Downwind Training: The Flatwater Solution

spark-1

Sparks Lake with South Sister (Oregon)

I celebrated my 69th birthday with a day of training, contemplation, gratitude and so much beauty. The training was unusual, in a way, but some of the most valuable I have had for down wind conditions that could get gnarly. In August my Starboard Freeride 12’2″ X 30 and my KIALOA paddle will carry me the classic run from Viento to Hood River and I hope the wind is strong and the day is sunny! My first adventure in the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge was in 2013 and I was hooked. (story here) I want to be ready to enjoy every moment of the experience when I am back on the mighty Columbia.

elk-1

Early morning at Elk Lake

What follows in this article is an odd set of insights and lessons I gained from paddling 4 uniquely different Oregon alpine lakes in one day. It started out at 8 am at Elk Lake. By 10 am the wind cranks up in this volcano rimmed jewel, but it was mirror calm when I headed out to circumnavigate its 4 miles including every little bay, nook and cranny at 8 am.

In this flatwater goodness I observed two things that can improve my skills for down wind action.

  • Legs – every paddle stroke that had excellent body rotation and synchronization between the catch, pull and driving forward force of my legs gave terrific acceleration. Timing and technique
  • Eyes closed – All alone on this huge body of water I was brave enough to try 6 paddle strokes per side for 3 sets repeated dozens of times. Wow! Balance and feel for how I was moving over the water was an eye-opener (LOL, eyes were shut!) Charging down wind in wind and waves requires solid balance and feel for how the board and water interact. This was so much fun.

I grabbed a breakfast burrito then headed over to nearby Hosmer Lake for a sweet three mile exploration to gurgling waterfalls and crystal clear water. The wind had picked up some by the time I got there. On this, just the second time unloading my board from the car I did make a mental note to really use my body correctly in the awkward motion of high reach, lift and lower. After all, a 69 year old body does not respond well to injury from lifting.

hosmer-1

Early morning Hosmer Lake (Oregon)

The wind was hard in my face leaving the boat launch area but reading the water I saw the far shoreline was protected and calm. In my journey to get to the calm I learned something else, sound can really impact my cadence and speed.

Even though the wind was in my face, my distance tracker app told me later that I hit 6 mph while the effort was perceived as simply fun. The tick-tick-tick of choppy wind waves hitting my bow and tapping along under my board gave me energy. I paddled the 3/4 mile to the calm in what would have been a speed interval, if I had thought of it like that. Instead the sound of the water made the experience pure fun.

  • Adrenaline and a sense of play makes the effort easier. Maybe that is why the 8 mile Viento down wind run exhilarates so well

I meandered off to the right hand fork of Hosmer, climbed a volcanic rocky area to gaze on gurgling lava tubes feeding a flower-filled grotto. Heading back to the boat ramp the water grasses and lilies caught my attention, fish darting and beauty everywhere.

  • Insight – I am blissful on the water – how about you! Ocean girl at heart, all water has its compelling call.
devilslake-1

Devil’s Lake with snow in June – brrrr water

Loading up my board again I was off the 30 acre Devil’s Lake. I almost skipped it. There were 30 cars at the easiest launch area so I had to park where a steep bank tested my strength and balance carrying a 12’2″ board through the trees and scree. Once in the lake my feet nearly froze off from the snow-melt water. The lake is so shallow that I had to walk about 100 yards to depth enough to paddle.

  • Know you water and wear appropriate gear. My frozen feet situation was mild and quickly over, but it made me think about knowing local conditions. I had forgotten that Elk Lake was practically swim-able whereas small Devil’s Lake was icy. The day was sunny – but water has its own characteristics.

Getting out of Devil’s Lake, carrying the board about 1/4 mile to my car and loading it up again reminded me to protect back and shoulders, use legs to lift – and yes – do some weight training.

