Connor Baxter Wins The Bilbao World SUP Challenge

When Connor Baxter writes a recap of his races, it’s like being right there on the water with him.  FOLLOW Connor on social media (links below) to get all his updates as they happen.  You can get the full story from SUPRacer. Read his recap now:
(Connor Baxter) The 2016 Bilbao World SUP Challenge was another huge success. Every year this event is one of the biggest stops on the Euro Tour, with an elite field of paddlers and great weekend vibe.
After a few days relaxing through Paris and Bordeaux I got to the city on Wednesday. I did a nice jog along the river where the race was going to be held, to start visualizing and planning what I needed to do.
The race was being held during max high tide, so there was little current to worry about. For that reason I just had to focus on paddling. As it got closer to the contest day the nerves and excitement started to kick in and I was ready to go! This year the points were only on the distance race so that meant one day of 120% effort. bilboa4
The race started at 4:30 in the afternoon, so it was a lazy morning of stretching and eating food before game time. When I got to the event site I set up my Starboard Sprint with my Manta Futures Fin and headed up to the starting line. It was a standing up rolling start and when that horn blew, I was a little caught off guard.  I fell back into the super choppy water. Then, I managed to catch a few little wakes from everyone and got some clean water That’s when I started to get into my rhythm for the next 14 kilometers.
There were a total of six turns in the course and I knew that negotiating them well was the only way to drop the huge train that was lined up. There were a few huge surges that dropped some of the train, but the top ten guys hung on and were together for the whole race.
bilboa3I felt really good and kept telling myself that “I got this”, which gave me a lot of energy to stay in the lead pack. Coming into the second to last turn the gear shifted and everyone had the pedal to the metal – and I dropped back to fifth place and was hurting, but then I got some inspiration from one of the greatest athletes Muhammad Ali, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” So I went in the next gear and started passing forth place and then into third before the last turn. bilboa2
As I got closer to the final buoy turn I knew if I wanted a shot at winning I needed to be turning on the inside and be the first one to turn. So I sprinted again to get on Michael Booth’s inside for the turn. I quickly turned and put my head down for the final sprint. My body was cramping up, but I just kept telling myself – mind over matter – and I sprinted even harder, until I crossed the finish line in first place.
I was super stoked to win the distance race and knowing that there wasn’t a second day of racing was a great feeling. Now off to the fourth stop of the Euro Tour – San Sebastián!!

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Dakine, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, GoPrHammer Nutrition, Go Pro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro and Hi-Tech Sports.

Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. Great Event!! A definite MUST for next year!!!

Aloha,
Connor Baxter

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Gnarly Buoy Turns = SUP Racing Friendship

The La Ventana Classic ended its race week with a 5.5 downwind race from the Hot Springs to Baja Joe’s. Overall rankings were announced at the end of the day with Bonnie Fromm, Terri Plunkett and Dianna Steven taking first, second and third respectively for the Wahine class. While by no surprise, Anthony Vela, who has dominated all of the week’s SUP races, took first followed by Jeremy Vaine and MacRae Wylde.

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New friends and winners – Bonnie Fromm and Terri Plunkett

Better than trophies, Terri and Bonnie met while inadvertantly crashing into each other at crazy, gnarly buoy turns in Race #1 – the course race – and being gracious about it all. They easily connected and became fast friends. Terri shares, “Race # 1 sucked. The course race was insane for me because paddling upwind on an inflatable is so hard.  My inflatable ULI board was incredible in the down wind events, it really took off in the wind! The best part of the course race is that it was when I met Bonnie Fromm. Good PEOPLE that Bonnie Girl and she is strong and fast!!”

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Terri’s KIALOA HUlu paddle and her Uli inflatable powered her through amazing down wind runs at La Ventana

Bonnie set the stage for our story, “Terri and I competed in 4 out of 5 events: a course race, a 4 mile downwind, La Cruces 10mile, and El Norte 5 mile downwind. We both skipped the island crossing as it was 11 miles of cross chop and would have made the final races too much. The final El Norte was my favorite as the wind was great and the waves coming  into Baja Joe’s were a hoot.”

The Downwinder Sprint is an 8 mile coastal Downwinder sprint from Rancho Las Cruces- paddlers race downwind breaking free in the La Ventana swells with the wind at their back. It was the most challenging race of the event. It was meant to be a down winder  but the waves and wind both were on shore with wave reflection from the cliffs. Bonnie gives us some insight, “We had the rare opportunity to start our downwind paddle race from Las Cruces, the private playground for Bing Crosby and the Ratpack! It was eight miles of pristine coastline in wild waves that challenged every balance muscle! Incredible experience with Awesome people! We paddled cross wind through huge washing machine waves for about 7 miles before rounding Puento Gordo and turning downwind. It was BEAUTIFUL but some of the most difficult water I have ever been on. I was thrilled to remain standing and dry with only a few tumbles to my tush.”

terripbonniegroupTerri told us that the drive to the start of the La Cruces race took 2 1/2 hours through dirt roads across a countryside that was surreal and spectacular. A key was needed to get in to the gate, a private access to the start. The start was in the middle of no where – and once the horn sounded the racers were split apart by wind and waves. Terri explained, “I felt very alone. Back on shore no one remained after the start. I paddled past incredible, pristine beaches but it was also a bit eerie, no buildings or support.

