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.
The water looked invitingly glassy – then the first gust powered down the canyon in my face as I started on the first up current .7 mile segment. Holy cow – Mother Nature was master of these intervals. The deal was: paddle hard or go backwards.
OK – I was in! Today my focus was on really using legs to drive the board forward with each stroke. Grabbing insights from a number of recent clinics the goal was keeping form and technique on every interval segment.
Fiona Wylde (at Santa Cruz Paddlefest)- Bend your knees more and get your bottom hand lower. (Check)
Zane Schwetizer ( at Standup 4 the Cure) – Use your legs. Keep your hips facing forward during the rotation of your stroke then bring your board to your paddle. Quads are powerful drivers.
Dave Kalama (at Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge)- Drive your paddle quietly and solidly into the water on your catch – be sure you have a solid catch before you start to bring your paddle back.
It’s amazing how a race pace interval against wind and current can fly by when the mind is fully focused on technique. When I got to the rapids that marked the turn point it was down current and down wind recovery time.
Whooooosh, in a nanosecond I was back at the put in – ready for lap #2. And so it went for almost 2 hours. I usually balk at training when the up current river segments are 15-25 mph wind in the face – but today “nature’s intervals” were all about focus and surprisingly were FUN.
Everyone wants to make the most out of their training and get faster. Everyone wants to paddle faster, but actually paddling faster still tends to be elusive. Lets review a few things that can help you either increase, or keep up, the speed while you’re on the water stand up paddling.
To go faster we need to focus on our technique! When you zone out or stop focusing on your cadence and reach, form breaks down and you start moving slower. Take your own game plan to the water, rely on your training, and focus on your technique.
You’re focused and you have a solid cadence, now you want to really reach. When paddling, you want to get every inch of reach you can to propel yourself forward. Further reach gives you a longer pull, this means your blade is in the water for more time. In theory you keep your board moving, as opposed to when you’re recovering the blade and your board is decelerating. The companion of reach is exiting your paddle from the water – at your feet, not behind them. The moment your paddle begins pushing water up rather than powering your board forward it’s wasted effort. An entire training session can be an exploration of catch and reach. (Bend those legs)
Make it a game. Train with a buddy. Set a goal. And best of all, celebrate when you’re done. A session out on the water is what we live for – make it great!
With many more top athletes enjoying the performance of Sweet Waterwear jerseys throughout 2015, it seemed like a good time for Elder SUP (ES) to go behind the scenes of this unique specialty Hawaiian brand based out of Honolulu. We were fortunate to have this chat with Sean Sweet, founder and visionary behind the brand.
ElderSUP: Sweet Waterwear wasthe official PPG race jersey on the estimated 450+ Open & Elite racers at the 2015 Pacific Paddle Games, the successor to the Battle of the Paddle. What a format and what an event for the inaugural year! How did this all come about?
SweetWaterwear: As soon as news broke about the PPG I approached Andrew Mencinsky (Marketing director at SUP the Mag & race organizer for PPG ) early on. Andrew has known about Sweet Waterwear & the high quality of our gear for quite some time. He knew many of the top SUP racers already use and swear by our gear. He’d also seen our Men’s Nirvana Race jersey at other prominent races and from team jerseys that we’ve done for many of SUP’s top board brands. Andrew and the team at SUP the Mag & TEN (The Enthusiast Network) really wanted to step things up at PPG. They were quite determined they were not going to just follow in the footsteps of the Battle of the Paddle. They wanted every aspect of PPG to be “Bigger & Better.” One of the most obvious “on-screen” ways to do that was to upgrade and outfit ALL of the athletes in beautiful custom PPG jerseys. (video teaser here)
Andrew wanted different colors by gender and group. We are one of the few companies that was large enough to do that and still be flexible enough to produce within a somewhat tight time constraint. For all these reasons, Sweet Waterwear was an obvious and easy, quality choice that met all their objectives.
ES: The vibrant colors on all the Sweet Waterwear jerseys we saw at PPG were exceptionally bright and highly visible in varied ocean conditions, at a distance & on the webcast.
SW: Stepping out of the box and pushing the bright colors was key essential goal for PPG. I’ve had these colors available – but no Race Director had ever ventured out of the color norm with us, before PPG. Fortunately Andrew knew well the live and telecast value of adding bright colors to the mix was far more than just a safety consideration – he recognized that the bright colors would really “pop” on the webcast providing a much richer and vibrant visual experience.
