Pe’ahi Challenge: An Epic Day

The air was electric with anticipation, the athletes quietly checked equipment as the rhythm of swell surging in Kahului Harbor reinforced the truth. While one water athlete would reign victorious by the end of the day, each knew the true opponent was a wave named, Pe’ahi. There would be no beating her, only the chance to be patient enough to wait for her to deliver the right wave and then ride it with a lifetime of experience blended with courage and focus.

IMG_1564In the pre-dawn darkness we arrived at Kahului Harbor as the boats and jet skis were being launched in preparation for the first paddle-in event  at Jaws, the Pe’ahi Challenge. We were there to observe the pule, the traditional moment of prayer shared by the athletes as they gather in a circle offering their gratitude, asking for safety and protection, blessing the endeavor they will experience today. One image comes to mind.

One of the competitors emerged from the cabin of his boat with a handful of ti leaves. Traditionally ti leaves are used in ceremonies for protection and to call in good luck and spirit. The young man shared the ti leaves with drivers of the jet skis, the link to safety for the athletes. No words were needed, the jet ski drivers knew their role was crucial and one that was built on training as disciplined as that of the athletes.

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Always ready for rescue, the safety team took some hard hits in the impact zone – Photo TAG Heuer

One by one the boats headed out for the long ride to the deep channel just off the shoulder of Pe’ahi. We had the good fortune to be on the cliff with a bird’s eye view of every ride. Within earshot of the spot-on commentary and “talk story” gift of Dave Kalama, we were fully immersed in an epic day that will go down in history.

Before the comp even started, Kai Lenny caught what looked like the best wave of the day, a huge barrel, moments after Shane Dorian’s monster drop. Kai’s wave was caught on camera but from a distance. People continued to remark throughout the morning that it was easily the biggest and deepest (made) barrel they had seen. If you want to see the footage, FOLLOW Kai on Instagram – and prepare to be blown away by that video.

With near-perfect Jaws conditions, the best big wave riders on the planet were queued for heats and a chance at the the wave of their life. Yes, there was a hefty purse of $100,000 – but at the moment the laser focus was on the swell, on the power of Pe’ahi. Before the event even started, things got crazy. Mark Matthews took off on a bomb and separated his shoulder. Every ride had a price tag.

The predicted swell delivered with power and resulting carnage that had every spectator holding their breath until the athlete popped up out of the churning foam and grabbed the rescue sled. Commentator, Dave Kalama, explained that after a crushing wipeout the full focus is on getting a board (in so many cases the board has been splintered by the impact) and getting out there as soon as possible for another ride. You have to get out there and go again before the realization hits you. What an absolutely insane path you have chosen as yours.

The day was full of rides that brought gasps, then cheers. Dave Kalama called Greg Long’s cavernous deep 9-pointer “one of the biggest waves ever paddled into.” Every heat brought incredible rides and the gnarliest of wipeouts. One of the runaway jet skis, hammered sideways by the wave, was pounded toward the rocks, then methodically smashed to bits in the crushing foam. Watching that gave each of us spectators a full understanding of the forces the athletes endured at any misstep or wipeout. Their preparation and training mixed with courage and absolute passion for what they do is nothing less than heroic.

Huge cheers erupted in the VIP tent when Albee Layer threw down some incredible tube rides. It was nail-biting good to be seated next to Peter Walsh (father of competitors Shaun and Ian).  Shaun Walsh’s steep drop, which Shane Dorian said was one of the steepest of the contest, gave us all chills. Ian Walsh’s heat before the semi-final was a collection of one strong ride after another. From one of my favorite Maui paddlers, Peggy King, “Maui Local boys ruled today and Billy Kemper deserved the win!” Right on, Peggy.

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Heading out for some little fun waves at Launiupoko, Maui

The very next day we took our boards to Launiupoko on the West side for the polar opposite of waves, a gentle 2-fit swell. We always have fun at our favorite Maui beach – does what we do count as “real” surfing?

We got some insight later that day. It was really cool to read a post by Kai Lenny that made us feel a connection to one of the world’s best – simply because we hunger for time in the ocean and on its waves, “2ft to 20ft the fun is the same to me. I’m just happy to be in the water everyday!”

