Surf the Turf with Laird Hamilton: GolfBoard

Laird catching a glide on a frozen

Laird catching a glide on a frozen “wave.”

Don’t you crave that feeling of “the Glide” when you catch a wave or down wind current? No matter our ability, that moment when wind and wave propel us forward we feel young and wild and free. After catching some solid waves we’re happier, friendlier and more relaxed. I live in Bend, Oregon so I think about surfing more than actually paddling for waves. When winter brings the ski-snowboard season and glides come from frozen waves – it’s all good. Fun, play, being active and the exhilarating feeling of wind in my hair – that’s the ticket!

Laird Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.

Laird Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.

While tens of thousands of surfers play golf, I spilt from the links a few decades ago. That was, until last weekend when I had the opportunity to chat with Laird Hamilton about his role in a company immersed in play, innovation, imagination and cool engineering: GolfBoard. (video HERE)

Laird was in town with friend and training partner, Don Wildman and the GolfBoard team as part of the festivities around the world’s first GolfBoard-only tournament at Tetherow. In the early stages of the interview while Laird and I got to know each other a bit, I happened to mention I was turning 66 in a few days with the shrug that said, “I am so old.”

Laird laughed and said, ‘You’re only as old as you think or behave. Energy and a sense of play keep you young. I’d like you to meet my great friend and the inventive mind behind GolfBoard, Don Wildman.” With that Don came over to join the conversation. How lucky was I to share in a conversation with these two guys. Do NOT miss the chance to learn more about Don Wildman (perfect name for this guy) and his life and training philosophies.

The following is an excerpt from the conversation I had with Laird before Don took over to teach me (in 1 minute) how to ride the GolfBoard. I loved the “woohoo” experience that just might have me dusting off the clubs and heading out for 9 holes of surfing the turf.

ElderSUP: What is it about the way you experience sports that influences your unique ability to innovate, invent and collaborate?

LH: I think innovation is in my DNA. I come from a long line of thinkers with a background in the sciences. I was a kid during the short board revolution in the 60’s so I was used to a lot of change around the sport of surfing.  We lived at the end of a street where we didn’t watch much TV. We didn’t have a ton of toys so we all just went out to play, imagine, create – play was the key that fed my imagination. My Mom was a big factor in developing the way I think. She read to me a lot, great books like LORD OF THE RINGS and such. I love to create. In fact, I love the process more than the end result. If I build something that I think is cool and then i see someone else using it – with a big grin – there’s the reward and confirmation that what I build was good.gb2

ES: How tough do you think it will be for clubs immersed in the conventional and traditional way of playing golf to take a more hybrid approach.  How will GolfBoard grow among golfers and their courses/clubs?

LH: I know that you ski, and you have plenty of snowboarders at Mt. Bachelor. Ski engineering and design was revolutionized by snowboard design. On the other hand, snowboarding evolved as it did because snowboarders were able to use the infrastructure of lifts and grooming at a ski resort. Golf has a long history and a huge worldwide following, but clubs need to innovate and change in order to gain a broader membership, bring in younger players and engage golfers in new ways. By testing GolfBoard, Speed Golf and even Don’s version of Renegade Golf at the  “early adopter” clubs like Tetherow we can use feedback – and watch for the smiles on the faces of golfers – in order to learn how to make the transition the best it can be. GolfBoard can impact the game of golf like snowboarding did for skiing.

ES: What are some benefits golf clubs and golfers can expect to gain by adopting GolfBoard and new way of playing?

LH: Golf has plenty of adaptation to scoring and play that change up the game, and for many players it makes the game more fun. One example is ‘best ball.” The scoring system in golf is based in a frustration cycle that measures all the failures. When a player moves from shot to shot on a GolfBoard, especially after a bad shot, they arrive ready to hit their next shot from a more relaxed and playful place. You have to concentrate and stay in engaged in the process of riding the GolfBoard. I hear it all the time. After a round or two playing on the GolfBoard people say, “That’s the most fun I have ever had playing golf.”

When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic

When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic

Don Wildman, GolfBoard inventor added some thoughtful insights, “People are busy and time is the most valuable commodity for many. One way to get more done is multi-tasking. Playing golf on the GolfBoard is faster. Speed of play is one of the most frustating aspect of golf for many players and one of the complaints most heard by club management.”