I was connected to my board, the only means of support, by a thin leg leash. Once we passed Puento Gordo the experience could not have been better.  Las Cruces. Baja Mexico. 10.5miles of paddling along this magical pristine coast line with winds blowing us furiously toward the finish line. What a rare and amazing experience. Another gift paddling a SUP has given me. Along with a new friend.”

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Anthony Vela had a great week with friends old and new – and winning La Ventana Classic

On Facebook, Anthony Vela posted, “This was the start of the Tres Cruces Downwind race in La Ventana. Such a beautiful place to see, thank you to everyone at the La Ventana Classicwho helped with the many logistics to make moments like these possible. Over 50 miles of paddling last week 

After the awards were announced, Tim took the mic to announce the final sum that was raised in support of the local school kids. All money, beyond costs of running the event, will go directly to the Amigos de Alumnos group, to contribute to high school scholarships and help local students in La Ventana/El Sargento continue their education. The grand total of $12,666 dollars will allow 42 kids to continue high school! 

Although the cost to attend high school is only $300 US annually per student, this cost is a roadblock for some Mexican families and stops many bright and motivated young people from attending high school.

Training Tips

Terri couldn’t say enough about winner of the Classic, Anthony Vela.  Back in CA, Anthony leads Performance Paddling (Dana Point, CA), for adult racers. Terri tells us, “The drills that we practice with Performance Paddling I used in every event, particularly the 11-mile side wind island crossing. ‘Bracing,’ ‘One sided paddling,’ ‘Step back & brace,’ ‘Lean turning,’ ‘Stop back brace and stall’ and the ‘Quick change drill.’ So many things we practice every day are applied to open ocean paddling.”

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KIALOA ‘Elele Terri Plinkett plays at training with a smile.

Bonnie had been in Baja for 4 weeks and had done numerous down wind paddles. She trains by doing,  trying to paddle a few times a week throughout the year. She’s stoked by the performance of her Amundson 12’6″ TR-X, “my saving grace in the wild seas.”

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Bonnie Fromm gliding fast in her “happy place.”

Cross training is part of Bonnie’s program, “I’m off to the Northwest to ski and hope to enter my first skate ski race! Paddlewise I will probably not compete again until  The Rose City Races (Portland).

 Big thanks to all the sponsors and volunteers at the event— without them it would not have been possible! The mayors of local towns, Los Planes and El Sargento, were both in attendance and were incredibly thankful for everybody’s support.

 

 

Some history ……… Las Cruces, Baja MX  – Rancho Las Cruces The exclusive property of Las Cruces is located approximately 30 road miles south east of La Paz, capital of the State of Baja California Sur, Mexico Rancho Las Cruces Baja Resort The start of the 11mile downwinder Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador, was told about a great Island filled with gold and pearls of wonderful size and color. Determined to find the source of such impressive riches and to claim the fabled island of pearls for the Spanish crown Cortés sent various expeditions. On one of these Cortés himself set forth and landed on May 3rd, 1535 on what was thought to be an island. In commemoration of his landing he placed three crosses on the land he baptized as Santa Cruz. Stone replicas of these crosses still remain in the site where Rancho Las Cruces now stands. Part of the land known as Santa Cruz by the early Explorers would later be named Las Cruces. Although he found no gold, Cortés did find pearls of astonishing beauty.

Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo & Lucille Bremer Down the centuries the shores of Las Cruces and the islands of Cerralvoand Espirito Santo were renowned for their fabulous pearls but a decline in the pearl oyster started as early as 1900 and by 1929 the pearl industry of Baja belonged to the past. Standing where Cortés once stood more than 400 years earlier, Abelardo L. Rodriguez Montijo watched the rising sun cast its array of magnificent color on the tranquil sea. He saw the remains of thatched huts, water wells and aqueducts that once irrigated beautiful tropical orchards and native palms. He realized then, that although depleted of pearls, Las Cruces could still provide treasure. He believed that the enchantment of ten thousand acres with more than five miles of private sea coast would be gratifying to those who must face maddening crowds and churn through congested traffic. In 1948 he and his beautiful bride, Lucille Bremer decided to turn Las Cruces into a small luxury resort.

