No matter how advanced the water treatment systems in most cities might be, as we travel we often come across water that just tastes -ugh! But for the most part, we can be confident that the water is safe to drink.
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We were hooked after the fun race (luau, music, sailing on the Olukai sailing canoe and the spirit of aloha) and started training for the 2013 full Olukai Ho’olule’a run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park.
The conditions for the 2013 event were the worst(according to many locals) in the five years the event had been run. Winds was light or from wrong directions and the swells were breaking huge on the inner reefs. Deep ocean swells were coming chaotically from directions that didn’t invite an easy connection of glides.
I was riding the Naish Glide 14′ (27 1/4 inches wide) after a week of practice. It was rocket fast and – for my skills – something I could handle in consistent friendly small swells, but not THAT DAY. Yup, I was in the water a LOT! Just the same the experience was exhilarating and I could hardly wait for the 2014 event. (video here)
Blue hat is me at the N1SCO World Championships in 2013 (Lake Las Vegas)
Here’s where confidence made all the difference. Living in Oregon, far from Maui and the type of conditions I selected for my favored racing environment, many resources allowed me to be fully prepared for absolute fun and my best Maliko run to date. I continued to train with motivation and advice, stories and smiles from Suzie Cooney. The team at Naish Maui Pro Center listened to my adventure with the 14′ race board and helped me select the 12’6″ Naish Glide for this year’s Olukai Ho’olaulea. The video below shows highlights. I was confident, stable and caught dozens upon dozens of swells and glides. After almost a year riding and paddling, catching waves and racing on my inflatable 12’6″ Naish ONE I hit the water ready for fun!
The wind was more fresh (Yay) than expected and it was a headwind workout to get to the starting line. I put my head done and started cranking up my speed to get there in time for the start. Confidence-builder = hearing the cool, calm voice of Suzie Cooney who’s always ready to share her expertise on the water. “Slow down, stay calm, and save your energy for the event,” she said with a grin.
If you want to be a writer – write! If you want to gain confidence in racing – race! Here’s a short list that can help, especially if you live far from the sort of water you’ll be racing in and if you will need to rent top-quality equipment for the event.
1. Practice on the equipment you will be using for the event – I went from using an 11’3″ all round SUP board to using a 14′ Naish Glide (the 2013 27 1/4″ wide 14.0 foot Glide). I got to Maui 6 days before the 2013 Olukai Ho’olaule’a and went directly to the Naish Maui Pro Center where Coach and Jay listened to what my husband, Ed, and I wanted to do. With every type of SUP surf and race board available for rent, they analyzed our skills in order to match us with what we could handle. A half hour later we were headed to the water with the 14′ Glides on the roof of the rental car.
2. Plan ahead and talk to experts you can trust – The moment we completed our practice “fun” short Olukai Ho’olaule’a event in 2012 we began planning for the full 2013 event. Completing that event let us know where the “holes” in our skill set were. We started planning for the 2014 event immediately. Having the resource of Steve Gates and the team at Big Winds in Hood River, Oregon is awesome. We participated in their downwind clinic with Jeremy Riggs and gained more time on the 14′ Naish Glide.
Elite racer (and overall women’s winner) Fiona Wylde and friend ready for Naish ONE fun
Over the year leading to the 2014 Olukai Ho’olaule’a we communicated often with Coach and Jay at the Naish Maui Pro Center planning which board we should rent for the event. Since we were spending so much time on our Naish ONE boards we decided to use the 12’6″ Glide. Our goal was to stay on the board (talk about ultimate stability and glides!) and not worry so much about speed.
After the event we were able to reflect on the experience with Jay an determine that the newly designed Naish Glide 14’0″ GX and GS is going to be the board for us – as our skills dictate, for the 2015 event. The newly designed Glide is 29 1/4 inches wide which will give a sweet stability along with the speed we want. Luckily, Steve Gates at Big Winds has reserved that exact board for us to use for the August 2014 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. We plan to do some down wind training runs with his clinic leaders.
Find your local experts and experts at your travel destination. It makes all the difference in confidence.
3. Practice in conditions similar to your event – Living in Oregon’s high desert does not provide lots of opportunity to practice in the conditions that Mother Nature delivers in open ocean down wind races. We are fortunate to be able to travel about a 3-hour drive to get similar challenges in the mighty Columbia River.
When we need to be more local we check the weather report for windy days on local lakes and reservoirs. Four friends, two cars and a shuttle plan can provide a great day of fun – and the practice we need.
Suzie Cooney (CPT) of Suzie Trains Maui lives the training advice she shares both on Maui and online.
4. Train for the demands of the event -Winter! What a perfect excuse to forego paddling and take up couch surfing (Noooo!), skiing or snowshoeing. If you are serious about your paddling technique – paddle. If you are serious about your strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and speed – get a trainer who paddles. We have an area in our garage filled with TRX equipment, Indo boards and a spin bike. We fear we would not be either skilled at how to train or motivated to stay with it without the inspiration of Suzie Cooney. Check her blog for examples.
5. Leave your expectations at the door – Every event delivers as much of an adrenaline rush as it delivers a chance to connect with like minded SUP athletes. SUP is unique in that you are right there in the watery “arena” with the most elite paddlers in the world – so often. We compete in the most beautiful waters on the planet. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind blows snot or the temps drop to some crazy cold level, but if we show up, compete and finish then we win. We win the fodder for “talk story” and plans for next time. As Connor Baxter says, “Always have fun and never give up.” That works for me!
