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.

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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.

Dave Kalama: You’re Gonna Get More Glides

Photo by 808Photo.me

Photo by 808Photo.me

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

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

Photo by 808Photo.me

Photo by 808Photo.me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nugget: This video explains it so well:

Saving the Best ’til (Almost) Last

Peggy King in the M2M (Photo by 808Photo.me)

Peggy King in the M2M (Photo by 808Photo.me)

Over the past month we featured SUP athlete (and pianist, and much more) Peggy King as she prepared for the 2014 Maui 2 Molokai race. While she  finished 2nd to last with a time of 4:50, that was a 40+ min. Improvement over last year’s 5:34. Peggy was the oldest competitor- and was recognized for that by Rodney Kilborn at the event.

This is not a story about age, rather a recap of the respect and camaraderie the field of competitors at the M2M have for each other. In Peggy’s words, “I was grateful that all paddlers acknowledged me and were friendly- no one told me ‘You don’t belong.'”

Friends, camaraderie and a love of down winders

Friends, camaraderie and a love of down winders

And “belong” Peggy did. She put in the time, got solid coaching from Jeremy Riggs and Dave Kalama, so she was ready. Those who know the Pailolo channel know how it when it is somewhat side shore. That can be  a bit difficult. For Peggy, it wasn’t  that bad.

She explains, “My Garmin read outs were slow and a I fell a few times. That had me thinking to myself that the boat captain would probably think I’m a kook. With the falls at first I even thought, ‘I ain’t gonna make any time requirement at this rate.'”

But things got better as Peggy shares, “As I turned the corner to Molokai, the wind picked up and things really improved. Paddle-paddle-surf-glide- and soon I was getting good Garmin readings and no falls!”

The musician in Peggy sang out, “It was like a good piece of music I didn’t want to end! As the J Mac race committee boat approached me I told them that I was enjoying myself. As the harbor shed approached I had to tell myself not to get too excited. But I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh boy,my time is favorable. OK, don’t fall or blow it!'”

Go Peggy! (Photo by 808Photo,me)

Go Peggy! (Photo by 808Photo,me)

Then the time came for Peggy King to finish and she did it in a legal time. Happy, happy person! ) She said, “I felt strong, my nutrition worked, and I had the  energy to do the M4M race the next day. I even got a finish line photo from 808Photo.me photographer !”

Peggy did M4M the next day and knocked 1/2 + hours off her time for that one too! According to Peggy, “It was the most fun SUP weekend experience,ever for me!

As far as Future Goals for Peggy King? “I hope I can stay healthy and fit to do this one again! I’d like to do M2O as a 3 person team- time will tell!”

Special thanks to Rod White, Garfield King and Lindsey Taylor who helped out on the boat and drove me to start line. Props to Jeremy Riggs and Dave Kalama for the coaching.

Who Knew? Slower Can Be Faster

Super slow motion overview of technique by Dave Kalama

Super slow motion overview of technique by Dave Kalama

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

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

 

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

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

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

Dave Kalama: Keep it Fun & Keep On Going

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Born in 1964, Dave trains, paddles, surfs, innovates and appreciates the waterman life to the max

Dave Kalama  has been around since day one of stand up paddling (literally) and has competed in the ocean for over 30 years. He consistently innovates and helps create the equipment he uses from boards to paddles – and he’s still got the passion, wonder, gratitude and sense of “awe” that creates a legend. It was an honor to chat with Dave recently. You’re gonna love his stories and perspective.

It started on Maui in 2012: If you have ever done a down wind run you know what I mean when I say – “Holy cow! What a rush. I want more!” With one down wind experience at the 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge under  my belt,  I headed to Maui for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a Fun Race.

dave waveAt the post race luau I was fortunate to find myself in line behind Dave Kalama who was chatting with friends, talking technique and sharing his expertise with a passion. Overhearing some tips I picked up information that fueled my journey to learn-learn-learn all I could over time. Over time following events, news, videos, training and Kalama Kamp adventures some “talk story” questions inspired this article.

We started on the topic of fitness which is relevant at the M2O approaches this Sunday.  Dave shared, “Fitness is accessible to all who are dedicated and willing to work for it. It’s an attainable part for those who are passionate and dedicated to their sport. Irregradless of skill, a person can be fit for an event.”

Dave explained further that in a down wind event there are so many other variables and factors in play. It’s like the most physical game of chess you’ll play. Your experience and decision making skills will ultimately drive your success. “You must make constant decisions based on what you think will happen based on your past experience.  A body of water being influenced by wind, swells, waves, currents and depth will look chaotic. You must learn to read the chaos as you ride, glide and connect to swells.”

