SUP: 53 Degrees in the Summer

This KIALOA Paddles ad with Karen Wrenn inspired my that 56 degree morning in July

This KIALOA Paddles ad with Karen Wrenn inspired my that 56 degree morning in July

Flip through any of the many (thank goodness) SUP, paddling and surfing magazines and you’ll be dazzled by photos of surf, sun, bikinis, waves and warm water.  One ad catches me every time because it’s the polar (sometimes literally) opposite. It’s KIALOA Paddle’s ad showing Karen Wrenn psyching herself up for a training paddle in cold, wet, blustery weather that is so common in the Pacific Northwest. Do you know that kind of weather?

In preparation for the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge in a few short weeks, my plan is to add to my weekly mileage. Between work and other obligations, early morning is the best time to grab the hours needed to bag 5-8 miles up and down current in the Deschutes River. Ahhh, summer. 85-95 degree days have warmed both water and air making paddling a pure joy. Except for last Wednesday.

I was fooled by the blue sky and sunshine as I loaded my board. For some reason a northerly wind had funneled in along with lower temperatures. I got to the river still warm and cozy in my car. The first alarm bell rang when i saw the flags rippling straight out as the wind blew in the face in the UPSTREAM direction. That is never good. I stepped out of the car to unload my board and stepped into – COLD! Seriously?

Getting tuned up and ready for my first Gorge Paddle Challenge course race - inspired by KIALOA 'Eleles Karen Wrenn and Brit Oliphant

Getting tuned up and ready for my first Gorge Paddle Challenge course race – inspired by KIALOA ‘Eleles Karen Wrenn and Brit Oliphant

I had neglected to do a temperature check back at the house. What was it? I turned on my car only to discover the outside temperature reading was 53! How did I miss that? Now, it’s true that in the winter, a sunny 53 degree day no matter what the wind chill is will seem like a “warm” day.  In the winter we are prepared for chill – booties, fleece and the right mind-set.

WE bundle up for cold paddles in the winter!

WE bundle up for cold paddles in the winter!

On the late July day, back in the car I sat huddled. I wanted warm, tropical breezy warm! It was time to channel my “inner Karen Wrenn” – please!  I managed to talk myself into getting onto the river and completing the planned distance.

Weirdly, after the first mile (brrrrr) I got sweaty, steady and in synch with wind, water, paddle technique and the beautiful morning.

Today, a mere 5 days after that challenging mental discipline of chilly last week I set off to 6 am yoga (wonderful) and went straight to the river for another 5 mile training paddle.

It was 55 today, wind brisk  in the face up current again. I hesitated, but just for a moment. I had the image of last week’s paddle set in mind.  It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing and the river was almost empty.  If we want to have the best experience at the many SUP events available in almost every home town we need to prepare.  Sometimes we need not to over-think how it’s gonna be and just let our training session BE. Again today, it was delicious!

Sometimes WIND IS YOUR FRIEND – read more here

SUP: The Wave and You

Have you read Susan Casey’s book, The Wave? (Seriously awesome video based on the book)

Casey, 44, editor of magazine, traveled the world experiencing waves close up and personal. Casey, who wrote The Devil’s Teeth, a 2005 best seller about white sharks, didn’t want to write a book just about surfing. She was driven to write about waves, some almost mythical in stature.  To do this, Casey needed a guide to “open up his world to me” and provide a “glimpse of the ocean with its gloves off.” One of her guides to waves, like Jaws on the North shore of Maui, was the waterman, Laird Hamilton.  Her encounters with the famous Jaws were described so vividly, it felt as though I was there as I read.  Even accompanied by big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, (another cool video) would I charge the face of Jaws in a jet ski or dive below and witness the sea-floor configuration that causes that incredible wave? I certainly hope so!

Auhtor of THE WAVE, Susan Casey, with her guide to Jaws (Maui), Laird Hamilton.

Author of THE WAVE, Susan Casey, with her guide to Jaws (Maui), Laird Hamilton.

