Of Smiles and Pipes

I get this question a lot – “What’s an elder SUP – I am just 43 (or 36, or 51). am I an elder?”

This excellent video story of mom, Heather Baus, accompanying her daughter, Savannah, on an open ocean down-winder provides an answer. In this story, Heather is an “elder SUP.” Her powerful relaxation on her board and grinning cruise-rides on the swells are exquisitely mirrored in Savannah’s adventure.  At a time when getting kids active seems next to impossible, when technology and virtual sports seem to be the choice of the digitari-kids these days, all it takes is a caring, committed, passionate “elder” guiding the way toward exquisite, empowering fun.

Balance, awareness, courage being so far out to sea, trust that companions are nearby for assistance, training, practice and a really beautiful and cool Pipes paddle (great shot at minute 3;30) all add up to experiences Savannah won’tt forget.  Her active life has included a number of SUP race wins – many in line-ups of youth much older.  As described in her blog, she certainly is a sup’r grom. When Savannah settles down at home-school and writes the expected, “What did you do this summer?” essay, words will be hard-pressed to describe it all. When she studies waves, currents, the environment, weather  or phys ed she’ll have a vast store of experience to draw from.

Take a quick look at the home-schooling project posted on Savannah’s blog.  That’s the awareness of nature, resources, caring for the environment that we can always use more of. With Mom, Heather, as the teacher the classroom is expanded from desk to ocean seamlessly.  So, Heather – young as she is – is an “elder SUP.” Are you? If so, please join our discussion and share a video or comment.

Only thing missing is a paddle…

I just came across a unique children’s book – it’s a good read for almost any age.  The power of a parent teaching a young child how to practice and enjoy a sport usually makes for a good story.  In the book MY DADDY TAUGHT ME TO SURF (and the partner book, MY MOMMY TAUGHT ME TO SURF) Joseph Tomarchio weaves in relevant lessons about respecting the ocean – and others. The whimsical illustrations by Shane Lasby are engaging and fresh. Even though the fine surfers in this book haven’t progressed to enhancing their rides with a paddle just yet (mmmm, fodder for a new book) we recommend this for parents or grandparents.  For families wanting to promote the love of surfing and the bonds of community, My Daddy Taught Me to Surf reminds all readers that our oceans are a gift worth preserving.

If any of you have a connection to either Joseph pr Syane please share this link. We’d love to have an interview with them. This is from their website, “Our goal is to promote the love of surfing, the passage of heritage and the bonds between parents and their children through reading and learning together.”  Right on!

About the Author: Joseph has been a father for 5 years and a surfer for 29. From the moment he learned he was going to be a father, he knew that the joys and life lessons that he experienced with surfing were one day going to be passed onto his child. This desire along with a complete inability to draw allowed him to work with his closest friend, Shane Lasby to bring together a small testament of this love for surfing and their children into a book that they both believe will help foster these lessons for any parent and child. Joseph lives and surfs in Charleston, SC with his wife Allison and son Jonah.

About the Illustrator: Shane has always been an artist of some fashion for as long as he can remember. This has always been a dream of his to share the images that his heart can set forth from his head to his hands. Growing up and surfing in Cocoa Beach, Florida has taught me exactly what Joseph and I have accomplished in this children’s book. Having two little girls of my own has also shown me the true value of what this life offers through patience and perseverance, but all the while keeping me very young at heart. The boy in My Daddy Taught Me to Surf is the child in all of us, still living and learning every day.

Heroes and Hats

Many sports have had their heroes – baseball’s Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente come to mind. From Arnold Palmer to Billie Jean King, sports greats often reach out to their community, to youth, and refine their sport to its highest levels.  From the ancient heroes of standup paddle surfing, or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, to the modern pioneers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama who re-introduced the ancient sport of paddle surfing to the modern water sports world. Gerry Lopez is best known as Mr. Pipeline for pioneering one of the most challenging waves in the world with style. It was his experience and knowledge of waves and riding that allowed him to provide new SUP board shapes for these pioneers and many others.

Those who have helped standup paddling and SUP surfing become the global phenomenon it is are certainly heroes for the sport. SUP paddling and surfing is a sport with dedicated professionals who travel almost constantly as ambassadors for the sport we love.  Among them are Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn.  I was fortunate to meet both of these great athletes – and all round generously warm and caring people – in Bend, OR. Not only did they give popular and well-liked clinics for both beginners and advanced paddlers, they participated in all the races.

Yes, they grabbed their paddles and won the long course event (smiling and cheering on others all the way), but then they gathered at the short course, less competitive race, and built energy and zest into that race as well.  All racers got a great bag of schwag – and one of the cool new hats from Kialoa. 

