3 Miles of Story and Stoke: Maui

STMTrademark-1024x576Four years ago a rubbery-kneed, nervous version of me set off from Paia Youth Center on Maui for the 3 mile “Fun Race” inspired and lead by Suzie Cooney of Suzie Trains Maui. The day was windy as we all headed toward the water, most of us experiencing our first open ocean down winder.  Led by safety crews on jet skis we all made our way toward Kanaha Beach Park – my husband, Ed, and I were on bulky, rented, dinged up 11′ surfboards. Little did we know know what a metamorphosis would occur in those 3 miles.

The moment my feet touched the sand I wanted to go back, begin again, and do another run. Yup, hooked! We had connected with Naish team rider, Suzie Cooney, before the event and she had started what would become a series of training insights, motivational energy and a dedication to making sure we would be ready for the adventures we wanted – a try at the full Olukai Ho’olaule’a in 2013. Best of all, we were introduced to the world of top quality equipment. You just don’t arrive on an island (or any vacation or event venue) and hope luck will connect you with the best.

edbigglideInspired by the entire Naish culture from founder Robby Naish down to the technical and service team at Naish Maui Pro Center we began to research the right boards for open ocean down wind events. Since 2013 we have been fortunate to reserve (yes, plan ahead) Naish Glides for both the Olukai Ho’olaule’a and the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. We love to train every warm winter or spring day in Oregon on our Naish ONEs (inflatable one design board). For non-one design events we like to try various 12’6″ and 14 race board designs from naish. For this year’s Olukai I have the Naish Glide GX, a 29 1/4 wide board that is 14 feet of zooming rocket.

FullSizeRender (3)Holy cow! The fun run was incredible. The day before I even surfed a waist high swell and scored a strong cut left with this forgiving and agile race board. I never, ever, thought  that as I tiptoed the final 4 weeks before my 66th birthday that I would discover so much stoke and fun. When you have the right, top-quality, equipment whatever your skill level is ramped up several notches.

The fun was wrapped in the many stories from people of diverse experience and even more diverse home towns. I write this story to encourage you to paddle outside your comfort “envelope.” It is not about where you finish. These events are about connecting with an ‘ohana that is as passionate about paddling as you are – even if this is your first event or a new sort of challenge.

IMG_1832The morning started with a safety message from Olukai’s legendary waterman, Archie Kalepa.  He advised us all to be sure we had a “buddy” who would watch and be with us until we finished.  I looked around as we all located our buddy and noticed the youngest paddlers, aged 6 and 7, in a giant bear hug. “YES! We will watch out for each other,” they exclaimed! Is that not exactly the spirit of support and team that we hope to inspire in the youngest generation? cute

One of the two young paddlers is Marley, age 6, who lives on Maui. He paddled 3 long, hot miles during our OluKai practice paddle. He was supported all the way by Suzie’s safety sweep team and his parents. He rips on waves and is a skateboarding machine. One paddle stroke at a time he is honing his determination and attitude. marley

We had a few paddlers from Sweden who not only paddled the 3 miles down wind, they jumped back in the water after the finish and kept on paddling for more fun. A couple of friends from Massachusetts with vast experience in a variety of race formats gained the confidence to try the full Olukai Ho’olaule’a next week. Some athletes had huge experience but were trying out more narrow race boards – we all exchanged stories and laughs. Who won – all of us!

Join us and Suzie Cooney for an exciting morning at the Demo Day Friday May 1st , under the OluKai VIP tent.  This is one day before the race. Meet the pros and listen and learn about some of their training tips, experience paddling Maliko and lots more! Right after, join Suzie in a fun and informative, hands on training session where she will demonstrate and talk about specific training tips to get you well prepared. We wouldn’t miss it!

