Name: Betsy Blee
Age: 66 years young
From: 5 countries, 7 states (military family, and a gypsy soul)
Years surfing: 30+ years
The phone rings once, twice, and on the third ring a voice chimes in on the other end. A voice I have never heard, a woman whom I have never met. Yet somehow our mutual love for the ocean connected us like long lost friends. The gap in age and vastly different backgrounds had no pull on common thread of surfing.
Betsy was born into a military family. Growing up in 5 different countries and 7 different states, she was exposed to various activities. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until a day on Oahu, Hawaii did one of those activities stick. It was 1965, Betsy was 14 years old. With a rental board and only her own guidance, she paddled out into the rolling waves. “For hours, I sat. Paddled, but no luck. I waited and waited for something like surfing to happen! Then it did! After several hours out, I finally caught a wave! Nope, I didn’t stand up, but it didn’t matter, I was hooked even from that belly ride!” The ocean, as it does to many, must have casted its spell on Betsy that day, for the next serval decades she spent as much time as she possibly could in, on, and around the great blue.
All that time at sea lead her to competitions, sponsorships, and more traveling. She was crowned the East Coast Surf Champion a few years in a row, and continued surfing well into her 40s.
When asked: How has the ocean and surfing influenced your life as a whole, and on an individual level? Here is a snip-bit of her response…
“I believe the dynamics of surfing are one of the most difficult of all sports. When you break it down, your body is moving, your board is moving, and the water is moving. The only way to progress is through dedication and discipline.” Betsy explains, “sometimes you have to be willing to get up at 4am to make it to the beach at first light in order to meet optimal conditions.” Betsy’s diligence grew, “I never had a mentor or coach, but I was dedicated, and that’s what it took. Nothing ever came close to the fire I felt about surfing, it kept calling me back. And I was willing to do it all, whatever it took, to be out there as much as possible, for as long as possible. I have plenty of skin damage to prove it. Ha-ha!” We both laughed, and agreed that surfing is a slow-progressive sport. One must learn the language of the ocean through time spent in it to excel, and that’s only a piece of the puzzle.
Confidence was another strength Betsy fostered from her time in the waves. Her parents had no interest in this new hobby of Betsy’s, “they thought it was a phase that I would grow out of.” With few (if any) females to surf with, and Betsy being a skinny fourteen-year-old Caucasian living in Hawaii, the support for her to pursue her new found love was slim to none. Yet she overcame the doubts, fears, and stigmatisms. Through the ups and downs of learning to surf, her confidence fortified and her fears settled down to a gentle, non-controlling, hum. “If you can be in the ocean amongst the waves, and figure out a way to harness that energy to push you along, then there’s not much else you can’t tackle, or let’s say, I don’t run away from much.” As a well-established business women, traveling around the world, I’d say this holds true 😉 “I still have fears, but they don’t stop me, I just reflect back to my experiences in the water.”
I asked Betsy, “if you could give someone a piece of advice, whom have never surfed before, but wants to, what would you tell them?”
Her answer… “It’s the thrill of a lifetime. Your heart will race, and you will soar. It will be memorable forever.”
Then I asked, what the most influential aspect of the ocean and surfing for this amazing individual is…
“It’s really a personal bond for me. I was born with a rough set of skin conditions. Eczema was the worst. I had rashes all over my body. My skin would bleed. Somehow the ocean, and nothing, I mean nothing else (no medication, creams, potions, or the like) helped, soothe the pain. When I would first enter the water, it stung, I would cry, but after the pain subsided, I got relief. The ocean was the only thing that helped, the only medication. The healing ability of this wonderful thing we call the ocean, is very profound.”
As a maritime, 100 ton, master captain, and an engineer of leadership in management, Betsy carries the teachings, energy, and power of the ocean within to support her in her life endeavors.
Gratitude to you, my friend! Thank you for taking the time and being open to chatting. Cheers to another Well Said Wednesday!