Have you got that SUP dream, that event that fuels your dreams and motivates your training? Do you have what it takes to make it happen?
We’ve heard it before, “Access to success is through the mind,” – but for Steve Gates access came through the heart, spirit, absolute grit and gumption, as well as the mind! I had a great conversation with Steve, GM of Big Winds in Hood River and coach of the JET team, yesterday. We chatted about his recent three-person team crossing of the Ka’iwi Channel at the 2014 Molokai2Oahu (M2O). Rob Dies, Gregg Leion and Steve made a plan to do the Molokai to Oahu – and they did it! But let’s back up just a bit.
I first met Steve, now a strong, tall, fit guy sharing smiles and stoke, in August 2012 at the 2012 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. That event was his baby. A health issue had him terribly underweight but he was working hard and cheering on his JET team even though he was almost too weak to stand. By December he was fighting for his life. In June of 2013, about six months after Steve had been frighteningly close to death’s door, we went to Hood River for a down wind clinic with Jeremy Riggs. As we grabbed our glides and rode the 8 miles of Columbia River from Viento to Hood River there was an “energy bunny” paddling ahead and back, from paddler to paddler, joining Jeremy in on-water coaching with relentless grins and technique tips – Steve Gates.
According to Steve, “I was still denying the physical limitations of my body and was running on enthusiasm and joy just being out on the water and paddling.” And here’s the story too cool not to share. Six months before, in December of 2012, when Steve was too weak to either hold a paddle or stand he articulated a dream. As we rang in 2013, Steve shared his dream of doing the Molokai 2 Oahu in 2014 from a hospital bed while continuing his battle with a dire health situation.
As a life long water athlete and coach, Steve never asked others to do what he would not do. Ask any JET team member and they will tell you that they didn’t mind the early morning summer practices (well, not too much) because Steve was always there and he did what they did. He sweated with them and panted after a tough interval – and he made it fun. Steve always asked his team to follow their dreams and aspire toward what they really want – and so he did the same.
In early 2013 Steve, Greg and Rob were making plans for an escort boat, for local support they would need for M2O and for a training plan that would let them reach their dream.
There were plenty of ups and downs. One bout of dehydration nearly dashed all hopes for Steve to get to the physical level of strength and endurance he’d need. “Access to success is through the mind, ” and in Steve’s mind he was at M2O – and by July 2014, he actually was there.
According to Steve,”The morning flew by and before we knew it we had finished all preparations and were at the start point on the beach ready for the start. Soon, I was in the water, sitting on my board next to Connor Baxter. Neither of us knew what the day would hold.” For Connor it was a record-breaking win, for Steve and his team it was the culmination of a long journey from the start of a 32-mile paddle across the challenging and treacherous “channel of bones.”
The conditions did not deliver the usual tradewinds and nice push toward glides the paddlers dream of. In fact the swells were smallish and every glide was the result of hard work, sometimes against both wind and current.
Steve, Rob and Greg made their changes in and out of the escort boat. Their escort boat captain, Jeremy Wilmes and his helmsman and first mate Josh made everything possible. Steve shares, “You couldn’t ask for more, these guys are as good as they come.”
The hours flew by and they were at the China Wall and final legs of the race. Rob Dies put the hammer down and pounded past the gnarliest area of the race. The changes came more often and before Steve realized it was his time to jump in, get on board and paddle to the finish.
We all watch events and the competitors launching toward the finish. Sometimes we wish that we were competing or accomplishing some long dreamed-of adventure. Imagine, if you can, the enormous wash of emotion, satisfaction, happiness and awe that had to encompass Steve as he made his way across the finish line for the team. The journey had been long, and often seemed impossible.
From that day when simply standing was a challenge to this moment paddling strong across the M2O finish line. Steve was standing, tired and beat, but never beaten. Got a dream, got a goal? Think it is impossible? It’s there for you if you put your mind, heart, spirit and the support of friends and family into the mix. Now – GO FOR IT!