ES: We noticed right away that the Women’s jerseys at PPG were trimmer and a different cut. What brought about your developing a women’s specific race jersey?
SW: With the huge success of our Men’s Nirvana jersey, it was a logical extension for us to make a (literally) “more fitting” Women’s paddlesport tanktop. Women are far more fashion, fit and style conscious. We realized that wearing a downsized boxy men’s jersey just wasn’t really cutting it. The difference is more than just color. It fits better due to details like binding versus wide trim along with subtle, but noticeable, hourglass shaping. Now, the ladies look more flattering and feel better about how they look in our Sweet Waterwear jerseys while enjoying the same ultralight breathing performance of the Mens jersey, but in a more feminine, fashionable tanktop.
ES: Everyone performed to the max at the 2015 PPG but looking for the true stars of the day, they were also some of the smallest. The future of the sport is growing up on waves around the world, and we got to witness it during the Grom and Junior Pro races. SW: Absolutely, as the PPG event showcased so very well, the future of our sport is a powerful field of youth. And for the first time ever, we made sure they had race jerseys designed specifically with the smaller sizes in mind.
The kids were not an afterthought (as they often are at most other races). We offered size XXS jerseys for the first time ever to accommodate the keiki (children). With the kids we made the Boys Red and Black while the Girls had Red and White. It was subtle, but still made a perceivable distinction. The kids were super stoked to have their “very own” special kids jerseys. We were equally stoked to provide the kids with something “just for them” to enhance their performance and the PPG race experience.
These custom PPG jerseys have become a proud keepsake and talking point long after the race has been over. The kids are especially proud to wear their PPG race jersey at other races and while training no matter where they may live and paddle. We often refer to the robust “Retention Value” of our high quality race jerseys that get “great mileage” of exposure long after the event is over.
ES: What is your background and how did you develop the Sweet Waterwear brand from your past expertise?
SW: I have 30 + years in the apparel industry, most of it in casual and active sportswear. Shortly after moving to Hawaii it was quickly evident to me (as a new paddler) that the SUP market was very much under-served, especially on the Women’s side. I had just come off an 11 year stint at well-known Women’s sportswear company. So I knew how to bring a lot of technical fabric and sourcing expertise to the table. Being based in Hawaii helps enormously. We can test year round. I have access to all types of wind and watersports, as well as, all levels of paddlers including several of the world’s elite racers. Many of these elite water athletes have become ambassadors for our line after testing out our gear.
Since Day 1 – when we launched at the one (and only) Battle of the Paddle Hawaii (in 2010) we have offered a more highly evolved line and more technical detail that both athletes and everyday paddlers can really appreciate – so it stands out in the marketplace. Our race jerseys are well received by so many elite and fitness paddlers. Pro racers have the opportunity to wear and try many different styles and brands, but the feedback we get and then incorporate into our designs demonstrates how we are meeting the trifecta or “Sweet Spot” of paddler’s needs in style, function and performance.
ES: How is Standup Paddling gear different than, say, Surf gear?
SW: Stand-up paddleboarding is not like surfing in that it is largely an “on-the-water” activity versus often “in-the-water” like surfing. Tight rashguards don’t work as well. They are skin-tight, which by design will help keep you a little warmer. In stand-up paddleboarding, you are burning calories, and most paddlers want & need to dissipate that heat. Furthermore, you are also fully exposed to extremely high levels of sun when you are standing on the water. The combination of direct sun and indirect sun reflected off the water surface really intensifies your exposure. We are a core SUP brand and have pioneered crafting far more fashionable, superior quality, sun-protective gear specifically made for stand-up paddleboarding and other similar paddle sports like outrigger canoe paddling, kayaking, canoeing, dragon boat, etc. We are also very proud to be cut and sewn in the US using high quality European spec fabrics. There are hardly any Surf brands that can say that – most all are produced offshore in Asia with cheap labor and heavy “cost consideration” given to margin – which inevitably compromises on garment quality.
We already have what is perhaps the most popular men’s stand-up paddleboard racing jersey on the market. We offer custom printing and even co-branding opportunities. It’s market that we got into early and one where we have established a high profile & strong presence. If you happened to catch all the ISA World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship action last May you saw Sweet Waterwear jerseys on Team Hawaii. Zane & Matty Schweitzer have both declared them “Best jerseys EVER!!” Looking at the Sweet Waterwear ‘ohana I guess that is the opinion of many of the best in the world.