Casey told Hamilton about a freak North Sea storm in 2000 that battered and nearly sank a research ship — the opening scene in her book.

“He wished he had been there,” she recalls.

 Hamilton explained, “What’s hell for some is heaven for others. A storm like that  can stir up “the ultimate playground” for big-wave surfers.

Have you ever been schooled by a wave just a degree or two (or 3) above your skill level? One that held you down, knocked the tar out of you and was fodder for stories for weeks after? For some, that wave is calf high, for others a triple overhead at Pipeline.  I found my limit one cold October morning doing dawn patrol with my husband, Ed, and our buddy Randall.

Pipeline - December 2011

Pipeline – December 2011

After a 40 year hiatus from surfing it was the third fall I’d been SUP surfing, 2011. We’d only planned to sit on the beach at Pacific City (Oregon) with a coffee. Out in the light fog about 1/2 mile offshore a set of big fat and beautiful glassy waves wrapped around the point at Cape Kiwanda and solidly marched through the deep water. Rather than crashing or closing out, they simply diminished before re-building on the more shallow reef onshore. A setup that rare had to be experienced. Wetsuits donned we paddled out.

Holy cow – heart in throat time…what was lurking under the glassy beds of seaweed out by the rock? Would I have the nerve to really go for a wave that seemed to swallow up Ed and Randall as they disappeared behind the overhead walls they took?  The third swell of a set loomed up. I was bit further in than the “safe” zone – having sort of tried for the first wave.  That made the wall and takeoff a bit more steep – but something made me dig for it an GO!

My skills are very limited and bottom turns – not so much.  Yet something clicked on that wave, I dug my KIALOA paddle hard into the face and powered a nice right that lofted me up the face at a speed that  I’d never felt before. The board vibrated under my feet with a shattering sound that serenaded with whistling wind, and filled my ears. “Wooooohooooooo!” Yeah! There was nothing but an amazing rush. In a few seconds when time stood still that was a ride to remember. Then the shoulder flattened out in a deep water channel close to shore and I cruised over the top and paddled back out. I caught two more waves before reaching the edge of my “courage”envelope. I went in way before anyone else – but it was enough.

Brit Oliphant using her skills to backdoor a section on her backhand, Sweet use of her KIALOA GL ULtralight HULU paddle

Brit Oliphant using her skills to backdoor a section on her backhand, Sweet use of her KIALOA GL ULtralight HULU paddle

Totally amazing and I haven’t ridden anything like that since.  Yet, it is cool to have some experience so that when I see someone tackling a nice sized waveI I can  have a small sense of what’s so incredible. The photo to the left shows Brit Oliphant, a Surftech team rider, ready to dig her KIALOA Hulu GL Ultralight paddle to backdoor a section on her backhand.

Imagine the sounds and feel of the speed and wave power as Brit maneuvers across that overhead face.  Surfers everywhere and at every ability level share a common set of awe and experience for the waves they’ve ridden and waves they been thrashed by. The most important thing about the ocean is that we explore it. It’s our source and where we’ve evolved from — it’s spectacularly beautiful, and it’s really, really powerful. Whether we ride the big ones or live extreme moments vicariously, we share a common energy.

Respect your skill and respect your ocean – love your moments and your abilities on your waves. A very wise surfer, one whose spirit of aloha graces all he does, is Gerry Lopez. In his book, SURF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT, he shares five rules. The fifth and final Lopez rule, “The best surfer in the water is the guy having the most fun.” Like Gerry, we can all try to remember that one.

A great shot of Gerry Lopez originally posted in 1859 - Oregon's Magazine.

A great shot of Gerry Lopez originally posted in 1859 – Oregon’s Magazine.

Okay, grab your paddle and your board – have some fun and dream of waves! Then share your stories with us – via e-mail or on Facebook.

SUP Muse: Brit Oliphant

What’s the mental image your mind imagines when you hear about a teen spending a year on the beautiful rainbow island of Maui? Lots of fun, surfing, beach days and frolic?  You bet! But if you think that’s all the possibilities you have not met one of the most amazing young waterwomen – Brit Oliphant. Brit knows how to play but she is also a force to be reckoned with when it comes to focus, dedication, training and making dreams happen.

