SUP: A Simple Paddle

When asked, ‘What did you do today,” most people might reply, “I went for a really nice paddle.”

End of story, and not bad.

This is not the way our friend Steve will reply.  Steve, and his wife, Laurie, not only seem to enjoy 23.5  hours of each 24 hour day, but they do it with incredible gusto.

Tongue in cheek, a little, Steve describes an average day at their home in Olympia, WA like this:

olympicsWe awoke in the luxurious Chateau Staurie (Steve and Laurie’s home) overlooking the calm quiet waters of the bay covered in the usual overnight blanket of low clouds. Views of the Olympics across the water will have to wait a few hours until the clouds burn clear. After a scrumptious breakfast including fresh local raspberries and blueberries from the farmers’ market and a few household chores like feeding the birds and watering the beautiful flowers on the deck over the sound, we gather our paddles and head down the steep path through the firs to the water. firs

At the bottom it is high tide so it is only a short walk with our SUP`s to the cool clear water of Totten Inlet. Totten means “calm” and today it lives up to its name. Glassy AM waters reflect the sky now mottled with breaking morning clouds and totally blue sky. Below the glassy surface swim big and small clear moon jellies and a few of  the large red Lions Mane jellies (the largest species of Jelly Fish) with their 12+ long strands of stingers. In the distance Olympic peaks are showing through the now clearing skies. In a bit under 20 minutes we have crossed the 3/4 mile inlet and now paddle north along the shore to the mouth of Little Skookum Inlet.



Today will be a special day. We will get to visit Little Skookum Inlet. It is rarely visited (the closest public launch is 4-5 miles away) and paddling in is tide dependent. Today is perfect. The high tide of 12 feet when we get there will cover the shallow shoals exposed at lower tides.  The current generated when 12 feet of water exits the bathtub of the beautiful narrow winding section of the inlet in just 6 hours as the tide ebbs will treat us to a downtider when we leave.

Skookum shellfish

Skookum shellfish

On the opposite shore we see the only power boat we will see all day. It’s  an oyster harvesting workboat and the workers bringing in Totten’s bountiful shellfish harvest for Taylor Shellfish Company. We will see few people today. The workers, a man mowing his lawn, a couple on the deck of their attractive shore side home and a pretty young woman in a bikini sunbathing on her deck who gets up as we go by (had to throw something special in there to entice the guys ).

As we wind our way through the narrow  fir and cedar lined Little Skookum we are treated to the loud trill and loping flight pattern of several Kingfishers, a small gaggle of geese flying over and landing on the shore, the stately beauty of a bald eagle which flies over and lands in a large Douglas Fir sending out its distinctive call, many ducks and the usual gulls. Cormorants hold vigil on the poles set up for commercial boats, occasionally starting their flight by the dive splash and fly technique that is uniquely theirs. As we reach the end of the narrow section and the big shallow bay at the end of the inlet now covered wit 9 feet of water, but soon to be an empty mud pit.bird

The ebb current is growing strong enough that we can feel it slowing our progress–time to turn back and let it help us paddle. Unfortunately the clear skies brought a NNE wind which funnels in to Skookum inlet as the water funnels out. We don’t get a full out sleigh-ride,, but are only slowed a little until Skookum opens up before dumping in to Totten Inlet.

Mount Rainier watching over Totten Inlet

Mount Rainier watching over Totten Inlet

Here views of the giant Mt. Rainier in the distance reward our extra effort.  After we turn in to Totten Inlet and head south to our beach, the wind is no longer an obstacle. At first it hits us on the quarter before pushing us the last mile. 3+ hours after starting we return to our beach in the warm sun. It feels warmer than the mid 70`s that it is on our protected beach covered in a depp layer of warmth soaking gravel. We rinse and store or boards, climb back up the trail to the house and a well deserved and yummy Linner. That’s our lunch/dinner which includes freshly picked salad from the garden on the deck at Chateau Staurie.


