SUP for Everyone: Naish ONE

Giving it my all in the OPEN Course race - so much fun!

Giving it my all in the OPEN Course race – so much fun!

Last weekend I competed in the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Compete is not the right word. Let’s just say that I was on my board and paddling in both the downwind and course OPEN class races and having a blast. Energy was high, the elite paddlers were exciting to watch and meet and the wind conditions kept us all on our toes.  The paddlers from the BigWinds JET team were inspirational, and true ambassadors for both our sport and their coach, Steve Gates.


Bonnie Fromm leading our OPEN Women’s Course Race

If I had to think of one disappointing part of the weekend, it was that I won both a first and second place award.  I had paddled hard and enjoyed catching glide after glide on the Saturday downwind event – and then because there were only two of us in the age 50+ category riding a 14′ board I was fortunate to win (out of two??). Then on Sunday’s course race the real  “win” was showing up and participating. The wind cranked furiously  through the Gorge and made our 4 laps  on the upwind leg and turning at the downwind buoy a mega-challenge.  I remembered to have fun – and I charged out of the water at the end of the event pretty darn stoked!  But placing second out of two (YAY! Bonnie Fromm rocks with the win) in the 50+ age group was no cause for celebration. The participation was the prize.

I was puzzled as to why there weren’t more women in our OPEN classes. What could be done to turn the avid SUP paddlers on shore into participants rather than spectators? How could all the organization, effort and energy of the race management team be shared among more OPEN athletes?  The elite classes were full of amazing, world-class competitors.  What about the rest of us? What sort of race event could generate entries and participation across a more broad bunch of paddlers?

I didn’t have to wait long for the answer.  Steve Gates and the team from Naish had a super-cool event planned.  They had a fleet of Naish ONEs (12’6″ inflatable one-design boards) on the beach and ready for a team relay event – with rules that leveled the playing field for any participants. The Team Relay was a fun four person relay race  contested on a short course right in front of the spectator viewing area at the Waterfront Park (Hood River, OR) . Each Team was required to have at least one athlete under age 16 and one female. The young paddler and the female couldn’t be the same person. Elite athleteswere placed onto teams by the Race Director, Steve Gates of BigWinds. The Relay Race was run all on Naish One boards,

As he announced the rules, Steve Gates explained the fun-factor of the “race, “Go out and have a blast with the Naish ONE boards. They are inflatable and forgiving if you run into each other or fall off. They’re just right for any size or skill-level. This is a fun a event, be prepared to get wet and laugh.” Well, that is exactly what happened.

Elite racer (and overall women's winner) Fiona Wylde and friend ready for Naish ONE fun

Elite racer (and overall women’s winner) Fiona Wylde and friend ready for Naish ONE fun

The elite athletes, as you can see from the photos. were having as much fun as the 10-year-old kids.  Even though the elites had just completed 5 loops in a gnarly, windy course they were back to play. The spectators loved watching. One of the coolest things for me was to see people lining up to have a chance to demo the Naish ONEs once the event was over.  The “have-fun” spirit of the relay event seemed to last. People were paddling, sharing tips, bumping into each other, practicing tail-turns and buoy turns and generally sharing a hefty portion of aloha. And isn’t that what it’s all about? (Click on each image for a larger image)

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I am looking forward to seeing more events like the Naish ONE team relays. I expect as people gain experience and confidence in that laid-back race venue they will take a chance with an OPEN event or two. Racing, like life, is a lot more fun when we focus on the experience more than the outcome. The next place I know of in which there will be Naish ONE fun will be in Las Vegas in early October – read more here.

SUP Mentor: Candice Appleby

One year ago I had never set foot, or paddle, in the mighty Columbia River.  I planned to be a spectator at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. At the last minute, some confidence-building from Brit Oliphant and a 20-second chance conversation with Candice Appleby gave me the boost needed to “GO!” when the horn blew to start the downwind race in 2012. This year I had a bucket list goal: participate in both the downwinder and the course race no matter what the conditions.

alThe wind blew enough for the downwinder to make it fun and then it cranked up a few notches and nearly blew us off our boards on the 4 upwind legs of the course race.  At the end of the weekend you’d think that the coolest stoke would have been from competing in the events. That wasn’t so. As in most great parts of life, the real stoke comes from the people and connections.  Al Paterson who wrapped engaging stories and accurate commentating around every minute of the event was one such person.  Seeing the smiles on the face of Steve Gates as he supported, inspired and just plain had fun watching his amazing team of JET athletes on the water was another treasure.

