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Career Crush: With pocket-sized powerhouse, surfer, mother and entrepreneur Bettina Kohl

Jenny Troeber beinspired, surf, outdoors Leave a Comment

Bettina Kohl

Meet Bettina aka Betty (very apt), at just 151 cm tall she’s a pocket-sized powerhouse, a surfer, a mother and an entrepreneur who despite a few rounds in the ring with depression has defied all odds and at age 50 qualified for the SUP World Champs in China at the end of this year! Not only has she done this but she aims to make a documentary about her journey, through both the ups and downs – to share how surfing has been her life coaching tool both socially and psychologically.

So, you’ve told me that you grew up and still live in Hamburg, Germany, yet you’re a passionate windsurfer and SUP wave rider. I can understand the windsurfing from where you’re based. But talk me through how you managed to qualify for the world champs in a discipline that is all about the waves when there are none anywhere near Hamburg to practice on?

Simply said…. by being totally addicted! Therefore I have spent most of my free-time searching for and traveling to places with waves – I’ve been doing this for 30+ years!

From the minute I got my driving license at 18 my whole life was focused on how I could get to the ocean and catch some waves – it didn’t matter how big or small.  As soon as a leaf on a tree was shaking I was on a phone calling my friends to arrange an afternoon trip to the North – or Baltic Sea – even it meant 1,5 hours driving one way. My car was always ready to go.

From April to October I was never at home at the weekends – spending a lot of time either at North Sea spots like St. Peter Ording or Danish island Römö or Western Baltic Sea spots, especially on the island of Fehmarn. Sometimes I would even drive 6 hrs to “Cold Hawaii” Klitmöller to enjoy some Atlantic swells.

Today, things aren’t that different apart from balancing it all with family life (I’m very lucky that my life-partner and my son have the same surf addiction so we can share our passion). We try to spend one holiday during the colder seasons at a wave-spots, this has included; Sri Lanka, Spain, Portugal, and France (before family life, I traveled further afield in my hunt for waves, and I previously spent winter vacations in places such as  South Africa, Caribbean, Canary Islands.) In Summertime we (for many years now) are almost every weekend on Fehmarn as we have a campervan there and the summer holidays are spent at our “second home” Klitmöller as it’s our favorite place to go and also have a great time with friends.

Of course, I had to and still do, consider (like everyone) – the possibilities with regards to time & money…. For the first about 10 years of my surfing, I had a “normal “job with about 5 weeks holiday, but that wasn’t an excuse not to go for it. Now, I’m an entrepreneur and try to connect work, travel and school holidays as much as I can – even though my business is based in Hamburg.

Photo: Bettina & her Son ridding the same wave

Where did your passion for the ocean begin?

I lived the first year of my life in Flensburg located on the Baltic Sea, so maybe, without realising it, the seeds for my ocean passion were already sown.  Another big influence was probably my parents since I was a small kid I traveled with my parents to the North & Baltic sea and I loved to be at the ocean.  I think I was 8 years old when they got their first sailing yacht and that passion was ignited. At 16 I discovered windsurfing and soon after that wave riding. This is when the love affair truly started.

How has your love of surfing (both wind & SUP) helped with your battles against depression?

As soon as I am on the beach and in the water surfing I feel so deeply connected to myself, just being and living in the moment – this allowed me to forget my depression when it appeared. I found peace, happiness and “light in the dark” – even sometimes just in little pieces, but enough to lift me up and for me to believe “there will be something greater after, if you go through this “low of the depression wave” – just paddle on!

When you surf you also become humble, nature, it turns out is a wise teacher. Every wave is different. You learn to take the waves as they come, you enjoy moments as they are and you surf the ups and downs to find awesome joy – a great metaphor for and way to “ride the waves of life”.

Surfing in all its forms also showed me my inner strength and mental power. You can enjoy the most incredible and beautiful moments in nature and at the same time, it can challenge you in the hardest way in the form of storms and big waves  – pushing you to limits you never expected before and forcing you to overcome fears – and thus enabling you personally grow. Sometimes you feel like you’re drowning but you come back to surface again and the most amazing feelings come with that. This is Living PURE.

Additionally, the salt-water itself has a very healthy and energy-cleaning effect on us. It’s well known for de-stressing and getting rid of negative energies as well as re-energizing the body.

So, surfing in this blue wonder has been my best medicine and therapist!

Congratulations on qualifying for the SUP world Champs in November. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to get there?

I’m an ocean-lover living with my family in Hamburg. For 30+ years I have been passionate about waves and totally into surfing in all it’s varieties. My whole family is addicted to the great water-lifestyle as far as we can live it kind of “landlocked” in Hamburg.