Don continued, “It’s great for the older golfer for many reasons. If a person was used to walking the course, instead of moving into riding a cart as walking becomes more difficult, they can switch to the GolfBoard. For any golfer it’s easy to get stiff while sitting in a cart between shots. If you balance and move your whole body from shot to shot you arrive at the next shot more relaxed and ready.”

ES: How hard is it to learn to ride the GolfBoard?

LH:  The learning curve is about as close to zero as it can be. Similar to standup paddling, once a person is on the board the actual riding or paddling is intuitive. We have had more than 1100 golfers riding the GolfBoard without a crash. We built the GolfBoard with specifications suited to preserve the conservancy of golf as a sport and the course.

gb7I appreciate the time with Laird, Don and the entire GolfBoard team. The inaugural GolfBoard tournament at Tetherow was stellar!  You can FOLLOW GolfBoard on FACEBOOK.

I have to stop writing now and go workout (not exactly how Laird goes about it) – and maybe grab Ed and head over to Aspen Lakes or Tetherow for some GolfBoard turf-surfing.

Sea, Sand, SUP: Tide Pools and Surf Surprises

Sea urchin art - Marine Gardens at low tide near Otter Rock, Oregon Coast

Sea urchin art – Marine Gardens at low tide near Otter Rock, Oregon Coast

When I was a Floridian, beach days included sun and temps over 70. Today i am heading to surf, fish and explore wonderful tide pools at the marine gardens near Otter Rock on the Oregon coast.  We are wearing fleece, rain gear, wool hats (52 degrees and wet) over bathing suits which will only see the light of day when we quickly get into wetsuits!

Tide pools are wonderous glimpses into life below the surface. Here’s a short video of a garden of purple sea urchins waving graceful arms to the rhythm of surf. (Video here or embedded below)

Communing with local seals as they napped on algae covered rock was loads of fun – and maybe a forshadowing of afternoon drama (read on!!!) pcmay20154

After a morning on shore, surf’s up at Pacific City, kinda glassy so off we go!!!!

It was a great surf day with fast, heavy waves that built and broke and re-built to fun rights. Then came the drama! So when I was taking my last wave I turned to look back at the overhead swell as it began to feather and a SEAL that was taller and way fatter than I was totally torpedoed itself out of the water between me and the wave.

hokua-kiwanda1So why would a seal do that? At the moment, I just had a moment of being totally startled then I thought, “Was a SHARK was chasing it?” OMG I paddled for the wave and rode it all the way to shore. The end! I was done surfing for the day – shore break hammered, happy and tired.

Sweet Paddling: Great Performance Gear

Stoked with my new Sweet Waterwear Ka'iulani Zip Long Sleeve - for a million reasons

Stoked with my new Sweet Waterwear Ka’iulani Zip Long Sleeve – for a million reasons

Keep it simple – a board, a KIALOA paddle and excellent performance wear. That’s what I love about SUP – in any type of weather. So last Sunday we headed out in a bit cloudy chill of 50 degrees, so I decided to wear my Sweet Waterwear Ka’iulani Zip long sleeve with the neck zipped all the way. I was nice and warm, with plenty of soft, flexible fabric keeping the comfort level high.

If you look at the picture to the left you can see that the back of my hand is covered. This is a detail i wish I had a few decades ago – before the sun crisped my hands and got them all “old lady” on me. I wear sunscreen – liberally – but it does wear off quickly. I love the ample thumb-hole at the end of the sleeve, the comfort of the fabric covering my hand, and the sure grip afforded by the texture of the soft, breathable mesh where it comes in contact with my paddle. By tucking my thumbs into their keeper, the sleeve gets a bit of a stretch – no bunching up around elbows or riding up on the wrist.

Even on my cool Oregon Sunday paddle, it wasn’t long before I had unzipped all the way at the neck – allowing nice fresh breezes off the Deschutes to dissipate the heat generated by my intervals. With a clever one piece “Hip to Hand” soft side mesh panel breathability and comfort is perfect.  It’s the sign of great performance gear when you almost forget about the features and simply have a better paddle because of them. While I am pretty darn stoked about the colors in my Ka’iulani top, comfort and function combine to make this my favorite!

There’s even more coolness. I took my iPhone 6 along for the paddle both for photos and some tunes. I have a waterproof case, but I always need some sort of waist pack to carry it. That’s not the case when I wear my Ka’iulani. There’s a cleanly integrated big (and secure) back pocket just right for my cellphone, an energy bar and some extra sunscreen.