Steve Gates is the heart and inspiration behind this amazing team of young water athletes

Steve Gates is the heart and inspiration behind this amazing team of young water athletes

On Friday afternoon, Ed and I were sitting by the water watching some of the elite athletes out practicing. Among them was Candice Appleby. You can call what she was doing “Practice” but there is no doubt that she was simply having a blast. She was negotiating tail turns and maneuvers again and again, all with a big grin and “wooops” when she’d splash in the river – back up for more.

funFun as it was it had to be exhausting, but you’d never know. From there Candice headed to a photo shoot with a few other of the elites and the next thing I saw, she was dashing around on the lawn playing tag with a few giggling kids. Throughout the weekend, parents would stop with their young paddlers to get a bit of advice or have a chat with Candice. No matter how close it was to a starting horn or how many others were around, Candice always seemed to have the time to connect, to talk, to hand off one of her hats and to make someone’s day!

She’s got time for the young – and the old. Both days I was the oldest female athlete on the courses – any win was a function of the minimal number of participants over age 50 (or 60!) This year I was fine doing the downwinder with Ed.  In fact, couldn’t wait to jump into that one. The course race with the wind blowing stink X 3 was another thing.  Standing on the beach before the event Candice came by to see how I was doing.  A few pointers on staying aerodynamic upwind and a quick demo of how to execute the short choppy strokes that could power me upwind changed the butterflies into readiness.

The race that started before the OPEN Women was the grom race. One youngster who seemed to be about 10 was not crying, but close to it. Her mom was doing her best to share confidence. Candice strolled over and checked out the situation. A few minutes, a few smiles later with new determination that little girl leaped to her feet at the start horn and paddled her way into windy chaos, never looking back!

Sprained ankle taped and ready to GO

Sprained ankle taped and ready to GO

The OPEN race began, and we all set off. It was grueling to reach that first upwind mark. Candice had told me to gather my balance and mindset after turning that mark for the downwind leg. Good to remember. I had some water, eased my breathing steady and got some glides going. I am not even going to talk about the chaos and challenge that turning the downwind mark to begin the uphill battle back upwind was. Suffice it to say I was exhausted by the time I made my way toward the turning buoy on the beach after lap number one. 2010-03-13 02.23.04

But from there, things got better. The wonderful JET girls in their bright orange shirts were fun to paddle around. Hearing them cheer and tease each other, give space at the buoys and generally compete with heart fueled the next few laps.  As I approached that challenging downwind turning mark for the last time I noticed Candice was in the water warming up doing repeats up and down wind by the shore.  Somehow she noticed me coming and gave a cheer that added energy to that last turn.  Heading toward the beach and the end she got a pretty big smile from me as I set up my position and strokes for the most power in that last segment. 2010-03-13 02.31.07

I don’t know how she balances it all. The world of an elite standup paddler is full of endless training, endless travel, and the need to be both leader and ambassador for our fledgling sport.  These elite women certainly don’t do all they do for the money, that’s another issue entirely.  For the many SUP athletes who benefit from athletes like Candice and their inspiration, we have the task of taking that example and making it our own. No matter what our experience or records of wins/losses, we all have something we can share.  Thanks for the example and for the inspiration, Candice Appleby.

SUP Travel: Hood River, OR

hood_river_or_summer_nature_ssSummertime in Hood River, Oregon is a miracle of wind, sunshine, fruit, flowers – and the playground that is the Columbia River Gorge. No matter what you choose to harness the wind or ride on the water you’ll have plenty of long days to enjoy the experiences.  Come evening, you’ll want to rest your head someplace that has your comfort as the highest consideration.  We have camped, stayed at a wide variety of local hotels and B&B choices, but our favorite has always been the Hood River Inn (Best Western Plus) managed for over 25 years by Chuck Hinman.

We enjoyed a similar moonrise the nights we stayed at the Hood River Inn (Best Wwestern Plus)

We enjoyed a similar moonrise the nights we stayed at the Hood River Inn (Best Wwestern Plus)

The Hood River Inn is located on the Columbia River shoreline, offering lodging with scenic river views, water access, and a private beach.  We found that the Hood River Inn offers a generous combination of deluxe accommodations and amenities: (read more here).  As standup paddlers, it just seems right that our first real awareness of the proximity of the Hood River Inn to the Columbia River, Hood River Waterfront Park, the Event Center and awesome Columbia Gorge views came during a standup paddle cruise from Mosier to Hood River.  Our video story follows this article.

