I am in the midst of creating a workbook for the attendees of my SUP session at MUSE Camp near Bend, Oregon this August. There are so many things I want to share. It’s funny how inspiration for a section occurs. Often, a segment of an article will play visually in my mind, like a video. That happened this time.
Today I was paddling up-current and into the wind on the Deschutes River. I was noticing how noisy my board was clipping along the wind chop. Suddenly, I realized that my paddle entering the water with gurgling and bubbles was part of the soundtrack. At that moment a visual flashed through my mind. It was just 10 days ago when i was paddling out on a glassy, chest high day at Launiupoko when who should come gliding by on a SUP foil – but Dave Kalama! (video here)
Dave and Laird Hamilton are like the fathers of standup paddling. I have interviewed this legend before, but it was by phone. Here I was in the water as Dave, a big guy, comes absolutely silently and gracefully swooping through the gin-clear wave in front of me. Our eyes met, and he flashed that kid-in-a-candy-store grin we all know.
Today, the most impressive part of that visual memory was the absolute stealth silence of the foil. It reminded me of a clinic Dave had taught. He taught us to really reach before making a clean, quiet stab into the water with the entire paddle blade. The catch is when the paddler puts the blade of the paddle into the water. It’s basically all about getting a clean. To get a clean entry you avoid bringing an excessive amount of air bubbles down into the water and no splashing. The catch phase sets up the success for the other parts of the stroke. If you mess up the catch, there is no way the rest of the stroke is going to work as it should.
Dave Kalama says the most common mistake he sees people making with their stroke is not getting the blade all the way down into the water. He says, you paid for the whole paddle, you might as well use the whole paddle.
I decided to really pay attention (read, “be present”) during this paddle and work on getting my catch quiet, full blade (KIALOA Tiare) immersed and no bubbles. While I was at it I thought a relaxed meditation would be fun, as well. I began with the mantra of “Be mindful, focused, present, breathe.” With each word I watched my paddle blade slip stealth-like into the water. Then came the return and reach – time for another catch. Each catch matched a word. This went on for maybe 35 minutes while I did a sweet up and down current loop.
Time flew by, I was surprised how quickly the distance clicked by. Thank you, Dave Kalama. I mixed stealth and presence for a fantastic paddle experience.