Dave Kalama: You’re Gonna Get More Glides

Photo by 808Photo.me
Photo by 808Photo.me

This article contains two powerful lessons from Dave Kalama. If you do down winders, no matter what your skill level,  reading the water and getting your glides are skills you’ll want to hone. 

A big “mahalo” goes out to Dave for taking the time to share these insights. And kudos to four of the Hood River Kalama Kamp who earned medals after their time with Dave Kalama.

Photo by 808Photo.me
Photo by 808Photo.me

Back Story:Did you happen to catch any of the action during the recent, and very challenging, Molokai 2 Oahu (M2O) race?  The conditions were  epic, to say the least. Right at the front of the action was Dave Kalama keeping pace with the young guns, despite pushing 50 years of age.

The focus and confidence Kalama demonstrated in that event was built on decades of pursuing everything that defines a waterman.  Dave’s commitment to putting in the quality miles and hours it takes to compete at this level is well known. What might be less known is his absolute gift of explaining the techniques and insights he’s honed over a lifetime. These insights can be yours.

A lifetime on the water - Mahalo to Dave Kalama for sharing his insights
A lifetime on the water – Mahalo to Dave Kalama for sharing his insights

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or a solidly advanced standup paddler ready to hone your down wind skills, you will be interested in a recent conversation I had with Dave. One take- away, “Ultimately, instruction on reading the water and having a sense of reading wind, waves, current and glides, will make minimal sense unless you are repeatedly in a downwind situation being exposed to each set of circumstances.”

A number of fortunate SUP athletes looking to gain expertise at doing a down wind run will take a Kalama Kamp clinic in Hood River. others whose dreams are filled with tropical oceans and bays will meet up with Dave at Kalama Kamp in the Turks & Caicos and Fiji.

Rather than gaining just a nugget or two, like those in this article, Kalama Kamp attendees will be exposed to the mother lode of advice and experience right in the environment where it can be practiced immediately. Each of the “nuggets” below was something I had heard from Dave, but more impressive, I heard the same thing from Kalama Lamp attendees I have met at various SUP events around the Pacific Northwest.

hoodriverNugget #1: This was shared with me by a recent Kalama Kamp attendee in Hood River, Jared from Tahoe, “I learned so many specific things about my stroke and body mechanics during the ground clinic. We used brooms and it was really cool. But the best part was out on the water. Dave told us specifically what we were looking for. We could see, really observe what we were looking for, Dave told us when to paddle and go for glides and we practiced and got immediate feedback.

The NUGGET: The backs of waves will present themselves to you. You can use the nose of your board as an indicator of when you should paddle.  As the swell comes under your board it will lift up the back of your board. The angle it lifts your board will match the steepness of the swell. A deep trough translates to a steep face.  Pay attention to the nose of your board.  The more the nose begins to lift you can anticipate that the tail will be lifted by the swell a few seconds later. When the nose is up at its apex begin your attack to catch the next swell. Begin with a stroke at 50-60% to initiate the rhythm but go to your max through the next few strokes. By building the stroke early you are building the tension to move your board forward. Be aware of when the nose of your board is at the apex and drop your paddle in then to  gain tension against the water and set your rhythm. BY the third paddle stroke you should be at 100% and enjoying the glide!

At the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I met some “repeat offenders” who had been to a number of Kalama Kamps and are eagerly looking forward to the Kamp in Fiji. Alex and Ashley from Canada explained, “We are intermediate and beginner level paddlers. (Ashley is just getting into down wind riding while Alex has more experience). The Kamp is equally great for both of us. From the on land work, video, recap and reviews to time on the water, Dave not only refines our skills but he motivates us to learn more and gain confidence.

Nugget #2: A Kalama Kamp (Hood River) participant who has taken 3 Kamps already, also named Dave, shared this, “Kalama spends time with every participant on and off the water. He has a knack of explaining technique in a way that I can understand. I was not using my body to drive the board forward. I gained so much confidence in how I gain speed with better technique.”

The Nugget: This video explains it so well:

Who Knew? Slower Can Be Faster

Super slow motion overview of technique by Dave Kalama
Super slow motion overview of technique by Dave Kalama

Conserving energy, maximizing stroke, honing effective technique. We all work on these a lot of the time if the number of articles and how-to videos out there are any evidence. When we can’t get to a clinic, it’s terrific to be able to access local coaching and online video tips.

