Lina Augaitis must be the person with the most energy I have met in my life. We met her the day after she got back from the 2016 SUP and Paddleboard World Champ in Fiji. She bike commuted from her day of work as a physical education teacher and met us for a paddle, followed by a warm dinner with friends and family at her house to congratulate her for her gold medal in sprint race. When we interviewed her, it was almost 10pm and the mother of a 10 month old little man was showing no sign of fatigue, enthusiastically answering questions and showing John and I how passionate she is about SUP, teaching and the outdoors. She only found about those passions later in life but it seemed she was destined to have them in her life.
“I love the outdoors so much and what’s crazy is growing up, my family wasn’t really into the outdoors. We had a cottage but never went camping, went on big hikes. I was a gymnast and I spent all of my time indoors. I never realized I had the passion for the outdoors because I never really had anyone take me there and show me.”
Luckily for her, she started climbing indoors while in university and when she moved out west right after school, she went to the climbing gym and connected with a lot of people there. They took her climbing outdoors but also introduced her to backcountry skiing and mountain biking and it change her life.
“That’s when I realized I came alive in the outdoors. Part of me wishes I found that when I was six years old but then I got to find it. Some people never get to find that thing.”
She was already in her mid twenties and her passion almost turned into an addiction. She loved being in the back country, hiking, running, biking, skiing. She had always been a competitive type of person and started competing in triathlons then in adventure racing. It was perfect for this high-energy-want-to-do-it-all kind of girl because all of a sudden, all the things she loved doing became training.
“I was training to be tired. I would go mountain biking with my buddies then skiing and bike commuting and running. Everything I loved to do was training and so that sport deep down inside is my favourite. You get to be with other people, it’s map and compass. You have to travel the world and they put you in the most beautiful places in the middle of nowhere.”
Lina loves adventuring and she was served when she found stand-up paddling. From the first time she set foot on one of those boards while in Santa Barbara with her partner Andrew, she knew she’d love that sport. SUP was just gaining popularity at the time. There was a whole realm of discovering to be done and premieres to be had and Lina is always ready for an adventure. She was the first to SUP the 750km from Whitehorse to Dawson in the Yukon, the first to SUP with a group of people from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, the first to complete a 6 day canoe route on a SUP in Algonquin park in Toronto and the list goes on. Her love for adventure is only matched by her love for competition. Lina did great in a few races but then left for a teaching contract in China for a year. When she came back, she decided to take the race thing a little more seriously.
“I ended up winning everything in Canada. Then, the next year I decided to do M2O. I did ok. Then we did this big road trip through the States. We were Mountain biking and I would race on the week ends. I started actually winning these races in the US. I had a teaching job that fall but I had this feeling I could be good at the sport. Andrew and I had these big conversations and I ended up leaving my teaching job and went to race full time and see if I could be a World Champion.”
With Andrew’s support and SIC as a sponsor, Lina got to pursue her childhood dream of being a pro athlete and didn’t waste her opportunity winning all the major races that year. The ISA World Champ, the World Series, the Battle of the Paddle, Lina was a World champion.
“What’s so cool about that experience is the people you meet. SUP has one of the best community around it. I have done a lot of sports and nothing compares. Even now that I have a kid and want another kid, I want to be part of that community forever. The people around me is where I take my energy from. I have the best husband on the planet and one thing I realized while in Fiji, is life is all about the people. You can go do cool stuff, but if you’re not doing it with cool people and sharing it, who cares.”
Sharing is where Lina focuses her energy now. Sharing her love for the outdoors with her son. Sharing her experiences and passion for life with her students. Sharing love with all.
“My whole motivation to keep being an athlete, keep a blog and keep doing what I’m doing is not really for me but it’s to inspire others to follow their passions. My whole mission and message is; Yes, you can do it! Wether it’s sport or art or cooking, whatever your thing is, if you want to go after it and create something, you can. It’s not the easy road and you might fail but even if you do it and fail, you didn’t actually fail because you went and did it. You’ve already experienced and learned and grown as a person.”
Maybe that’s why Lina is such an inspiration, such a wise women. Because she always says yes, she always goes for the adventure. Even her profession is, in a way, an adventure. Being a teacher is not the easiest but to her, it is one of the most rewarding job in the world.
“To me relationship building is what you are as a teacher. It’s about how you inspire and motivate and connect with even only one kid and help them in any kind of way. When people say “I want to change the world”, gosh! teachers are the luckiest people on Earth because you get to change the world every day, even if you don’t see it right away.”
If I could pick someone to change my world it would be someone like Lina. Someone who loves life, who irradiates positive energy, who cares about people, nature, relationships, who gives without counting. If I could pick someone to change my world, I would pick Lina.