Next stop was Sparks Lake. It is about a 1 mile drive in to the launch area, on a rutted, deep holes, washboard, dusty, rocky road. Once there I saw it was packed in both the launch and the parking area. The only spot I could put my car was easily 1/2 mile away. I left my precious board alone among some trees by the launch and went to park the car and walk back. Would my board be there when I got back (yes).

sparks-2I love this lake and never tire of winding around the rocks, the deeps, the shallows and taking the same photo every time I go. Peeking through rough-carved lava and spotting South Sister and Mt Bachelor never gets old.

By this time with all the loading and unloading, more walking than I had planned on and 9 miles of paddling completed in 3 lakes in about 3 hours, I needed a strategy to make this last adventure fun.  My lower back was a little tweaky and my lats had had a good workout.

It was time to focus on engaging a body rotation and abs engagement during the paddling. Paying attention to keeping my shoulder relaxed- not hunched up toward my ears-  and shoulder blades “down on my back” Helped with getting a clean catch. Rotating with awareness and taking the blade out of the water soon enough took my attention away from fatigue.

  • Insight: When fatigue starts to set in we can focus on what part of our body is most tired and engage in a different way.
  • Something as simple as enjoying the feel of water lapping on bare toes can power us through a choppy, windy area.

Happy birthday to me! It is overwhelming to imagine that this time next year I will be 70. A new decade, and not getting any younger ever again. Except in my mind. Playful, youthful water fun is available. I commit to playing attention – and training as smart as possible. If you have any suggestions – send them my way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MUSE Camp: Dave Kalama, Stealth and Presence

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.

dave-kalama-fun-1

Photo Tomoko Okazaki

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.

Nature’s Intervals: Focus, Pace and Legs

sb-intervals1

Elder SUP ready for “nature’s intervals” – up wind and up current

It was a cloudy, calm summer morning, about 60 degrees and the flags at the Deschutes River were lying lazily calm as I headed to the water for a few hours of intervals. Board of choice was the 12’6″ Starboard Astro Inflatable Deluxe – great glides and fast! My paddle was the adjustable Tiare from Kialoa.

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)

fiona-wylde-carolina-cup-2016-starboard-1000x665

Photo by OnIt Pro

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-techniqueDave 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.

DownstreamIt’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.

healkyEveryone 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.

Focus:

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.

Reach:

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)

Fun

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!

 

Power Paddler: Roxane Robinson

Many of you have read my posts about the value of coaching, clinics and on-going training for technique and fitness. mental attitude is another aspect of training that is invaluable. (Click TRAINING in Categories) Over the years I have been fortunate to become acquainted with the dedication and expertise – and a huge dose of fun – that KIALOA ‘Elele Evelyn O’Doherty brings to her clients.roxane

You’ll enjoy this story of training and transformation by her client, Roxane Robinson who tackeld the daunting Chattajack this year. In Roxane’s words, “I’ve known Evelyn O’Doherty (Mind Body Excursions) for about 5 years or so.  We both began paddling about the same time, but she came to the sport after surfing.  I’ve never surfed. I paddle with Evelyn, and will be working up a plan with her for my upcoming race season (2016). She is one of the most amazing women in my world.  A great coach, amazing motivator, and she has this incredible ability to make sure you know how great you can be and are.”

We asked Roxane, “What was your favorite part of the training?”

rr-2Roxane was quick to reply, “Well, I loved the comraderie of the women that I train with.  They have become my friends.   We all seem to have this same obsession.  I really enjoy pushing myself to be better and get stronger at a sport that I truly love.”

Elder SUP: What was the biggest change you saw in yourself from the beginning to just before Chattajack?

Roxane explained, “The biggest change was being nervous about the undertaking of such a race (the distance).  There were two time cutoffs, the first 10 miles had to be done in 2 hours and 30 minutes and race had to be completed in 8 hours and 30 minutes.  I wasn’t worried about race cutoff, just the first 10 miles.  I had never paddled that distance in ven close to that time.  Only closer to 3 hours.  But there was the hope that the dam had been opened and we would have a helping current.  In reality, the dam was not opened and there was really no current.  I paddled the first 10 miles in 2 hours.  Yea!!!  After that, I was fine.