Then it comes to getting on the water and paddling. Often, we prep for a race and discover that  we’re working our hardest and giving it all with high RPMs and effort – but it just doesn’t feel FAST!


Dave Kalama looking strong mid Ka'iwi Channel (photo by 808Photo.me)
Dave Kalama looking strong mid Ka’iwi Channel (photo by 808Photo.me)

Distressed Mullet recently posted a very short and “to the point” video with some tips from Dave Kalama (now just a few days after his 6th place solo finish in the 2014 M2O against paddlers 2-3 decades his junior – Yay Dave!) The video is below and well worth taking a couple of minute to internalize Dave’s simple, but not obvious, message. “Go slow to go fast.”

Butterflies, Big SUP Event and Breath

Anticipation or fear of the "what if" in an event might de-rail our joy and anticipation
Anticipation or fear of the “what if” in an event might de-rail our joy and anticipation

Each day we have a choice as to how to spend our time and energy.  Often our time is planned so that we can fulfill responsibilities and carve space for our “my time.” When we choose to include a SUP event as part of our practice, we set goals and design a training plan. It seems clear and straight-forward, right?

There’s always something that comes up – our time can get segmented, pulled in many directions and we might procrastinate away some paddle opportunities because of (fill in the blank).

We might spend the months before an event we registered for with great anticipation and excitement being influenced by less than confident thoughts or fears,  It might not be a lack of time, focus or discipline that de-rails our intention. We might simply need a reminder  to inhabit each moment, rather than being led around by our thoughts and focus on our fears.

Training to the next level is attainable when we are present - and aware of our breath
Training to the next level is attainable when we are present – and aware of our breath

Framing an event as an opportunity to “learn” rather than being forced into expectation or agenda can be refreshing.  Yes, when we stay in our comfort zone or wander away from challenges it is much easier to live in the moment. The real opportunity for learning or growth comes when you reach and stretch, when outcomes could be way different from what we would have chosen or preferred.

Plan a training session, plan something that will lead you toward your goals and set out to do it. During that session be aware, be present. Do you want to flee when things get tough? Do you fear you can’t complete a speed, a distance or a challenge? Notice when fear takes over your ability to be present.

One of the best tools that can help us stay more present is our breath.  When we are stressed or in our fears, our focus is most certainly not on breathing.  We often hold our breath when we get anxious or frustrated.

Take a moment to return to your breath and awareness when needed
Take a moment to return to your breath and awareness when needed

It is fine to interrupt a training session and bring your attention or focus back to your breath. Something happens when you consciously bring your awareness to each and every breath.   This has an amazing way of shifting our energy and bringing it into the present…even if that moment is very challenging.  You may still feel your fear or whatever it is that took you out of the present, but you are taking action to return to being calm, strong and present.

You will discover what you need in order to focus on your breath. You will develop a stronger mind-body connection. One way might be to close your eyes and shift your attention to your inhale and exhale.  Allow them both to lengthen.  Keep your focus there for as little as 20 or 30 seconds and see how that changes your energy.  Many of the POWER OF PRESENCE SUP (P2SUP) audio programs provide a meditation designed to hone your skills for being present and focusing on breath.  These are powerful tools for both training, competing and – life.

Image by Melanie Weidner (http://www.listenforjoy.com/)
Image by Melanie Weidner (http://www.listenforjoy.com/)

Train Smart – Train Safe: Annabel Anderson

Annabel trains smart - and it shows. Photo © Ben Thouard :  - www.benthouard.com
Annabel Anderson trains smart – and it shows. Photo © Ben Thouard : – http://www.benthouard.com

That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” That, “Ouch,” when your neck, traps, lower back or shoulder lets you know something is tight or off in your technique.

During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the “reach and catch” solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While  a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must.  When the feedback is discomfort or pain, you know you need some technique tweaking.

I FOLLOW many elite standup paddlers via their Facebook, blogs and the great publications that allow us to gain information. A recent interview with Annabel Anderson (Starboard) by SUP International was packed with exactly the sort of information we need to train smart and avoid injury. (Full article here)

Preparing for SUP demands with balanced training is key. © Ben Thouard :  - www.benthouard.com
Preparing for SUP demands with balanced training is key. © Ben Thouard : – http://www.benthouard.com

Harry at SUP International asked Annabel,Can you talk about signs symptoms that a paddler should look out for that would suggest they are over reaching?
By over reaching I am assuming you are meaning that the entry point of the blade is too far out in front? A stroke that does not engage power as soon as the blade touches the water may be suffering from ‘over reaching’. There are many different philosophies associated with perceived ‘stroke technique’ in this sport. Due to the lack of credible and biomechanically sound information people have sought refuge in references from the internet.