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At the end of the day at the Pe’ahi Challenge, Billy Kemper won the well-deserved prize. Every competitor provided the honor of participating in this historic, inauguaral event was also a winner. In the biggest picture – we all won. Our sport is gaining fans and appreciation from surfers of all levels and non-surfers as well. Thanks to the World Surf League (WSL) and TAG Heuer for the vision to collaborate to bring us this event.

 

Maui Magic: Surf and Downwinders

Home sweet home when on Maui - Naish Maui Pro Center

Home sweet home when on Maui – Naish Maui Pro Center

Months of planning and dreaming precede every trip to Hawaii or any of our favorite surfing and paddling destinations. When we head to Maui, it is so relaxing and cool to know exactly where we will rent top quality boards and feel “local” from the moment we walk in the door.

Just minutes from the airport, we usually change from mainland shoes to our Olukai’s at the car rental booth and shoot right on over to grab our boards. Then it is off to the Naish Maui Pro Center.naishimport1

A quick phone call was all we needed to chat with Coach, Jay or any member of the team. We discussed December weather, surf probability – and got our Hokuas and our downwind Naish ONEs for fun all week,

Jay, Coach and the entire Naish Maui ProCenter team is YOUR local connection on Maui

Jay, Coach and the entire Naish Maui ProCenter team is YOUR local connection on Maui

Not only is the shop filled with great kiteboarding gear, apparel and awesome boards – but local knowledge and a casual willingness to share. For instance – the wind was blowing crazy, a Kona wind and we were not familiar with that. Jay let us know (by checking the computer right at the counter) where the protected bays and surf spots might be (Launiupoko not Ka’anapali Beach).

There is a culture that oozes from Naish Maui Pro Center. Naish is a company that builds awesome boards for every water sport – wind, kite, surf and downwind. Beyond the top quality manufacturing we expect from Naish, how often do you think of the culture behind the brand. Seriously – Robby Naish has soared past his 50th birthday and continues to seek adventure and challenges, records and fun on the water. (More here). That is the creative energy driving the company.

Team Naish includes gracious, community-building and off the charts phenomenal water athletes like Suzie Cooney (training), Kai Lenny, Kody Kerbox, Casper Steinfath, Riggs Napoleon, Manca Notar and more. When you walk out of the shop with your Naish boards, paddle and maybe a sweet Naish rash guard you simply feel, COOL.

We will be back for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a in May and the fun race the last Saturday in April. If you want gear for that week – Reserve now! Whenever you head to Maui – be local, be a part of the ALOHA that is Naish Maui Pro Center. Whether we are surfing or downwinding (YES, the Naish ONE rocks) we find what we need at Naish Maui Pro Center (and can trade out as wind and weather dictate).naish4

 

Naish ‘Ohana: Hokua Love Part 2

ed-hokua2Is there any way you can stand before the ocean with the newly designed 2015 Naish Hokua and not feel like an absolute rock star? The moment I pulled my 9’5″ Hokua from its box and bubble wrap, I was IN LOVE!

Seriously, the graphics on the bottom are stellar. It’s light, and almost leaps into waves on its own. Well, now I am just babbling. But seriously, I have never (in 65 years) executed a sharp bottom turn on a head-high wave with absolute confidence and ease – until my sweet Hokua came along.  It was early morning and cold on the Oregon coast in late September. betterbottomturn

The waves had been chaotic and huge for the Long Board Classic the day before.  Sunday found us with a nice swell and the wind was resting (before cranking in hard about 10 am). It was delicious fun!

As wonderful as it is to hit the beach in Pacific City, Oregon wearing a 4-5 ML wetsuit and praying for some sort of order in the waves – surfing Maui is a dream.  In mid-December, just as the shoulder season of rain-sleet-snow-rain is settling into Central Oregon, we will fly off for a sweet week on Maui.  Rather than go through the trouble of shipping our boards or releasing their well-being to airline luggage crew, we choose to “Go Local!~”

Naish Maui Pro Center rocks! Simply, if you want the newest and best rental equipment for your SUP surfing on Maui along with local knowledge of where to surf for your abilities and current conditions – check them out.  Ask for Jay, or Coach – or basically any team member.