ES: I have noticed a lot of detail and innovation in your latest styles. like in my Sweet Waterwear Ka’iulani Zip long sleeve performance top with the neck zipper, thumb holes & big zippered back pockets, especially as the days turn cooler here in the Pacific NW. How did you come upon the name you chose for that style?
SW: 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. Further Princess Ka’iulani was/is an important historic figure in Hawaiian history & culture. The Kaiulani is our our top-of-the-line full featured long sleeve so you could also say it’s fit for royalty.
ES: What can we expect next from Sweet Waterwear? SW: We are driven to excellence, so we will continue to combine high quality performance fabrics with thoughtful superior design & our special “Handcrafted in USA” manufacturing. We are getting deeper into prints as accents & adding more styles like dresses & hoodies. Further we are very excited to announce that this summer we will be rolling out a complimentary special collaboration – a new line called “SWT KSS”. It’s sort of a double entendre & acronym for a limited collection designed by Kimberly S. Schamber and made by Sweet Waterwear. Look for the SWT KSS collection to launch in Spring / Summer of 2016.
We often get questions about what equipment is needed for Power of Presence SUP (P2SUP). Once you download a collection of our guided meditations for paddling you are just about ready to go.
While people are used to looking for a very stable – wide and with high volume – boards for SUP Yoga, any board will be fine for p2SUP. Since you will simply be paddling while listenbing to the recorded meditations for your mindful and present experience, no solid base for balance poses will be needed.
We use the KIALOA Aloha (board and paddle package) so that we can demo a high value / low expenditure option. No one has been disappointed! Ideal for beginners and sharing with family and friends, the Aloha is a perfect way to get started with the sport of stand up paddling. The 31” wide board provides great stability and makes for easy paddling. The soft top is impact resistant and provides a safe and comfortable way to enjoy the sport. An offset handle makes it easy to transport to and from the water. The four point tie down system is perfect for caring your water bottle or flip flops. Includes 10’ leash for safety and a 10” fin for good tracking. The tail bumper adds durability and is ideal for vertical storage. The package includes the family friendly Aloha Adjustable paddle.
If storage is an issue – or if you would love to check a bag (that includes your SUP board) we also use the KIALOA Napali inflatable. We can’t count the number of times people have come back from a backpack trip (with their KIALOA Napali board and an MP3 loaded with P2SUP meditations) all stoked and excited by the experience.
Whatever your needs, make your decision about what board will be best, grab your paddle and MP3 player (or waterproof case protected phone) and get out on the water. You will love the experience.
You might wonder about our super-cool model. She is Cynthia LaRoche, the soul and spirit behind the meditations you will enjoy at P2SUP. If you want to learn more about all she can offer in the realm of superb yoga instruction and experience, check out Cynthia LaRoche Yoga.
We like to wear performance paddling attire that feels amazing on the skin, moves as we move, dries quickly and looks great. Our “go-to” gear comes from Sweet Waterwear. Some of the stellar characteristics are:
PERFECT for cooler weather paddling or just to cover up.
UPF 50+ Outstanding rating in UVA & UVB sun protection
Silky Soft Comfort– Our special tricot knit is soft & satin smooth, no chafing
4-Way Stretch – Premium Nylon/Spandex blend stretches to move with you
Breathes – Cool touch Tricot knit breathes to keep you cooler & not overheat
Quick Dry – Thin performance fabric holds less water & Dries Fast
Mesh Underarm Panels – Cool your core
No Underarm Seams – Eliminates underarm chafing
Relaxed Loose Fem Crew Neck – for comfort & easy on / off
Fab & Fun Colorways
Customizable – Blank front for your club, team or store name &/or Logo
Multisport/ Cross Training – extra versatility, great for any sports activity
KIALOA has built innovative Outrigger, Dragon and SUP paddles for over 24 years. Their mission, according to Jim MIller, KIALOA’s director of new business development, has expanded as ,”producing the best products for paddlers through innovative design, selective materials and a lean manufacturing process.” This summer they unveiled the inflatable Waikiki and Napali which join the initial soft top Aloha.
Meanwhile, it’s time to get out on the water on our 12’6″ infalatable KIALOA Napali. My favorite young paddling buddy, Julia, joins me on the Aloha soft top. We are out to have some “clean up the river” fun.