Annabel Anderson (Starboard) connects advice to experience - to our benefit
Annabel Anderson (Starboard) connects advice to experience – to our benefit

Annabel advises, “Be careful as to who you reference information from if it is from a free source. My suggestion is to ask yourself what and who the source is where the information is from. If you’re in pain or are feeling uncomfortable, something is likely not as it should be and if you continue to do it repetitively, you will do damage over time.”

Great insights – very relevant for me. How about you? Take the time to read the entire interview with Annabel . You might just save yourself from an injury and the resulting “down days.” Each step of the stroke is important and needs to be practiced.  Good reach and catch are important before applying the power.  A reputable and experienced coach and reliable online information can help us all train smart and reach our goals.


Be Present and Breathe

The abundance of SUP Yoga classes provides a wonderful opportunity to take your yoga practice outside, beyond the walls of your studio – and possibly beyond the walls of what you think you may be able to achieve in your practice.

SUP yoga is asana practiced on 10- to 12-foot-long boards in an ocean bay, a glassy lake, even a slow-moving river. Water-loving yogis have embraced SUP yoga as a practice that brings a sense of joyful freedom to an otherwise earth-bound yoga practice.

In Power of Presence SUP (P2SUP) our mission is to connect a physical practice, standup paddling, to a non-physical practice that can guide you toward cultivating true presence.

In the Western world many think of yoga as purely a physical practice, or a fitness routine.  The word “yoga” has many definitions, among them “to come together,” “to unite,” and “to tie the strands of the mind together.”  In The Heart of Yoga, TKV Desikachar (son of renowned yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer, and scholar, Tiramulai Krishnamacharya) discusses the physical and non-physical aspects of yoga, which we use to cultivate true presence.  By focusing inwardly and connecting breath with movement, we unite our mind, body, and breath.

P2SUP can guide you to be more present with your moment-to-moment experience.  Rather than getting lost in thought or exertion, you will begin to experience SUP as a moving meditation more fully.

zenP2SUP will guide your training so you will be able to focus on the breath. Without a certain level of awareness, your mind will follow thoughts around haphazardly as you paddle. It’s through the breath that we cultivate our ability to stay present.   P2SUP can elevate your paddling experience. Too often we are on auto-pilot. P2SUP will cultivate your ability focus your awareness.

When your awareness is not powered by “presence,” you miss out on many important and helpful messages from the body, because you aren’t “here” to receive them. Presence and breath are the core components of P2SUP. If you want to learn more, CONTACT US here.


Molokai 2 Maui: Train with Peggy King

Peggy King has put in the training and downwind miles needed for the downwind racing season
Peggy King has put in the training and downwind miles needed for the downwind racing season (photo credit: Jeff Chang)

July 12, 2014 – Peggy King will be on the  starting line ready for the Maui to Molokai SUP race. This event, which begins in Honolua Bay, covers a stretch of water often described as “The Best Downwind Run On The Planet.” With her 60th birthday in the rear view mirror, Peggy King’s M2M training had been well-planned and solid. She feels ready for her second solos M2M.

We had a blast at the 2014 Olukai!
We had a blast at the 2014 Olukai!

I ran into Peggy at the start of the 2014 Olukai Ho’olaule’a. She looked fit and with 20 fewer pounds on her lean frame she was an inspiration to me! Curious about her training (and ready for some lean muscle and more endurance) I asked her to share some details.

Peggy King’s Training Summary:  My training for this event was planned and actually started way back in September of 2013. My main focus was on improving my overall fitness and accomplishing some weight loss( 20 lbs since July 13!) The strategy included attending classes at Crossfit Upcountry Maui 3-4x per week.

I am not a nutrition expert, I simply used common sense. For example, my diet plan began with the eradication of a favorite –  Triscuits and cheese. It was the start of a few habits changes that made a big difference. Diet was rounded out with meats,veggies fruits, and what we all know is important, less sugar, processed food, and alcohol. Portion control is the magic.  Athletes need water – so I was more conscious of that.