Kai Lenny scoring some sweet Maui waves and riding Naish all the way

Kai Lenny scoring some sweet Maui waves and riding Naish all the way

If you are like me, you follow the Naish team riders all race and surf season long.  Their podium finishes are matched only by their absolute love of their sport. It seems that the core stoke and aloha of Robbie Naish permeates not only the corporate structure, but every person involved in the “family.”

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Riggs Napoleon shredding at Huntington Beach

We were fortunate to catch the Positively Kai clinic for groms at the 2014 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.  All day long Chuck Patterson was in the water, Kai was connecting with the kids on land and on the water. Noa Ginella, Riggs Napoleon and Kody Kerbox never rested for the entire afternoon. (more story here)

This chick is on top of the world with my new Naish  2015 Holua

This chick is on top of the world with my new Naish 2015 Holua

The shape of the Hokua, the awesome graphics, the quality built into every aspect – all good. But there is something else when you step onto a Naish board – the feeling that you are connected. You are part of the Naish ‘ohana. It is no small thing.

 

Positively Kai: Family, Attitude and Aloha

The Lenny family enjoys a close connection to the ocean - and to each other. Aloha, dreams, hard work and smiles.

The Lenny family enjoys a close connection to the ocean – and to each other. Aloha, dreams, hard work and smiles.

Martin Lenny told me a story once, it was a story that started with family – a family connected to the ocean.  In the early days as Martin and Paula were working double jobs while raising their family, they recognized that their son Kai was active – super active. Kai, whose name means, “ocean” in Hawaiian was happiest in the ocean.The best way to feed his need for action was to top off each day with time at the beach – doing whatever ocean sport was suitable for Kai’s age.

Fortunately, his family recognized that Kai had more than just a love of the ocean, he also had a passionate dream. Kai learned how to surf at the age of 4, windsurf at 6, stand up surf at 7 and kite surf at 9. Learning how to do these sports all happened naturally, and from it grew his love affair with the ocean and the waves. Mentors have been integral to Kai’s ability to soar toward his dream.

The early days’ mentoring from Robby Naish has evolved into a lifelong friendship.  Few his age have enjoyed training with not only Robby, but also legendary watermen like Laird Hamilton,  Dave Kalama, Buzzy Kerbox and Chuck Patterson.  Kai eagerly adopted just about every sport that involved water, wind and waves.

Traditional prayer circle lead by gerry Lopez before the Positively Kai Grom clinic - huge turn out

Traditional prayer circle lead by gerry Lopez before the Positively Kai Grom clinic – huge turn out

A common thread among his mentors and his family has inspired Kai as he has become a champion, a leader himself: Give back to the next generation by mentoring and consistently sharing aloha. It was exactly this sort of mentoring and inspiration that helped Kai continue his life journey toward his own dream. It is very obvious that the entire Lenny family lives this commitment to sharing with the next generation of standup paddlers.

In the spirit of mentoring and giving back, Kai has created a series of clinics for groms (young surfers) called, “Positively Kai.” Yesterday in Hood River we enjoyed watching the free clinic supported by sponsors (Naish, Hurley, Red Bull, Nike, GoPro , Turtle Bay Resort, Vertra, MFC and others).

DSC02549The clinic began with a prayer circle created by three concentric circles of hundreds of groms, family and friends holding hands and following the words of Gerry Lopez. Soon afterward, the groms were organized by age group and taken for more land instruction by the Big Winds JET team riders and many elite standup paddlers like Connor Baxter, Kody Kerbox, Chuck Patterson, Noa Ginella, Riggs Napoleon and more.DSC02666

DSC02723 DSC02696Age group races were an exciting part of the clinic but the real stories happened on the beach! One group of 8 year olds pow-wowed on the sand as the one more experienced paddler shared confidence and some words of wisdom to his peer.

A mom sent her 5 year old out into the windy bay with a grin. Why? She explained, “When she was 18 months old she began going paddling with me, sometimes napping on the board and sometimes falling off. But she has always loved being on the board with me. Now that she’s 5 she begged to come to this clinic and learn to paddle on her own.”

