I first “met” Robert Stehlik through a few of his Zen Waterman blog which he co-authors (the SUP part) with Len Barrow (surfing). The blog explores Surfing and Stand Up Paddling as Zen arts with features including: focus and paying attention to technique, equipment, mental aspects, the interplay with nature and others. His interview with Gerry Lopez was one that caught my attention – and before I knew it I’d read through almost the entire blog.
As a 62 year old hoping to maximize both fitness and results through honing the best techniques possible, Robert’s article on “catch and reach” was really interesting. That did it. I decided to give Robert a call in hopes I might meet him and learn more about how he trains and coaches the SUP novice and experienced crowd on Oahu. I was planning to be there the second week of December. As luck would have it (YES!) I arrived in time to experience his December clinic.
For Robert, the clinics are much more than a chance to sell boards. The most important things is to make sure that the initial introduction to the sport is a positive one for the participants. That philosophy was integrated into all aspects of the clinic we experienced.
We walked to the meeting area near AlaMoana and saw about 30 people, most out on the water trying the vast array of top quality boards and paddles.
One local newbie, Emily, trying standup paddling for the first time confessed that she has a tendency to be tense when learning a new sport. It isn’t the challenge – she loves that. Her concern was that she would do it all wrong. Emily was lucky – she met one of the Blue Planet Hawaii trainers, Phil. Phil was just one of the patient and skilled trainers ready to surprise people with easy to follow training. One by one we saw it happen. Just like Emily, people were embracing their new favorite sport.
Phil was quick to explain that while SUP can provide excellent fitness benefits, the most compelling aspect is its ability to connect people with nature.
Teaching is far more than a casual side interest among the team at Blue Planet Hawaii. Robert definitely walks the talk. His background of training and dedication to meeting his own personal SUP goals become fodder for sharing with customers, clients and SUP students. Robert completed the Molokai channel crossing race on a Stand Up Surfboard in 2009, one of his big personal goals. Months of training and planning paid off and he finished the 32- mile course in a respectable time of 6hrs 15min and 7th overall of all Solo SUP paddlers.
True to his personality, Robert was quick to thank his wife Sharon for her support. She came along on the escort boat and let Robert go on long training paddle runs for the last few months before the event. It takes a team – and that is what Robert has developed at Blue Planet Surf.