Dave Kalama has been around since day one of stand up paddling (literally) and has competed in the ocean for over 30 years. He consistently innovates and helps create the equipment he uses from boards to paddles – and he’s still got the passion, wonder, gratitude and sense of “awe” that creates a legend. It was an honor to chat with Dave recently. You’re gonna love his stories and perspective.
It started on Maui in 2012: If you have ever done a down wind run you know what I mean when I say – “Holy cow! What a rush. I want more!” With one down wind experience at the 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge under my belt, I headed to Maui for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a Fun Race.
At the post race luau I was fortunate to find myself in line behind Dave Kalama who was chatting with friends, talking technique and sharing his expertise with a passion. Overhearing some tips I picked up information that fueled my journey to learn-learn-learn all I could over time. Over time following events, news, videos, training and Kalama Kamp adventures some “talk story” questions inspired this article.
We started on the topic of fitness which is relevant at the M2O approaches this Sunday. Dave shared, “Fitness is accessible to all who are dedicated and willing to work for it. It’s an attainable part for those who are passionate and dedicated to their sport. Irregradless of skill, a person can be fit for an event.”
Dave explained further that in a down wind event there are so many other variables and factors in play. It’s like the most physical game of chess you’ll play. Your experience and decision making skills will ultimately drive your success. “You must make constant decisions based on what you think will happen based on your past experience. A body of water being influenced by wind, swells, waves, currents and depth will look chaotic. You must learn to read the chaos as you ride, glide and connect to swells.”
A down wind run is a fluid situation that is constantly in flux. No wonder it takes enormous amounts of time on the water to learn the language. As Dave says, “The water is literally speaking a language, telling us what we need to know and we need to learn to recognize those cues.”
Every body of water interacts differently with wind waves. A gradual beach, a steep cliff, refraction off rocks, how bumps are moving, speed of the current and the depth of a river or lake all combine as the “language of water.” You don’t need to know how hydrodynamics works, but with awareness during your time on the water you will begin to understand that language.
With the upcoming Kalama Kamp at Hood River Oregon, Dave used the Columbia River of one example of how local knowledge and experience play into hearing the language the water is sharing, “Around Hood River the waves seem to criss-cross. You can notice that where the current is fastest (down stream and into the prevailing wind) the actual waves are slower. As the wave pattern horse shoes in the middle you can feel and see that the waves on the sides are faster.”
Speaking of Kalama Kamps (and register early because they seem to sell out) Dave injects his philosophy of fun into deep learning opportunities. He stays connected to each participant making sure that they get what they need and have plenty of “aha” moments. For Dave, the most satisfying part is hearing from people a few weeks after the camp when they have had some time to reflect on the experience. Such testimonials help Dave continue to hone the Kalama Kamp experience over time.
Dave explains, “I love teaching SUP technique and stroke but the most important thing is to deliver the information in a way that makes the whole experience fun. When I explain technique and specific movements I relate the movement to something a person might already know from life or other sports. That way things are familiar and they can adapt from a point of what they already understand.”
One of the reasons I was very compelled to interview Dave was the message he shared, from the heart, in a speech just before the 2014 Carolina Cup. (video below)
All of us havehad those moments when we thought we were:
- Too tired or busy to complete a training we planned
- Too overwhelmed, scared or beaten up by an event or race
- Having a tough day and just wanted to quit
Kalama told a story of “his worst day on the water (video below) and how he turned that day (and his thinking) around by reflecting on a group of kids who managed to keep going in spite of the demands and struggles of Cystic Fibrosis. Thos kids didn’t have a choice of quittung when things got tough – they fought on every single day. Kalama closed his speech by saying his message was meant more for the racers who find themselves anywhere from the middle of the group, all the way to the back. He said, “You can always come up with good reasons to quit but no matter what, “you don’t get in the boat. You don’t quit. You keep going.”
A training run just this week as Dave prepared for the 2014 M2O reminded him not too take things so seriously that they were no longer fun. He said, “Just as I was pushing really hard and trying to go my fastest I remembered to take a moment, just a moment, to look around and appreciate where I was, what I was doing. I took those maybe 20 seconds, that was very cool. Then it was back to work!”
Kalama reminds us, “You don’t have to get the most or the best out of every day or every effort. It doesn’t matter what it takes, just keep going with what you planned to reach your goal. No matter what it takes – even if you have to crawl. If crawling is the best you can do, then crawl on and keep moving. Think about those who simply can’t give up – it’s motivating. When you leave the house to train or race you set a course, a plan or an intention. Honor it, finish it – and have fun!”