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.
Hours of practice on that equipment gave us both an eye-opener (27 1/4 inches demands a new balance skills!) and time to gain confidence on the boards we would be using in our Maliko run event. (see the story that explains why I chose the Naish 12’6″ Glide for the down wind event this year and why I will be riding the newly designed Naish Glide 14.0 GX or GS for my down wind events moving forward).
We had a hundred questions and they had both the answers and the patience to share with us even though we were in town for just a week. Find the local team with that degree of customer service and expertise.
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
At the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge in August 2013 we were able to try the Naish ONE, the inflatable 12′ 6″ SUP board. Thanks to Charlie Burwell and the Naish team members on site, particularly Chuck Patterson, we saw how versatile and absolutely cool the Naish ONEs were (and bought 2 of them!)
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!