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Life & Work with Amanda Moo Smalligan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Moo Smalligan. 

Hi Amanda, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
In the 1980s, I was a city kid living in Detroit. My early memories of lake life involve fishing trips with my family. We would wake up around 3 am and trailer a small boat to Lake Erie to fish for walleye. The time on the water had a lasting impact on my life, stress management, and survival through trauma. 

We moved around a bit, my younger brother had childhood leukemia, and by the 1990’s we lived in walking distance to Lake Huron. When life got the best of me, the lake was always there. It became a sanctuary for me as I grew. I was into books, gymnastics, music, and any type of play. 

My brother was in remission and getting stronger every day. I had plenty of friends, and come summertime; he was my best friend. Lake Huron was our playground. We had a skateboard, inline skates and would surf on rafts. Our friend had a wind surfboard we would play on with a canoe paddle. This was my first paddleboard experience. 

I decided to stay in Michigan for college, a moment in law school, and fell into adult life as a Paralegal. Sitting for hours a day resulted in my mind and body feeling out of balance. I began doing yoga on a regular basis which ignited the kid in me doing gymnastics. I would take a class and say to myself…I have done this before. 

This led to yoga as a life practice, and I became a teacher. More time in my life opened up to play again, and I bought my first SUP board. 

I have taught yoga for over a decade and in 2016, became a certified paddle board instructor. In June 2021, I started my own business here in Michigan called Small SUP. It feels awesome to share my passion for boarding with others. 

These days I spend time on Reeds Lake in Grand Rapids and get out to Lake Michigan whenever I can. 

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I have had several obstacles along the way. Struggles are like waves to me. Some waves I can ride, and others make me wipe out. Either way, get up and go forward. Waves will keep coming; even if the surface looks calm, there is a current underneath. I learn every day how to make peace with obstacles and see challenges as a choice to live life. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Right now, I have a small fleet of 10 SUP boards and all the gear that I trailer to lakes and rivers in West Michigan. I teach youth and adults how to paddle board in a safe, fun way. I design and teach classes, special team-building events, and programs. I specialize in safety, paddle skills, tricks, yoga, and fun. 

I am a partner to Chill.org, and I get to teach SUP to youth ages 8-18. We empower youth through board sports. 

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I am a risk taker on a regular basis. Although the water is a place of solace for me, it is also a place of vulnerability to environmental risks. 

Every time I take a crew out on the boards risk management is crucial. I start with a waiver and release of liability for insurance purposes. Safety, respect, responsibility, choice, and courage are all words I use to describe risk. Yes, we will have fun, and yes, we need to acknowledge significant elements of risk in boards sports. 

I believe all boarders have choice to challenge themselves with a skill, trick, or game. I always talk about the thing, then show/do the thing, and then open it up for anyone to try by choice. I do not take it personal if someone does not want to participate and celebrate with them when they do. 

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