But, the Tuesday before Chattajack, while everyone else was nervous, panicky, and freaking out, I had this sense of calm lay over me like a blanket.  Comforting.  Warm.  Calm.  I was serene.  Not nervous anymore.  Not worried about the 10 miles.  Knowing, that I was strong, and there was nothing I could do that would change how I did in the race.  I was going to be fine.rr-1

My feeling before the start of the event was that I was ready.  I was going to paddle 31 (32.48) miles down the Tennessee Valley Gorge.  I was going to paddle my own race.  Look at the scenery.  Breathe it in.  Have fun.  And finish.  I was ready.”

That is all powerful stuff from Roxane. She also shared a bit of back-story.

“I had my 59th birthday  14 days after this race.  I have been paddling for about 6 years.  I am afraid of open water.  I don’t surf.  (But I did swim competitively for about 8 years.)  I was bored.  So deathly  bored.  I saw an article in the local paper about paddling geared toward women.  I made the call, had a private lesson, fell in (ick), paddled again the next day, fell in, and started dreaming about owning my own board.  It consumed me.  One of my best friends is 65.  She races and has been paddling about the same length of time as I have.  Then I met a woman in Tennessee that was doing the Chattajack 31.  She started paddling in June, no lessons, no knowledge, just thought it looked like fun so she gave it a try.  She did great in the race.  She was 65.”

We absolutely agree with Roxane on this next comment, “Age is only a number in your head.  I’m proud of my age and that I’m trying new things.  A few years ago I got a tattoo on my wrist.  ‘Be Fearless.’ My son said to me recently, I love that you’re not afraid to be bad. I asked him for a little clarification on this statement.  He said that you aren’t afraid to put yourself out there and try something new.  And you might be bad at it, but you don’t care because you’re having fun.  And he’s right.  I love to have fun.

I have finished last in more than one race.  Dead last.  And those races are some that I am most proud of.  Because  quitting is easy.  Finishing is AWESOME!!!”

We celebrate SUP athletes like Roxane. When you think you don’t have the skills – you can get them. Roxane is a busy career woman, wife and mother. She had many duties over 2015, caring for her husband with serious health issues – and we all know how draining such a responsibility can be.  We can all say, “too busy,” or we can find the support, training and way to paddle toward our passion. Way to go Roxane and Evelyn.

And Roxane continues to compete – her last race was Hamptons Paddle for the Pink! There were brutal conditions out on the bay but Roxane placed 2nd in the women’s 14′ 6 mile race. It’s YOUR life – go for it.

Paddle Like a Girl – KIALOA Tiare

There is a description on the KIALOA Paddles website that describes their Tiare adjustable paddle – but it barely begins to describe the unique features of this woman-specific paddle. Just because so many “girl” versions are pink, I chose the blue for my Tiare. Immediately after getting it I hit the water on a blustery late winter day in Oregon.tiare11

The product description states, “Traditional adjustable paddles are male minded.  Not this one. We combined a Slim Shaft™ that fits like a glove, an 80 square inch blade, and our LeverLock® adjustable technology with a range of 66”-82”.  By doing this we’ve created a lightweight paddle that is ergonomically designed for women.  Adjust the height for varying conditions or share it with your friends.”

I went to the water that cold day expecting a nice paddle with my husband, Ed. I was coming off a hard training day (TRX and insane intense yoga) from the day before so I told Ed I would just be enjoying an easy paddle.  As the miles clicked by I found myself enjoying such a solid “catch” with every stroke – true power connection.  On the pull the blade moved through the water with smooth acceleration. I found a quick rhythm that gave me a surprising amount of speed for the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Ed commented, ‘Thought you were going to do an easy paddle today,” as I zoomed by. mmmm, that had been my plan.

tiare1The next time we went out we had been talking about paddle length for surfing, flatwater, thick race boards vs slim surf boards. Noticing the freeboard on my Naish ONE, I thought I might add an inch to the length of my Tiare paddle before we headed out, just to compare. Oh, the joy of an adjustable paddle! Yes, great to share with friends but so cool to learn something about my paddle stroke, paddle length and efficiency.

