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Teacher Turned Adventurer Inspires Others

Shawn Brokemond encourages adventure seekers to push their limits

Video: Shawn Brokemond, An Extreme Sports Athlete Turned Her Passion Into New Career

Shawn Brokemond, 54, turned her passion for adventure into a new career. At 46, Brokemond had what she called “a midlife career change.” She left teaching after 25 years to coach older adventure seekers, starting a business called Sports Adventure. The Mill Valley, California, resident advocates for incorporating fitness and adventure into everyday life. In the process, she’s encouraging people to push their limits, while opening the door to adventurers of color. “I hope that other brown people are watching me and get inspired to follow suit,” she says.

Brokemond’s clients paddleboard, kayak, rock climb, trail run, mountain bike, surf and work out in the gym. “I don’t know what it is about being older than 40; people just start saying like, ‘Oh, I’m older, I can’t do that anymore.’ ” Brokemond shows that being an adventurer is for life. “It’s never too late to discover a new adventurous side of yourself,” she says.

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AARP sat down with Brokemond to learn more about her motivation. The interview has been edited for length and clarity:

What motivates you?

What motivates me is my competitive nature. I want a challenge and to be challenged. Whatever sport I play, I naturally want to be the best I can be. People who have drive and humility motivate me. Teammates who work hard to achieve the same goal motivate me. Anyone with a dream or passion and desire to work hard and dig deep inspires me. Strong women who are not afraid to speak their minds and stand up for others motivate me. I am motivated by people who push beyond barriers and accomplish their goals. I am motivated by my clients who trust my expertise and are passionate about their health and fitness. 

spinner image shawn brokemond cycling
Courtesy of Shawn Brokemond

Was starting Sports Adventure something in the back of your mind for a while? 

No, it wasn’t in the back of my mind at all, really. I woke up one morning and instantly decided I was tired of teaching. I had been teaching for 25 years and I was ready to call it quits, but I had no idea what I would do. After I decided to quit, I started thinking about my other skills and how I could use them. I was asked to lead a boot camp by an old coach of mine. It was short-lived, but some participants wanted me to continue training them. It was then that I was motivated to start a private training business. I went to school to get a personal training certification. One thing led to the next, and soon I was offering personal training and building a private gym. 

spinner image shawn brokemond jumping in front of group
Courtesy of Shawn Brokemond

What advice do you have for other women looking to pivot their careers or pursue a passion?

Even though it’s scary to change careers after 40, I think you are most happy when you are doing something you love. If changing your career is appealing, don’t be afraid to make that move. Sometimes you have to quit to realize that a change can make you happier than you imagined. If you dream or wish to change your path, do it! Make it happen. 

spinner image shawn brokemond snowboarding
Courtesy of Shawn Brokemond

What is your philosophy on aging?

Age is just a number. I believe you can age gracefully. Just because you’re a certain number, it doesn’t mean you cannot do certain things. If you stay active, eat smart and love yourself, you will look and feel young forever! 

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Is there anything you’re working on that you’d like to share?

I hope to teach Black children in my community how to swim. Sixty-four percent of Black children in the U.S. can’t swim and are six times more likely to drown in a pool than white children. I want to bring more awareness to that disparity and help close that gap. I coached surfing to young kids of color … and realized that many of them can’t swim. While they were excited to get in the water and learn to surf, some were fearful because they thought they would drown. Every kid should have the opportunity to learn to swim, and I especially want to help Black children. I want to help the adults in that community understand the importance of knowing how to swim.

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