I don’t usually do the “autograph” thing, but Chuck was so accessible and the spirit of the day was exactly what the sport of SUP is all about – at least in my mind.  Even though the hat is getting salty and sun-bleached, I like the reminder from the autograph when I slip it over my ponytail and head out to the water.

“Mana in humans is manifested as great skills, talents, strengths, intelligence and character. When using a KIALOA Paddle, that electric sensation one feels is the Mana. Keep Paddling,”  is quote by  Gerry Lopez on the Kialoa site.  I know that when SUP greats like Chuck and Karen are present at an SUP event they expend almost as much energy sharing their mana as they do in paddling.

Who’s the local hero for SUP in your community? Who personifies the characteristics that help the sport go from good to great in your locality? We look forward to hearing your stories and posting your photos – or linking to your blogs.  You don’t have to be a pro to be the local hero. Your “autograph” on the experience of others builds out tradition and culture – share it.


SUP Racing: With time not vs time

A few weeks ago the Deschutes River Conservancy’s second annual Race for the River took place at Riverbend Park in Bend, Oregon. It was awesome to see so many stand up paddlers and their dogs come out in support of the DRC’s mission to restore and preserve local rivers and streams. I paddled my 11’3″ Amundson to the start line along with quite a few race boards ready to paddle hard for the 5 miles of the long course.  The course was two loops – my favorite. That way, even though I am usually pretty close to the back of the pack I get to see the front action and cheer on the leaders.

Chip Booth (Standup Paddle Bend) was tucked in the reeds just before the Healy Bridge snapping action shots as we paddled by. I was so glad he captured this one. The arch of clear water poised in the air by my bare feet is beautiful. The bow wave reminds me of the gentle slapping sound of the bow along the current.  Yeah, my heart rate was in the 140-150 range for most of the paddle – I was working hard! But not for the race results (that would have been counter to my equipment and skills) but for the pure joy of being out on the river with so many of the paddling community.

I was thrilled that one of the more well-attended “races” was the paddle-with-your-dog event.  Happy pooches and their owners cruised the 2.5 mile loop with waggy tails and determined grins. Al Paterson and Rocky (picture below) led the way while Pam Stevenson and Sprocket hands-down won the aloha title, grass skirt and all (picture at the bottom). It would have been even more cool if the 30-40 SUPers who pepper the river doing casual paddling would have joined us for the event.  Sometimes the name “race” conjures up the image of  burly racers in their prime zooming through a course. Yes, “racing” includes that and it’s an incredibly exciting and powerful driver for the SUP community. (See the post: Heroes and Hats).

Here’s a thought. What if the “race” course was a 1 mile loop in which a paddler chose to go any distance from 1-6 miles.  The leaders would still race and each of us could paddle to the pace that our skills and inclination determines.  A culture of collaboration and connection between casual paddling and racing could emerge from the repetitive passing along the course and the need to figure out how to pass without interfering.

Best of all, a one hour time limit on the “race” would ensure that all the racers would be on shore to enjoy the after-party. Does your club or SUP community have this sort of race series? We’d love to hear how you get the largest SUP community gathering regularly for shared fun on the water.

Yeah it’s SUPer wonderful to be out paddling

This is a great Vimeo video of Bend SUPer, Kerri Stewart enjoying some SUP time in Newport, OR. Thanks to StandupPaddleFlatwaterBend for posting it on Facebook.

It’s great to see the lights, the angles, the water and scenery from the SUP Perspective. If you have a short video to share and inspire, just send us the link or post it on our Facebook Elder SUP group page.

Randall Barna: Insights and Imagination

My education and 17 years in the classroom provided me with the title of “teacher” for a great part of my life.  As all good teachers know, the best learning often comes (surprisingly?) from the students.  Last week I took an early morning paddle through the Old Mill section of the Deschutes River in Bend with Randall. We talked about teaching. My first week as an SUP-er I met Randall as my husband, Ed, and I were launching our boards in the river -full of beginner trepidation and wonder.

Randall and his family happened to be paddling that evening as well.  Off went Ed, Cristina and Bella while Randall hung back and gave me 2 miles of coaching, SUP stories and exactly the confidence I needed.  It makes good sense that when we talked for this article that teaching would be a topic we discussed.

Growing up in Oregon, Randall much of his youth in, around and on the Columbia River and then during college he moved on to surfing.  His move to Bend in the 70’s did little to dampen his enthusiasm for surfing. Winters were busy with work in his ski shop, summers were constant trips to the coast for waves or up to Elk Lake for some great sailing. In time, work (as it seems to love to do) took over as a full time endeavor, so Randall sought a way to continue  his summer “surfing” without so much driving to the coast.  Luckily for him, windsurfing (which became sail-boarding) had hit the Pacific NW.