Check out the bold print on the back of the Ka'iukani (also available in white-sky-turquoise)

Check out the bold print on the back of the Ka’iukani (also available in white-sky-turquoise)

If you happened to catch all the ISA World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship action last week you saw Sweet Waterwear jerseys on Team Hawaii.  Zane & Matty Schweitzer have both declared them “Best jerseys they have EVER used!!”
swteamhiThat’s why you’ll find Sweet on many of the best in the world. Team SWEET OHANA continues to grow. Candice, Andrea, Annabel, Terrene, Silvia and Olivia – and YOU and me!!!

High quality, function, design – pretty great combinations to make decisions about what to wear for SUP fun, training, competition and style super easy.

I wondered about the name Sean Sweet selected for this newest item in the vast Sweet Waterwear line. Sean explained, “Ka’iulani loosely means, or implies, ‘rich in health, spirituality and prosperity.’ The meaning resonated with me because, in my opinion, so many standup paddlers seem to reflect these qualities and values.”

Head to toe Sweet Waterwear has me covered!

Head to toe Sweet Waterwear has me covered! Check out the Pro Elite Performance Tights

Live with Pono – Paddle with Power


The Olukai Ho’olaule’a FUN RACE was the first ocean race for friend, Laurie Heuermann. Suzie Cooney provided hands on support that launched Laurie into a great experience. And then Suzie was off to the start of her own race just 2 hours later

The spirit of “aloha,” and the importance of pono, or doing what is morally right and selfless, resonates in abundance in Hawaii.  When you live pono, part of your creed is to  live by being positive and supportive of others, sharing your strtengths and making a positive impact. During the many years we have known Naish team rider, Suzie Cooney, (Suzie Trains Maui) she has shared her pono ways in abundance.

During the weekend of May 1-3 and the Saturday before that, our friend, Suzie Cooney, was a very busy woman. From leading a Saturday practice 3-mile fun race with Archie Kalepa to hosting a fantastic demo day (see video with training tips from the pros below) she shared her experience and energy with many.

55 paddlers completed our 3 mile practice paddle in preparation for the OluKai 7th Annual Ho’olaule’a. Everyone helped each other and no one gave up. From the first board in the water to the last one on the beach we had the confidence based in Suzie’s planning and the team of volunteers that swept us along with jetski support and sweeping paddlers going stroke for stroke with the last in the group. The confidence and spirit of “fun in the sea” mixed with glides, new friends and smiles made it a super experience. We are not on Maui often enough, but it is awesome to get this feeling of community, sharing and “pono” during a visit.

Prayer circle and safety tips with Archie Kalepa and Suzie Cooney

It would be easy to observe the stoke and energy Suzie shares with so many and marvel at how fit she is and how easy she makes it look. You will never hear her complain, but she does have her share of hurdles. Perhaps that is one reason she can empathize so well with the “first time racing nervous Nellies,” or the “I can’t find the time or motivation to train,” among us. In any event, if you have the chance to train with Suzie or enjoy any of her events you’ll get a hefty dose of both aloha and example of pono.

olukaijudystart3On the morning of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a all I needed to be concerned with was getting to Kelly Moore’s Watertime shuttle and make sure to have my hydration pack. at 9 am I was organized, laughing and chatting with friends and Ed. We got to Maliko Gulch for the start of the race, joined in the traditional prayer circle and headed out for epic conditions, What had Suzie been doing that morning? Our friends Steve Gorton and Laurie Heuermann – who participated in the Suzie-led 3 mile Olukai Fun Paddle (9 am start) shared the story, “Suzie made us all feel welcome, she warmed us up with exercise and some motivation for our minds. She walked with us to the water where we were all a little freaked out by the shore break. She saw that Laurie was having a challenge getting her big board into the water. Suzie came over and showed Laurie some techniques for managing shore break, helped push her board out to sea and in no time Laurie was up and paddling.”

On the morning of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a after all of her work getting the Fun Paddle athletes on their way, Suzie got over to Maliko Gulch, paddled the gnarly route out to the start – encouraging friends and her students along the way. She paddled and glided her way through some epic, wonderful conditions all the way to a first place finish in her age group.

Yay, Suzie!!

Yay, Suzie!!

