Jumper: Jill Sanford

Town: Truckee, California

Quote: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

About Jill: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Melissa DeMarie wasn’t the first kickass lady who said these words—I believe that was Eleanor Roosevelt. But as she stood in front of a bus full of 50 whitewater women who had just charged down a stretch of Class III rapids, I knew that I wasn’t the only one who felt the words resonate.

Melissa is the co-founder of California Women’s Watersport Collective, a group that I first heard about last summer through the NorCal SheJumps Facebook page and on a whim signed up for their 2 day multi-level clinic.

Students ranged from experienced boaters to girls who had never even sat in a whitewater kayak before. On the first day, we met at the California Canoe and Kayak outpost in Coloma, California, on the banks of the South Fork of the American River.

As an intermediate kayaker, I have always struggled with my roll. For those of you readers who haven’t had the pleasure of being upside down in a kayak, with your knees and hips wedged in the boat and water rushing up your nose, let me just assure that it’s as challenging to practice as it sounds. Knowing how to roll yourself up when you flip, however, is an important part of progressing as a kayaker.

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My biggest challenge in athletics is the little voice I have in the back of my head that expects me to fail. But after struggling with my roll all morning, I was still determined to boat the Class III section of the South Fork in a hard shell. The other option would be to hop in an inflatable kayak, which you don’t need a roll to paddle down the river. I.K.s don’t allow you nearly the same amount of control as a hard shell kayak that covers your legs, however.

I felt like I had something to prove. Not to any of the women out there that weekend, but to myself.

Melissa, who had been helping me work on my roll, seemed surprised when I told her my plan to boat this section of the river. However, both she and my instructor for the weekend, the incredible Sara James, only gave me positive encouragement. The next thing I knew, I was following Sara’s expert moves that set me up perfectly through rapids with names like Bounding Rock, Satan’s Cesspool, and Hospital Bar.

I was pushing my comfort zone, but I don’t think I have ever been more comfortable in my own skin.

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As female athletes in high adrenaline sports, most of us are familiar with overcoming our fears in one way or another. Organizations like SheJumps create a unique culture of women who understand that fear can be a beautiful thing. Without fear and self-doubt, I wouldn’t realize my own awesome and empowering ability to overcome them.