SUP WonderWoman: Peggy King

This is the first in a series of stories about a 60+ “newbie.” She entered her seventh decade earlier in 2013 – welcome to the best years, Peggy! We;ll start with some background and then subsequent posts will follow her through adventures on the water, her challenges along the way and her evolution toward SUP. Why “wonder woman?” Well, no one has yet to see Peggy King and WonderWoman together – only makes us think about it.

Peggy King: Family, SUP, Ocean, Piano and Dogs (5 of them!)

Peggy and Bill King - still crazy after 37 years! Photo by 808 Photo

Peggy and Bill King – still crazy after 37 years! Photo by 808 Photo

From upstate New York and a childhood spent skiing on snow and water, Peggy made her way to the University of Denver, CO and met Bill KIng, her husband of 37 years. By 1976 they had moved to Hawaii where they raised their, now adult, son.

Peggy’s world of work and volunteering is as diverse as her water sports activities.  She taught piano, PE and a fitness instructor working at various elementary schools and at Valley Isle Fitness on Maui over 25 years. Music and animals are true passions and have brought Peggy to serve on music boards and volunteer with Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation. If you swing by Whole Foods in Kahului you’ll spot Peggy introducing adorable, homeless dogs to their potential new owners.

How many of us watched the movie JAWS and were scared out of the water for a spell – Peggy was too! Her venture into the shore break at Baldwin beach resulted in an over-the-falls fiasco that didn’t help her confidence at all. Luckily, two girlfriends introduced Peggy to windsurfing and (lucky break) instructor Mike Waltze. That lesson in 1979 inspired a windsurfing way of life, including Bill’s opening Sailboards Maui with Mike Waltze and Fred Haywood in 1980.  Along with Matt Schweitzer and his father, this group worked to develop windsurfing and its equipment into what has evolved today.  peggy-shop

Mike Waltze racing one of the original windsurf models in a recent competition.

Mike Waltze racing one of the original windsurf models in a recent competition.

In the 1981 Maui to Molokai windsurfing speed crossing in 1981 Peggy was the only woman to compete and finish. In 1984 at the Oneill Invitational Peggy was the overall winner of the wave and slalom events.  By 1990 at age 35+ she became Maui County Slalom Champion. To this day I thank BK’s nieces who baby sat my 2 year-old son Gar so I could compete in that event!

Our son, Garfield was born in 1988 and raised him with a waterman’s upbringing in addition to school and soccer. Gar and I learned to kiteboard  together in 2000 and onward.  We truly enjoyed our Mother and Son full circle experiencing wind and water sports on Maui. Watching Gar at Hookipa and the summer gusty winds finally became a bit much and I retreated from the ocean briefly in 2007.

That was a pivotal decision – and a good one!  My dear longtime friend  and massage therapist, Bill Boyum turned me on to SUP. I haven’t looked back since. (More on the SUP Adventures of Peggy King to follow.  SUBSCRIBE to Elder SUP so you don’t miss this or our other stories.)

SUP: Wonder

A sense of wonder keeps us young

A sense of wonder keeps us young

If you met my friend Steve on the street you might not imagine what sense of wonder the guy has.  He’s close to age when Medicare kicks in, he’s got that gruff sort of look (until he smiles!) and he’s driven to climb, ski, kayak, hike, bike, explore and live every day to its maxed out most. But he’s kept an amazing sense of wonder as he’s out in the world. The latest sport to join the quiver he and wife, Laurie, have amassed is standup paddling.  On his way to ski (Mt Bachelor on July 1) he recounted this story of “wonder!”

“Where we live on Puget Sound there are only a few times a year when we get a minus one or two foot tide. When that happens there is a “reef” area that becomes exposed. We have kayaked there many times, so last week was the first time we used our standup paddle boards to go out.  It was amazing! The water all around the exposed reef was crystal clear and you could see thousands of little marine critters.”

