Downwind Training: The Flatwater Solution

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Sparks Lake with South Sister (Oregon)

I celebrated my 69th birthday with a day of training, contemplation, gratitude and so much beauty. The training was unusual, in a way, but some of the most valuable I have had for down wind conditions that could get gnarly. In August my Starboard Freeride 12’2″ X 30 and my KIALOA paddle will carry me the classic run from Viento to Hood River and I hope the wind is strong and the day is sunny! My first adventure in the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge was in 2013 and I was hooked. (story here) I want to be ready to enjoy every moment of the experience when I am back on the mighty Columbia.

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Early morning at Elk Lake

What follows in this article is an odd set of insights and lessons I gained from paddling 4 uniquely different Oregon alpine lakes in one day. It started out at 8 am at Elk Lake. By 10 am the wind cranks up in this volcano rimmed jewel, but it was mirror calm when I headed out to circumnavigate its 4 miles including every little bay, nook and cranny at 8 am.

In this flatwater goodness I observed two things that can improve my skills for down wind action.

  • Legs – every paddle stroke that had excellent body rotation and synchronization between the catch, pull and driving forward force of my legs gave terrific acceleration. Timing and technique
  • Eyes closed – All alone on this huge body of water I was brave enough to try 6 paddle strokes per side for 3 sets repeated dozens of times. Wow! Balance and feel for how I was moving over the water was an eye-opener (LOL, eyes were shut!) Charging down wind in wind and waves requires solid balance and feel for how the board and water interact. This was so much fun.

I grabbed a breakfast burrito then headed over to nearby Hosmer Lake for a sweet three mile exploration to gurgling waterfalls and crystal clear water. The wind had picked up some by the time I got there. On this, just the second time unloading my board from the car I did make a mental note to really use my body correctly in the awkward motion of high reach, lift and lower. After all, a 69 year old body does not respond well to injury from lifting.

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Early morning Hosmer Lake (Oregon)

The wind was hard in my face leaving the boat launch area but reading the water I saw the far shoreline was protected and calm. In my journey to get to the calm I learned something else, sound can really impact my cadence and speed.

Even though the wind was in my face, my distance tracker app told me later that I hit 6 mph while the effort was perceived as simply fun. The tick-tick-tick of choppy wind waves hitting my bow and tapping along under my board gave me energy. I paddled the 3/4 mile to the calm in what would have been a speed interval, if I had thought of it like that. Instead the sound of the water made the experience pure fun.

  • Adrenaline and a sense of play makes the effort easier. Maybe that is why the 8 mile Viento down wind run exhilarates so well

I meandered off to the right hand fork of Hosmer, climbed a volcanic rocky area to gaze on gurgling lava tubes feeding a flower-filled grotto. Heading back to the boat ramp the water grasses and lilies caught my attention, fish darting and beauty everywhere.

  • Insight – I am blissful on the water – how about you! Ocean girl at heart, all water has its compelling call.
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Devil’s Lake with snow in June – brrrr water

Loading up my board again I was off the 30 acre Devil’s Lake. I almost skipped it. There were 30 cars at the easiest launch area so I had to park where a steep bank tested my strength and balance carrying a 12’2″ board through the trees and scree. Once in the lake my feet nearly froze off from the snow-melt water. The lake is so shallow that I had to walk about 100 yards to depth enough to paddle.

  • Know you water and wear appropriate gear. My frozen feet situation was mild and quickly over, but it made me think about knowing local conditions. I had forgotten that Elk Lake was practically swim-able whereas small Devil’s Lake was icy. The day was sunny – but water has its own characteristics.

Getting out of Devil’s Lake, carrying the board about 1/4 mile to my car and loading it up again reminded me to protect back and shoulders, use legs to lift – and yes – do some weight training.

Next stop was Sparks Lake. It is about a 1 mile drive in to the launch area, on a rutted, deep holes, washboard, dusty, rocky road. Once there I saw it was packed in both the launch and the parking area. The only spot I could put my car was easily 1/2 mile away. I left my precious board alone among some trees by the launch and went to park the car and walk back. Would my board be there when I got back (yes).

sparks-2I love this lake and never tire of winding around the rocks, the deeps, the shallows and taking the same photo every time I go. Peeking through rough-carved lava and spotting South Sister and Mt Bachelor never gets old.

By this time with all the loading and unloading, more walking than I had planned on and 9 miles of paddling completed in 3 lakes in about 3 hours, I needed a strategy to make this last adventure fun.  My lower back was a little tweaky and my lats had had a good workout.

