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.