La Ventana Classic – A New Champion

We love to watch elite SUP racers vie against the wind and current, gliding far on bumps and waves in a challenging down-winder.  In the January La Ventana Classic a champion rose from the local community on a waterlogged board that floated ashore as ocean debris and with a paddle he constructed from scrap metal and blue paint. You may be scratching your head, “What?”  Me too, but then I got the story from the top female racers in the week long event, Terri Plunkett and Bonnie Fromm. (Featured image by Matt Treger Photography)

Terri shared, “La Ventana Classic was a magical event with down-winders similar to Maui. The El Norte wind powers down the beautiful Sea of Cortez.  While all that was amazing, I was most touched by the local community and the cause this event supported. All proceeds went to send high school kids to school. The cost is $300/kid per year, but let me put this in perspective. During the week we were there the Mexican government announced the minimum wage was raised – to $4.50 (comparable USD) per DAY.  No wonder the tuition is beyond the reach of most families.

Over 13,000.00 was raised and instantly distributed to selected students based on the student’s willingness and motivation for education So many are so poor. I really felt and saw the poverty first hand. Just giving your hat to a local kid made them so so happy. But the generosity, the sharing of food, talent and smiles indicated to us all how rich the community was in spirit. They had parties every night with local bands
Many groups of children performed and danced for us at the event site. The K and 1st graders being over the top adorable! The locals made and sold homemade tamales, cerviche and burritos every day. We had board caddies to cart our boards around for us.”

Who was the local champion?

julioBonnie Fromm completed Julio’s story, “One local father paddled from town on his soft top board (yes, the waterlogged 50-pounder) and chewed up, homemade paddle to join us! Julio was an inspiration to all of us in his determinAtion to finish all five races. After one race we were able to loan him a solid board and nice paddle. He finished every race with a huge smile. I asked him how he got in such great shape to paddle so well and he pulled out his rosary beads, kissed them then said ‘strength for our kids’ in spanish! In the end he was awarded a new paddle for being so inspirational.”

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Julio and his hand crafted paddle

Julio Caesar Locero ended up as the Town Hero. It was a challenge for even seasoned racers to do all 5 races. The “down-winders” ranged from 5-15 miles and were often side wind in large chop and surf. His desire and courage was contagious! No one wanted to see Julio out on the water on the waterlogged board he found washed ashore. Anthony Vela  rallied the vendors and eventually Julio was loaned an F1 board to use.  Rather than raffling off one of the paddles, the race manager presented it to Julio. Cheers and great energy came every time he was on the podium. Terri and Bonnie agree, “We all learned that racing is about heart, friends and our shared love of SUP.”

There is a lot more to this story:

Read More, “Buoy Crash = Friendship”

Sweet -Race Jersey Next Generation

sswjer-proIf you followed the inaugural 2015 Pacific Paddle Games you may have noticed everything about it was bigger than life, from the oversized waves to the above-average temperatures. The best was the creme de la creme athletic talent that showed up from every corner of the world to compete for the biggest number of all: a record-setting $55,000 prize purse. With all the photos and live coverage of the event, one other thing that literally stood out – was the bright Sweet Waterwear jerseys worn by the athletes – from the world’s top Pro paddlers to the XXS groms.

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 was the 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? 

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“Our constant goal at Sweet Waterwear is to raise the bar in fashionable, functional activewear,”

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.

sswjerkids 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.  sww-kids

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.

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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? 

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

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.     

Pacific Paddle Games 2015: Talk Story with Cyril Burguiere

 KIALOA ‘Elele Cyril Burguiere has a passion for paddling. He’s definitely not limited to rivers and oceans in his pursuit of high end training and speed – this busy guy trains whenever and wherever the path leads.
And then there is the day job.  It’s not easy for anyone to get in shape for the dmands of an ocean SUP event. Cyril shares that he came to the 2015 inaugaral Pacific Paddle Games exhausted from a grueling work week. In his words, “I had been to Toronto Mon-Wed with many customers and late nights getting proposals completed. Then work continued late Thursday and a little into the weekend. I actually brought my laptop to the beach. Not the first time – my Payette Games experience was the same (2014). Week prior was travelling too. When I am on the road I use the Exer-Genie exercise tool in my hotel room to keep my pulling muscles working on business trips

Continue reading

Shoulders, Quads, Reps: SUP Training 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.

The wind was cranking downstream while I paddled upstream

The wind was cranking downstream while I paddled upstream-

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.

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Kialoa Paddles Tiare is a “must have” for a woman’s quiver – demo one as soon as you can

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.

Do It! – Your Bucket List SUP Event

Have you got that SUP dream, that event that fuels your dreams and motivates your training? Do you have what it takes to make it happen?