It was time to focus on engaging a body rotation and abs engagement during the paddling. Paying attention to keeping my shoulder relaxed- not hunched up toward my ears-  and shoulder blades “down on my back” Helped with getting a clean catch. Rotating with awareness and taking the blade out of the water soon enough took my attention away from fatigue.

  • Insight: When fatigue starts to set in we can focus on what part of our body is most tired and engage in a different way.
  • Something as simple as enjoying the feel of water lapping on bare toes can power us through a choppy, windy area.

Happy birthday to me! It is overwhelming to imagine that this time next year I will be 70. A new decade, and not getting any younger ever again. Except in my mind. Playful, youthful water fun is available. I commit to playing attention – and training as smart as possible. If you have any suggestions – send them my way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon Coast: Gotta Go Fish

pc20153We packed our trailer and headed out from Bend, OR in mid-September with iflatables for cruising adventures and a couple of boards for SUP surf. Pacific City – here we come. The weekend kicked off with the annual Longboard competition. Saturday offered up some sweet waves, glassy and chest to head high. Riding a swell all the way to shore in the shadow of beautiful Cape Kiwanda on a warm sunny day is just about paradise.pc20151

In spite of dozens of trips to Pacific City and a few days catching salmon in both the spring and fall runs, we had never paddled the branch of the Nestucca River that flows east from town all the way to the inlet where the Pacific comes roaring in.

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Screenshot (152)On our first trip we knew we were paddling out on an out-going tide. With a spinning rod on Ed’s board and my net strapped to my board we planned to fish at the inlet where all the boats seemed to have the most luck. After a few hours of fishing, the tide would be incoming, making the paddle back a breeze.

We put in at “Guardrails,” just across from Bob Straub State Park. The trip was idyllic – seals sunbathed by the dozens on untracked sandy beaches, forested cliffs reached high to the south and the closer we got to the inlet the more clear and marine blue it became.pc20159

Currents swirled with plenty of energy as we approached the south side of the inlet. Absolutely wear your PFD and use a leash. There were so many combinations of eddies, waves and powerful current that it took concentration to get from the inlet area to the pocket beach we founf on shore – but was it ever WORTH IT! pc201522

After about an hour of casting, Ed hooked in to a HUGE salmon. As it leaped, guys in the 16 boats fishing the inlet gave a thumbs up and the fight was on. Just as Ed was about to get spooled, the fish began to turn. Then, unawares, a boat cruised across the inlet and cut the line. We lost the fish but gained some friends among the fishermen.

A few days later we were back for the third time and one of the guys from the first day – the BIG fish day – offered to put Ed in his boat and take him out for a salmon. They had caught their limit and had to admire Ed’s presistance. I also think they admired our trips up and down the river stretch paddling our SUPs in all kinds of conditions over the week.

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The one day that an incoming tide couldn’t match the 20-25 mph headwind on our return home was something we would not like to repeat. Even the best laid plans come up against good old Mother Nature. Be prepared, know your waters, tides, winds and currents and stya with your paddle buddy.

pc20157Our last night in Pacific City with fresh grilled salmon, a beach walk at sunset and a local brew could not have been better.

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Kialoa Paddles: Po’okela, Laulima and Malama

Over the years Elder SUP has shared stories about people, places and events. We have enjoyed adventures and “talked story” with some incredible athletes and SUP-pers. For me, each outing on the water was powered by one KIALOA paddle or another – from the Gerry Lopez designed Hulu GL race and surf, to the Tiare adjustable (designed specifically for women) and many more. Recently, as we developed the “Power of Presence SUP” (P2SUP) program of guided meditation for SUP, we needed great boards to share with participants. Fortunately, our timing coincided exactly with KIALOA Paddles’ launch of two great new inflatable boards. (Spoiler Alert: One of the coolest videos you will see is at the end of this article)

KIALOA has built innovative Outrigger, Dragon and SUP paddles for over 24 years. Their mission, according to Jim MIller, KIALOA’s director of new business development, has expanded as ,”producing the best products for paddlers through innovative design, selective materials and a lean manufacturing process.” This summer they unveiled the inflatable Waikiki and Napali which join the initial soft top Aloha.

clinic5As we build our newest business here at Elder SUP we looked for sponsor support from companies with a mission and culture aligned with ours. We were fortunate to have the support of Sweet Waterwear – and KIALOA Paddles. We admire and respect the way KIALOA employees live like they paddle following the guiding principles of their core values: Po’okela (excellence), Laulima (teamwork), and Malama (stewardship). We aspire to have these same qualities drive our decisions and actions as we grow P2SUP.  Just as the KIALOA team appreciate those who have helped them along the way, we appreciate KIALOA and wish them all the best.

julia1stMeanwhile, it’s time to get out on the water on our 12’6″ infalatable KIALOA Napali. My favorite young paddling buddy, Julia, joins me on the Aloha soft top. We are out to have some “clean up the river” fun. IMG_2856[1]

This article would not be complete without a story from KIALOA’s own, Meg Chun. Here is the story that goes with this amazing video example of the spirit that drives the people and the company.