My favorite paddle last week came on a windy day – with wind in the face while going upstream. As I dropped my board into the Deschutes River crowded with traditional summer-time tube-floaters and all types of paddle craft I was thinking about getting a nice interval training session. I was using my KIALOA Tiare Adjustable paddle extended almost 3 inches longer than when I used it last week for surfing.
In order to monitor a bit about my training paddles I use Nike+ on my iPhone to get feedback on minutes per mile. I wear a Polar heart rate monitor because sometimes I tend to go too hard for too long and start to erase the fun factor.
The upstream/wind-in-face leg: Imagine my surprise when I heard the robo-voice from the Nike+ app say, ” One mile. Average pace 18 minutes per mile.” Okay,” I thought to myself, “When the breeze is in my face and I am going up current in this section of the river I usually average 20 minutes a mile.” Weird, I wasn’t trying so hard, my rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was medium, maybe a 6 out of 10. Heart rate was in a manageable range. What was making a difference?
I believe I was cranking out the miles in a quick but seemingly easy manner because of two things.
First of all, I did feel powerful. My board seemed to be gaining power from my legs with each paddle – and the only thing I was doing differently was maintaining a more complete rotation of my upper body. Core engaged and tail tucked. I have been training on non-paddle days with the TRX system. A neutral spine is a prerequisite to doing the TRX program. Perhaps a regular routine of that practice at that had provided me with a better “engine.” I have had a habit of bending at the waist, particularly when skiing. Muscle and body memory around creating that more upright, neutral spine might be a valuable transfer to more than just my SUP technique.
Technique makes all the difference. I get a great deal of insight by reading Dave Kalama’s blog. He recently wrote, “Paddling most of the time needs to be a very flowing and rhythmic action, not a tense muscle flexed series of positions, but rather a constant continually moving movie. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to exert yourself, but if your base stroke comes from a place of rhythm and flow, when you exert yourself you will be much more effective and efficient. The best fix for it is to greatly reduce your power level and learn how to use your technique as your driving force, not your power output. Decrease your power to the level that you don’t feel like you’re doing any work at all, and just concentrate on technique. You’ll be surprised at how fast you go.”
Tiare Paddle In the Quiver: The team at KIALOA Paddles has lately been offering much more. On my “favorites” is the amazing Tiare paddle blade. I particularly like the adjustable shaft with a paddle blade made for especially for women. Even though the Tiare is smaller in square inches, the bottom third (where the catch takes place) is wider. This allows me to really feel and accentuate the catch of my paddle stroke – thus gaining more effective power as the stroke plays out. In addition, Dave Chun explained that the flex of the blade allows me to “feel” the water more effectively throughout the stroke.
Dave shared this in more detail, “I feel a good paddle needs to flex. The flex gives feedback to the paddler, which makes for a more efficient catch and pull. What the blade is doing in the water is important if a paddler wants to continue to develop their technique. I believe stroke technique is a lifelong journey. Many paddlers only think in terms of fitness when training. But, consider how most athletes are trained for their sport. Components of the sport are broken down in to small segments and drilled over and over again. Practicing an inefficient paddling stroke will get you fit, but it will limit the threshold of one’s overall speed.
The stiffness or flexibility of the paddle must be scaled to the strength of the athlete. Generally speaking, men are larger, and thus stronger. The typical woman, cannot “load” a blade or a shaft designed for a man. It is not simply a matter of building a blade with less surface area. The blade, as well as the shaft, must load under a woman’s energy output.
Designed and scaled for women every step of the process: The Tiare was designed during the tooling/molding phase as a women’s paddle. The rib is narrower and lower in height than the Insanity. It was scaled to a women. On our part it was a commitment to our women’s program. The Tiare mold or “Shorty” as we nicknamed it, will never be used for an all-around or man’s paddle.
During the design phase we decided that a women’s shaft should be less than 28mm. 28mm is the standard diameter of a men’s Olympic weight lifting bar. 25mm is the standard for women. 25mm is pretty small for a paddle shaft. We settled on the 27mm-27.5mm range. Round shafts flex more than oval shaft, dimensions and material lay-up being equal. Like designing a pair of gender specific blue jeans, we started with a clean slate when we designed the Tiare – for women.”
Simply, I am STOKED!!!! Off to about 8 weeks of training before I use my Tiare paddle in the Colombia Gorge Paddle Challenge – will we see you there? I will be testing the Tiare that is being developed for women who race by the innovative team at KIALOA Paddles. Look for us in the KIALOA Paddles tent for some “talk story” fun.
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 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.
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.”
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.