In 2010 I’ve discovered Standup Paddling (SUP) as my big new passion. Soon I got into race and wave competitions and won a wide range of titles e.g.:

  • 6th place World Cup 2018 Women Amateur Long Distance, Scharbeutz
  • 2nd place German Championships SUP WAVE 2017, Portugal & Qualification for SUP World Cup Wave 2018
  • 2nd place Hamburg Championships Overall 2016 & 2017
  • 3rd place World Cup 2016 Women Amateur Long Distance, Scharbeutz
  • 2nd place World Cup 2014 Women Amateur Long Distance, Fehmarn
  • Diverse top rankings at events of German SUP Challenge in Wave, Tech Race, Sprint, Long Distance and Overall since 2013
  • 3rd place GSUPA Overall Wave 2016

What’s pretty incredible for me is that I’m competing (as an amateur) successfully against 16-30-year-olds and I’m 50!

Last year I already pursued the dream of participating at the SUP World Championships, but I failed. I was mentally not strong due to the tragic suicide of my lovely mom, which was a dramatic shift in my life as you can imagine. So, suddenly struggling with an “emotional roller coaster” I missed the qualification for the event in 2017.

Finally, I qualified for this year’s event by coming 2nd at the German Championships in Nov 2017. Now I’m back on track and pursuing my dream even more determined and stronger. I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to participate this year.

Above photos ( cover photo) by @fotobyklotzi.de from the German Championships 2017 in Portugal

What are three pieces of advice that you would give to your younger self?

Life is full of magic & wonders – Do whatever is good for you and go for it!

Believe in yourself, listen to your heart and follow the path your inner voice is telling you!

Discover your true self and your soul – you are the best version of yourself and all love you need is inside you!

What do you hope to achieve with your documentary and what’s the message that you want to share?

MY BIG VISION is to create a special documentary with which I want to ENCOURAGE – especially women – to go their way and to re-connect to nature.

JUST DO IT. Don’t give up. Be aware of your strength and use it for a happy life!

I also want to highly emphasis the message to “SAVE THE OCEAN” – the most wonderful and important resource for our planets life!

The movie will be about:

“surfing the waves of life” and how you choose to fill your life.

The meaning of life – to become stronger – through all its ups & downs.

It will show surfing and living with respect to the ocean as a valuable teacher. And using both as a metaphor I will teach key principles to inspire living life fully:

> Go with the flow
> Enjoy moments
> Be curious about the new things every minute happen
> Go for it
> Take chances
> Discover your own powerful strengths by overcoming fears
> Protect the beautiful wonders inside and surrounding you

You just have one life and one planet to live – make it happen & happy!

I will play a key role with my life story as a “normal“ person – not a professional surfer – following my passions & dreams, enjoying life and loving nature, but also having struggles to go through – to find “The something in life”… everybody is searching for.

What are the biggest barriers to getting the documentary made?

For sure, getting supporters and collecting the money I need for production! – If you want to support this project in its early stages please feel free to check out my Go Fund Me page HERE. This page is to help me fund my trip to China and to ensure my participation in the World Championship, which is crucial to the documentary. I will be launching a KickStarter campaign st the beginning of September complete with a teaser to get the documentary off the ground. We will keep you posted on that.

What’s your biggest dream?

Short-term….Creating this documentary in high quality and distributing as well as showing it successfully globally to inspire others to find more happiness in their lives. After that, I would love to do doing speeches on this topic and write a book.

Long-term… finding a loving HOME at a beautiful place on a great beach-site to live & work with my family and be able to connect surfing in our daily life.

In this connection, I would love to run a kind of “ocean retreat center” at a great wave-spot, where people get inspired to find their own way, to live their lives more fully and running businesses successfully with a human and sustainable approach. I want to offer coachings and workshops connected with watersports especially SUP to re-connect the people to nature and their inner strength.

What’s your biggest fear?

Not having loved and laughed enough or to fail on my path.

What impact do you want to have on the world?

I want to inspire & empower others to believe in themselves and their inner strength, discover their path and just go for it – with all its ups and down. Take the “waves of life, surf and enjoy them.”

I further deeply want to remind the people, how valuable our beautiful nature is and how important it is to protect it and also to re-connect themselves to it as a powerful resource for a happy life.

If you would like to donate to Bettina’s project please click HERE.

Follow her journey on Instagram

  • #travel
  • #inspire
  • #empower
  • #surf
  • #sheinspiresme
  • #encourage
  • #fearless
  • #girlgetoutside
  • #surfing
  • #female

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