We were fortunate to arrive at the 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge a day early, in time to watch one of the youngest elite standup paddlers hosting his Positively Kai Grom Clinic. Kai Lenny had a great weekend winning both the course and the downwind races – and the waterman award. If you had been there to wander around amidst the 200+ kids and parents participating in and observing the clinic you may have formed your own idea about who won what!
We usually think of a sports leader as one who has had decades of experience. Often, the time to actively share expertise with the younger generation occurs after the athlete has reached a certain level of age and maturity. Not so in the case of 19 year old Kai. He and friends, including Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn (all Nasih team riders)among others, staged a remarkable day long event. Some of the paddlers, even as young as 4 years old, had never paddled before. No problem. All were brought up to the level that allowed independence for a casual race on a hot and fairly calm day on the Columbia River.
It’s hard to know how many of the 200 participants came away newly excited about standup paddling and how many might be inspired to continue to hone their skills. In a time when kids often admire their sports heroes from a distance it’s great to watch the youngest generation mentored by one of their own. That is the SUP Perspective and mission.
Many of the grom clinic participants lined the shore of Hood River’s Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday watching their favorite pros up close and personal. One of the turn buoys was barely 10 yards from shore. Watching the elite men and women rounding that mark was super exciting stuff. Turning techniques and race strategy, segments of drafting or breaking off on a sprint mixed up the event for spectators.
Kids lining the shore raced up and down cheering for their favorites. My guess is that many of the Positively Kai Grom Clinic participants were back on their “home” river or lake practicing their new skills. If any of you reading this had a child participating, keep us posted. If they plan to join in on the Gorge Paddle Challenge next year we’d love to see pictures. We’ve seen some of your comments on Kai’s Facebook page – and welcome your thoughts here as well.
Better yet! How do YOU make a positive difference for the kids who see you paddle by and practically drool over a chance to give the sport a try? If you are thinking about ways, toss your ideas our way via our Facebook page. We can get some brainstorming going on.
In Bend, Oregon we have a super resource in the father daughter team of Dennis Oliphant and his elite SUP athlete daughter, Brit Oliphant. (video here) They have worked with the MBSEF ski and snowboard youth all summer. Off the snow and into the Deschutes River, Brit can be seen almost every day teaching paddle technique, core exercise, sweet whitewater skills and a few fast buoy turns.
Like youth everywhere, kids need your old paddles, the standup board you had before upgrading or a donation now and then. You may not have skills to share, but you can influence our youngest generation, get them out and UP on a SUP board on the water. That’s the way to spread aloha where you live.
Who do you know who’s out there connecting the SUP Perspective across generations – young to older or older to the youngest coming into the sport? Simply e-mail us, send a photo and we’ll share your “talk story” ideas here at Elder SUP.