No one seemed to be leading the way in Central Oregon so Randall added sailboards to his inventory. Unlike SUP which can be taught in a few minutes – at least enough for some good fun – sailboarding took quite a bit of training. if Randall was to ever sell a sailboard he was going to have to teach each customer the skills they’d need for fun. That was usually a 5-6 lesson challenge. Sharing his enthusiasm through teaching is a constant. Randall became a certified instructor, developed curriculum, racing opps and solid community around the sport out in our high lakes. He enjoyed racing and honing his skills – so much so that he sailed in three Nationals and gained both friends, skills and a community built around another watersport.

What Randall learns from his students is that in these sports people like to gather in groups, talk story, refine skills and build a community. While Randall has the competitive drive and ambition to race, he realizes that many SUP-ers simply like to gather – building community more than building a shelf full of race trophies. You will not shake the “racer” out of Randall though. From his early days of sailing, then on to surfing, he has learned that the best way to home your sport skills and be the safest participant you can be, it pays to compete. Not to win, but to better your own level.

Randall Barna cruising to a win on his 60+++ birthday

Randall Barna cruising to a win on his 60+++ birthday

One thing Randall hopes to see more of in the community-building potential of the SUP race scene is a balanced focus on both the high-level racers and the social-just-for-fun racers.  Trophies, yes! Ranking, of course! But just as important is a great after race gathering, some opportunity to eat, maybe share a beer and story as part of the event. One example of a “race” that built community and was a powerful good time was the Bend Paddleboard Challenge. More recently in July 2013 was the 33rd annual Odell Lake Race with its own “SUP community” flavor (read more here).

Benefitting the Bend Parks and Rec’s Recreational Scholarship Fund and the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance’s efforts to raise money for the Colorado Dam Improvement Project.  It included a 2 mile short course for beginner racers and a 6 mile long course for serious racers.  It was part of the WPA NorthWest Regional SUP Race Series. What isn’t mentioned in the blog was the months of community-building, sponsor-developing, enthusiasm-building efforts of Chip and Lainey.  Take a look at the array of local sponsors who came together to make this as much fun for the families and spectators as it was for the racers.  Winner, losers, speed-racers and cruisers alike had a blast on and off the water. We all sport our shirts with the cool logo, we all (almost) won some sort of door prize, and we all gained a few new paddling friends along the way.

Randall imagines more of this for a sport that can bring almost anyone out for a few hours enjoying the natural resource that our lakes, rivers and ocean provide.

SUP Pioneer: Dennis Oliphant

Making our way through eager rafters at Dennis Oliphant’s Sun Country Tours this morning was just the first phase of an energy-filled chat. Dennis hails from a watery youth spent on and around the Columbia River.  His daily routine varied by seasons from tracking water fowl to sailing Lasers, Hobie Cats and Sunfish. After graduating from the University of Oregon Dennis moved to Bend in 1977 with his eye on guiding white-water trips. Hard work and ambition, along with a passion for what you do usually leads to the start of a great business.

Almost as a one-man band, in 1978 Dennis ran Sun Country Tours. Expanding his interests in all things “watery” he developed, administered and taught the outdoor classes at COCC in the early 80’s.  A whirlwind of classes that included river rescue, kayaking, rafting, climbing and snowshoeing did little to dampen Dennis’ love of water sports. By the early 1980’s he’d jumped feet first into the sport of windsurfing.  Every day off would find him on a windy lake or in the Gorge. Family vacations were directed to Maui, for more great windsurfing opportunities.  In a seamless segue, on the less windy days, Dennis and friends began one more board sport – surfing!  From tropical oceans to wake-surfing with family and friends on the lakes of the Central Oregon Cascades Dennis, along with family and friends, continued the quest to spend as much time on the water as possible.

The most recent water sport addition to the Oliphant quiver occurred about 6 years ago when family friend, Gerry Lopez, brought a few boards to local Lake Cultus including a few Mickey Munoz  tandom surf boards and that was all it took to launch a day of criss-crossing the lake. By late afternoon when the wind filled in they were “surfing” some downwinder swells and they were hooked on SUP! It was pioneer times for a great new sport. Like any new addition to a culture, there were challenges.

Prone surfers, especially in crowded areas, were not keen on these big guns ridden by surfers with paddles. Getting the stink-eye at a local surf spot was just the tip of the displeasure.  Dennis, and his buddy Gerry Lopez came by a solution by simply doing what they did in life – spreading aloha and respect to others.  The early standup surfers, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama also modeled the behaviors of safety, respect and aloha that changed attitudes. When all is said and done – why not share, be respectful and work toward doing the right thing.