OK – that last phrase was the “wonder” clincher. You can’t fake astonished wonder and Steve was all about it! His voice and tone were so cool! Dare I say, “wonder-ful?” Here’s a guy who has heli-skied, kayaked awesome areas all around the Pacific NW and Alaska, has hiked some of the most beautiful trails in the world from Patagonia to South Sister. He and his wife Laurie have climbed the entire Monkey Face from bottom to top – and a bunch of teeny marine critters or running in the little waves with a 3 year-old still invoke wonder! He’s out in a sound not 15 minutes from his home and suddenly, in his words, “I saw it all from a new perspective by standing up on my board.”

What’s filled you with wonder during a time you’ve been perched on your fresh perspective because of SUP?  Share your stories and blogs, pictures and video – we’ll link them to this page for all to enjoy.

Odell Lake: The Wind is Free

John Milandin wrapping up the 33rd Annual Odell Lake downwind race

John Milandin wrapping up the 33rd Annual Odell Lake downwind race

Nestled between the peaks and tall pines of Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, and offering a vast shoreline access to a plethora of water borne activities and breathtaking vistas, Odell Lake Lodge & Resort is every sportsman’s paradise, lover’s hideaway, and family recreation cornucopia. It’s also the home of a 33 year-long tradition of laid back, down-wind “races” across the lake -followed by tall tales, a great BBQ and warm hospitality from John and Janet Milandin.

Central Oregon SUP paddlers join surf skis, canoes, kayaks, outriggers – anything that can be paddled – for this annual event.  In windy Central Oregon we often curse the blasting winter blizzards that hit us while we ski, toss us around as we cycle and push us back as we paddle upstream in the Deschutes.  This same wind becomes our friend when we plan to let it hit our backs and give us some great glides as we paddle the 6 miles from Shelter Cove to the Odell Lodge.

In the mix of paddle craft on the water, there were 11 standup boards. That group consisted of 10 guys and one grandma (yup, me).  For the life of me I annot figure out why there weren’t 3-4 times as many SUP paddlers and at least a few dozen women.  Here’s the opportunity missed (but easy to access almost any time.  The “race” is not a competitive monster in which anyone needs to grind out a personal best time. John Milandin specifically guides the “race” spirit.

11 SUP paddlers at the start

11 SUP paddlers at the start

Go Granny! We need 15-20 women for Odell Lake 2014.

Go Granny! We need 15-20 women for Odell Lake 2014.

We all get on the water and hunt for little waves here and there to play on for a delicious 6-mile paddle. The wind always seems to bolster up a bit by mid-course, so the glides get longer and the assistance gets stronger.  If you have never tried a down winder there couldn’t be a better (and safer) situation.  Everyone is required to have a PFD and a whistle. Crash boats circle the course and watch out for wipeouts or stragglers.  The more participants the greater the chance you will be paddling for an hour or so nearby someone who’s all, “Wooohooo!!!!” after a glide. The energy is refreshing.

A number of us had so much fun that we are returning to Odell Lake on the next windy weekend with our own shuttle planned just so we can ride the glides again.

Catching a finish line wave

Catching a finish line wave

Take a look at the video below to get a sense of the spirit of fun at Odell Lake. If you are looking for the results of the”race,” you won’t find them here.  Grins and friends set the tone of the day, not times or wins. Search your local paddling community for a similar lake event this summer. Register, prepare and then go have fun. It’s a win-win for sure.

SUP Race: What’s a Win?


Find a SUP event in your community, register for it, train for it and then simply head on over for fun and friends

Last week I came in dead last in a local standup paddle race – and I won. I won two ways. The first was not so cool – In the 50+ age group (for this 64 year-old) I was the only entrant so I won.

The other way I won was by having an awesome summer day at the lake, meeting new friends and learning lots of new skills.

I often ponder the dynamic between a vibrant SUP paddling community and the SUP racing scene.  On the one hand, everyone from a newbie paddler, to families, to elite racers has a better time on the water with friends.  On the other, racing – competition – can be intimidating.  In paddling, like sailing, tennis, cycling and running, committing to a race event can be the best route to meeting more friends at your level while honing your skills to the next level. Winning – or losing – can easily become a less important side note.

