 

Well, there’s a morning routine that I try and do, and theres a morning routine that I end up doing. With this mentality, I try not to get bummed or down on myself if I don’t live up to my expectations on a daily basis. So I allow there to be room for leisure, relaxation, and the everyday hustle. So, the morning routine that I’ve been doing as of late, is wake up and immediately go into a 20-minute meditation. I took a course by Ziva Mind that has helped me gain some more energy and at that same time release a lot of stress that I accumulate on a daily basis. It’s been a game changer for SURE for my attitude and mental clarity. I then make sure and drink at least 12-16oz of water with a green probiotic powder so that I can start my day healthy and hydrated. I then make myself a short breve with our sweet coffee machine set up from Breville that has saved me a ton of money and definitely worth the investment. I LOVE coffee and the way it helps me get in the mindset of getting shit done. From there I’ll grab my computer and try and get in an hour or two of work in. After that I usually try and get after my workout of the day so that I can keep my afternoons to outside activities such as mountain biking or paddling, working at the restaurant, or spending time with friends/family. It’s not that glamorous, but necessary for my sanity.

What are you most excited about for the 2018 season?

Probably getting back together with the team. We have such a solid crew this year, and always have a good time training and paddling together. Growing up in a big family, I like having a lot of people around me, and Badfish definitely feels like the river family I’ve been searching for. I’m a badfisher for life.

Photographer: Jake Martin

We’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a significant growth of women participating in the river SUP events. Why do you think that is? And what advice do you have for any women or girls that are nervous about competing in SUP? 

Hmm…that’s a good question. I think that there is a lot of intimidation for women that just want to have fun and not take it so seriously. Lack of education is a big piece as well. I get emails, messages, and calls from women all over the world looking to get into sup but they don’t know where to start, who to trust for the right education, or lack the money to invest in the proper gear. That is the sole reason why my business partner Brittany Parker and I started our business RVR2RVR, to help educate, grow, and nurture the sup/surf culture. I would suggest for both women AND men, to contact their local paddle shop and meet your local community or start to grow one if there isn’t one. That is the best start to any strong culture, is having like-minded people around you that help get you out on the water, keep you accountable to your goals and continue to grow with you in the sport.

You and fellow team rider Brittany Parker have a river SUP instructional business called RVR 2 RVR, are there any exciting plans in the mix for your business?

Ya, we’re really excited about teaming up with our friends over at Adrift Dinosaur/Stand Up Paddle Colorado to offer a 4x day SUP/River trip in August down the Green River through the Gates Of Lodore. With both of our backgrounds in river-guiding, we’re very passionate about getting paddlers out and in the backcountry for a multi-day experience. There’s so much magic that happens on those kinds of trips that we want to help more people experience it. Look for a link on our social media outlets soon, it’s going to be an amazing trip!!

Photo: Heather Jackson

What is your strongest skill in river SUP and what is your weakest? 

Oooh, that’s hard. Hmm…I would say my strongest skill would be my passion for education. Anywhere I am, I’m always offering up as much advice that I can, where I can. I think that is also my weakest skill as well. Sometimes I offer too much advice that ends up backfiring and offending someone. For instance, I’m pretty adamant about leashes, and especially when it comes to using the right leashes in the right circumstances. I WILL NOT hold back my opinion and will always bring it up if I see the wrong gear being used on the river, especially in surf. It’s a sensitive subject at river waves because you have two cultures enjoying the feature from two different backgrounds. One culture, being the salty water crew, tend to use the same gear as they would in the ocean, not realizing that the consequences change when paddling the river. Those paddlers I try and be really patient with and offer up my advice, but sometimes it can be taken offensively with most of the time burning a bridge between myself and the other paddler. I would hate to hold back my opinion and see something go wrong knowing I could have avoided it by just speaking up. As a Badfish team paddler and steward of the river I take my role very seriously and hope that I can continue to learn how to balance out education, awareness, and safety.

And last but not least…what event are you most looking forward to this year? 

Probably Fibark Festival and Go Pro Mountain Games. These are the two major events in our sport that hold a lot of weight for me. I’m excited to see how I do with the changes I’ve made over the past year on my fitness, mobility, and mindset. Look out world…I’m coming hard this year!!

To be in the know of what Natali is up to visit her website  and follow her Instagram @natalizollinger

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