#GoBecauseYouCan is Troy Nebeker’s motto and so when John and I debated meting up for a Sero Story during a short detour through Seattle, his eagerness won us over. His motivating posts had been populating our Instagram feed for a few months at that point and we were more than curious about his constant excitement to get out on the water, no mater what. Our curiosity was rewarded when we met the genuine and caring person he is and heard all about his passion for SUP, prone and Monster and Sea.
Having always been the active type, Troy enjoyed swimming from a young age and his competitive nature pushed him to participate in triathlons while his desire to surpass himself led him to try for the Ironman distance. Although he’s glad to have done it, Troy is happy this phase of his life is over and although he still loves to go all in in sports, he’s now added a contemplative dimension to his practice. The hardships of life have taught him a lesson he’s not ready to forget.
“When you’re into sports, you’re either a casual participant or someone that wants to go fast, hard, intense. If you’re geared like that, your progression goes like that. I was like that. Now, if I could talk to myself 15 years ago, from what I’ve learned from the experiences with cancer in my family, I wish I would have stopped to enjoy the stuff that I was doing and be much less concerned about winning, losing, times. I wish I would have just looked around and lived in that moment and enjoyed it.”
When Troy’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and then a few months later a lymphoma, his world was tuned upside down. Stand-up paddling was already in his life and kept him grounded through the tough times him and his family were going through but he wanted to do more.
“For husbands, you’re supposed to stand in the gap. You got to take the punches for your family, you’re supposed to not let anything bad happen. That was well out of control and there’s nothing you can do. I wanted to do something and help in some way. My background is in design and there was one day when I was out paddling, I thought, why not create something that gave back and try to inspire people to live healthy, try and give some of that feeling I get on the water to other people. Monster and sea was born from there.”
Monster and Sea was born from chaos and through his feeling of helplessness, Troy has found a way to engage the community and be helpful. He started designing and selling t-shirts and apparel and setting aside 10%. When that reaches $1000, it gets put in an envelope and donated to a family fighting against cancer with a note inside that says – From the Monster and Sea community.
“All my business buddies tell me how bad of a business plan this is, but I don’t want or need to make money off of this. Maybe profit isn’t money either. Maybe it’s getting that look on someone’s face when you hand them an envelope or when you put it under the mat. It’s the most wonderful and the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever done to hand those envelopes. A lot of times, those people don’t make it. That give back is a way to show that the community can do good things by doing what we love to do. It’s an absolute win win. There is no down side to it.”
After a while though, Troy was hoping for a way to raise more money. He decided a paddling event would make the most sense to him so he organized a 24 hour relay SUP paddle and set up a GoFundMe page for financial and moral support. The event had a great turnout and raised over $7,000 the first year.
“It was a shocker to me. That is a lot of apparel sales, something I couldn’t accomplish in t-shirts. That’s when I realized how powerful it would be if we could do this once a year, that’s 7 families that we just helped. We handed out 7 envelopes that year. Of those, 5 didn’t make it. There is an importance and a need for this. I can’t stop doing it now.”
Banking on that success, Troy expanded the concept to seven cities for the following year where seven different teams ran their own 24h paddling event and if year one was a success, year two was amazing. Over $45,000 was raised between the different events and people were helped in communities across the US and Canada.
“This year, we are absolutely going to do it and hopefully open it up to more cities. It’s not a race, a business, a foundation. It’s giving from the heart. It’s straight up cash in an envelope to someone that needs it. There’s no red tape. And we are doing it doing the things we love to do. My hope for this is – If a guy in his garage can do this and inspire people to want to give and want to do things, it means we can do great things in our own communities. Cancer doesn’t care, it’s everywhere.”
Illnesses are everywhere and they are hurting. Whether they are physical or mental, they take a toll on people and families, they take lives and leave despair behind. That’s the philosophy behind Troy’s motivational hashtag because you never know if and when you won’t be able to go. Celebrate being healthy, celebrate the ability to do the things you love to do, regardless if you’re good or bad. That lesson, Troy learned it the hard way and he wants nothing more than to share this wisdom with you.
“It changed my life. It’s a total silver lining in all of that chaos. The friendships I got, seeing the strength of my family from having to deal with that and to see them come out on the other side. The sky is bluer, the birds sing louder. It’s not a cliche. It’s a beautiful thing and it changed my life. Would I want it to happen over again, no, but we don’t get the luxury of choosing that. I’m glad to be able to look at the positive side and now I want to share that. Don’t waste it. This is all we got. We got one go around. Don’t waste it for fear of not being good enough. Get out there, it’s so important.”