Elk Lake Resorts hosts the Gerry Lopez Summer Series

Elk Lake Resorts hosts the Gerry Lopez Summer Series

In town (Bend, OR) with 50 or more paddleboards negotiating stretches of our Deschutes River almost any time all summer long, there were just 18 participants in one of the best  long course, WPA sanctioned races you’ll find on a fun-family lake. Elk Lake Resort, along with KIALOA Paddles, Standup Paddle Bend sponsored the event followed by a barbecue, included in the race fee. Donations went to the Deschutes Paddle Alliance. Aside from enjoying some of the finest hamburgers, local beer and all the fixings, we had the chance to hang out at the lake all day long. BY 5 PM the Pitchtones were on the point playing for us all as the sun went down and the moon came up.

Having fun honing great technique and celebrating a lot of endurance work - go Tom!

Having fun honing great technique and celebrating a lot of endurance work – go Tom!

Casually, the day turned into endless impromptu technical “clinics” as various participants shared expertise with us all we all learned something new about paddle technique, board attributes, cross-training, the wind and more.  This “free clinic” format mirrored a similar community-building event hosted by KIALOA Paddles at the Bend Paddle Challenge just a month ago. The roaring success seemed to have inspired us all.

The only negative to the entire day was that 25-30 new paddlers, kids and parents were not enjoying the 2.5-mile short course. Instead there were just 3 entrants.

We all fell in while practicing tail turns - best refresher on a warm summer day at Elk Lake Resort

We all fell in while practicing tail turns – best refresher on a warm summer day at Elk Lake Resort

How cool if new paddlers and kids took the chance and got in the short course event. They would paddle hard and come in somewhere. I sewed up “caboose” in the long course, who would have been my short course twin? After fun and new friends at the BBQ we could all take a tour of the bay, check out the pirate ship, swim in the lee side calms and share paddling tips. The excellent fun of the first of the Elk Lake series will be repeated on August 24th and September 14 (followed by a luau and music by Bill Keale.  

You know it – no matter what place you come in you are going to score a WIN if you simply show up – board ready and paddle in hand.  The informal “free” clinic fun of everyone sharing what they know will be icing on the cake.  Please contact me if you have questions, comments or pictures to share.

Some more photos of beautiful Elk Lake (click on the thumbnail for larger image) See YOU August 24th.

Race or no race - who wouldn't want to paddle here

Race or no race – who wouldn’t want to paddle here

Scenic finish line - time for BBQ awesomeness
Scenic finish line – time for BBQ awesomeness

Pacific City: Our Little Beach Town

Where is your little beach town? Is it crowded and filled with touristy stuff, isolated and wrapped in stunning beauty or lined with high-rise hotels? What brings you to your little beach town? is it the waves, water, sand, views and brisk salty air? I have been to beach towns form Belize to Friday Harbor, Abaco Bahamas (in the sweet 1970’s) to Waikiki, Paia,  and Tortola. Each has a personality and vibe all its own.  If you find yourself looking for a beach town experience in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover a jewel more unique than Pacific City, Oregon.

IMG_1580As a standup paddler you have the Nestucca River at your back and the haystack rock centered on a sandy-bottomed surf break ahead. It can be a sun-swept mellow beach, a dream-like foggy experience, or a gnarly wind-tossed storm surf drama. You can find all sorts of accommodations from tent or rustic cabin camping at the Kiwanda RV park, to every sort of beachfront cottage or home you could want.  We have often camped with friends when visiting Pacific City over the past decade, but this visit was just right for exploring the Inn at Cape Kiwanda just above our favorite espresso place, Stimulus Espresso Cafe.

pelicanThe hub of the surfing and beach-going area of Pacific City is the busy parking lot next to the famous Pelican Pub. The ambiance and sense of  community that is evident throughout the entire town of Pacific City seems to be distilled just perfectly in this corner of the dune strewn oceanfront.

