SUP Perspective: Memorial Day

Today you might hear the occasional “Happy Memorial Day” but this is a solemn day. Today we remember the service, sacrifice, and commitment of those who were willing to give the last full measure of devotion in order for us to enjoy the blessings of liberty, freedom, and democracy. Before you head to the water, or fire up the grill, take your children and grandchildren to a national cemetery. Let them know there were men and women who made it possible for them to have their summer fun. Capture the moment in reflection or a photo. Our future generation’s freedom has inspired every sacrifice recognized today.

Today as I read through the posts from SUP paddlers across the nation, read the posts about events scheduled for today there is a consistent thread of recognition that today’s perspective includes remembering, being with friends and family and an attitude of gratitude. Simply Google “memorial day SUP event” and you’ll see what I mean. Wherever you live you can get out on the water and celebrate our freedom to enjoy this day. So many of the events include opportunities for families to get on the water together.

Robby Naish sharing the stroke with his daughter - family fun is a solid part of SUP Perspective

Robby Naish sharing the stroke with his daughter – family fun is a solid part of SUP Perspective (photo by Riley Cooney)

Not so long ago I came across a two-year old photo taken by Riley Cooney  (used here with his permission). Not so far from the USS Missouri Memorial and the many glassy breaks of Hawaii millions celebrate the ocean life from the SUP perspective. This photo of Robby Naish and his daughter captures the essence of sharing what we love with our family on the water. As spring turns to summer and we head for every sort of water fun there will be millions of these “family moments” captured in pictures, video and cherished memories. A treasure for sure.

Karen Wrenn (@supkaren) and her enthusiastic sidekick are ready to seize the day via a down-wind run

Karen Wrenn (@supkaren) and her enthusiastic sidekick are ready to seize the day via a down-wind run

Lakes, bays, rivers, oceans – wherever your water is grab a kid, a dad, an auntie or a cousin.  Flatwater, buoy racing, surfing double overheads or shorebreak mush – grab your paddle and go!

We are so fortunate in the SUP community to have “first generation” leaders in the re-invented modern version of SUP who inspire us by their purpose, dedication to sharing expertise across generations and consistent training.

Today I woke up to gray skies, wind and colder than comfortable temperatures. Bummer, paddling today? Not sure.

Then I grabbed some coffee and took a look at Facebook, and found plenty to stop and reflect on. Posts honoring what Memorial Day is all about delivered a spirit of gratitude and reflection.  Our collective perspective is a powerful inspiration.

On the SUP side of motivation, posts by Suzie Cooney provided a great training video for “get going and get training” spark. Posts by Karen Wrenn inspired a commitment to healthy eating, training and prep for the upcoming summer fun. Coincidentally, these leaders are part of Naish SUP (Naish International, Naish Surfing) and are part of the collective culture of the Naish family.  As Robby Naish recently shared, “Naish works hard to be more than a brand. Naish has a passion they try to instill into their products and the lifestyle they represent.” Attitude, it’s not easy to measure but it’s awesome to experience.

memdaySocial media and an easy vehicle to “talk story” can create a wide sense of community – across the globe. What’s your story today? We look forward to hearing from you via e-mail, or Facebook, or by a link on your YouTube channel.

Thanks for reflecting with me today.


Olukai Ho’olaule’a: Recap by Connor

On the STANDUP PADDLE MAGAZINE’s Facebook page there was a great recap of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a posted.  I am sharing the whole summary by Connor Baxter here. It’s almost like being there again!

Connor baxter, Dave Kalama, Kai Lenny, Suzie Cooney and all the elite SUP racers are in the front ready for a challenging run.

Connor Baxter, Dave Kalama, Kai Lenny, Suzie Cooney and all the elite SUP racers are in the front ready for a challenging run.

“The Olukai Ho’olaule’a is a great event. Every year paddlers look forward to competing at this event in the infamous Maliko downwinder. The day started out with rain and very light winds. But, when driving down along the north shore we could see that the wind was picking up and the rain had stopped – and there were a few whitecaps. It was looking like it was going to be a good day. Driving into Maliko Gulch, I knew there were going to be a bunch of people – there were cars parked all the way out to the highway – and it was only 10am. What a great turnout.

