65 – Medicare and Water Athletes

My seventh decade - bring it!

My seventh decade – bring it!

Imagine the 65 year old woman on Medicare – and then throw away the image that is most often visualized.  Unless you “saw” a lean, strong, bold, fit, focused and fun-loving athlete you missed a trend that’s fueling many athletes above a certain age.  Runners, cyclists, skiers and “sporty”-women build more than hard abs or a toned butt. They build resilience by working through pain, pushing onward and knowing the hard work will pay off. They gain a social network and optimistic perspective on life and potential. Water athletes have another aspect to their active passion – water! Water in lakes, oceans, rivers and bays add a non-jarring celebration of the senses.

Each athletic endeavor enjoyed by the 65+ year-old can deliver amazing benefits when training and practice are balanced with good coaching, listening to one’s own body and a respect for current abilities. This is true for all athletes, but leaps in importance as we journey into those upper decades. But – WOW! – the benefits rock our world.

My primary sport of choice (when I am not skiing, hiking, cycling or playing outside) is standup paddling and surfing. In the course of meeting plenty of my peers at races, at the surf break and simply paddling in beautiful places I have heard so many stories of survivors – survivors of accident, disease, loss, life disappointments and challenges beyond measure. These stories were most often shared without a whine, but rather with a smile and sense of serenity. We water athletes know that regular and consistent exercise fights anxiety and depression better than drugs. The ability to cope with the stress is directly related to the endorphins we have in our body. Because we regularly tap those endorphins we are able to do it when stress hits. Research shows that highly stressful emotional events (which seem to come in quick succession as we age and simply live those extra decades) can result in a permanent suppression of endorphin levels. It just makes sense – stimulate those endorphins with fun on whatever incredible body of water you can find. Get the SUP Perspective instead of what the pharmacy can provide.

Who the heck is THAT in the mirror? Have you ever been shocked by the wrinkles and sags that are the inevitable surprise of aging? Plastic is not the route to increasing our self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness. Grab your paddle and fuel a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients to your brain to improve functioning. After a downwind cruise with friends or a training paddle across a mountain lake you feel ready to take on the world. As we gain those decades we need our self-esteem. No matter where you live there are professionals, clubs, groups and water that you can tap into as you develop into a water athlete. Watch that self esteem soar!

Getting older is not for sissies – you’ve heard that one and I bet you’re nodding “oh yeah!” right now. There’s a world of freedom in the journey.  I recently threw my inflatable Naish ONE 12’6″ raceboard in a duffel bag and headed to Lake Las Vegas for the N1SCO World Championships. Was it because I am an elite racer and super -speedy? Heck, no.  I write and tell stories. Did I compete with the rest of the wonderful water athletes aged 10 and teens through all the decades? You bet. My trophy? I finished the races, often in last place. I had trained and practiced. I AM a water athlete and i had FUN! (catch the video below and on the Elder SUP YouTUbe channel)

Sweet paddle - and thanks for the gear Sweet Waterwear

Sweet paddle – and thanks for the gear Sweet Waterwear

Racing is not the only way to feed your inner water athlete and suer-charge attitude and well-being. Just being out in nature, balancing on your board and paddling with your entire being is a treasure. Check out a recent Fall paddle in Central Oregon – then go find your stoke! This article is dedicated to so many who have inspired me – to name a few Peggy K, Suzie M, Nansee B, Dagmar E, Steve G, Ed S, Randall B, Dennis O, Gerry L … and the list goes on!

Share your stories by e-mailing me at Elder SUP

Who Won: Battle of the Paddle 2013

bopstartjudy9There was a moment during the 2013 Battle of the Paddle that will probably remain etched in my memory for a very long time. We were all packed like sardines 4-5 levels deep, shoulder to shoulder with our boards in hand. There were 400+ of us all waiting to hear the horn for “GO!”  The sky was clear, the sun was warm and the set that was rolling in was waist high and beautiful.  I felt the sand under my bare feet and the light weight of my KIALOA Hulu paddle in my hand.

That paddle and I had hundreds of hours and many, many miles of paddling together. We had surfed gnarly Pacific City in cold, chaotic waves. We’d gone up and down the Deschutes rRver through town and around High Cascade lakes all summer long. For several years I’d dreamed of being in that spot – at the start of the BOP. The stars had aligned and here I was! The usual pre-race butterflies simply didn’t hit me – I was super-charged with energy and happiness just being in the midst of so many people prepared to do a pretty challenging event. There was a possibility of a wave set hitting us all at the Hammer buoy turn, sort of like we had just seen with the elite paddlers .  Whatever, I was ready!bophammer7

To most, Battle of the Paddle is the race of the year. People flock to Dana Point, California to participate and watch the carnage of the elite race and to witness the top athletes of standup paddling battle it out. The event itself is one of the largest SUP races in the world  with over 450 open competitors and close to 200 elite competitors. For me, it was a “bucket list” dream come true.