It was a terrific experience for me, as a standup surfer and avid low-tide hiker and Kiwanda Dune climber to stay at the Inn at cape Kiwanda. The story of that experience can be found in this article. (click to read more)

I learned that the Inn is just one of the Nestucca Ridge Family of Companies, an organically grown collection of coastal businesses dedicated to memory-making beach vacations, meetings and ownership experiences.  Mary J. Jones and Jeff Schons came to Pacific City in 1990 and immediately knew it would be there home forever. Since that day, their vision has guided the creation of all the businesses that are part of their family of companies today. Their commitment to excellence at a wide range of price point and lodging options was evident from the first moment I stepped into the lobby of the Inn.

IMG_1573ki-flipflopIt is an elegant, flip-floppy kind of place. There are fresh flowers framing the fireplace and a cozy braided rug covering polished wood floors. The two story span of windows welcomes natural light and frames a breath-taking view . A high-powered pair of binoculars is positioned on a tripod inviting me to gaze out at the details and birds on haystack rock.

I know that the standard of excellence at the ultra-luxurious, oceanfront Cottages at Cape Kiwanda is  top-notch spa quality luxury in  2- and 3-bedroom oceanfront suites complete with gourmet kitchens and full media centers. The Inn is the more casual accommodation. It might be more casual but the attention to detail and preserving the unique local flavor of Pacific City is obvious.

The first thing I noticed was impeccable cleanliness – the forte of any great hotel property is cleanliness, great customer service and having everything in top working order consistently. The Inn holds its own among the collection of boutique properties envisioned by Mary and Jeff and managed by expert and passionate,  Jeremy Strober, the Director of Lodging and Marketing. From the desk staff in the reception area to the gentleman changing a parking area light-bulb, everyone had a smile and the time answer questions and meet needs.


View of the Inn at Cape Kiwanda

After a windy and sandy hike up the Cape Kiwanda Dune, nothing felt better than a hot shower – and top-quality towels and bed linens. Washing sand and salt out of my hair with the Aveda rosemary-mint shampoo and conditioner had me feeling spa-spoiled for sure.

The flat screen TV and free dvd was tempting, but a cold glass of beer from the in-room refrigerator holding our Pelican Pub growler cool was what got us out on our ocean-view deck to watch the sunset. We were out of the wind but with the feeling that we were “on the beach.”

A late dinner was easy, the Pelican Pub is open until 10 PM every night.  We enjoyed the energy of the almost full dining room but thought that tomorrow night we will go out on the deck about 8 PM and enjoy the sunset there.

If you come to the coast to surf, SUP and paddle, take a look at the “Perfect beach Town article for more about Pacific City.

SUP: Perfect Beach Town

Inn at Cape Kiwanda is nestled between the light colored dune and the darker hill to the right - all ocean view rooms

Inn at Cape Kiwanda is nestled between the light colored dune and the darker hill to the right – all ocean view rooms

What’s a perfect beach for SUP paddling and surfing? Sandy bottom, glassy waves, no crowds, clear water warm enough for no wetsuit – does that work for you? Well, except for the warm water and no wetsuit, Pacific City, Oregon is pretty close to ideal.  The swells can be predicted and the mix of surfing waves goes the gamut.  The ambiance in a beach town can add a lot to our SUP surfing and paddling experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am staying at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda this trip and finding it to be an incredible spot for a super surf trip experience. In previous trips I have stayed at a nearby campground, in a camping cottage or in a rental home set back from the ocean. The heart of Pacific City’s beach scene is the triumvirate of the Cape Kiwanda Dune, the Pelican Pub and the iconic Haystack rock about a mile off shore.

