Surf the Turf with Laird Hamilton: GolfBoard

Laird catching a glide on a frozen

Laird catching a glide on a frozen “wave.”

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 Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.

Laird Hamilton is a co-founder of GolfBoard, based in Sisters, OR.

While tens of thousands of surfers play golf, I spilt from the links a few decades ago. That was, until last weekend when I had the opportunity to chat with Laird Hamilton about his role in a company immersed in play, innovation, imagination and cool engineering: GolfBoard. (video HERE)

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.gb2

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.”

When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic

When people play golf the way strong and agile octegenarian Don Wildman does it will become more fun and dynamic

Don Wildman, GolfBoard inventor added some thoughtful insights, “People are busy and time is the most valuable commodity for many. One way to get more done is multi-tasking. Playing golf on the GolfBoard is faster. Speed of play is one of the most frustating aspect of golf for many players and one of the complaints most heard by club management.”

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.

gb7I appreciate the time with Laird, Don and the entire GolfBoard team. The inaugural GolfBoard tournament at Tetherow was stellar!  You can FOLLOW GolfBoard on FACEBOOK.

I have to stop writing now and go workout (not exactly how Laird goes about it) – and maybe grab Ed and head over to Aspen Lakes or Tetherow for some GolfBoard turf-surfing.

BOO and the 2014 Gorge Distance Race

Screenshot (69)On July 19, 2014 the Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club (BOO) competed in the Gorge Distance Race hosted by Waterwalker at Stevenson Washington. The race was approximately 12 miles and is one of the most challenging races of the year. Check out the map for details.

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest and is well known for its extreme wind and fast waters.  In Bend, OR practice is held from March into the Fall in the relatively calm waters of the Deschutes River. Even though many members have experience in the open ocean and in the conditions of the Columbia River, the conditions in Stevenson, WA on July 19 were very challenging.

boo-huiCut to a pre-race huli – and the men’s open OC-6 team got a hasty and wet warmup. One of the more experienced of the BOO men’s team, John Von Gaertner was very pleased with how the team calmly got the canoe upright and back ready to paddle.

One thing he did mention was that the iako was set at 69 inches. In the wind and wave conditions it might have been better to set it out a bit further.  As it was, there was little extension of the iako past the hull so when they tried to stand on the end to counter-balance and right the canoe there was very little footing.  Some of the teams had added weight to the ama – which is allowed. That and other strategy decisions are part of what makes racing in challenging conditions so compelling.

SUP athlete and guest paddler, Glenn Haupt (Bend) explained, “We managed to right the canoe and get back in fairly easily. It was good experience for me to huli – and then get my mind back into thinking about paddling, timing, keeping up my power and focusing on my stroke.  It was my first time catching waves from anything larger than a SUP raceboard.

We would catch swells and bump our speed in the process – but from Seat 5 I felt in the middle of 2-3 troughs and swells, not feeling us catch the glide like I am used to. It was exhilarating and fun – and exhausting!”

Coming from Oregon you cross the Bridge of the Gods to get to the little town of Stevenson, site of the Gorge Outrigger race.  Here you will find one of the most beautiful views in the Pacific Northwest and definitely one of nature’s most challenging race courses.

With the wind and waves delivered last Saturday, the start was a very tricky time for a steersman and the crew.  Glenn had a bit to say about the experience, “As we made our final turn back into the wind, we encountered the largest swells yet….head on.  It was pretty gnarly trying to turn the canoe. I thought it would be easier since we were with the current at that turn – not so.  Several times I flew out of my seat only to be caught by the spray skirt which held me in tight.  The final leg was definitely the hardest. I gained a ton of respect for the skills and fitness that outrigger racing demands.”

BOO coach and stroke for the Gorge Race, Jason Tedrow,  was very pleased with how the crew performed in very challenging conditions. The crew was comprised of a mix of experienced and novice paddlers. Reflecting on decisions he had to make as far as stroke pace, power and strategy he had this to say, “Thinking back on what I might have done to create an overall faster boat and maybe a better experience for all might have been to slow the frequency of the stroke a bit. This might have given the less experienced paddlers more time to get their return and catch completed. That could also have improved our overall timing – and as a result improved our hull speed.”

The BOO Women’s team paddled the gnarly 12 miles in 1:51:15 – which is a long time to stay focused, tough and fast in big winds and waves. They scored a 4th place finish among 12 starting canoes – huge shout out for an amazing race!

Here are some photos from the 2012 and the 2013 race – view and enjoy.