The green line went to the yellow buoy, our first sprint leg of the race. The black buoy is the infamous Hammer buoy

The green line went to the yellow buoy, our first sprint leg of the race. The black buoy is the infamous Hammer buoy

Suddenly the horn sounded and we were off!  People were bumping boards, falling off, and running into each other. It was mayhem! I got hit from behind.  I was being drafted by a guy who later told me he drafted me the entire race. That was cool since he was about 20 years younger. Did he realize he was drafting Granny? (LOL). I didn’t fall and somehow paddled up and over a few waves with a clear shot to the first buoy. That first turn was sketchy with people crowding and falling. I took a wide line far from the buoy and made a clean turn – the race was ON!

People were unbelievably friendly, apologizing for bumps, making way at buoys and generally chatting and laughing.  Parents and kids on separate boards were using the event for a truly great shared experience. They were giving guidance, confidence and support when things got tough on the upwind and side chop legs.  Time sped by, as did the 4.08 miles – too fast.  I was savoring every moment from the feel of the waves breaking over my feet, to the pounding of my heart as I paddled hard, and the wonderful salty air and sunshine.

Before I knew it I was rounding buoy #1 for the last time and it was time for the sprint for the shore.  I was shoulder to shoulder with another paddler and we were both giving it our all. A few hundred yards from shore a set came in and we both felt the first wave billow under our boards. We were ready as the second wave came up we paddled like crazy – I got it! What exhilaration to be propelled with a glassy wave all the way to the shore – holy cow!

bopallA quick back step at the shore break allowed the wave to flow under my board, then it was JUMP ON THE BEACH – LEAVE THE BOARD, KEEP THE PADDLE AND RUN TO THE FINISH! Too soon it was over.  But the epic adventure was just starting for the elite racers. With the OPEN class completed it was time for the elite finals. Spectators stood spellbound as the elite women, in their separate start, showed us what they were made of. It was absolute athleticism and SUP thrills.  The elite men came next. If you haven’t followed the many videos and photos of that event Google it now! Kai Lenny, Connor Baxter, Danny Ching and every competitor gave us a show to remember.

bopcharlesOther dramas played out in the Open course and during the kids’ events. There were wins for all. One paddler in particular was Charles Webb. From an injury sustained in a motorcycle accident, Charlie competed as a paraplegic athlete and an “I can” champion inspiring us all. Riding out on an adaptive board, Charles Webb wheeled onto his vessel and with a nudge from the shore, embarked on the open water course. I saw him managing balance and paddling precision at the #1 buoy during the second lap of the course.  Do yourself a favor and read about Charlie’s journey from rehab, to surfing to the Battle of the Paddle (article here)

jaimek-paddle1

My Kialoa paddle has opened so many door to this “elder” water athlete

bopwin1At the awards ceremony I received a beautiful wooden paddle as a 1st Place trophy for my age group.  I finished somewhere in the top 70% of racers – with about 300 in front of my finish and about 140 behind.

SO who won the Battle of the Paddle? You only had to be on the beach at any point during the entire weekend to know the answer. Every single person who was walking around with paddle in hand had a “win.”

Winners All! We were all part of a gathering of the best in the world and hundreds who were at their personal best. We had amazing weather, brilliant sun and epic events to watch.  We took our paddles and our skills to the ocean and showed up. We put our paddles to the water and self-propelled ourselves over a course full of chaos and unknowns.  We came from near and far to add our energy to a celebration of so many things we love about SUP, surfing, paddling, wind, waves, competition, tradition and camaraderie. We all won! Thanks to Sparky Longley and Gerry Lopez, the Rainbow Sandals family and all the sponsors who made the 6th Battle of the Paddle all that it is. (some stats)bopcollage

BOP Stoke: Riviera’s Mike Baker

Mike Baker

Mike Baker is happiest on the water

boprivieraLIFEI was fortunate to spot an e-mail from Riviera Paddlesurf a few weeks before the 2013 Battle of the Paddle – there were Ron House race boards to rent. It wasn’t 30 seconds later that I had downloaded the rental form and e-mailed the contact person. I’d been wanting to participate in BOP since I heard of it years ago – and suddenly all the pieces were falling into place.