Don't let this laid back image confuse you - Brit's got focus and a passion for excellence.

Don’t let this laid back image confuse you – Brit’s got focus and a passion for excellence.

Just out of high school (a year early by doing her junior and senior year simultaneously), Brit has a love of life and maturity that’s rare at any age. While disciplined training has provided the fitness background needed to compete at the highest levels in the sports of standup surfing and paddling, an absolute love of oceans, rivers and people adds a special something else. So during the past 6 months as Brit lives life her way in Maui, she’s brought her SUP paddling and surfing skills to a new level.

Generating confidence and having a blast - Go Brit!

Generating confidence and having a blast – Go Brit!

A winter of “whoa that’s big” surf, balance training on the slackline, running, running and more running and miles of windy to wonderful standup paddling has honed some serious talent to something more.  Still full of fun and grins, Brit powered into the 2013 Surftech Shootout @ The Lane.  She had an impressive performance, taking second ahead of Morgan Hoesterey.  Surftech team rider, Candice Appleby held the top spot on the podium.  Gracious and grinning, exuding the essence of waterwomen, it was very cool to see Brit and Candice celebrating the results of much hard work and dedication.stbritcandice

Four amazing waterwomen at the March 2013 Surftech Shootout

Four amazing waterwomen at the March 2013 Surftech Shootout

 

For about a minute and a half I considered getting a slackline to practice my own balance after hearing Brit talk about how much fun she has with that part of her training. Then it occurred to me that the 47 years’ difference in our age – maybe there was something more valuable about balance to learn from my buddy, Brit.

Keeping things in perspective and following the path that’s a balance of fitness, competition, travel, family and fun is Brit’s forte.  Appreciation, an eye for opportunity and a willingness to move beyond the “comfort envelope” and work hard is a solid message for any of us.

So, why did I choose to profile Brit Oliphant as one of my favorite SUP Muses (along with Karen Wrenn and Suzie Cooney)? A “muse” is a catalyst for both change and a vision forward toward becoming our own best selves. Authentic and consistent, that’s pretty much how Brit lives her life and shares her aloha.

Who is YOUR SUP Muse? We’d love to hear from you via e-mail or simply connect with us on Facebook.

Take a look at the full event video – super fun for enjoying the event while planning to be there to watch next year.

*****

2013 Surftech Shootout: Surf & Sand Duel SUP Race Results

Elite Race Women
1st: Candice Appleby
2nd: Brit Oliphant
3rd: Morgan Hoesterey

Elite Race Men
1st: Slater Trout
2nd: Chuck Glynn
3rd: Matt Becker
4th: Anthony Vela
5th: Chance Fielder

Radiating Insights and SUP Aloha

I live in Oregon and have had the good fortune to meet Karen Wrenn a few times. From those experiences I recognized that on top of being an incredible athlete and a stellar Mom, she is extraordinarily giving when it comes to what she’s learned through SUP. So I follow her blog, and follow her posts on Facebook.  You may want to as well.

Karen Wrenn introducing her group to proper paddle technique. Photo by Ed Shasek

Just last week at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge we arrived on Friday just in time to attend the Positively Kai Grom Clinic.  There, nearly engulfed by several dozen eager pre-teens was smiling, calm Karen.  Kids at that age can behave like a herd of cats, but they remained focused and attentive throughout the land training. Parents hovering around the edges seemed particularly pleased when Karen made sure the kids got their PDFs or borrowed one for water time. One worried mom pulled Karen to the side, hands holding tight on your young son’s shoulders. After a few moments’ conversation, with a smile, the mom handed off the boy who no longer seemed so hesitant. Confidence at each step of the way seemed to be the theme.