Once we got there – I checked in and got my board ready. And, of course had to say hi to everyone. At 11:30 we had a pule, a Hawaiian prayer and then all 300+ of us hit the water for a 12:00 start. It was a water start on the outside of the bay. The wind was a little onshore so I decided to start further outside. Once we were all lined up on the water the boat waved a yellow flag so we got ready to race. And bam the green flag went up and I sprinted right from the beginning. Dave Kalama and I pulled away right from the beginning and like always – were just trading off back and forth.

Dave Kalama showing his powerful form making his way to a strong finish

Dave Kalama showing his powerful form making his way to a strong finish

Once we got to outer Baldwin I knew I had to put a gap on Dave. So I put my head down and I shifted into 6th gear and didn’t stop until I had a comfortable lead. Once I was a little ahead, I got into a steady rhythm and kept going.

Coming into Camp One I was a little nervous, because I didn’t have a leash and there were waves. So I caught a medium size one and stepped to the tail and rode the wave to the inside. Once I hit the flat water I just kept my head down and sprinted all the way to the finish.


Awesome shot captured by Terry Marie Galpin

I had a good lead of a minute and a half on Dave – and two and a half minutes on Kai in third place. I hit the beach and ran all the way to the finish line and spur of the moment I got a great idea to dolphin dive across the finish line – even though there was no one even close to me.

Overall it was a great event and I had a lot of fun and really stoked to defend my title and hope to do it again next year! I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Maui Jim, Rainbow Sandals, Trident Sports, Rista Fins, Dakine, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Igloo Coolers, Sunrite Maui, Hammer Nutrition, iDcard, EFX and Hi-Tech Sports. Also a big

Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers.”

Aloha, Connor Baxter

Right Name – Excellent Initials

Sometimes fate seems to send a subtle message in ordinary observations. This time it came from a name and the resulting initials – Suzie Cooney, SC.

Ed and I are in week 8 of our “Eddie Will Go on the Olukai Ho’olaule’a” race – comeback from extensive shoulder surgery. Week 8 is the best one yet. We are actually in Maui and are SUP surfing and doing sweet down-winders every day on our Naish 14′ Glide GX. Last night we had dinner with our trainer-from-a-distance, Suzie Cooney, CPT of Suzie Trains Maui. IMGP0149

There’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation over ono burgers at the Fish Market Restaurant in Paia, especially after all the support we’ve gained from Suzie over the past months. How did two 63 year olds from Oregon come to be trained by Suzie Cooney on Maui? That’s quite a story.

We were casually playing at down-wind riding while on vacation in Maui in May 2011. Hearing that the Olukai Ho’olaule’a offered a “fun race” of just 4 miles we grabbed our rental surfboards and registered. The day of the race we were all butterflies and doubt.  Ed was having shoulder surgery 4 days later and we were second-guessing everything. Then the announcer gathered us all for a pre-race warm-up, and we met Suzie.

suzierace_00001With a warm smile and ultimate encouragement she talked and moved the nervous group through breathing, stretching and a warm-up. Surprisingly, by the time we were done the group had a relaxed and solidified feel. Then we were off for one of the most exhilarating fun-runs ever. We decided that when Ed was able to train after his surgery, just seven weeks ago, we would start training with Suzie. We set a goal to do the 8-mile run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha. Suzie’s regimine has been just what Ed needed.

Meeting up with Suzie last night confirmed it, she has the absolute best initials for her spirit and talent:

  1. SC – Sincere compassion: Ed is coming back from an injury and Suzie’s compassion for the struggle is obvious. It takes quite a bit of digging to gain the information that might attribute to that. Suzie is no stranger to injury, rehab, set-backs and the value of dedication and solid training. She has walked the talk, and then some.
  2. SC – Social commitment: Much like Olukai, the sponsor of the Ho’olaule’a, Suzie has always had a strong commitment to her community and sharing her expertise and talent. We love that and it sets the same tone that we go for at Elder SUP
  3. SC – Strategic communication: Suzie is about the busiest person I know. There is no place for the luxury of time wasted. When we use SKYPE or e-mail to gain insights and training strategies Suzie is always ready to communicate, but to the point and with disciplined replies.  It is a great way to allow her expertise from Paia, Maui to reach out to wherever clients are.
  4. SC – Solid collaboration: Suzie spends time with a diverse group of peers from both the fitness and surf/SUP/paddling disciplines. She’s an avid listener and seems to have an uncanny ability to tweak out information and then share-collaborate easily. These skills are obvious if you cruise her website, see the photos, read the articles, and watch the well-edited videos.
  5. SC – Sea Connection: Suzie is a waterwoman and is undeniably connected to the sea. Her stories, grins, and passionate dedication to sharing this connection is a gift. We are better at our SUP dreams because of her inspiration. Better yet, we are determined to return home and make the most of the next 5 months before we launch into the sea from Maliko Gulch.

