Girls Who Rip: China Kirk

We share Girls Who Rip to inspire positive vibes, and this week's feature is a woman who always does that for us! Meet China Kirk, fellow Gorge Girl from Washougal, Washington. COO for a national sports organization, ripping surfer,  and ball of sunshine are just a few ways to describe her. She's also been learning to kiteboard and we love what she has to say about overcoming fear. And if you read on to see China's favorite mantra, you'll find out why she makes an awesome travel companion.

Follow her @twoofafeather (warning: extremely adorable pet pics)

What do you consider to be your main sport/passion and how did you get started in it?
I'm crazy about surfing and could be happy surfing every day! It's about a 1.5 hour drive to the coast to surf (which is the farthest I've ever lived from the ocean). Surfing regularly right now usually involves sleeping and working from the van and getting some waves in-between work...which is a version of an adult dream scenario, if you ask me! Other than of course, actually living at the beach. I didn't start surfing until I moved to Oregon when I was 33 (7 years ago). I remember before that time, I had never even been in water cold enough to not warrant a bikini. Something about Oregon and PNW surf though! If you can learn to surf and love it here, you can love surfing anywhere. For sure I had naive enthusiasm when I first started, but thank goodness! Having just moved, I drove up and down the coast solo observing and getting to know the different areas. My mindset was always to paddle into the biggest wave. As a beginner at the time, that resulted in basically inadvertently paddling into closeouts and getting repeatedly wrecked in the impact zone. But It. Was. Awesome!!! I knew I was on my way to becoming a better skilled surfer when my ratio of getting smashed to getting rides starting working in my favor. There's something about PNW and cold water surfing that not only makes you appreciate warm waters and sunny skies when you travel, but gives you a deep love for something moodier and majestic in your own hometown. The waters are freezing, but quite effective for waking you up in the morning. The fog and coastline are some of the most beautiful in the world. Every paddle out ends up involving some passing creature: birds, whales, sea lions, otters, jellies, and probably some sharks, but they're happily snacking on something else! And the often dark waters provide the most amazing reflection of sky and surroundings to watch between sets. Oregon surf had me hooked from day one because you never know what to expect. The weather and conditions can change so quickly and often, sometimes you just commit to going and see what's there. I'm amazed at the variety of surf Oregon and PNW produces year-round, grateful that we're connected to other awesome places like California and Baja along the way, and lucky to have discovered a sport that connects me to nature, other cool women and people, and has become how I shape my travel and experiences.
Woman surfing
What is your day job, and how do you manage work/fun balance?
My day job can be pretty packed as the Chief Operating Officer for a sports organization that spans four PNW states and at the national level, is the governing body of tennis in the US. I've been with the organization for going on 13 years, and I still love it! Work/fun balance though is absolutely essential. I think living within spontaneous access of what you love is the best practice. If you can live somewhere close to what you love - nature, water, people, whatever it is for you - then the fun part can naturally take place whenever you have free moments and be a constant.
Do you have a daily routine or practice that's important to you, and if so, why?
Yes, for me it's movement. Before COVID began changing the world about seven months ago, my days definitely had more routine. The way that I've found that best provides me with daily stability regardless of what the day brings, is to commit to (usually at least an hour) of movement. It could be surfing, kiting, snowboarding, hiking, or something as simple as building something with my husband, walking along the river with my dog, or attempting to see if my cat wants to walk with me in the yard (that part so far has been a total fail!). Regardless of the activity, it's time for me to personally disconnect from what could be stressful or heavy and focus on self and space and get recharged.
What motivates you?
I love setting and meeting personal goals, whatever they may be at the time. I try to set goals based on building up skills or routine so that I can ultimately enjoy an experience better later. For instance, an upcoming backpacking trip or a big board presentation is coming up and I'll set up a series of activities up to that day that help get me prepared. Knowing that there is an upcoming experience that can be better enjoyed makes the steps to get there have a purpose and be fun!
Kiteboarder and puppy
What do you fear most and how do you overcome it?
This is such a great question because I feel as if I've recently overcome a big fear! Living here along the Columbia River Gorge, I wanted to learn to kiteboard. My biggest fear when I started was at its core, uncertainty and the unknown. I had never personally kiteboarded before and I just absolutely could not visualize what was "supposed to happen." To be completely honest, I also thought that the kite could carry me away (gravity feels otherwise). The biggest turning point for me was vocalizing my fears rather than letting it run on repeat in my head. By sharing my fears out loud, it resulted in connecting with great teachers, connecting with other women who were learning or who had great advice from when they learned, narrowing down my fears into clear questions, teaming up with other women who were also learning, and more often than not, resulting in lots of laughter when I heard my fears out loud or heard others' stories from when they went through something similar. The lesson here is don't keep it bottled up!
Who or what inspires you?
Kindness, hands down. Whenever I see or experience kindness in others, it makes me pause and smile about how generous the world can be. It's a check-in reminder to bring that of yourself as often as you can.
What are you currently struggling with?
Doom scrolling! I recently found out that's a thing. There's a fine line between staying informed and tipping into too much information/for the wrong reasons.
What are your favorite books?
These are my favorites from this year so far: Educated -- Where the Crawdads Sing -- The Island of Sea Women -- Pachinko -- Dear Girls by Ali Wong -- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone -- and I'm not even ashamed to say it: Bachelor Nation Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure!!!
Surfer jumping off boat
What five words would your best friends use to describe you?
Kind! Chatty! Smart! Generous! Adventurous! (I asked some friends to be sure :)
What’s your favorite mantra?
Always. Bring. Snacks.
What's something you're really proud of doing or accomplishing?
Continuing to learn new sports that connect me with nature!

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