SUP Leaders Grinnin’ and Givin’

KIALOA paddles and Naish team rider, Chuck Patterson and his signature smile

Perhaps every sport has its heroes, good karma ambassadors and experts eager to share their time, skills and experience with newbies – but SUP seems to have more than its fair share.  As with most categories of leaders in most any field, the busiest seem to be the most eager to share.  Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn gave clinics at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge. Before and after their clinic they shared freely with any paddlers hammering the questions their way – and always with a smile!  Karen is a busy mom and competitor, but like Chuck she’s and incredible ambassador for our sport.

When my husband and I were in Maui last May for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a race, we tried the shorter course from Paia Bay to Kanaha – rather than the full Maliko Gulch run.  Local SUP trainer and world class athlete, Suzie Cooney consistently gave of her time and experience before and during the event. The absolutely amazing spirit of the team for Olukai and the encouragement from Suzie infected us with a focus on getting prepared for the 2013 Maliko Gulch run as part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a. We plan to learn from her online training tips and some actual training runs over the next months. If she hadn’t been so willing to share from her first meeting with two old SUP downwind “wannabees” we might not have had the confidence to complete training enough to compete (term used loosely – LOL)

KIALOA paddles team rider, Brit Oliphant

Most recently I have had the good fortune to know one of the younger leaders in  standup paddling, surfing, and all types of racing, Brit Oliphant. We share the same home town, and often cross paths on the Deschutes River that flows through town. As Brit offers training to all ages in groups large and small the constant is enthusiasm and a great smile. Day after day! Just out of high school, Brit has a love of life and maturity that’s rare at any age. While disciplined training has provided the fitness background needed to compete at the highest levels, an absolute love of oceans and rivers adds a special something else.

So, as I wavered in my commitment to watch-participate-watch, maybe, or participate (should I?) in the upcoming 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I went out for an easy paddle with a friend yesterday. “Hey, Judy!” I heard as I walked past the Sun Country SUP rentals at our RiverBend Park. It was Brit, back from a one day training trip to Hood River where she and fellow paddlers had done a few rounds of the 8 mile downwind course.

In chatting, she heard me mention that I was still wavering about doing the event and might just rent the Naish race board my friend Steve Gates recommended in case I decided to do the downwind on Sunday. Now, I know that Brit recently got a brand new Joe Bark designed Candice Appleby Model 12’6″ race board. She’d paddled it to a win at the recent Gerry Lopez Elk Lake WPA race and was obviously thrilled.  That said, without a moment’s hesitation Brit said, ‘Judy, if we aren’t racing at the same time you can use my board on Sunday.” Sharing a brand new anything is generous – but a race board – what a cool gesture, Brit.

Generosity like that is rare.  I won’t be borrowing her cool race board, yet the offer was easily sincere. The confidence I gained from Brit’s wholehearted advice, hints and belief that not only could I do the event but I would have a world of fun (if the wind cooperated) at the same time.  Let’s see what Sunday brings. My guess is that we will see Brit competing toward the front of the elite class, smile shining, having a blast whatever place comes her way. For me, I hope I muster the nerve to give it a go. Better register now!  

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