Paddle & Surf Jam raises nearly $25,000 for first responders

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

The 6th annual Get Out Girl Surf & Paddle Jam was last weekend on Lake Austin and approximately 150 women participating in the wake surf and paddle events. Spanning two days, the event raised nearly $25,000 for female first responder mental wellness. 

Rachel Zambrano, a career firefighter with Lake Travis Fire Rescue for twenty years, participated. She chose to paddle on the longer course from the Steiner Ranch Lake Club to Mansfield Dam, 11 miles round trip.

“Over the next four hours I met some amazing people, heard some beautiful stories and found some peace on the water,” Zambrano said.   

She was invited by friend Nanette Simmons who volunteers at Get Out Girl each year and lives in the River Ridge area where the event takes place. Zambrano didn’t think it was going to be as big and as meaningful as it was but it didn’t take long for her perspective to change.

“Knowing the community supports us is powerful,” Zambano said. “It’s uplifting to meet and interact with the community in a positive way.” 

That mindset has been the event founder’s goal since inception.

Cindy Present, who has lived on Lake Austin her whole life, created Get Out Girl in 2013.

A few years later, the event shifted to be held in memory of Kristin McLain and Jessica Hollis, both Travis County female first responders who lost their lives serving others within six months of each other. 

Hollis died in September 2014 after being swept away while checking a low water crossing in the Four Points community around the Fritz Hughes Park area near Mansfield Dam. 

McLain died in April of 2015 after falling from a STAR Flight helicopter’s hoist while conducting a rescue operation in a dense greenbelt near Lake Austin.

Both McLain and Hollis utilized Lake Austin and the aea for their own positive mental wellness benefits through wake surfing and paddle boarding, Present said.

Recently the stage has gotten bigger for Present and her initiatives involving water. Get Out Girl is collaborating with Baylor Scott & White Health. 

“Through our partnership with Get Out Girl, we are reminded and committed to the evidence-based science provided by the alternative therapy of the healing power of water — that it possesses more than just the ability to keep us hydrated,” said Mike Thompson, BSW Central Texas Foundation senior officer. 

“By placing ourselves near, in, and on the water we can find reprieve from stress and the chance to strengthen our mental state,” Thompson added. 

Present is in agreement 100 percent.

“It’s very interesting and powerful when you get a traditional health care system starting to take notice of what the science is now validating,” she said. “Getting people in, on and near the water has substantiated and documented positive physical and cognitive effects that can help individuals of all ages who are battling stress, illness, loss, PTS, depression and addiction.” 

Present hopes to expand opportunities with BSW Central Texas Foundation and provide events, retreats and experiences that are intentionally designed where #waterismedicine. 

Proceeds from last weekend’s Get Out Girl Paddle & Surf Jam on Sept. 21-22 will help launch an event in several months. 

“Our first (retreat) will be a female first responder retreat in spring 2020,” Present said.