The Riviera Paddlesurf stoke began with the first enthusiastic words of greeting from Mike Baker who had promptly contacted me . “Hey, ” he said with energy, “you’re number one on the rental list, what would you like?” And it only got better from there. Riviera is a key sponsor for BOP and they take that role seriously.

Riviera Paddlesurf was born in Southern California back in 2007 and grew from a family’s love of SUP surfing. Riviera Paddlesurf, still family owned and operated, inspires people to live adventure-filled, healthy lifestyles.  That type of lifestyle isn’t geared for just their customers.  After hanging around the Team in the series of Riviera vendor tents at Battle of the Paddle I noticed a true connection with the ocean, aloha and SUP.  Over the course of each day they’d take turns on short breaks, grabbing a board and a paddle and hitting the waves.

Not only that, when customers had a demo board out (particularly when it was “The Door“) every good ride or tricky move brought oohs, aaahs and a cheer from the team on land – hard at work.  I should say that they worked long and hard. They were at the beach setting up at 7 am. Then at 6 PM when most vendors had shut down for the evening, the Riviera team was still there being available for last minute demos, to talk-story and to share expertise. My entire BOP experience was stellar, but made even more so by connecting with the Riviera team.

Mike Baker2013-09-27 14.31.31I’d never surfed at Doheny Beach and I had never done a surf session with a 12’6″ race board.  Mike Baker was all smiles and confidence, “Don’t worry. You’re gonna love this Ron House 12’6″ race board.” He proceeded to give me pointers on the best place to head out past the breakers, growing bigger and glassier by the minute.  He explained the drop off right at the shoreline and impressed me with the need to stand on the back of the board and let the shore wave slip under the board, then move on up and ride right into shore. “Practice everything you’ll be doing in the OPEN course race tomorrow until you’re confident. The fewer unknowns, the more fun you’ll have.”

I carried the board down the beach and paddled out toward the ocean-yellow buoy to warm up. Smooth and stable came to mind. It glided effortlessly through the water seemingly oblivious to side chop and bumps – that was comforting! I started to be a bit more aggressive, doing some tail turns and then heading for the break.  The waves were waist to mid-chest high and came in predictable sets – nothing like the gnarly Oregon coast I’m used to. I turned to take my first wave – and that Ron House board caught it easily. I came back from a slight right to aim straight for the beach – gaining speed! Would I be able to get back on the tail in order to let the wave slide under me at the shore break?2013-09-27 15.49.23

Holy cow – YES! It was a terrific surf session with a few miles of paddling beyond the break. I was ready for the OPEN course – and eager.  Back on the beach Mike was there to check out how it went. Tough to hide how thrilled I was.

bopjudy9There were so many “bucket list” firsts on race day it’s hard to recount them here (see short video below). The start=awesome. The crowds, the chaos as we leaped from beach to board and the choppy turbulence as we headed out to the first buoy.  I haven’t been in a race where i got into my rhythm so easily. The upwind leg done three times was the hardest for me, although many people were challenged by the next leg with wind at the quarter and side chop.  It was incredible to hear the chatter, observe amazing sportsmanship at the buoy turns and the woohoos toward the final sprint to the beach as we caught waves for that last bit.

One of the Riviera team was right there at the beach to grab my board and point me in the right direction for the final little run.  He can’t know how much that care of both the board and simply being there for me meant at that stage. What a first class group providing customer service above and beyond.  By the time the day was out I had learned the technical details and specifications that designed the Ron House race board to be what was perfect for the conditions.

2013-09-27 14.33.07That is not the end of the story. Mike made it possible for me to demo the Nugg on Sunday during the distance race. I surf regular foot and generally unless I take off on a steep left direction, I have to hop into “goofy foot” in order to dip my paddle and execute a turn from right to left.  I was riding along on a nice swell that broke as I was going right. Looking over my shoulder I noticed it was building nicely to the left. Just that look left seemed to put a cut back in motion.  I reached across with my paddle and dug it lightly in the wave to the left, stepped back just a bit and did a sweet cutback to the left. It was about the coolest feeling. Again and again and again I paddled out through the surf and got back in the lineup. It wasn’t until my lips were blue and my legs like jelly that I came back to shore. That sessions was the icing on the BOP cake!

Thank you Riviera Paddlesurf and Mike Baker

PS – I came in first in my age group – a bit of “icing on the cake.”bopwin1