One exceptional paddler, Estani Bori age 10, had some obvious experience, skills and maybe that same passion that once fueled Kai when he was 10. He flew around the race course, then ran down to the beach to help collect the boards from the other racers as they finished. He was on the water doing tail turns and sprints all afternoon. I caught up with his father, Pablo.DSC02704

“Why did you travel all the way from Tahoe for this clinic,” I asked. Pablo didn’t hesitate a bit, “Once I saw that Estani lives and breathes this sport I had to help him follow what he is passionate about.”

That sounds like something Martin Lenny said, back in the day.  Pablo continued, “Estani goes to sleep watching his SUP heroes and he wakes up wanting to paddle, paddle, paddle. Once he started doing races it was great. The travel and the paddling is something we can do, father and son.”

Again and again all day long that is what stuck – the number of kids and parents, entire families smiling and sharing the stoke that is SUP. The energy of more than 400 people through the dance-off, the dinner of yummy burritos (Kai’s favorite) and the awards was stellar.

We ended with this from Kai, “I am inspired and stoked to see so many groms of all ages charging and having fun. You are the future of SUP and this is the best time to be a standup paddle athlete. The sport is young and has room for you to make your dreams happen – in SUP or whatever it is you dream. “DSC02670

SUP Training: Observations

Waking up to a big dawn, orange full moon in my face and a sudden “ouch” at the first moves of the day.  Upper back, ribs, and upper abs screamed resistance at my walk to the kitchen for morning coffee. And guess what – I am one HAPPY person.

Karen Wrenn SlideAfter getting more knee and low back fatigue during longer and stronger paddles over the years I reached out for some advice on technique. Fortunately, Karen Wrenn (super inspiring) shared some insights (you can follow her on Twitter) and with some practice I am creating a more effective technique.  I found this artistically beautiful video on the HangerFox Youtube channel that allows us to observe the technique that creates that highly effective paddle stroke that serves Karen so well.

With Vimeo, YouTube, blogs by pros and all sorts of social media links, we can “meet up” with SUP professionals we admire. SKYPE is another way we can get great training tips from our favorite pros. Suzie Cooney, CPT of SuzieTrainsMaui encourages SKYPE training and has had great success with that medium.

Robby Naish (happy birthday this week) and Kai Lenny in Alaska

Robby Naish (happy birthday this week) and Kai Lenny in Alaska

Recently I watched a short video of Kai Lenny and Robby Naish paddling around icebergs and basically “chilling” in Alaska. It’s good to study their stance, paddle placement, reach, posture and recovery during racing sequences as well as more recreational paddling.  Sometimes it’s tough to assimilate exactly what is making their performance so efficient and powerful.

dave-safebackThis very short video by Dave Kalama posted on the Distressed Mullet YouTube channel gives direct and easy to implement advice on how to protect your lower back. Hinging rather than bending is a habit that is not too difficult to hone – give the video a few, or maybe a couple of views then try the movement on your next paddle.

Dave Kalama provides a more advice in his blog article I found to be easy to put into practice. “Don’t rush.”

He explains that even if your technique is effective, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are utilizing it properly. If you rush through all the phases of your stroke and don’t take the time to execute each phase correctly, then you are not using your level of technique in an efficient way.

For me, one of the pieces I took away was to take the time to really drive the paddle down into the water. Create a complete stretch of your reach. According to Dave, ” it only costs you a little patience and time to completely extend your arm forward. Also, rushing through the recovery phase will break the flow of a smooth rhythm, which is where real efficiency resides. If you rush into getting your hips all the way back under you to the neutral position, then you miss out on all the potential momentum you can generate through the hips. dave-technique

During yesterday’s training that resulted in muscle fatigue and “good workout” soreness, it might have been that fully extended reach, getting my hips back to neutral and rotating the upper body appropriately that made all the difference.  There’s nothing like practice, exploration and observation to add even more fun to this sport we love so much!

We’d love to hear from you – what blogs, videos or images have been useful as you improve your technique?

 

Connecting Across Generations

For the third time in as many years, Kai Lenny has won the overall title on a Waterman League World Tour.  Battle of the Paddle Champ Danny Ching calls Kai, “the best paddler in the world,” for his prowess in both wave and race competition. Lenny wrapped up his Standup World Series overall win this past October at Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu during the Standup World Series Finals.  Kai Lenny dedicated his first ever sup race world title to memory of Naish’s Harold Iggy whose unexpected passing last January saddened all who knew him. 