With the clinic on Friday, a course race on Saturday and a blustery down wind run on Sunday every on of the top athletes had plenty on their plates. Just the same, Karen took some time to answer my questions about what would be my very first experience on the Columbia River. I haven’t determined what race board to buy just yet and have only about 4 lake races using a 12’6″ Hobie or Amundson. Steve Gates had already hooked me on the benefits of using a race board like the Naish Glides he carries at Big Winds.  As a Naish team rider, Karen showed me why she chose the Glide as well.

I had never been in the Columbia River, not had I ever paddled any board larger than 12 feet long. I asked Karen, “Would it be crazy for me to use my 11’3″ Amundson surfboard in the conditions we’ll have in Sunday? Will I be like dead last, or crazy slow?” The winds were expected to be 30-40 mph and i was freaking out more than a little.

That was the beginning of a valuable conversation. I learned where to go on the river and what to do should a barge come along. (A HUGE double barge did send me almost to the Washington side of the river)  She explained the sort of swells I might encounter and how to surf them to connect the most glides. Best of all, her easy assessment of my ability to not only do the race but also enjoy it gave me one more level of confidence.  Cool too, was being able to watch Karen’s technique in the course race, rounding marks, planting her paddle for the “catch” and using her legs and core. And did her Glide ever “gliiiiiiiide!”

Karen Wrenn rounds the bay buoy in the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge course race. Photo by Ed Shasek

I guess it all added up. Holy cow! I am solidly addicted to the sort of conditions we had on the Gorge Paddle Challenge downwinder. Totally jazzed I can’t wait to get back there to do it again – Summer 2013.

It hadn’t been too long ago that the ultimate SUP race, the Molokai 2 Oahu race took place. I have been a swimming, sailing, surfing, ocean person since birth and crossing big ocean expanses (with safety and support) has been a dream. (I wrote about that dream in an earlier blog)  Could I ever train enough in this seventh decade of life to manage that? Deliriously I thought – maybe?

With further insight I realize that the novice attempting that crossing – in or out of that event- would be somewhat disrespectful to the power of that channel and the esteem of the challenge. Karen wrote a powerful blog about Molokai 2 Oahu not too long ago. The article wove the challenge with the tradition. It underscored the dedication and training commitment the athletes who successfully cross the channel have invested.

I know that the Molokai 2 Oahu will always be what it has been to me – a dream. But it is also a window to what the top athletes in SUP can do. In my own way, at my own level I can be my best by keeping personal abilities in perspective. Training as much as I can as wisely as I can toward the events that make sense for me might be more fulfilling than chasing a dream.

Karen Wrenn with her signature smile racing to the finish.

Thanks to the athletes like Karen, Candice Appleby, Brit Oliphant and Suzie Cooney we can all aspire to our best. Follow their blogs, see what they dedicate to the sport through Facebook and YouTube video. Be the best YOU can be and celebrate the journey. Smile!

Positively Kai: Inspiring Youth

Kai demonstrating proper arm position. Every one in the group had a chance for one on one technique guidance. Photo by Ed Shasek

We were fortunate to arrive at the 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge a day early, in time to watch one of the youngest elite standup paddlers hosting his Positively Kai Grom Clinic.  Kai Lenny had a great weekend winning both the course and the downwind races – and the waterman award. If you had been there to wander around amidst the 200+ kids and parents participating in and observing the clinic you may have formed your own idea about who won what!

One of the youngest SUPers with one of the many volunteers

We usually think of a sports leader as one who has had decades of experience. Often, the time to actively share expertise with the younger generation occurs after the athlete has reached a certain level of age and maturity. Not so in the case of 19 year old Kai. He and friends, including Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn (all Nasih team riders)among others, staged a remarkable day long event. Some of the paddlers, even as young as 4 years old, had never paddled before. No problem. All were brought up to the level that allowed independence for a casual race on  a hot and fairly calm day on the Columbia River.

It’s hard to know how many of the 200 participants came away newly excited about standup paddling and how many might be inspired to continue to hone their skills.  In a time when kids often admire their sports heroes from a distance it’s great to watch the youngest generation mentored by one of their own. That is the SUP Perspective and mission.