When we travel, one thing we value most is absolute cleanliness in our accommodations. Once that’s covered we start looking for the details in up to date decor, inviting hallways, top-quality bedding and impeccable bathrooms.  You won’t be disappointed at the Hood River Inn.  After a long day on the water few things hit the spot like a hot shower – in a luxurious and well-appointed bathroom. Finish that off with a lush towel that absorbs well and exudes freshness.  These things really matter to even the most hard-core water athlete.

Then it’s time for food. Chef Mark DeResta’s choices of fresh and local ingredients are combined to provide a vast array of choices to suit almost any taste. Check the Riverside’s website for full details. Our experience is detailed here.  If you’d like to check out the menu, here is the link.

Columbia_River_Gorge_(3)After an active day, what we really liked was the walking path that meanders from behind the Hood River Inn, around the marina and over toward the river, the spit and the event center. Without getting back in the car we could view changing colors as the sun set beyond the Columbia Gorge and foothills on the Washington side of the river. We could watch evening flights of kiteboarders and waterbirds alike. When we tired of the outdoors we could head inside for a beer, cocktail or coffee and listen to local music in Cebu Lounge.  While we could enjoy food from Riverside in Cebu, the weather was so good during our stay that we had to dine outdoors every chance we could.

Back in the room, Ed enjoyed watching golf and sailing on the huge flat-screen TV while I Facebooked and e-mailed a bit with the high speed wifi (free) in the room.  Once it was time for sleep, comfort was waiting for us. Top quality bedding, plenty of pillows and a remote that let us alter air-conditioning without running to the unit.

The best surprise was yet to come. We knew that breakfast was included with the room so in the morning we headed down for coffee expecting “the usual.”  Imagine our surprise when wait staff as friendly and attentive as we had at dinner the night before greeted us with menus and offered us a wide variety of full breakfasts – at no cost.  The first nine items on the menu were the options we had.  Everything was served hot and promptly. The grain toast was a treat.  We tried four different items during our stay and enjoyed them all.Best-Western-Hood-River-Inn-photos-Restaurant-Guest-Breakfast

Fresh flowers, attentive and knowledgeable staff all complement the excellent, fresh food at Riverside. The view - see for yourself!

Fresh flowers, attentive and knowledgeable staff all complement the excellent, fresh food at Riverside. The view – see for yourself!

Plan ahead and make reservations so you don’t miss the Hood River Inn experience when you’re in Hood River enjoying SUP fun.

Sometimes, words alone are not enough to share an excellent experience.  The following  video  can complete the story of the Hood River Inn in Hood River, OR

SUP Travel Jewel: Hood River Inn, OR

We enjoyed a similar moon rise the nights we stayed at the Hood River Inn (Best Western Plus)

We enjoyed a similar moon rise the nights we stayed at the Hood River Inn (Best Western Plus)

Athletes know the importance of the pre-race evening meal and carb loading.  Every year hundreds upon hundreds of water athletes, including standup paddlers, flock to Hood River, Oregon for famous down-wind events from Viento State Park to the community built Waterfront Park.  Others enjoy clinics, fun paddles and adventures requiring skill and endurance. These thousands of athletes need that pre-event meal. I have often used pizza or pasta for carb loading, and often that pizza and pasta were excellent. But I have never – not ever – had a pre-race carb loading meal like the one I had Friday night at the Hood River Inn (a Best Western Plus property managed for over a quarter century by Chuck Hinman). (Read more here)

We wandered in to the hotel’s  restaurant,  Rverside, just as the sun was turning the dramatic slopes on the Washington side of the Columbia River a burnished gold. Of course, we chose to sit outside on the well-protected deck peppered with blossoming baskets of brilliant flowers. Okay, back to the important part of this story – the pasta meal.  With an 8-mile downwinder scheduled for the next morning (with not enough wind to make it a glide in the park) we wanted fuel! 

Even the toughest of water athlete deserves to be spoiled when it comes to accommodations and great dining

Even the toughest of water athlete deserves to be spoiled when it comes to accommodations and great dining

With smiles we came to expect from the wait staff and hosts, we were lead to our table.  We sat down with a ticket in hand, provided at check-in,  that gave us 50% off the second dinner entree. (Are you kidding? The prices were so value-wonderful to begin with). The menu was a dinner party in words. After drooling over everything, we went for pasta dishes:

NEWRiverside_pastaI selected the Sausage and Fregula, which consisted of Olympic Provisions Parsley and Percorino sausage over toasted Fregula pasta, Calabran chiles, broccolini , spinach and Parmesan. It was a delight from the first mouthful until I cleaned the plate with a bit of the warm homemade bread. Toasted Fregula is taste and texture at its best.