TEAM KIALOA 2015 from FocalBoxProductions on Vimeo.

Live Like You Paddle: Jaimie Kinard

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It’s always great to hear from KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Jaimie Kinard.  Beyond her exploits in and on the water she is always reaching for ways to share her time and talents.

In June, Jaimie and two friends started “In Her Element,” a Hawai’i-based women’s outdoor adventure and lifestyle blog. One of the friends, Britt Harris, is an ER nurse at Wahiawa General, an avid surfer, trail runner and general fitness enthusiast. Taylor Nelson just graduated from UH and is a talented, graceful longboarder. None of the three claim to be experts in fitness, health or nutrition. In Jaimie’s words, “We are just three regular ladies who wanted a safe space to share, motivate, and encourage other women.”

Check out the blog for for workout ideas or to read/comment on/subscribe to the interesting and insightful blog posts. Jaimie invites you, “We welcome positive feedback, comments, questions, etc as we scoot along on our journeys! Come along to encourage and be encouraged!”

jknew4Other news from Jaimie include quite and adventure with her Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) recruit classmate and dear friend, Sanja du Plessis. They embarked on four days and three nights on the Kalalau Trail on the island of Kaua’i. It was a challenging 11 miles to Kalalau Beach plus an additional 4 to check out Hanakapiai Falls.jknew5

Jaimie was set on seeing the Na Pali coastline from land as she had previously only seen it from the water, paddling by in an outrigger canoe. Jaimie shares, “It was definitely harder hiking the coastline with a 47 pound pack than paddling it, but I was frequently rewarded with jaw-dropping views along the way. I wouldn’t have traded the sweat, muscle aches or lost toe nail for anything.”

Make a Wish: Jaimie and HFD fire fighter Kama Ortiz  volunteer as Wish Grantors for the Make a Wish foundation. They were lucky enough to get a friend/fellow HFD fire fighter’s son as their Wish Kid. He was just recently cleared as NED (No Evidence of Disease) from osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone) and continues with physical therapy three times a week and medication for pain management. On his 11th birthday they presented Kalā Peter with his Make-A-Wish wish.He and his family will be attending the PAX Seattle in August, thanks to Make-A-Wish Hawai’i. Sharing, caring and embodying the many attributes found in her sponsor company, KIALOA Paddles, Jaimie inspires us all.

Be sure to check the In Her Element blog for more.

At KIALOA We Live Like We Paddle

PO’OKELA
Excellence
We strive for excellence in our product and our service through the pursuit of innovation and commitment to quality.
LAULIMA
Teamwork
Our employees,our customers, and our business partners – We are all in this together.
MÂLAMA
Stewardship
We honor the traditions of the past and dreams of the future by caring for people And our environment.

Paddle Like a Girl – KIALOA Tiare

There is a description on the KIALOA Paddles website that describes their Tiare adjustable paddle – but it barely begins to describe the unique features of this woman-specific paddle. Just because so many “girl” versions are pink, I chose the blue for my Tiare. Immediately after getting it I hit the water on a blustery late winter day in Oregon.tiare11

The product description states, “Traditional adjustable paddles are male minded.  Not this one. We combined a Slim Shaft™ that fits like a glove, an 80 square inch blade, and our LeverLock® adjustable technology with a range of 66”-82”.  By doing this we’ve created a lightweight paddle that is ergonomically designed for women.  Adjust the height for varying conditions or share it with your friends.”

I went to the water that cold day expecting a nice paddle with my husband, Ed. I was coming off a hard training day (TRX and insane intense yoga) from the day before so I told Ed I would just be enjoying an easy paddle.  As the miles clicked by I found myself enjoying such a solid “catch” with every stroke – true power connection.  On the pull the blade moved through the water with smooth acceleration. I found a quick rhythm that gave me a surprising amount of speed for the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Ed commented, ‘Thought you were going to do an easy paddle today,” as I zoomed by. mmmm, that had been my plan.

elk-1The next time we went out we had been talking about paddle length for surfing, flatwater, thick race boards vs slim surf boards. Noticing the freeboard on my Starboard Astro Deluxe Touring board, I thought I might add an inch to the length of my Tiare paddle before we headed out, just to compare. Oh, the joy of an adjustable paddle! Yes, great to share with friends but so cool to learn something about my paddle stroke, paddle length and efficiency.