Preparation and experience leads to down wind fun (Photo by 808Photo.me)

Preparation and experience leads to down wind fun (Photo by 808Photo.me)

A down wind run is a fluid situation that is constantly in flux. No wonder it takes enormous amounts of time on the water to learn the language. As Dave says, “The water is literally speaking a language, telling us what we need to know and we need to learn to recognize those cues.”

Every body of water interacts differently with wind waves. A gradual beach, a steep cliff, refraction off rocks, how bumps are moving, speed of the current and the depth of a river or lake all combine as the “language of water.” You don’t need to know how hydrodynamics works, but with awareness during your time on the water you will begin to understand that language.

With the upcoming Kalama Kamp at Hood River Oregon, Dave used the Columbia River of one example of how local knowledge and experience play into hearing the language the water is sharing, “Around Hood River the waves seem to criss-cross. You can notice that where the current is fastest (down stream and into the prevailing wind) the actual waves are slower. As the wave pattern horse shoes in the middle you can feel and see that the waves on the sides are faster.”

Speaking of Kalama Kamps (and register early because they seem to sell out) Dave injects his philosophy of fun into deep learning opportunities. He stays connected to each participant making sure that they get what they need and have plenty of “aha” moments. For Dave, the most satisfying part is hearing from people a few weeks after the camp when they have had some time to reflect on the experience. Such testimonials help Dave continue to hone the Kalama Kamp experience over time.

Keep motivated by finding the fun!

Keep motivated by finding the fun!

Dave explains, “I love teaching SUP technique and stroke but the most important thing is to deliver the information in a way that makes the whole experience fun. When I explain technique and specific movements I relate the movement to something a person might already know from life or other sports. That way things are familiar and they can adapt from a point of what they already understand.”

One of the reasons I was very compelled to interview Dave was the message he shared, from the heart, in a speech just before the 2014 Carolina Cup. (video below)

All of us havehad those moments when we thought we were:

    • Too tired or busy to complete a training we planned
    • Too overwhelmed, scared or beaten up by an event or race
    • Having a tough day and just wanted to quit

Kalama told a story of “his worst day on the water (video below) and how he turned that day (and his thinking) around by reflecting on a group of kids who managed to keep going in spite of the demands and struggles of Cystic Fibrosis. Thos kids didn’t have a choice of quittung when things got tough – they fought on every single day. Kalama closed his speech by saying his message was meant more for the racers who find themselves anywhere from the middle of the group, all the way to the back. He said, “You can always come up with good reasons to quit but no matter what, “you don’t get in the boat. You don’t quit. You keep going.”

A training run just this week as Dave prepared for the 2014 M2O reminded him not too take things so seriously that they were no longer fun. He said, “Just as I was pushing really hard and trying to go my fastest I remembered to take a moment, just a moment, to look around and appreciate where I was, what I was doing. I took those maybe 20 seconds, that was very cool. Then it was back to work!”

Kalama reminds us, “You don’t have to get the most or the best out of every day or every effort. It doesn’t matter what it takes, just keep going with what you planned to reach your goal. No matter what it takes – even if you have to crawl. If crawling is the best you can do, then crawl on and keep moving. Think about those who simply can’t give up – it’s motivating. When you leave the house to train or race you set a course, a plan or an intention. Honor it, finish it – and have fun!”

Stand Up Paddleboarding | Sunplay.com

 

Molokai 2 Maui: Train with Peggy King

Peggy King has put in the training and downwind miles needed for the downwind racing season

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

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

We had a blast at the 2014 Olukai!

We had a blast at the 2014 Olukai!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reach Old Lady – Reach

I am working to prepare myself for the challenges of doing both days of the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge and then a month later the course OPEN race at battle of the Paddle. I am glad there’s a “sweet old lady” class for us 60+ year old chicks,  And also thrilled that there are enough of us to make a fine class – how cool!odell-me-kerui

IMGP0110The preparation and training has been so much fun. I have the joy of living along the Deschutes River. I can do up/down stream training runs right in the middle of Bend Oregon. I can drive a bit out of town and do 4-5 miles upstream and 4-5 miles back downstream to my car. The span can include the upstream ripples of Dillon Falls all the way to the forceful end of Benham Falls. The scenery is beyond beautiful.

My heart rate monitor keeps me in my selected training zone when I get distracted and sprint too often and for too long. Building a nice cardio base is pretty darn important when you are ready to be a full – fledged Medicare card carrying member (insert LOL here so as not to freak out).

I have been practicing on being efficient. Getting the most power and momentum per effort-unit is imperative. I have watched this video and have read this training tip by dave Kalama so many times – it’s been terrific. Thanks, Dave!

When I complete these events with a smile, I will thank you even more.