In 2007 when I started standup paddling, I purchased my first KIALOA paddle and planned to have a cool “hobby sport.” Little did I know how the SUP-bug would capture me! Whether surfing, racing for recreation or cruising a river, lake or bay I used the same paddle. Choice sometimes results in a sort of decision-paralysis. As friends began to add to their quiver of paddles I tried out many of them over the years – and each had distinctly different attributes (including so many that I loved just because they were so beautiful!)
Watching golf with my husband, we chatted about clubs and choices and using the right one for the shot – and the topic turned to paddles! I needed to make a choice or two and start to grow my quiver of paddles. Would the “right” paddle catch me more waves, shoot me ahead in races and generate more fun on the water? Now, I am realistic enough to realize that my skill level just isn’t going to magically improve with a paddle – but it sure can help!
NO matter what your skill level, it is very important every once in a while to recharge. It’s vital to get yourself to that next level with tools or training or resources in order to reach the competitive edge or proficiency that can make your sport more fun.
We’ve all heard, “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.” Of course your individual skill that matters far more than the equipment you use. That said, it was time for me to retire a vintage paddle and take advantage of new technology. Fortunately, Dave Chun was available to give me some guidance on my decision to get a HULU Ultralight GL paddle, he knew it was exactly what I wanted. The question was, what size should it be?
Dave and I discussed the challenges of 63 year old shoulders, knees and back. With absolutely no pain or injury from the paddle size and length I had, and 100% satisfaction with its performance Dave pretty much suggested, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it – size-wise.” Just the same he lent me the Pupu Adjustable paddle and sent me off with some advice, “Go out and try this paddle at a variety of lengths. Don’t worry about the number or the height, just paddle. Be aware of how it feels to your body, notice any pain or discomfort. Paddle at each setting for a good long period of time. You’ll need more than just a few strokes to really feel what that length is doing for you.”
I brought my own paddle and the Adjustable Pupu. It was a 48 degree February day with little wind. The river was empty, except for me, some beaver and geese. I got into a cadence and paddled up and downstream for 15 minute increments. Using my best technique I paid attention to the sound of the water lapping under the board, the length of my reach and “dig,” as well as my ability to turn over strokes quickly – or longer. A few hours later I went back to decide on the length of my new HULU (YAY!!!!!)
I had the adjustable paddle about 1/2 inch longer than my usual paddle. We decided that small of an increase in length was not worth the potential for a change in my forearm, elbow, shoulder comfort I’ve had for the past 6 years. Paddle stroke technique seems to be trending toward more rapid turnover – more strokes per minute rather than long, hugely powerful pulls through the water. At last! I ordered my HULU and learned much about building out my quiver.
Today it was about the arrow, not the Indian – Getting jazzed, taking time to explore options, taking time to go to the training and listening to the advice of an expert.
These things can be extremely powerful in mentally advancing your enjoyment of standup paddling. OH! For enjoyment personified, take a look at this video created by Washington state pro paddler, Beau Whitehead.