Once again comparing my RPE to speed I was delighted. I moved through the water with ease, both upstream and downstream, into the wind and with a sweet downwind the other way. I knew the Tiare was designed for a woman, but I decided to check with Dave Chun to learn more about the details. Dave designs KIALOA paddles with a lot of research, innovation – and conversations with the target user. In the case of the Tiare and the new Mekana outrigger paddle those conversations took place with women paddlers.

I asked Dave why I might be noticing an increase in speed and a decrease in perceived exertion with the Tiare blade.  Dave explained that 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 explained that the flex of the blade allows me to “feel” the water more effectively throughout the stroke.tiare-adj-l

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. 

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.”

I gained enormous insight from Dave’s explanation. The circumference of the paddle shaft is just right for holding in the curve of my fingers – in a relaxed grip.  All in all, I am in totally jazzed about having the Tiare adjustable for racing, recreation, traveling and surfing.

Go now – check out the Tiare at KIALOA Paddles. DESCRIPTION: KIALOA is proud to introduce a new paddle designed to give the female paddler the best experience possible. The blade is designed for optimal catch at the front of the stroke and the Slim Shaft™ with plumeria graphics is a visual stunner. But more importantly the carbon wrapped fiberglass shaft fits a smaller hand perfectly with just the right amount of flex. Conventional thought is to shrink and pink a paddle and ladies will buy in, but we created this paddle from the ground up based on your specific feedback. YES! Thank you for that KIALOA Paddles.

Travis Grant: Play Your Way to SUP Technique

tg3Waking up the day after the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge 8-mile down wind event I had a very cool discovery. I was sore in different places than my  usual. I had adjusted my technique a bit and I think I think the pecs, abs and lat soreness were better than the usual fatigue.

We had spent an evening a few days before the event learning a lot at a clinic given by Travis Grant on the Willamette River at the Gorge Performance site. Travis began by explaining how much outrigger paddling prepared him for success at SUP.tg2

The goal in standup paddling, as in outrigger paddling, is to be as efficient as possible. The result will be your ability to go faster, further and longer. By listening to your body and honing better technique you will be better able to paddle without injury.

tg4The Take-Aways: A few tips Travis shared that seemed to be what people needed to refine the most included:

1. Stand with feet facing forward in a wide stance. This gives more power, more balance and more stability.

2. Maintain soft knees that are ready to deliver power.

3. This was really valuable – “If you think of why you do what you do then technique changes make more sense.”  For instance, think of planting your paddle blade fully into the water. Think of it as being stuck in sand. You want to move the board forward, not pull the paddle past the board. By imaging the blade stuck in sand it is easier to image the forward driving motion delivered by body rotation and a strong core.tg1

4. Slow down to go faster – this means that if you must slow down to get your technique right, you will go faster in the long run. Part of this slow down is the opportunity to really engage your abs, your core, as you rotate your body with the paddle reach and catch. Keeping your core engaged through the return and you uncoil from that rotation allows you to derive your power from your larger muscles. Proper body mechanics will allow for your greatest reach and you most efficient stroke.

Travis Grant at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge - delivering speed, excitement and a whole lot of fun

Travis Grant at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge – delivering speed, excitement and a whole lot of fun

5. Above all, Travis seems to live a relaxed and playful approach to training, focus, excellence and teaching.

So when I woke up with soreness in my pecs, abs and glutes it was a huge, “Wooohooo!” Not only did I have a great down wind experience with plenty of speed and glides, my perceived exertion was so much less. I played at honing technique throughout the race – and love the results of the coaching from Travis grant. If you can make it to one of his clinics – do it! A video is a good way to get to know Travis (see below) but one on one water time with Travis at a clinic is worlds better!