Summer SUP: Hosmer Lake, OR

Summer time and lakes, go together like picnic and burgers, beer and brats, families and fun!

sarongjudy2A drive from Bend OR can provide access to hundreds of idyllic lakes in under an hour. Weirdly, Bend is located in the high desert but the influence of paddling culture and passion is alive and well. Just last Saturday Ed and I put our boards in at Lake Hosmer for a leisurely paddle.  Winds were light and the sun sparkled the gin clear water as trout and (yes) Atlantic Salmon darted underfoot.  We had heard our favorite, Bill Keale, performing just the night before. There seemed like no better song to to accompany the astounding footage of Lake Hosmer than Bill’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow/It’s a Wonderful World,” from his CD, BY REQUEST.

Take a 3-minute tour of one of our favorite high Cascades lakes.

SUP Inspiration: Candice Appleby

One of the most unassuming leaders of the SUP mentoring/give-back culture is Candice Appleby.  In a most round-about way, she inspires even the non-SUP folks among us.  Here’s a story:

In 1998 we bought property in Oregon after 52 years in South Florida – the polar opposite in culture and environment. From malls and crowded beaches we met rivers and coasts where fleece replaced bikinis.  We met the architect who’d design our new home high above a river canyon, Rick Wright. Little did we know the gift he’d give us in the form of white-water kayak training and fun. Eventually we became “family” with the entire Wright clan in spite of the fact we ditched white water kayaking for standup paddling.  rickw

ricksurfWhat’s Candice got to do with this? Well, Rick Wright is a highly skilled, first class white water kayaker. He’s happiest maneuvering down gnarly stretches of river. Yet, in March, he went to the 27th annual Santa Cruz Paddle Fest where he entered and rode amazing waves in his surf kayak. “Totally stoked” best describes Rick’s take-away from the event and his two sessions at Cowells. Since Candice rocked it and won at Steamer Lane – what’s the connection?

Rick had the chance to watch the SUP events at Steamer Lane and he had the chance to observe first hand the pure determination and athleticism that drove Candice to her win.  As an avid and dedicated student of Tai Kwon Do and a local Class 4-5 mainstay in Bend Oregon, Rick knows excellence and practiced honing of natural skills when he sees it.  When a quarterback throws that impossible pass, when a golfer drops the challenging chip 2 inches from the cup – we’ve all seen athletic greatness in action. For standup paddling, the televised spots are few and far between. That’s likely why the live-action Candice was so impressive. While Candice wasn’t the only amazing waterwoman (or waterman) in the event, her prowess and performance struck our friend Rick.

crunTonight, over margaritas and bridge (yes, we old geezers play bridge for fun) the conversation turned to our next trip together. Without question we are determined to all be at the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest in 2014.  Rick is a solid 14 pounds lighter than he was in early February. He’s training hard and eating well.  What will be keeping his fitness-stoke alive from now until the next time we all surf some practice waves at the Oregon coast for freezing-pounding surf?  It’s a memory of a competition and an image of training.

Rick described his fantastic kayak-surf session at Cowells but his absolute awe was obvious when he described the grace and power of Candice Appleby in her heats at the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest. “She was bent at the waist and digging hard – steadily and endlessly throughout her heat. She rode waves with so much style, strength and beauty.”

The picture to the left is one that Rick saw on Facebook. To him, it is a perfect example of strength and gracefulness, power and motivation.  Because a leader in the world of SUP has honed her expertise so well – and captures images of the process – a 6th decade white water kayaker/kayak surfer is inspired to reach his own limits and potential.

Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and all the social media opps might seem stale and over-used at times. But because we have the chance to connect with excellence through that same media we can be motivated and inspired. We celebrate the power of social media and the story our sport is creating one champion, one Candice, one Rick, at a time.

What’s your story? Share with us on Facebook or Pinterest!

SUP Surf: Yin andYang

groove_yoga_teachers_3_2373079703

The instructor team at Groove Yoga Bend

The high desert town of Bend Oregon is blessed with a mighty volcanic peak, Mt Bachelor. Surprisingly Bend also hosts a strong surfing and ocean-loving community. In an excerpt from the SRF Mission statement, Bend local, Gerry Lopez, explains, “Even though the sea is Yin and the mountains Yang, a person can seek and find a balance of harmony while enjoying both worlds.” We are glad to enjoy that balanced life with him.  Last Friday evening several dozen lucky yogis met at Groove Yoga Bend for a 90 minute yin yoga class with Gerry.  Every teacher at Groove is uniquely gifted, but there’s no doubt that Gerry’s life experience and commitment to his practice provide a treasured experience. As Gerry encouraged us to allow the postures move into our bodies, rather than pushing our bodies into postures, we had plenty to focus on as we held poses for … a very long time!