Time on the water is Peggy’s favorite training routine (photo credit: Jeff Chang)

My XFit class formed a training base that I supplemented with SUP surfing, uphill walking with my dogs, and some double exercise sessions to mimic the time and intensity of  e what is required on a double Maliko Run.  It was important for me to include scheduled rest days! When I’m tired I overeat, am clumsy and risk getting hurt! Noooo! I do not want an injury.

Paddle season is upon us now- I did some of the Kahului Harbor circles in calm water- not fun! I am aiming for a double Maliko run at least 1 x per week. Since February, I have been doing downwinders to the Kahului Harbor(not just ending my Maliko runs at Kanaha) 4-5x per week.

Falling during the M2M not only wastes a lot of time, but also energy. Paddling upwind into a body of water in the nasty wind is important- and a skill required for M2O( I’m not doing that one!) and M2M.  After paddling 26 + miles of open ocean when you are tired it is necessary to have a solid base of skills and endurance.

Jeff Chang from the Wet Feet company took Peggy on the Hawaii Kai Run while she was on Oahu last week
Jeff Chang from the Wet Feet company took Peggy on the Hawaii Kai Run while she was on Oahu last week

Jeremy Riggs has helped me with my down-winding and paddling skills for 2+ years now,”being my chaperon” when conditions were really windy and nasty. As a result,my confidence has improved tremendously. I also sought out some wonderful coaching on my paddle stroke from David Kalama. I love and respect both these guys so much!

Since paddle/ downwind season has started, I’ve been challenged with the tiredness overeating/ training syndrome,but it’s getting better as my body adjusts to this workload! This is not easy for a 61 year old post menopausal broad like me.

I’m feeling both anxious and excited now as M2M approaches. I want to improve my time and qualify as a finisher sooo bad. They let me through last year at 5:34 although  I fell a lot the last 5 miles. I did a fair race. This means I didn’t cheat by going to my knees or sitting down.

I am much more prepared mentally and physically this year. Who knows what the conditions will bring. It could be light or 45 mph! I could be “yard sale” falling across the channel! I’d like to think with all my training and weight loss I’ll do better than that! Fingers crossed and hope for the best.”

We wish the same for you, Peggy!  (Note from Elder SUP- I have taken a clinic from Paddle with Riggs and you can too! Launches your skills to an entirely new level)


SUP Lessons from Seat 2

Timing and “The Catch”

That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” Something about that sound screams, “Wrong!”

During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the catch solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While  a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must. When I train for standup paddle races and events I do my best to get the stroke right, but what is missing is a constant feedback loop so only my good technique and habits stick.

oc6-1When reach, the power stroke and a hasty return is perfect in timing, the feel and the sound is pure music and synchronicity. While we can practice these parts of the stroke while standup paddling, every aspect of our technique is even more easily analyzed while paddling with your team in an OC-6. A team provides feedback on so many levels: feel, tips and visual cues from others.

I have had the good fortune to paddle in Seat Two behind one of our more experienced team members, Lisa Jakubowski, as she brings us through a practice as stroke in Seat One. We don’t talk while training but recently she mentioned how she was trying to refine her stroke to avoid the “plunks” and “gurgles.” Being so close behind her, mimicking her style and technique, working on timing the best i could, I decided to work to eliminate the gurgle as well.

Focusing on the one thing was amazing. It began with watching her upper arm and shoulder as she moved through her power and return phase. As if we were connected, my upper arm/shoulder attached to hers. I began to get some solid timing, great for seat 4 and 6 to follow.

Next I matched her hip rotation, working to drive with my forward foot and hip at the exact same time that she did.  Mid way through our 10-mile training drills she mentioned, “When I really drive with my hip, rather than over – reaching with my upper body, I actually get an ideal amount of shoulder rotation. That results in a greater reach. I pause that nano-second at the reach then make sure i get a solid catch.” (Here is a great coaching video from KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin – coaching Lisa Jakubowski. Thanks to Lisa for sharing it)

Lisa gave me a few tips on how to “feel” that perfect moment between momentum and power when the catch can be ideally executed. At that moment the canoe seems to be moving with exquisite smoothness. The paddle matches the speed of the boat. As I began the return with my paddle I gave a gentle punch with my lower arm. This momentum opened my joints  and stretched my muscles.

The energy of following the action of Lisa in front of me and the timing of the entire team in the canoe fed my ability to maintain speed, power and intensity as needed for all 4 laps of our 2.5 loop on the Deschutes River.

Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH
Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH

KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin demonstrates the Catch