Spotlight on: Paulina Dao

I first became aware of Paulina on social media. Dubbed "Paulina Mayhem," she brought an unbelievable amount of sass to my life. I finally had the chance to meet her over pancakes when she visited Seattle and have adored her (even more) ever since. From deep chats about social inequality to jokes over poop, this lady knows how to dig in. Without further ado, this is Paulina!

Backpacking Lake Mildred, Eastern Sierra. Photo by Bobby Dolan (@bobbydolan).jpg

What do you go by? 

Paulina, Mayhem, P-money, Boop, Pizz-Nasty, etc.

Tell me a little bit about yourself!

No, I hate sharing.

If you had to spend a week as an animal, what would it be?

This one’s easy! A cat! I’d love to lay around and do nothing but bask in the sun, sit in laps for cuddles, climb random things. Plus if I randomly spaz out, people will just say “There she goes, doing cat things again”.

What do you do when you’re not paying the bills?

Lots of climbing and training for climbing, backpacking, hiking. On the days that I’m not outside I enjoy baking desserts, petting cats and tending to my houseplants.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

The ability to never get tired sounds amazing. I could do so many long hikes and climbs in a day! I might not even be the slowest person because I’m not tired. Or the ability to fly so I can beat all the traffic getting out of the Bay Area, not be afraid to take whippers, and get neat aerial drone shots without a drone.

Backpacking the Routeburn Track, New Zealand. Photo by AJ Baker (@ajbaker3000).jpg

What does it mean to you to be an outdoorsy woman?

It means that I am a female who doesn’t like being inside, or sitting still. It means I’d rather be peeing my pants afraid on the side of a mountain, than sitting on my couch. Although sitting on my couch is nice in small doses.

What does getting “outside” mean to you?

Getting outside used to mean going outdoors and doing the biggest, hardest objective I could find. Since then, my definition has changed a bit. It can be something as simple as going for a bike ride or a walk around the park, or it can be a multi day climbing trip. As long as I’m not inside or staring at a screen!

What are some of the biggest barriers you have faced/currently faced in regards to your indoor or outdoor life?

There’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do! That’s a huge limiting factor. But in all seriousness, I think my biggest barrier is oftentimes myself. It’s so easy to get down on myself, or to get inside my head and convince myself that I’m not good enough, or that I can’t do something, or that someone is better. I’m always reminding myself that it’s not a contest, and at the end of the day, nobody really cares what my hardest send is or my most insane sufferfest was. It’s all arbitrary and it doesn’t really matter.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

It’s not outdoorsy related, but it enables me to go outside. After I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I’d majored in marine biology and was working with marine mammals, in addition to volunteering as an animal caretaker at a zoo, but it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. It’s a career you have to really love, and I didn’t love it enough. After bouncing around a few marketing internships, I landed a job as a customer support associate. I’d picked this company specifically because it seemed like there were opportunities to move up; they encouraged mentorships with VPs and taking company-paid courses. I told myself I would move into an engineering position, no matter what it took. I taught myself how to code and harassed many, if not all, of the engineers about their jobs and what it entailed. Then the company hired a director for the type of engineering I wanted to do at the company. I approached him and asked him what I needed to do to join his team. He mentored me for about a year, going over coding challenges, trading me best practices, until I was ready to pass a full technical interview. I interviewed and got the job.

What do you identify as some of the biggest issues facing the outdoor world right now?

Our public lands are under attack. That’s one of the biggest issues right now. Embroiled in that is the Native American narrative and finding a way to constructively bring to surface the injustices that they’ve endured so we can play on public lands. The conversation is just starting. It’s important to remember that they are the original outdoorists. Those are the two things I’m currently thinking about the most. Diversity, equity and inclusion is another topic that I am always excited to get fired up about.

Who do you hope to inspire/how do you hope to be inspiring?

I’m really passionate about outdoor advocacy, especially in relation to climbing. I run social media for the Bay Area Climbers Coalition and I hope to inspire folks to come out to stewardship events, or even to check their behaviors at the crag. Brushing tick marks, picking up trash (tape), not cutting switchbacks, being aware of pad placements, those are little steps in climbing stewardship.

I also hope to inspire people to keep talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, and to hold brands they love accountable for it. It’s important to tell companies that they can do better, and it’s even better if you can tell them how to improve, or suggest people they should follow or feature. I think they’re listening to consumers, and we should keep the pressure on for a more diverse and inclusive outdoors for all.

Who inspires you?

You do! I look up to a lot of women in the outdoor space, especially the ones who are trying to make it a more inclusive and welcoming space for all. You are one of those people, along with Ambreen Tariq, Jenny Bruso, Georgie Abel, Shawnté Salabert… there are so many other badass ladies to name, but these are just a few women who make me stop and reflect on myself, my actions, and how I can contribute positively to the conversation.

What’s your next big adventure, inside or out?

I’m actually glad that there are no big adventures on the horizon for me right now. I went to Iceland last month, spent most weekends away from home over the summer, and will be on a press trip (which is kinda nuts for me) for the end of September. I’m excited to have nothing planned and to enjoy some time at home, or some spontaneous adventures that don’t require extensive planning. I also recently started a Facebook group called Bay Area Outdoor Women, so I’m looking forward to getting more events and meet ups going for that so cool ladies can find awesome lady adventure friends.

Cue Ball, Joe's Valley, Photo by Justin Fricke.jpg

How can we find your other work? Do you have a website, Instagram account, fundraiser, blog, etc?



Bay Area Climbers Coalition:

Bay Area Outdoor Women:

Anything else you would like to add?

I love youuuuu.

The love is SO MUTUAL!