Gerry encouraged our focus on breath and allowing thoughts to simply pass through. As we moved toward the balance yin yoga can provide, Gerry’s calm narrative taught us much about the yin and yang of yoga, life and – even surfing. During one segment of pigeon, my wandering mind overcame every attempt at focusing on breathing. I tried to imagine the calm yin one could experience while surfing even while a wave might be a swirling of yang surrounding.

Photo by Jeff Devine

Photo by Jeff Devine

The iconic images we’ve seen of Gerry’s elegant and super-cool style on a wave flashed through my mind.  Within the yang power and seeming chaos of a wave, Gerry is a dot of calm yin a midst it all.   Folded in pigeon pose, my wave images flashed back to wonderful surfing trips at Oregon’s Pacific City. “Breathe, be the yin within the ride,” I said to myself. A few images sprang to mind. At first it was that fear-panic that arose trying to paddle out in short interval, fast moving whitewater. Slowly images morphed into those blue-sky-sunny-glassy day rides that soothe the soul.

Am I a dot of yin among that whirling yang?

Am I a dot of yin among that whirling yang?

Over time in that pigeon I could feel my breath flow into my skiing-punished knee and a tight hip. Breathe in, allow the breath to flow where tightness resides, breathe out and allow relaxation and lengthening. The long time in the posture was like a long time underwater after a washing machine wipeout. Fighting it doesn’t help at all. Allowing a yin sense of calm and focus to drive thoughts and action/inaction opens the door to what we seek – AIR! BALANCE! CALM!

When it comes to standup surfing – or any surfing for that matter – I am pretty much a novice.  But like you, there is a compelling call of water – liquid or frozen, salty or fresh – that we simply can’t ignore.  Like life, we might look at a situation, or sets of waves pounding in at fast-paced intervals and believe, “there’s no way!”

Study and breath - patterns are there

Study and breath – patterns are there

Just like agitation or fear can creep in during a yoga posture, we react similarly in life.  Maybe the next time life – or the surf – throws a scary set your way you can do what you do on the mat.  Allow your breath to calm you. Take time to see where fear or resistance resides. Find a way to discover patterns and order amid the chaos.

We’ve been inspired by Lopez over the years through both surfing and yoga. He explains, “Surfing has a lot of answers to most of the questions in life. Surf is where you find it.”
You might want to find Gerry at one of the many clinics and retreats that host his classes. A great opportunity is provided by Dennis Oliphant and Sun Country Tours

 

Take a moment to enjoy the video:

Aloha of the Paddle

Our SUP paddle – connecting us to our water, our power, our speed and the aloha of our our sport. Choose wisely and understand small tweaks in sizing and technique that make all the difference.  Part of the “aloha of the paddle” is the great community of people willing to share info and insights about all aspects that impact both performance and enjoyment!

A conversation with Randall Barna, SUP pioneer and owner of FootForm Performance Orthotics Center in Bend Oregon, always leads to great technique insights. During a recent paddle I was absently day-dreaming about my soon-to-be delivered Hulu KIALOA paddle while listening to the steady rippling of wind current under my board.  I wasn’t really thinking of my technique, just sensing the paddle position through the reach and recovery and watching out for river otters. Randall commented, “You might want to try something a little differently as you switch your paddle from side to side.”

I am always up for more power or speed, especially if it’s driven by efficiency. Randall showed me a seamless way to switch my paddle from side to side. Removing the upper hand as the lower hand remains steady on the paddle during the crossover (maybe inching it up the shaft an inch or so) allows the “new” bottom hand to grab at just the right spot allowing an immediate “reach and dig” as the new upper hand slides up to the grip. It was a simple change but really added a solid confidence to switching paddle sides.

Board speed and chop, two foot placement variables

Board speed and chop, two foot placement variables

As long as Randall was sharing insights gained by a lifetime of wind and water sports I invited him to share tips on foot placement. “The key to foot placement is adapting and adjusting to all the variables. As soon as you think you’ve nailed your stance something changes! The two main variables are board speed and chop. The two errors are tail drag and pushing the nose.