Please share your training, come back and dream-event stories with us.

Pockets of Pain = Feeling Good


Pockets of pain during specific training can make you “hurt so bad” and soon feel so good, according to trainer Suzie Cooney. With a great blend of physiology, expertise – and some humor – Suzie shares a great training session that can re set the muscles used in SUP. You can watch the video here – better yet, view it on Suzie Trains Maui’s website for this video and MORE!

The one piece of equipment suggested for use is the 6″ Self Myofacial roller.  The video has three segments:

  1. For the lats, which help[ the paddle and blade enter the water and pull the body and board forward
  2. A segment for the back, shoulder and rhomboids
  3. A surprising bit of attention to the calf (actually two muscles) which can help when feet fall asleep and to improve the “pump” in the legs for improved blood circulation

Enjoy the video here;


How old would she be?

I recently saw a very cool photo on the Standup Journal Facebook page. It was “Mom Feet,” Fran – mother of Standup Journal Publisher Clay Feeter. Meet the team here and remember, “The rest of the team is US!” Cool as a cucumber and smiling broadly, Fran looked totally at home paddling at age 82 – and why not? As she says, “Attitude is everything! I still feel like a kid (except for the joints!). I have on my refrigerator a quote from Satchel Paige: ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?’ ” Right on!

Fran dove into motherhood with a surprise bonus of twins. Twin Kurt learned to windsurf early in the day, and got the rest of the family involved, including twin Clay, now publisher of Stand Up Journal. The family became ‘groupies’ in the windsurfing world, going to events in northern California, some organized by Clay and daughter Christi. There we met world renowned windsurfers, and were treated with friendship by all the young people. We never were made to feel like “old codgers”. Daughter Kerry and husband Bob joined in on events and gave them their  first grandchild soon joined by 6 more! I wondered what Fran attributes her young at heart approach to life. She says, “Our four children have been a major part in keeping us mentally young! ”


In the collection of photos (above) it’s hard to miss the smiles all around.  No wonder. You’ve been to the beach where 90% of the crowd takes the beach towel/beach chair route for the day. After a spin on the sea it’s hard not to grin. During the pre-2011 Battle of the Paddle festivities on Molokai Fran enjoyed some time with the competitors – and with Chuck Patterson whose grin voltage is in the Fran range! Fran decided to test out a Naish race board. Really, it’s commonplace for “grandma” to return home from errands, like the grocery store, and ask for help carrying in those heavy groceries. With the confidence and strength from a lifetime of sailing, windsurfing and paddling, Fran easily carried her own board to and from the water, like the true waterwoman she is.

Fran and Bill Feeter at home on Molokai

It’s no surprise that the ocean has been a tremendously significant influence on Fran’s lifestyle and life choices. “I actually got into making windsurfing sails in the very early days before they became so ‘high tech’. When my husband retired from teaching in northern California, I said, ‘Let’s go where the water’s warm’….so we explored the Caribbean (Belize and Virgin Islands), but decided to stay in the U.S. and move to Maui. We were there 3 years, then discovered that we could afford a house on the beach in Molokai.”

“When we moved here in 1991, we kept our sails rigged and hanging in the carport, so we could just grab them and go when the wind and tide was right (we have a fringing reef – the only one in the U.S. – just offshore, so need a foot of tide to clear it). We actually stopped windsurfing about 10 – 12 years ago. We both had knee problems (I had to drop out of hula). Knee replacement has solved that problem, but we had gotten out of the habit of windsurfing. ” True to “that’s the way Fran does it,” she stays active with the hula group helping with costumes these days.

When I asked Fran how she began standup paddling, Fran recalled her first experience five years ago. She had flown into Boston, then drove a rental car to New Hampshire to visit Clay, who lived with Joyce on a beautiful small lake. She recalls, “It was about 5 p.m. when I arrived, but Clay insisted I go out with them on a standup board right away. I put on my swim suit, sure I would immediately fall in. Well – it was an amazing experience! It was getting dusk, and we paddled around a small island in the middle of the lake, picked a few berries. Then continued on up to the end of the lake. On the way back we saw loons swimming along. I had never seen a loon, and it was ‘chicken skin’ to hear them. And amazingly, I didn’t fall in.”


