We had the good fortune of connecting with Natali Zollinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natali, how do you think about risk?
Risk is my north star. It is the guiding light that helps me stay on track. It’s scary to put yourself out there, to choose something new and to pursue the unknown. But that’s the beauty of risk, it forces you to come in and out of your comfort zone. To challenge the norm. To fuel your inner fire. To defy even your own odds.
Risk is why I am who I am. Strong, passionate, and fearless when it comes to my dreams. I know that I haven’t always done things right, but at least i’ve done them. I fail, but I always fail forward. Helping me optimize myself in becoming the best version of me.
Looking back, risk forced me to reach out to that cute boy who I thought was “WAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE”…but…that boy…ended up getting me my first job as a river guide. He helped me find the river, and finding the river was the best thing that ever happened to me. Risk then told me to say yes to that first grand canyon trip. Risk supported me in pursuing my dreams as a SUP Athlete. And most recently, risk encouraged me to start a podcast. Something I’ve wanted to start for a very long time, but never had the guts to actually do it.
I truly do believe that risk has played a major role in my life, my career, and my successes.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My professional career is all over the place. And to be honest, I don’t really have “just one”.
It’s been really hard for me to “settle”. Even the word settle is a trigger word. So instead of diving into just one, i’ve chosen to follow the natural change of the seasons and switch it up every couple of months.
For the last 17 years, I’ve spent a lot of my summers river guiding. When I’m not guiding, I’m training, teaching or competing as a Whitewater SUP Athlete. When rivers are low and tourist season ramps up, I co-own and help manage a restaurant in Moab, UT. Depending on the day you can catch me serving, bartending, dishwashing & even cooking!
I LOVE CHANGING IT UP! It helps me stay present in the job that I’m doing while keeping a fresh perspective. I think this is one of the things that sets me apart from others. I’m a “Jane of all trades”. I like being able to shift around and get the job done wherever needs be. I’m proud of the many hats I get to wear, how many people I get to work with, and the different sceneries I get to play in. It’s very rewarding, but NOT an easy career to have.
It’s challenging not having the stability. Not knowing if the jobs will be there every season. Living paycheck to paycheck. Not having a big savings, employee benefits or even a 401K. It’s not for the weary. You have to fight for the lifestyle. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s taught me to fight for me. Speak my truth. To not hold back. And to continue pursuing my purpose. No one else keeps the flame going but me. So changing up those seasons provides the fresh chord of wood to get me through…and that right there, makes it all worth the struggle.
So I guess, that’s my story that I want the world to know about me. Showing that life is more than my bank account. It’s about experiences, relationships and serving something bigger than myself.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A WEEK IN MOAB
DAY ONE. Wake up before sunrise. Hit up the Love Muffin for a fantastic cup of coffee & a bomber burrito to go. Drive to Arches National Park and park at the trailhead for the Delicate Arch. Grab our packs and head up the trail at first light. Crush the 1.5 mile hike to then enjoy burritos and hot coffee while watching the sun rise through the arch. After, we’d head back to the car and drive over to Devils Garden or Fiery Furnace and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the red rock wonders of the desert. After a full day in the sun, we’d come back to Moab, order burgers, tots & a shake from Milts Stop and Eat and call it a day.
Day 2-3 we’d make sure and do an overnight river trip through Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River outside of Moab with OARS Moab or Sheri Griffith.
Day 4. Start the morning with yoga at Desert Power or a workout at The Gym on 5th. After, we’ll head to Doughbird for coffee & donuts. Spend an hour or so walking mainstreet to do a little shopping. Then. we’d head back to the house to do laundry, catch up on emails and get ready for the next days adventures. Maybe for sunset we’d walk the infamous practice loop at sunset and then have dinner/drinks at the restaurant that I co-own, 98 Center.
Day 5 is all about canyoneering. Wake up, hit up the Garage Co for coffee and breakfast to-go, then head to the San Rafael Swell for a full day canyoneering adventure. Once back in town, we’d shower and hit up dinner/drinks at Sabaku Sushi.
Day 6 we’d head back to the river for a whitewater sup trip with Paddle Moab down the Moab Daily. After a full day on the water, we’d shower and head to Josie Wayatt’s for dinner and drinks.
Day 7 we’d finish the trip with a half day of mountain biking on a set of trails that fit the skill level of the group. On our way back to town, we’d call in a to go order from one of three thai restaurants in town. After that, we’ll swap pictures and stories of our amazing adventures with to share with our friends/family back home.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have two. My brother who passed away when I was 14. I looked up to him. He was such an amazing human who deserved to continue living his life. So I made a pack to him that I would help him live the part of his life that he wasn’t able to live. So he is what continues to fuel my passions, purpose and path.
I’d also like to shoutout THE RIVER. I know it sounds silly, but in all seriousness, the river has been my best teacher. It changed me for the better. It helped me find my voice. It keeps my ego in check while building up my confidence. It listens and guides me towards the best version of me. It truly has been the greatest mentor of my life.
#4 Laura Borichevsky #5-6 Heather Jackson Photography