You’re too far back on the board and tail drag is a drag. It slows you down more than anything else! Too far forward and you’re pushing water instead of gliding. The key is a balance between the two.”
Variables in board speed require you to make constant, minor adjustments. Take some pictures of yourself on your board while pictures standing still. Is  the tail is out of the water? With a little speed the tail is right on the surface. That’s because under power the board starts sinking into the trough of it’s own bow wave. naishbow
Randall continued, “Progressing into higher speeds the bow wave gets bigger, the board lower, and eventually it hits “hull speed,” a point where it won’t go any faster no matter how hard you paddle.  Every board responds to this differently and is dependent on the weight of the paddler too. You just have to experiment with foot placement at hull speed, find your sweet spot, and mark your toe line on your board as an instant reference.”
Note: huge grin on Randall’s face as he shares this: “The big thrill in riding an SUP is planing! To achieve planing you have to get your bow through your bow wave, up and over it! Nobody has ever accomplished this by paddling. Longer boards are faster due to a longer interval between the bow wave and tail wave,but still no planing via paddle.  It takes a boost from an outside source like wind and waves. As soon a the boards cuts-loose onto a plane you have to adjust your foot position faster than poop-thorough-a-goose. The nose will dive, the tail was lifted by the wave, so step back. You need to constantly walk the board and paddle to keep it on a plane, and enjoy the ride.”
Champing at the bit to get on  Naish 14' Glides on Maui

Champing at the bit to get on Naish 14′ Glides on Maui

Experimenting on flat water is not easily transferred to choppy waters. The nose of the board becomes the focus.  If your nose is pushing, it will slap each chop and be very slow. Find a foot position where the nose will penetrate the chop without slapping or pushing. Side chop, and accompanying wind, can catch your nose and flip you over! Try a surfer-stance for more stability, with the wind at your back. You won’t be switching sides with side-winds anyway so this works. Another source of choppy water is when drafting another SUP. Then you’re dealing with their tail wake, your bow wake, and the chop all at once! All of this is a never ending challenge and one of the things that makes standup paddling so darn much fun!

License to Play!

Ahh, the day job. I have read all the books and make a true effort to worker smarter not harder. Some days are more difficult than others, especially when the exquisite days of summer SUP seem to be coming to an end far too quickly. While I subscribe to a philosophy of PL-ORK (play at work) the day’s lineup of responsibilities can overwhelm. Have you ever felt that way? (silly question)

Yesterday was one of those days. I have a complete re-write of my PA Pharmacy (day job) website on-going and the energy wasn’t translating so well. At an early morning break I came across a welcome e-mail from KIALOA paddles.They shared a new video that was hard to resist with this introduction, “Straddling the line between creativity and insanity, you are just as likely to hear a discussion on His Holiness the Dali Lama and the merits of Heavy Metal, as one on hydrodynamics and higher design when you visit the shops of  Gerry Lopez Surfboards and Dave Chun’s KIALOA Paddles.

I am so fortunate to live in Bend, OR where both of those uber-cool guys have their shops. Added to that is the occasional opportunity to experience a yoga class at Groove Yoga lead by Gerry Lopez. Maybe that proximity to the Dave-Gerry blend of creativity/insanity made me particularly susceptible to the philosophy of the video, maybe it was just a stellar day outdoors when my head was all mothballs and dust. Whatever the convergence of luck would have it, watching that video changed my day. Take a look for yourself.

How productive was I going to be looking out of my office window and fighting with the task at hand? I took the message from the film as “license to play.”

Not 45 minutes later I was at Groove Yoga sweating through exactly the class I needed. With my trusty Amundson surfboard on the roof rack, class was followed by a short drive down to Lava Camp and the river launch spot just upstream from Benham Falls. Ahhh, breathing in that crisp air while applying massive amounts of sunscreen was just what I needed. I took off upstream planning to go about 4 or 5 miles before turning around for a down-current ride back.

The gods of wind had to be chuckling, throwing gusts right into my face during the up-current paddle. “Are you kidding?”

No problem, it was an unexpected play session smack in the middle of the work day. Music in my ears consisted of a playlist created by my 10-year-old granddaughter, and it kept me smiling. About 90 minutes into the paddle I hit the 4 1/2 mile mark (GPS and mileage by Nike+). A quick turn and I was soaring back downstream. The easier paddle back allowed lots more time to let the endorphins and the views kick in.

Did I hit the office with enthusiasm later that afternoon? You bet! The day allowed me just a couple of hours of work but it was productive – or maybe my mindset imagined it so. In any event, nothing was lost by the hours of escape from routine and some sweet river diversion. Thanks to Dave Chun and Gerry Lopez for the inspiration and license to play.