As we finished the event in our own unique time it was great fun to line the beach and cheers the others in. And guess what – there was Suzie again. Full of stoke and with a grin and a hug she joined several of her students at the finish – congratulating goals attained.olufinishsss

As the race and surf season builds through Summer and Fall we all have a chance to compete with pono. Share your skills, your stoke and your time when you can. Long after we all forget how we placed we remember and treasure the incredible feeling and opportunity to share time on the water with like-minded paddlers.

Live with pono – paddle with power, collect memories.

Who Won The Olukai Ho’olaule’a 2015?

Podium winners Andrea Moller and Connor Baxter

Podium winners Andrea Moller and Connor Baxter

Connor Baxter has won his 4th straight OluKai Ho’olaule’a SUP Race title, claiming a strong victory ahead of Travis Grant, Dave Kalama, Travis Baptiste and Danny Ching at the 7th Olukai JHo’olaule’a. Minutes after Connor crossed the line, Andrea Moller blazed to her win in the women’s race for the 7th straight year, further extending the greatest winning streak in the sport of stand up paddling while inspiring us – to the max!

Andrea Moller took a double win - claiming top spot in the OC-1 division too.

Andrea Moller took a double win – claiming top spot in the OC-1 division too.

The podium held the top 6 men and women finishers, but the beach at Kanaha held way over 300 winners! Everyone who battled the head on winds and the swells cresting and rolling against us as we paddled for a good 45 minutes out to the start line was a winner from the very first paddle stroke of the race. Showing up – and making it to the start – is a sure win in this super-cool event every year.

Connor Baxter has the gift of the glide - in my mind I looked just like that (LOL) Photo by Erik Aeder

Connor Baxter has the gift of the glide – in my mind I looked just like that (LOL) Photo by Erik Aeder

For us, the race began one week before at the “fun race” and clinic hosted by Suzie Cooney (Suzie Trains Maui) and Archie Kalepa (Olukai Konohiki). Suzie’s tips and technique instruction gave us a shot of confidence and we arrived at the Ho’olaule’a stoked and ready.

On June 2, I turn 66 (years old???) and wonder how can that be? I had plenty of time during the 8 amazing miles of this year’s race to contemplate what chain of events got me and Ed out on the deep blue ocean in these absolutely epic conditions on the extraordinary island of Maui. From my first Florida surf days (story here) to the 40 years with no surfing at all to the past few years of connecting to the ocean in amazing ways.


A sea of winners!

Clinics with Steve Gates and Jeremy Riggs on the mighty Columbia River down winders got us hooked. The beauty of the course from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park is beyond addicting. While most of my concentration during the race was focused on balance (both standing and while on my knees) I had time to look around. Every shade of blue surrounded us. The swells powering from behind sparkled in the sunlight and – OMG!!! – sometimes crested with a topping of whitewater before picking us up and sending us rocketing forward in the treasured glides we were all seeking.

I was riding a 14′ Naish GX Glide, and true to its name it provided many glides. When the nose submarined on some swells I was pretty thrilled to (most of the time) allow the board to seek its direction and steady with my KIALOA GL Hulu paddle and stay upright. I looked around and saw the others in the pack around me doing the same. Sometimes we’d take a dunk, and sometimes we’d make our glide and ride zoom.

Fun race day with my Naish 14' GX Glide.

Fun race day with my Naish 14′ GX Glide.

Long after the top finishers had beached, Ed and I and the pack around us finally came to the huge yellow Olukai buoy marking the sharp left hand turn at the outer reef. Swells turned into breaking waves, breaking in about every direction imagineable. There was nothing in the world during those minutes but my paddle in the water, my feet on the board and the intention of riding these pounders toward the finish. In the corner of my eye I saw the team of jet skis circling the area and a thought of “safety is nearby”  flashed into my sorta freaked-out brain.

Woo hoo, somehow I made it through with a couple of rides, and then the finsih buoy on the beach came into view – and it was serious UPWIND of where we were. Along with the others in my pack we  ALL got on our knees and paddled with every last ounce of energy we had – against the winds and side chop – trying to get to the beach and that final yellow buoy.olukjudy1

Then the Olukai support team raced toward us – each and every one of us – and shuttled our boards to the beach while we took off. Bare feet in sand never felt so good. I know i didn’t fly across the finish like Connor Baxter in his signature soar – but it felt just as good. The two women finishing ahead of me grabbed hands and finished together – neither caring who was first. All along the way we all cheered each other. In a sea of boards, paddles, grins, salt, sweat, stories and memories – we all finished as winners. Training, planning, and showing up! What a day.