SUP Profiles: Jane McKee

Jane McKee hails from Santa Barbara where she graduated from UCSB in 1982. A decade later she started paddling outrigger canoes. Jane picked up her paddle and never looked back. Now living in Honolulu, HI.Jane’s results speak for themselves.

janem2She won the 2015 – W SUP UNL Hawaii State Championshhips,  4X Woman’s Hawaii State Champion OC-1, 2013, 4th Place Wahine OC1 Olukai Ho’olaula’a, Maui. / 1st Place Women Masters F 40-49 & 3rd Place Overall at Ka’iwi Channel relay (w/ Robin Saultry) / 1st Place OC-1 Elite Wahine Kauai World Challenge.  Most recently, as a Sweet Waterwear ambassador and, according to Sean Sweet, “plain bad ass paddler,” she won the Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association Women’s Overall SUP Unlimited Hawaii State Championship in April 2015.

We are very fortunate to have some solid insights into the demands of SUP and training tips (article here). For now, hear more about Jane’s transition from racing OC-1 to SUP.

In Jane’s words, “I started paddling outrigger canoes in 1992, in Santa Barbara, California. It wasn’t until the late 90’s, when the ultra-light racing OC1 canoes came out that OC1’s were used for more than just cross training. The new lighter materials made one-manning FUN! And so the winter one man season was born. Historically in Hawaii the off season racing was predominantly for surf skis.

janem4ocNow a whole new opportunity opened up for people to stay in shape in the off season on a craft that was significantly easier to paddle than a surf ski. I took advantage of this and started racing the winter series and have been doing so for 15 years. That is 15 years of paddling year around. It vastly improved my OC6 performance, as I was coming into the 6 man season in as good or better shape than at the end of 6 man. Gone were the days when you used the 6 man season to get in shape. It totally raised the bar in the paddling world, and people caught on quickly.

janem3I have been blessed to have had wonderful coaches and trainers, and over the last 13 years have won the Hawaii State Championship 4 times on the one man, and took 3rd overall in the Molokai to Oahu One Man solo race. I definitely excel in the bumps and downwind runs, my motto being ‘the bigger the better’. So when a friend told me I should try stand up paddle board racing, all I could think of was slogging through flat and hot conditions. And going slow. I am a self-proclaimed speed demon, half race horse and stand up paddling didn’t seem very exciting.

Then a friend took me on their unlimited board on a downwind run. I got my first long run on a swell and I was hooked. You can go FAST on a SUP? I’m IN! So last August I bought Armie Armstrong’s used V1 Bullet after his Molokai race and started training. I still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to like, so the price was right. Five months later I had SIC built me a brand new V1 Bullet and I absolutely love it.”janem1

We believe that SUP loves Jane back and congratulate her on winning the Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association Women’s Overall SUP Unlimited Hawaii State Championship in April 2015.  (Jane’s training article here)

Jane’s story of the race: So the big day came, and the conditions were perfect. The course was Hawaii Kai to Magic Island, an 11 mile run with the last 3 miles across Waikiki (flat). By the time I had reached Diamond Head I was in third place overall, both men and women.  It was only at the final turn buoy I was passed by three of my guy friends but we all finished within two minutes of each other, so I was really pleased with my performance and time: under two hours. So I have one more State Champ under my belt, but in a completely different discipline. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks after all!

Next up is the Pailolo challenge which is Maui to Molokai, and then the Olukai race where I will race both SUP and OC1. And who knows, maybe Molokai next year? Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

Outrigger to SUP – Seat to Feet

Understanding the basic mechanics and physiology of stand up paddling can increase both motivation and effectiveness of our training.  Recent winner of the Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association Women’s Overall SUP Unlimited Hawaii State Championship in April 2015, Jane McKee (profile article here), has taken the time to share some of her solid insights with us. After decades racing OC1 and OC6, Jane began focusing on training for SUP downwind and events in August 2014.

janemt1Jane provides these tips, “The one thing I noticed immediately after training for SUP is what a huge energy expenditure SUP requires. On my one man I am sitting comfortably on a foam seat, locked into my craft as though I was part of it. On the SUP the only thing locking me onto my board is the bottom of my feet. Every large muscle group comes into play, and in the first month I was completely gassed after about 5 miles. I felt like I was doing squats the whole time, and, well, you pretty much are.

Training Nugget:Technique is a big factor in SUP. Leading with the hip, using the big core muscles and leg muscles to balance and drive the board forward, all come into play.