Photo by Ed Shasek

Many of the grom clinic participants lined the shore of Hood River’s Waterfront Park on Saturday and Sunday watching their favorite pros up close and personal. One of the turn buoys was barely 10 yards from shore. Watching the elite men and women rounding that mark was super exciting stuff. Turning techniques and race strategy, segments of drafting or breaking off on a sprint mixed up the event for spectators.

Kids lining the shore raced up and down cheering for their favorites. My guess is that many of the Positively Kai Grom Clinic participants were back on their “home” river or lake practicing their new skills.  If any of you reading this had a child participating, keep us posted. If they plan to join in on the Gorge Paddle Challenge next year we’d love to see pictures.  We’ve seen some of your comments on Kai’s Facebook page – and welcome your thoughts here as well.

Better yet! How do YOU make a positive difference for the kids who see you paddle by and practically drool over a chance to give the sport a try? If you are thinking about ways, toss your ideas our way via our Facebook page. We can get some brainstorming going on.

In Bend, Oregon we have a super resource in the father daughter team of Dennis Oliphant and his elite SUP athlete daughter, Brit Oliphant. (video here) They have worked with the MBSEF ski and snowboard youth all summer. Off the snow and into the Deschutes River, Brit can be seen almost every day teaching paddle technique, core exercise, sweet whitewater skills and a few fast buoy turns.

Brit Oliphant using skills she has taught to MBSEF youth all summer. Top standup athletes are the “elders” of the sport when they help introduce the next generation to the sport.

Like youth everywhere, kids need your old paddles, the standup board you had before upgrading or a donation now and then. You may not have skills to share, but you can influence our youngest generation, get them out and UP on a SUP board on the water. That’s the way to spread aloha where you live.

Who do you know who’s out there connecting the SUP Perspective across generations – young to older or older to the youngest coming into the sport? Simply e-mail us, send a photo and we’ll share your “talk story” ideas here at Elder SUP.

Wanna Be Like Candice Appleby?

For many standup paddlers events and races drive our focus. It’s only natural to look at the podium after events and observe the sport’s leaders we admire. As the top ocean athletes pose for that podium shot do you ever think, “I wanna be like that.” At the August 2012 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I gained more awareness of what “like that” meant for many of the watermen and women.

Wanna be like Candice Appleby? Looks like a great position to be in at the first place spot on the podium.  Flanked on both sides by six other leaders, Candice graciously accepted the check and trophy while acknowledging what a close, exciting race it had been all the way to the end.  Are you shaking your head, “Yes, if I won races I’d be like that too.” Especially if, when you were 12, your parents moved to one of the best surf towns in the country. It’s easy to think that’s what formed Candice into the champion she is – but fortunately there is much more to her. In those aspects of her life, guess what? We can be like Candice Appleby.

Discipline, focus, perseverance and “fun at work” are all key to what makes a champion.  No one is born fit and ready to be at the top of their sport and at the peak of their game. Training happens daily and consistently.  Wanna be like Candice? Be your best condition, your best technique and your best focus.

A rare quiet moment for Candice. Photo by Ed Shasek

Candice launched an Anti-Bullying campaign called “Stand Up for the Children.”  Wanna be like Candice? Is there an issue or challenge of importance to you in your local community? Step up and participate or lead for change.  The busiest among us seem to be the ones who take the time to make a difference.

In her free free time Candice volunteers with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, taking Marines from the Wounded Warriors Battalion surfing as part of their Ocean Therapy. What expertise can you share in order to enhance the lives of others?

One last aspect of our SUP sport is the incredible opportunity we have to mingle among the top athletes, paddling in the same conditions and running through the same finish chute. We also might share some similar pre-event butterflies.

Candice quelling some of my butterflies before the 2012 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Photo by Ed Shasek

I had never paddled the Columbia River with its howling winds, big swells and big barges (that’s another story altogether!). Surfing on the Oregon coast had been good preparation, but at the beginning of the race I wasn’t too sure.  Good friend, Brit Oliphant had started her confidence building for me the week before – and that was why I was there ready to participate. The last minute help I got from Candice was much appreciated as well.