Ed decided on the Vongole. He was delivered a bowl full of more than a dozen large Manila clams in garlic sauce over fresh linguine.  The clams were a never-ending parade of freshness. Ed enjoyed dipping those  beautiful mussels from their shells. Now, THAT is carb loading at its best. Oh, I forgot the best part.

Just before our amazing pasta dishes were delivered, the attentive wait team brought us a plate with three types of fresh bread, a serving of gourmet olives and delightful olive oil and vinegar for dipping. I usually eat very little bread. There is no way I could pass up a sampling of each fresh baked variety. You will want to know more about Chef Mark DeResta. He  has a blog with  a couple of good recipes. He’s a busy man, so the blog may not be updated as often as he likes, but it generally conveys his cooking philosophy.

Riverside uses fresh, local ingredients

Riverside uses fresh, local ingredients

You might head to Hood River, Oregon for a gnarly sports week or weekend. Even if you don’t usually focus on  fine dining at the most value-centric venue in town you will want to plan ahead and book your stay at the Hood River Inn – your expectation will be met and exceeded! That certainly happened for us.

Check out the other stories and video below


Reach Old Lady – Reach

I am working to prepare myself for the challenges of doing both days of the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge and then a month later the course OPEN race at battle of the Paddle. I am glad there’s a “sweet old lady” class for us 60+ year old chicks,  And also thrilled that there are enough of us to make a fine class – how cool!odell-me-kerui

IMGP0110The preparation and training has been so much fun. I have the joy of living along the Deschutes River. I can do up/down stream training runs right in the middle of Bend Oregon. I can drive a bit out of town and do 4-5 miles upstream and 4-5 miles back downstream to my car. The span can include the upstream ripples of Dillon Falls all the way to the forceful end of Benham Falls. The scenery is beyond beautiful.

My heart rate monitor keeps me in my selected training zone when I get distracted and sprint too often and for too long. Building a nice cardio base is pretty darn important when you are ready to be a full – fledged Medicare card carrying member (insert LOL here so as not to freak out).

I have been practicing on being efficient. Getting the most power and momentum per effort-unit is imperative. I have watched this video and have read this training tip by dave Kalama so many times – it’s been terrific. Thanks, Dave!

When I complete these events with a smile, I will thank you even more.

Naish ONE: Fun!

In about 6 weeks I’ll be leaving on a jet plane for Battle of the Paddle. I missed it last year and cannot wait to be part of the biggest SUP celebration around. Nearly six MONTHS ago I started looking for a 12’6″ race board to rent. The initial quest was quite specific – and within a few months I was regretting the purchase of a plane ticket and the long long drive was starting to seem like the best bet. There were no boards of any kind, any size to rent (beg or borrow) for the event.  I was thinking of dumping the plane ticket and strapping my surfboard to the car and heading south to be a part of the OPEN Surfboard class.

Then I had the chance to talk with Steve Gates at Big Winds in Hood River, Oregon.  He had the answer for me – and for many others, most likely.  He invited me to come on up to take the Big Winds shuttle and give his demo/rental Naish ONE a try on my favorite down wind run from Viento to the Hood River event site.  Better yet, I thought I’d buy one – but these inflatable one-design standup 12’6″ boards are so popular that they’ll be sold out for another week or so.  I will have to wait until I arrive in Hood River for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge to get two Naish ONEs – one for me and one for hubby, Ed. We travel a lot by air – I think these Naish ONES will get more air miles than even water miles!

naishone1I carry way more baggage than what’s in the cool carry case for the Naish ONE. Rather than fill in the back story of the board specifications here, you can find out everything on the website.

What really has me jazzed is the opportunity for one-design racing, youth racing, family activities, and travel adventure and exploration that the Naish ONE can drive. (Follow Naish on Facebook)

One early entry in hosting a one-design event was the Weymouth Ecover Blue Mile, held at the 2012 Olympic water sports venue. It proved a resounding success with an amazing 467 people taking part in the Naish N1SCO One design SUP races and free taster sessions.  Naish UK put up £1,000 in prize money for a series of races, in which all riders used the Naish ONE 12‘6” N1SCO Inflatable board. The event included an intermediate race (400m), sprint races (100m), and a 1,500m course – the Ecover Blue Mile. Watch a recap of the event here:

Hundreds take part in Ecover Blue MIle Weymouth 2013

Hundreds take part in Ecover Blue MIle Weymouth 2013

Alex Tobutt, a representative of Naish UK, said the weekend had introduced SUP to brand new enthusiasts,  “The really nice thing was that the SUP racing wasn’t elitist; anyone could take part. “We had people of all ages and experience and some people had never done it before – and all of them were able to do it.  Another great thing was that although everyone was competing, they were also helping each other and supporting each other. ”

pramI grew up sailing and surfing, doing the juniors one-design sailing back in the 50’s. Then as our family grew up enjoying swimming and one-design sailing in a yacht club setting, the extensive value, family connection, sportsmanship and camaraderie around wind and water sports was priceless.  As yacht and sailing clubs begin to adopt standup paddling as a youth and family program option for sport and fitness, it’s important that the same careful consideration put into selecting one-design sailing craft is invested into the SUP purchase.

I have talked with a good number of sailing coaches and program managers who have bought a small fleet of standup boards based on the “flavor of the month” suggested by an eager retailer. It’s a real shame to miss the “boat,” so to speak on the powerful trend and historical value of the one-design class. If you have influence on a decision of this type, share this information and support a wise, long term investment.   It’s easy enough to locate a Naish dealer in your geographic area and get some solid information about the future of one-design and the versatility and performance of the Naish ONE.

Important, too, is to understand the organization behind this trend.  Take a look at the event home at N1SCO.  It’s exciting. Who knows, perhaps a young person you know (or you yourself) might just find themselves on the podium at an upcoming championship (Event Page)


SUP: 53 Degrees in the Summer

This KIALOA Paddles ad with Karen Wrenn inspired my that 56 degree morning in July

This KIALOA Paddles ad with Karen Wrenn inspired my that 56 degree morning in July

Flip through any of the many (thank goodness) SUP, paddling and surfing magazines and you’ll be dazzled by photos of surf, sun, bikinis, waves and warm water.  One ad catches me every time because it’s the polar (sometimes literally) opposite. It’s KIALOA Paddle’s ad showing Karen Wrenn psyching herself up for a training paddle in cold, wet, blustery weather that is so common in the Pacific Northwest. Do you know that kind of weather?

In preparation for the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge in a few short weeks, my plan is to add to my weekly mileage. Between work and other obligations, early morning is the best time to grab the hours needed to bag 5-8 miles up and down current in the Deschutes River. Ahhh, summer. 85-95 degree days have warmed both water and air making paddling a pure joy. Except for last Wednesday.

I was fooled by the blue sky and sunshine as I loaded my board. For some reason a northerly wind had funneled in along with lower temperatures. I got to the river still warm and cozy in my car. The first alarm bell rang when i saw the flags rippling straight out as the wind blew in the face in the UPSTREAM direction. That is never good. I stepped out of the car to unload my board and stepped into – COLD! Seriously?

Getting tuned up and ready for my first Gorge Paddle Challenge course race - inspired by KIALOA 'Eleles Karen Wrenn and Brit Oliphant

Getting tuned up and ready for my first Gorge Paddle Challenge course race – inspired by KIALOA ‘Eleles Karen Wrenn and Brit Oliphant

I had neglected to do a temperature check back at the house. What was it? I turned on my car only to discover the outside temperature reading was 53! How did I miss that? Now, it’s true that in the winter, a sunny 53 degree day no matter what the wind chill is will seem like a “warm” day.  In the winter we are prepared for chill – booties, fleece and the right mind-set.

WE bundle up for cold paddles in the winter!

WE bundle up for cold paddles in the winter!

On the late July day, back in the car I sat huddled. I wanted warm, tropical breezy warm! It was time to channel my “inner Karen Wrenn” – please!  I managed to talk myself into getting onto the river and completing the planned distance.

Weirdly, after the first mile (brrrrr) I got sweaty, steady and in synch with wind, water, paddle technique and the beautiful morning.

Today, a mere 5 days after that challenging mental discipline of chilly last week I set off to 6 am yoga (wonderful) and went straight to the river for another 5 mile training paddle.

It was 55 today, wind brisk  in the face up current again. I hesitated, but just for a moment. I had the image of last week’s paddle set in mind.  It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing and the river was almost empty.  If we want to have the best experience at the many SUP events available in almost every home town we need to prepare.  Sometimes we need not to over-think how it’s gonna be and just let our training session BE. Again today, it was delicious!

Sometimes WIND IS YOUR FRIEND – read more here