Got a dream? Let's talk story with Steve Gates, GM Big Winds and coach

Got a dream? Let’s talk story with Steve Gates, GM Big Winds and coach

We’ve heard it before, “Access to success is through the mind,”  – but for Steve Gates access came through the heart, spirit, absolute grit and gumption, as well as the mind! I had a great conversation with Steve, GM of Big Winds in Hood River and coach of the JET team, yesterday. We chatted about his recent three-person team crossing of the Ka’iwi Channel at the 2014 Molokai2Oahu (M2O). Rob Dies, Gregg Leion and Steve made a plan to do the Molokai to Oahu – and they did it! But let’s back up just a bit.

I first met Steve, now a strong, tall, fit guy sharing smiles and stoke, in August 2012 at the 2012 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. That event was his baby. A health issue had him terribly underweight but he was working hard and cheering on his JET team even though he was almost too weak to stand. By December he was fighting for his life. In June of 2013, about six months after Steve had been frighteningly close to death’s door,  we went to Hood River for a down wind clinic with Jeremy Riggs. As we grabbed our glides and rode the 8 miles of Columbia River from Viento to Hood River there was an “energy bunny” paddling ahead and back, from paddler to paddler, joining Jeremy in on-water coaching with relentless grins and technique tips – Steve Gates.

According to Steve, “I was still denying the physical limitations of my body and was running on enthusiasm and joy just being out on the water and paddling.” And here’s the story  too cool not to share. Six months before, in December of 2012,  when Steve was too weak to either hold a paddle or stand he articulated a dream. As we rang in 2013, Steve shared his dream of doing the Molokai 2 Oahu in 2014 from a hospital bed while continuing his battle with a dire health situation.

Big Winds JUnior Elite Team (JET) loving their tough practices and huge stoke

Big Winds JUnior Elite Team (JET) loving their tough practices and huge stoke

As a life long water athlete and coach, Steve never asked others to do what he would not do. Ask any JET team member and they will tell you that they didn’t mind the early morning summer practices (well, not too much) because Steve was always there and he did what they did. He sweated with them and panted after a tough interval – and he made it fun. Steve always asked his team to follow their dreams and aspire toward what they really want – and so he did the same.

In early 2013 Steve, Greg and Rob were making plans for an escort boat, for local support they would need for M2O and for a training plan that would let them reach their dream.

A powerful moment - Photo by 808Photo.me

A powerful moment – Photo by 808Photo.me

There were plenty of ups and downs. One bout of dehydration nearly dashed all hopes for Steve to get to the physical level of strength and endurance he’d need. “Access to success is through the mind, ” and in Steve’s mind he was at M2O – and by July 2014, he actually was there.

According to Steve,”The morning flew by and before we knew it we had finished all preparations and were at the start point on the beach ready for the start.  Soon, I was in the water, sitting on my board next to Connor Baxter. Neither of us knew what the day would hold.” For Connor it was a record-breaking win, for Steve and his team it was the culmination of a long journey from the start of a 32-mile paddle across the challenging and treacherous “channel of bones.”

Rob Dies, Gregg Leion and Steve Gates just before the start of M2O

Rob Dies, Gregg Leion and Steve Gates just before the start of M2O

The conditions did not deliver the usual tradewinds and nice push toward glides the paddlers dream of. In fact the swells were smallish and every glide was the result of hard work, sometimes against both wind and current.

Greg Leion getting a glide Photo by 808Photo.me

Greg Leion getting a glide Photo by 808Photo.me

Steve, Rob and Greg made their changes in and out of the escort boat. Their escort boat captain, Jeremy Wilmes and his helmsman and first mate Josh made everything possible. Steve shares, “You couldn’t ask for more, these guys are as good as they come.”

Rob Dies making his way past the China Wall

Rob Dies making his way past the China Wall

The hours flew by and they were at the China Wall and final legs of the race.  Rob Dies put the hammer down and pounded past the gnarliest area of the race. The changes came more often and before Steve realized it was his time to jump in, get on board and paddle to the finish.

We all watch events and the competitors launching toward the finish. Sometimes we wish that we were competing or accomplishing some long dreamed-of adventure. Imagine, if you can, the enormous wash of emotion, satisfaction, happiness and awe that had to encompass Steve as he made his way across the finish line for the team.  The journey had been long, and often seemed impossible.

A happy Steve Gates crossing the finish line for the team at M2O 2014

A happy Steve Gates crossing the finish line for the team at M2O 2014

From that day when simply standing was a challenge to this moment paddling strong across the M2O finish line. Steve was standing, tired and beat, but never beaten. Got a dream, got a goal? Think it is impossible? It’s there for you if you put your mind, heart, spirit and the support of friends and family into the mix. Now – GO FOR IT!