There is a powerful, magical magnetism that draws surfers and ocean lovers to the North Shore of Maui in the winter. An equally strong pull brings paddlers, standup racers, wind and kite-boarders in the summer. All year long the beaches and local surf breaks are alive with adventures for both athletes and beach-goers.
Our Courtyard “home away from home” has much more than the top quality accommodations and service we surfers, SUP paddlers and water athletes need to really live the aloha spirit of the islands. The moment you enter the stunning lobby, fine art images and decor surround the senses. How can it be that each staff member we encountered had a ready smile, efficient skills and in-depth local knowledge. We had so many dining experiences at “off the beaten path” restaurants filled with more locals than visitors.
The perfect place to kick back to relax, enjoy a beverage and talk-story as the sun sets
After a day at the beach or in the surf nothing feels better than a good, hot shower. We enjoyed the elegant, modern facilities, plush towels and – when we fell into bed at the end of great days – high count, crisp sheets and comfortable bedding.
Yesterday most of the paddling I did was going for a wave – and did I ever catch a ton of them. There was an offshore wind and no organized swell, but the warm water of Oahu’s Waikiki break called Four’s was all fun.
Well, it was all fun until my husband, Ed, wiped out from a steep takeoff. The powerful off shore wind caught the edge of his board and flipped it fins up just as he hit. The gashing bruises delivered enough pain and swelling to keep him out of the water today.
A sweet south swell meandered in by 7 am and the wind was about as calm as we could wish for. I didn’t have the heart to take the SUP surfboard out while Ed couldn’t paddle, so I decided to do a solid 4 miles on my Naish ONE.
That’s where the “SUP Lesson from Seat One” made itself known.I took the first 1/4 mile to warm up a bit,weaving through the low tide reefs. Using what I learned from SEAT FIVE (article here) rotation, catch and driving my board forward rather than pulling my paddle back was my mantra.
The water was so glassy that I easily got into a groove. As my Naish ONE gained speed and glide I noticed my stroke BPM increased. As I moved through the water with acceleration, I noticed that it was too easy to miss the catch and let my paddle slide without any real power though the water. What was going on?
Then I remembered. Just last Monday night at Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club practice I was in Seat One. A very similar situation played itself out as we went 70% of race speed for 8 minutes, then 80% for 4 minutes then 90% for 4 minutes. As stroke person I had to work hard to make sure I maintained a solid catch even as paddle strokes per minute increased.
No one would be better to remind me of what to do than the steersman, Jason Tedrow. A skilled and versatile water athlete and rabid competitor, Jason coaches with purpose (to catch the canoe in front of us and get to the highest speed we can maintain).
After each pyramid of percent of race effort he would critique our technique and remind us-
Keep your stroke up front and lively
Maintain your catch
Rotate from the hips and drive the boat forward
Timing, timing, timing
As the hotels of Waikiki whipped by in my peripheral vision, as I worked to stay steady and balanced. Sideways swells reached for my ankles I recalled the lessons from Seat One!
The bow wake of my Naish ONE invited a paddle stroke pace that was much quicker than my usual. My reach and catch was a rotation and drive combination. The faster my board went the more quick and sharp were my paddle strokes. Before I knew it I was turning at Diamond Head for the return 2 miles.
This practice delivered some solid cardio intervals and a huge measure of stoke! Headwinds greeted me on the return trip and I was getting fatigued. This was a perfect scenario for another “Lesson from Seat One.” When we were doing those sprinting pyramids I was often feeling “too tired to go another exchange.” Yet, focusing on the voice of the Seat 3 “Hut, Ho” and the encouragement of the steersman we all remained calm and maintained speed. I did that same thing as I worked fast and steady back into the wind.
Who knew it could be outrigger practice that refined me into a better SUP paddler!
Feeling strong and comfortable on a 12’6″ Naish ONE in 20+ mph side winds and a confused small swell even though I have paddled SUP just 4 times since October (thank you Oregon Winter)
Now, to the title premise, “SUP Lessons from Seat 5.”
A few weeks ago I had my 4th Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club practice. On this cold, rainy, windy (typical April) evening I was assigned seat 5 just ahead of the steersman, in seat 6, Meg Chun. Lucky (but tentative) me. I have been standup paddling for 6+ years and have had some success – which Meg was aware of – and now I would be paddling for 90 minutes right under her watchful (and quite expert) eye.
Meg has been coaching novice and experienced outrigger paddlers in Bend for more than two decades. She spices the learning with a cool passion, always a sense of fun and patient expertise.
It was WONDERFUL being the closest person for Meg’s critique and observation. No, really! (LOL) After about 45 minutes of me doing my best effort at reach-catch-return with a wonderful rotation of my core I heard Meg say, “Judy, you need to rotate your body.”
Me, (to myself) “WHAT?????”
Meg: You are turning, mostly your head and shoulders, but you need to show your back to the opposite shore, then dig for the catch. Engage your core and really move the boat forward with the rotation of your hips coming back to center. That’s it, you are never coming back to center before your next stroke. Try that.”
OK, back to SUP. Today on my Naish ONE I used the very technique that I have been practicing at outrigger practice. The gnarly offshore wind and the confused swell did its best to intimidate ad toss me off balance.
Thanks for sharing your expertise with me and my beginner outrigger paddling skills
Never happened. What a fantastic 5 mile “into the wind” paddle to Diamond Head and beyond. What a cool late afternoon surf session at Pops on the Naish ONEs.
Olukai Ho’olaule’a, I can hardly wait. Thank you Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club! Thank you, Meg Chun!