Dennis and Gerry had the opportunity to test the influence of the aloha spirit on an area about a year ago at Dennis’ Punta de Mita (Mexico) Paddle Surf Lifestyle Camp. Beyond engage the locals, answering their questions, giving them space on local breaks, they went a step further by inviting the local families to a Mexican style luau. Pictures of Gerry Lopez were a great hit as well as the local fish grill.  Gerry spoke about growing up surfing (the conventional way) and how surfers held great surfers in high regard, from Duke Kahanamoko thru today’s watermen. As different elements of surfing evolved, there was always conflict between the old and the new. Through each phase it was important to develop ways of getting along and sharing aloha on the water.

If someone was disrespectful, has challenging as it was, it was important to talk to them – but in a respectful manner. The coolest outcome was that all the way down to the youngest groms – they “got it!”  Almost overnight there was a pervasive spirit of aloha both on and off the waves. The local surf professionals began to hone their paddle surfing skills and began teaching the new sport with enthusiasm – and respect.  That’s what “Elder SUP” is all about – changing attitudes and building a spirit of family and awareness through our favorite water sport. 

Grandma to Molokai?

I have always had this notion that to paddle via SUP  from Miami to Bimini would be amazing. In my mind it would be one of those dead calm days in May when the Gulfstream is not clocking too fast.  The brilliant blue of the ‘Stream would be a source of focus on the journey. Will I do it? I hope to – before too long.  There is something about a “crossing” that is appealing to adventurers, often in the form of a race.  I’ve enjoyed plenty of sailing races from Florida to the Bahamas and back. As a standup paddler, while I train hard to go fast and efficiently, I can’t seem to connect to racing as the main focus. There is such a fantastic connection between seeing the water, being outdoors, acknowledging currents, wind, waves and temperature that the journey is already full of challenges and opportunities to go hard and be my best. Being an “elder” has definitely brought new perspective.

Since moving to Oregon a decade ago, trips to Hawaii are way easier to accomplish than trips to the Bahamas.  Being aware of the connection to Hawaiian culture and waterman values right  in my hometown of Bend gave me more than an enhanced vocabulary around tradition and the ocean.   Several trips to the various Hawaiian islands we have visited opened my eyes to what should have been obvious.  The culture of people whose history, traditions, stories and livelihood are connected to the earth’s waters, especially to the sea, have rich similarities.  Whether an island chain is derived from volcanic action or eons of coral buildup, the people who protect their waters, their traditions and their culture are similar. Just as our move to Bend brought a lifestyle that is more connected to nature, more gentle in personality, it has provided connection with some amazing people.

Purchasing my first standup board and Kialoa paddle was much more than the addition of a new sport to the quiver.  Balance, yoga, friends, strength and new dimension to life in the high desert were bonuses to the sport and fun.  Journeys – like Miami to Bimini seem more attainable.  Today I opened my Facebook and found this great interview from Bend’s own Gerry Lopez.  The night before the Molokai Race he generously shared his time to chat about the race, about yoga and a terrifying experience at Pipeline – take the time to view the entire interview.

This re-kindled the “crossing” wanderlust for me – definitely NOT in the form of a race!  The idea of sharing the crossing with a group of friends, each completing portions of the journey toward a collective finish solely for the journey sounds amazing.  Have any of you gone to the planning of such an endeavor? Safety and support with a “mother ship” and a group of like-minded SUPers and a crossing you’ve dreamt of completing – please share your stories and pictures.  This Grandma will continue to paddle, train, focus and plan – maybe Molokai one day! Maybe something a bit more sane!

If you haven’t completed your summer reading list (year-round good read) you will want to get SURF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT by Gerry Lopez.  Good read while you plan your surf journey.

Gerry Lopez interview at Molokai race from Zen Waterman on Vimeo.

Global SUP – Protecting Marine Mammals

We are looking for members of the Elder SUP community who have had the chance to paddle in the very areas where our support is needed most.

The 11 sites deemed irreplaceable were the Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, Amazon River, San Felix and Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal in Russia, Yangtze River, Indus River, Ganges River and the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

In addition, the nine sites picked for their species richness were along the coasts of Baja California, much of the eastern coast of the Americas (the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and including coastal areas of Cuba, Hispaniola, Colombia and Venezuela), Peru, Argentina, Northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Have you experienced any encounters with marine mammals during any SUP adventures in the places mentioned?  If you have, please share your stories with us.  Until a critical mass of non – stand-up paddlers (or non-water-people) have the chance to hear about our encounters with the beings who inhabit the world’s waters it will be difficult for them to empathize with the threats to their existence.

Pictures are so valuable in sharing your stories:

HAWAII – GALAPAGOS – THE AMAZON – CHILE – THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA – CASPIAN SEA.… and all the rest.  Your stories can energize awareness and change.