Candice was sitting at a shaded picnic table a few minutes before the start of the downwind course, adjusting her earphones and selecting her music.  I sat down next to her, probably looking pretty darn serious when she casually started up conversation.

It didn’t take her long to share a few pointers and instill that last dose of confidence I needed before launching into the 25-40 mph gusty winds. That gesture of sharing resonated well with me.  I tend to “go inside” when nervous but Candice demonstrated a better strategy. By taking the time to be aware of others who may need just a bit of encouragement I might have the opportunity to quell their butterflies – and mine.

Pick your own way and your own path (paddle) to enjoy our sport the way Candice does. Look around – our top athletes have done just that. What a cool community within our sport we can be part of.

Candice cool and calm at the start of the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Photo by Ed Shasek

SUP Leaders Grinnin’ and Givin’

KIALOA paddles and Naish team rider, Chuck Patterson and his signature smile

Perhaps every sport has its heroes, good karma ambassadors and experts eager to share their time, skills and experience with newbies – but SUP seems to have more than its fair share.  As with most categories of leaders in most any field, the busiest seem to be the most eager to share.  Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn gave clinics at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge. Before and after their clinic they shared freely with any paddlers hammering the questions their way – and always with a smile!  Karen is a busy mom and competitor, but like Chuck she’s and incredible ambassador for our sport.

When my husband and I were in Maui last May for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a race, we tried the shorter course from Paia Bay to Kanaha – rather than the full Maliko Gulch run.  Local SUP trainer and world class athlete, Suzie Cooney consistently gave of her time and experience before and during the event. The absolutely amazing spirit of the team for Olukai and the encouragement from Suzie infected us with a focus on getting prepared for the 2013 Maliko Gulch run as part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a. We plan to learn from her online training tips and some actual training runs over the next months. If she hadn’t been so willing to share from her first meeting with two old SUP downwind “wannabees” we might not have had the confidence to complete training enough to compete (term used loosely – LOL)

KIALOA paddles team rider, Brit Oliphant

Most recently I have had the good fortune to know one of the younger leaders in  standup paddling, surfing, and all types of racing, Brit Oliphant. We share the same home town, and often cross paths on the Deschutes River that flows through town. As Brit offers training to all ages in groups large and small the constant is enthusiasm and a great smile. Day after day! Just out of high school, Brit has a love of life and maturity that’s rare at any age. While disciplined training has provided the fitness background needed to compete at the highest levels, an absolute love of oceans and rivers adds a special something else.

So, as I wavered in my commitment to watch-participate-watch, maybe, or participate (should I?) in the upcoming 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I went out for an easy paddle with a friend yesterday. “Hey, Judy!” I heard as I walked past the Sun Country SUP rentals at our RiverBend Park. It was Brit, back from a one day training trip to Hood River where she and fellow paddlers had done a few rounds of the 8 mile downwind course.

In chatting, she heard me mention that I was still wavering about doing the event and might just rent the Naish race board my friend Steve Gates recommended in case I decided to do the downwind on Sunday. Now, I know that Brit recently got a brand new Joe Bark designed Candice Appleby Model 12’6″ race board. She’d paddled it to a win at the recent Gerry Lopez Elk Lake WPA race and was obviously thrilled.  That said, without a moment’s hesitation Brit said, ‘Judy, if we aren’t racing at the same time you can use my board on Sunday.” Sharing a brand new anything is generous – but a race board – what a cool gesture, Brit.

Generosity like that is rare.  I won’t be borrowing her cool race board, yet the offer was easily sincere. The confidence I gained from Brit’s wholehearted advice, hints and belief that not only could I do the event but I would have a world of fun (if the wind cooperated) at the same time.  Let’s see what Sunday brings. My guess is that we will see Brit competing toward the front of the elite class, smile shining, having a blast whatever place comes her way. For me, I hope I muster the nerve to give it a go. Better register now!