This “haystack” stands 327 feet (100 m) above the sea and is the world’s fourth largest sea stack or off-shore monolith in the world. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda is situated right in the middle of these three with an ocean view from every room. IMG_1580

While that is a nice amenity, its value to us as SUP surfers on the Oregon coast is enormous.  That early morning surf check in case the waves are right for a “dawn patrol” is usually a chilly trek from where you spent the night to the parking lot next to Pelican Pub. There we usually huddle in ski jackets holding our morning coffee close and tight. This morning I simply rolled over, still in the cozy bed, and check ed out the sets coming in at pre low tide. Not yet ready to surf, I made some coffee and went out on the deck.

capewaves2From there I could view the far western edge of Cape Kiwanda Dune, where the sets announce their arrival with a wash over the jutting rocks. I took a long beach walk and enjoyed the art – created by clouds, water and sand.IMG_1587

By noon as I had a light lunch back on the deck at the Inn, I started to notice larger arcs of whitewater wrapping around the end of the dune. These sets came in consistently for bout 20 minutes. i timed the intervals between sets and decided, with incoming tide and lighter than expected winds, it was a great time to don the wetsuit and head out. An hour later I was chilly but had my fill of waist to chest high rides cutting right and left on fairly glassy faces.

Now came a real treat. I loaded my board onto my car and drove over to the Inn at Cape Kiwanda. Just outside of the lobby is a WARM WATER shower. I doused the board and myself – it felt wonderful.  After drying a bit it was back to the room for a rest and a book.  But as I read, I could keep an eye on the incoming tide and the dory boats coming in – right up on the sand.

I must have dozed off – about 4:00 the swell seemed to build a bit. The expected afternoon winds didn’t materialize and I was right there, front and center to observe the sea.  Back into my wetsuit and an afternoon session I might have missed if i hadn’t been right there – better than any webcam!

SUP Play: Turns and Practice

A few decades ago a friend of mine raced Ferraris – as a hobby. He trained hard and practiced often. Somehow the strategy for making an “S” turn came up and he explained, “The fastest way through an ‘S’ turn is a straight line.” So often in sport, the most effective approach isn’t always easy to execute. I filed that away until recently as I tried to negotiate a few buoy turns in a local race. The leaders made a turn shaped like a sharp “V” – At buoy, quick tail turn, then past buoy. Just like that!  The slower buoy turns, like mine, looked more like a huge looping arch – widely past the mark and inefficient. T needed a new strategy and technique.

A few weeks ago I saw a clip of a TV show Candice Appleby taped just after her prone division win at the 2013 Surftech Jay Race. Candice took Ali Fedotowsky of 1stLookTV (New York) out for a SUP lesson – and tons of fun. They were joined by Chris Aquilar (cinematographer) – Video link

At just about the 3-minute mark in the video, Candice easily and gracefully performs a tail turn. Out of the entire TV clip that scene stuck with me for weeks.  In between, we had a few races around the area. It was obvious that the paddlers who had perfected their tail turn – with accompanying paddle technique, foot-work and balance – made up time at every buoy turn.  We all work hard to perform at our best in events – maybe we should take a page out of Candice Appleby’s book – her “play book.”

Photo by Gail DeSoto DeMarco

Photo by Gail DeSoto DeMarco

I have never seen someone do so much hard work and practice all with an amazing sense of joy and play.  This is just one example of fun times at Race the Lake of the Sky during the “Sweet Moves” contest presented by Sweet Waterwear. Credit to Gail DeSoto DeMarco for capturing the photo.

A few other photos shared by Candice on her Facebook page continued to inspire me to take some risks, take some time and go play at tail turn practice.

candice tailturn1  candice-headstand-wild

The headstand – I am still just 20% of the way on that one. But on a warm sunny day last week the tail turn played along with me and I began to get the groove.  Practice – I did a few dozen but it’s obvious that hundreds will be executed before I have a bullet-proof turn. Can’t wait to get on the river this week and hunt down something to turn around – a buoy, a rock, another paddler – whatever can make it a game! Thanks for the inspiration and sense of absolute play, Candice!