I found that the principles of the stroke are pretty much the same in outrigger and SUP. Keep the start of the stroke way up front, and finish the stroke by the feet. Because the SUP paddle is such a long lever, triceps, lats and biceps get a healthy workout. I never weight trained for one man, but find weight training to be beneficial in SUP to keep from getting injured. Also I had to train my legs more. It is very much a leg sport. I did notice that after 2 or three days a week on the SUP and I had to cross train. This is when I would get back on my one man. It is a perfect combination to alternate. The one man gives your body relief from the rigors of the standup while allowing you to train similar muscles and keep your endurance training. And you avoid burnout while still getting to be on the ocean.

Training Nugget: Consider weight training, especially the legs and add some cross training to your SUP routine.janemt2

Everyone has told me I have picked up the sport fast. I have to attribute that to many years of training basically the same muscle groups used in SUP, racing outrigger a LOT.  Primarily it is my ability to read the ocean, linking up the waves and finding the path of least resistance. You either have it or you don’t. Some people never get it. It is an absolute must if you want to compete in open-ocean or downwind paddling. When I give OC1 clinics this is a favorite topic. People want to know HOW. I can explain the physics, and dynamics, analyze wave patterns and currents, but you have to get out on the ocean and understand what it is doing that day. You have to really look; pay attention and most of all FEEL the ocean and hear what it is telling you. It is, in my opinion, a gift.

Training Nugget: To read waves and succeed in down wind and open ocean events you need to spend time in the ocean and practicing “reading” all aspects of wind, wave and current. It is a life long practice – and a gift.

janemt3I decided to race SUP this year in the Kanaka Ikaika race series that culminates in the State Championships in April. As I only had my one board, the 17’4 Unlimited, that is the board I raced every race even if it was flat or upwind. People thought I was crazy but I figured if I could push that big board on the flat just think what I could do if it were windy? In the months leading up to the States race I had to really pay attention to not over training by eating well, getting enough rest and learning to say no. Learning to say no if I were tired, even though the conditions were excellent.

Your body repairs itself during sleep. Adequate rest is vital to improve your fitness.

Training Nugget: As an older athlete, recovery takes longer, and I have learned to listen to my body. I could write a book on training as an older athlete, and have learned by trial and error that you can train as hard as your younger competition, but you must recover longer.”

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us.  Those few training nuggets could make all the difference this season. Aloha.

SUP Training: An Easter Epiphany

At 3 am in the ER of St Charles Hospital waiting for my mom to return from a CT scan (head contusions after a midnight fall at assisted living home), I had an epiphany. It seemed ideal for a pre-dawn Easter morning in an eventful 2015. Mom turned out to be fine and by 5 am she was home tucked into bed – but I was changed.

What is an epiphany: a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.

IMGP2543I am focused on training for my favorite race of the year, the Olukai Ho’olaule’a on May 2 on Maui. It is my third year doing the full event after one year doing the “fun race” inspired by Suzie Cooney.  Each year Ed and I have returned to Maui in May for the challenge and celebration that this race means to us.  Ho‘olaule‘a – literally, it means “celebration”, but for participants and Olukai, it’s also an expression of gratitude. I was about to come to complete understanding of the power of that premise.

In that noisy emergency room I had been reflecting on the sorry state of my cardio/endurance preparation for this year’s race. One outrigger practice with my Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club last week reinforced my lack of stamina. This was followed by a trip with daughter and granddaughter (spring girl trip) that started with them having the stomach virus and ended with my succumbing to the beastly germ.  Now on Easter I was just getting my strength back – with just 3 weeks to go for training,

Back story: The team from Olukai consistently share with the community gifts of time, energy and spirit. Circumstances had provided me with a 2015 filled with the opportunity to share my personal gifts of time, energy and spirit – but not so much the training I believed I needed for my best foot forward at the Ho’olaule’a.  In late December 2014, my 92 year old independent, active and strong Dad had a stroke that put me in a full time care-giver, life energy support role. Mom was already in need of support as she worked to maintain her personality as Alzheimers chipped away at her mind and age ravaged her body. A brand new, absolutely joyful addition to my life, a wonderful granddaughter, arrived and I was delighted she was close enough to spend a few mornings a week with me – a true treasure.

Time, energy and spirit: I was blessed to have something to share with those who needed and filled me simultaneously. But SUP training – back burner at best.