Iggy has made boards for over 50 years. He was behind many of the best known Stand Up Paddleboard shapes in the world today, including race boards like the Naish Glide and Javelin. There is about a 50 year span in age between young Kai Lenny and his mentor and friend, Harold Iggy. Connecting across generations is a strong tradition deeply embedded in the Naish culture.

Anyone who’s ever ridden a Naish SUP board has probably seen his unique signature right above the fin.
In a few weeks we will be heading to Maui to do some downwind and surf training, looking forward to the Ho’olaule’a in May. We will be fortunate to have Naish Glides for the week. We may even have the chance to try the Javelin 12’6 LE – that would be fantastic.  It is no small thing for us to be using boards designed, shaped and modified with input from the extraordinary watermen and women of the Naish team. Seeing Iggy’s mark on the boards will be a reminder of the traditions and connections across generations that influence excellence.

“The surfing world lost an icon, a legend, and a friend to many, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a mentor.”
said Randy Naish, who was with Harold on the water that tragic day.

No matter what your skill and experience level might be, having the best equipment and personal mentors always make a positive difference. Our skills, our confidence and our experiences over time all contribute to our connection to standup paddling.  In like manner, who looks to YOU for mentoring and inspiration?  No matter what your level might be, you can connect generations and reach new levels of confidence like Kai Lenny does.

There were times when the conditions at Turtle Bay were more than challenging.  Kai used his experience to move past any mental block that might have generated, “If I can handle Jaws mentally, and I feel super scared out there, I shouldn’t be scared pushing hard out here!” said Kai, who attributes his experiences at Jaws to helping him win that series of races. The mentors and powerful influence from Naish team riders added to that experience.
Experience, mentors, reflection and connection make all the difference. It’s great to observe a team like the Naish Team, and build those same traditions in our own “SUP TEAM.” We’d love to hear how mentoring or having a mentor has shaped your SUP experience.

BOP Honors – Inspiration of the Paddle

The ultimate SUP “game” envisioned by Gerry Lopez and his buddy Sparky Longley is called ‘Battle of the Paddle.” When the elite racers fall, flail, and maneuver their way around the yellow marks placed right in the surf break it has to look and feel like one huge foamy battle.

The reality of the SUP contenders battling out for top spots in the one-of-a-kind BOP comes through best in other moments in and around the event.  If you’ve ever been to an event when any of the top ten contenders, male or female, for SUP athlete of the year have been present you know what I mean.

In football you never get to sit with the best quarterback, on the bench before a game but in SUP the beach is open to everyone. Interaction with Candice, Conner, Karen, Suzie, Heather, Kai, Jamie, Chuck, Slater, Dave, and many others is easy and quite inspiring. The absolute passion for their sport and water, waves and wind they live by is contagious! They are a no excuses, hard -driving competitive bunch who train like there’s no tomorrow – but will share a pointer, a word, a smile and encouragement as needed. Clinics, blogs, movies – they share!

If you were like me, it was pretty tough to decide who to vote for in the various SUP awards offered to the public for input.  I have a hand full of favorites all with top-spot accomplishments. In the recent 2012 SUP awards by Body Glove tough decisions were made. Candice Appleby was awarded top honors for women while Conner Baxter won for the men.

The one thing that struck me as I enjoyed the stories, tweets and Facebook updates was this quote from Candice, ““I want to thank the other athletes- you inspire me.”

That camaraderie and mutual respect may not be unique to the sport of standup paddling, but it is one powerful, compelling aspect of how the best of the best live their sport.

Gerry Lopez was presented with the SUP magazine Lifetime Achievement Award for his influence on the sport

No matter where you paddle or SUP surf this weekend you can charge or chill with the attitude of those at BOP. Anyone can grab the attitude  of Gerry Lopez who won the SUP magazine Lifetime Achievement Award for his influence on the sport. He accepted his award and said, “I hope it makes a difference in how we all think. Surf with aloha and live with aloha.”

Okay, it’s Saturday! Grab your board, your paddle,and a friend then look for surf and inspiration – wherever you find it.