By the way, check out the paddle Fran sports as she’s cruising the crystal clear waters of her favorite inner lagoon these days. The custom and personalized wood inlay paddle was a gift from son, Clay.

At Elder SUP we focus on stories in which people share their connection to the rituals and traditions around the sea and the environment, values and the impact those things have made for them personally. I asked Fran if there any stories she would like to share related to that topic?. “Being in Hawaii means the Ocean is part of your life. I’ve had the chance of sailing on the Hokule’a, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe replica (our neighbor is a regular member of the crew), and have made 3 ‘man overboard’ flags for the vessel. We are also volunteers with the Green Sea Turtle project here in Molokai. We go to Kawa’aloa beach once a week in the summer to see if any nests have been dug. The nest is marked, then when we see the hatching tracks we wait 3 – 5 days then dig the next and count the turtle shells, and rescue any babies that didn’t make it out. Results are sent to George Balazs in Oahu who is in charge of the state program. And of course, walks on the beach are a regular part of my ‘fitness’ program.”

Being outdoors, self-propelled across bodies of water is exhilarating! We have an entire section of our blog dedicated to that SUP Perspective. For anyone reading about the active connection Fran keeps with her local community’s traditions and environmental activities I hope it inspires a local look around. Wherever there is water, wildlife and people there are opportunities to connect and make a difference.

You know, thinking back on Fran’s story of her first day SUPing, I don’t think it would have dampened Fran’s enthusiasm one teeny bit if she had fallen in on that first day. She’s got a zesty sense of humor and easily laughs at herself, taking life with a light spirit.  While the “elder” in Elder SUP refers to tradition and history around the sport we love, the fact that Fran is 82 does make her “elder” in the calendar sense of the word. Because she treasures and honors the sense of family and connection, she’s a true inspiration. Her paddling story has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude. I hope to head to Molokai one day soon and take an SUP cruise in her neck of the sea.

Robert Stehlik Walks (on water) the Talk

I first “met” Robert Stehlik through a few of his Zen Waterman blog which he co-authors (the SUP part) with Len Barrow (surfing).  The blog explores Surfing and Stand Up Paddling as Zen arts with features including: focus and paying attention to technique, equipment, mental aspects, the interplay with nature and others. His interview with Gerry Lopez was one that caught my attention – and before I knew it I’d read through almost the entire blog.

As a 62 year old hoping to maximize both fitness and results through honing the best techniques possible, Robert’s article on “catch and reach” was really interesting. That did it. I decided to give Robert a call in hopes I might meet him and learn more about how he trains and coaches the SUP novice and experienced crowd on Oahu. I was planning to be there the second week of December. As luck would have it (YES!) I arrived in time to experience his December clinic.

For Robert, the clinics are much more than a chance to sell boards. The most important things is to make sure that the initial introduction to the sport is a positive one for the participants. That philosophy was integrated into all aspects of the clinic we experienced.

We walked to the meeting area near AlaMoana and saw about 30 people, most out on the water trying the vast array of top quality boards and paddles.

One local newbie, Emily,  trying standup paddling for the first time confessed that she has a tendency to be tense when learning a new sport. It isn’t the challenge – she loves that. Her concern was that she would do it all wrong.  Emily was lucky – she met one of the Blue Planet Hawaii trainers, Phil. Phil was just one of the patient and skilled trainers ready to surprise people with easy to follow training. One by one we saw it happen. Just like Emily, people were embracing their new favorite sport.  

Phil was quick to explain that while SUP can provide excellent fitness benefits, the most compelling aspect is its ability to connect people with nature.

Teaching is far more than a casual side interest among the team at Blue Planet Hawaii.  Robert definitely walks the talk. His background of training and dedication to meeting his own personal SUP goals become fodder for sharing with customers, clients and SUP students. Robert completed the Molokai channel crossing race on a Stand Up Surfboard in 2009,   one of his big personal goals. Months of training and planning paid off and he finished the 32- mile course in a respectable time of 6hrs 15min and 7th overall of all Solo SUP paddlers.

True to his personality, Robert was quick to thank his wife Sharon for her support. She came along on the escort boat and let Robert go on long training paddle runs for the last few months before the event. It takes a team – and that is what Robert has developed at Blue Planet Surf.