So what was the big epiphany? Simple! I was sitting in the ER remembering the best moments of past year’s races and NONE had to do with how fast I was going or how ready to bring a PR I was. It was ALL about the experience. And whatever fitness and preparedness i bring to this year’s race, I will be 100% ready to bring awareness and gratitude for simply participating. A total, joyful realization. Here is the short list: (the best thing is the last thing)

1. Watching Danny Ching charge past me on the way to the start in the 2014 event. Yes, I was in the same race!!! Then wonderful Suzie Cooney paddled by and said, “Get on your knees girl, it’s gnarly out here. Save your energy and have fun.” And I did!!!

2. That first dunk in the deepest, most blue ocean I had ever been in. Go Pro on my head it recorded the first of many 2013 dunks into the sea – but this one was astounding. I launched belly first into the deep and there was a moment of absolute wonder before my brain registered – “Tiger sharks live here”- and I leaped back onto my 14′ Naish Glide barely getting wet.  But the next 8 miles of ocean engaged me totally. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at age 64, born and raised in Florida, living landlocked in Oregon – but here I was in an event and among a culture that resonated with everything connecting to the ME that I celebrate.

3. Sean Sweet of Sweet Waterwear calling out, “look out on your right” as I was readying to go through the keyhole in the reefs at the end of the 2013 event. I looked right and saw an overhead swell way past the “go for it” timing, but I went any way. I WANTED to ride that wave even though I had never ridden a real wave on my Naish 14 foot race board. I pearled and went for a catapult launched swim and wound up past the inner reef stoked and paddling with a grin toward the finish.

4. The colors: In 2014 we didn’t know if there would be any down wind push for our journey. Swells were not as huge as 2013, but they were hammering the inner reefs. In 2013, I steered way clear of the inner reefs by going too far out. In 2014 I made sure to stay with the inside paddlers. In doing this I got scary close to the break at Sprecklesville. The swells came from the stern quarter of my board and lifted me before cresting shoreward then smashing, crashing onto the reef. White foam zoomed skyward silhoutted against every shade of blue – but I was safely out of the impact zone. It was knee-knocking scary to be that close to the break, but awesome at the same time.  I stayed with the inner pack and paralleled this wonder for some incredible minutes of the race.

Hollywood Beach, FL 1967

Hollywood Beach, FL 1967

5. This year I realize I have no idea of my time or place from the prior years. To improve my time, would I improve my experience? I need to be fit and skilled enough to be ocean savvy and safe. (Done) I also needed to bring my energy and spirit to the start so I can savor (and be grateful for) the total experience. Best Olukai Ho’olaule’a moment: 2013, the last 5 minutes. After rarely seeing my husband Ed during the entire 8 miles, I survived the keyhole through the reefs into Kanaha Beach Park area and then as I was heading to the big yellow Olukai buoy I saw Ed paddling away ahead of me. I dug like crazy and gave it my best to catch him. He was almost within shouting distance as we tore off our leashes and jumped into the shore break. Cool volunteers from Olukai grabbed our boards and we had that last 1/4 mile (or some distance) sprint to the finish. Rubbery legs threatened to send me crumbling to the sand, but I kept Ed in my sights and ran toward him. The tune from “Chariots of Fire” hammered in my brain and made me laugh. My feet plodded through the sand and we finished 15 seconds apart. He turned around fter he finished, looking for me – as he always does. And there we were. Together at the end of an amazing adventure.

Will I be at my most ready for the Olukai this year? In fitness – not so much. If awareness and gratitude for being ready enough to complete it and enjoy it – absolutely. Sometimes life gets in the way of personal goals – the things we think we need to strive for. Sometimes life opens your eyes to what really matters. To that – I thank the Universe.

Happy Father's Day Dad! here's to plenty more water fun days

Thanks for the connection to water, Dad! here’s to plenty more water fun days

See you on the shore of Maliko Gulch on May 2. High five me if you see the old lady with a blue KIALOA Paddles hat and a rented 14′ Naish Glide.That happy person will be me. Enjoy the “fun race” hosted by Olukai, Suzie Cooney and Archie Kalepa on April 25.