Once again comparing my RPE to speed I was delighted. I moved through the water with ease, both upstream and downstream, into the wind and with a sweet downwind the other way. I knew the Tiare was designed for a woman, but I decided to check with Dave Chun to learn more about the details. Dave designs KIALOA paddles with a lot of research, innovation – and conversations with the target user. In the case of the Tiare and the new Mekana outrigger paddle those conversations took place with women paddlers.

I asked Dave why I might be noticing an increase in speed and a decrease in perceived exertion with the Tiare blade.  Dave explained that even though the Tiare is smaller in square inches, the bottom third (where the catch takes place) is wider. This allows me to really feel and accentuate the catch of my paddle stroke – thus gaining more effective power as the stroke plays out.  In addition, Dave explained that the flex of the blade allows me to “feel” the water more effectively throughout the stroke.tiare-adj-l

Dave shared this in more detail, “I feel a good paddle needs to flex. The flex gives feedback to the paddler, which makes for a more efficient catch and pull. What the blade is doing in the water is important if a paddler wants to continue to develop their technique. I believe stroke technique is a lifelong journey. Many paddlers only think in terms of fitness when training. But, consider how most athletes are trained for their sport. Components of the sport are broken down in to small segments and drilled over and over again. Practicing an inefficient paddling stroke will get you fit, but it will limit the threshold of one’s overall speed.

The stiffness or flexibility of the paddle must be scaled to the strength of the athlete. Generally speaking, men are larger, and thus stronger. The typical woman, cannot “load” a blade or a shaft designed for a man. It is not simply a matter of building a blade with less surface area. The blade, as well as the shaft, must load under a woman’s energy output. 

The Tiare was designed during the tooling/molding phase as a women’s paddle. The rib is narrower and lower in height than the Insanity. It was scaled to a women. On our part it was a commitment to our women’s program. The Tiare mold or “Shorty” as we nicknamed it, will never be used for an all-around or man’s paddle.

During the design phase we decided that a women’s shaft should be less than 28mm. 28mm is the standard diameter of a men’s Olympic weight lifting bar. 25mm is the standard for women. 25mm is pretty small for a paddle shaft. We settled on the 27mm-27.5mm range. Round shafts flex more than oval shaft, dimensions  and material lay-up being equal. Like designing a pair of gender specific blue jeans, we started with a clean slate when we designed the Tiare – for women.”

I gained enormous insight from Dave’s explanation. The circumference of the paddle shaft is just right for holding in the curve of my fingers – in a relaxed grip.  All in all, I am in totally jazzed about having the Tiare adjustable for racing, recreation, traveling and surfing.

Go now – check out the Tiare at KIALOA Paddles. DESCRIPTION: KIALOA is proud to introduce a new paddle designed to give the female paddler the best experience possible. The blade is designed for optimal catch at the front of the stroke and the Slim Shaft™ with plumeria graphics is a visual stunner. But more importantly the carbon wrapped fiberglass shaft fits a smaller hand perfectly with just the right amount of flex. Conventional thought is to shrink and pink a paddle and ladies will buy in, but we created this paddle from the ground up based on your specific feedback. YES! Thank you for that KIALOA Paddles.

SUP Lessons from Seat 5

I am tired, sun-burnt and pretty darn happy.

  • Feeling grateful for the chance to be on Oahu for the week before my second Olukai Ho’olaule’a.
  • Feeling jazzed that flying from Oregon to Honolulu with our Naish ONEs in a duffel with some clothes and a KIALOA paddle bag with 4 paddles was a breeze!
  • Feeling strong and comfortable on a 12’6″ Naish ONE in 20+ mph side winds and a confused small swell even though I have paddled SUP just 4 times since October (thank you Oregon Winter)

meg-ocNow, to the title premise, “SUP Lessons from Seat 5.”

A few weeks ago I had my 4th Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club practice. On this cold, rainy, windy (typical April) evening I was assigned seat 5 just ahead of the steersman, in seat 6, Meg Chun. Lucky (but tentative) me.  I have been standup paddling for 6+ years and have had some success – which Meg was aware of – and now I would be paddling for 90 minutes right under her watchful (and quite expert) eye.megoc4

Meg has been coaching novice and experienced outrigger paddlers in Bend for more than two decades.  She spices the learning with a cool passion, always a sense of fun and patient expertise.

It was WONDERFUL being the closest person for Meg’s critique and observation. No, really! (LOL) After about 45 minutes of me doing my best effort at reach-catch-return with a wonderful rotation of my core I heard Meg say, “Judy, you need to rotate your body.”

Me, (to myself) “WHAT?????”

Meg: You are turning, mostly your head and shoulders, but you need to show your back to the opposite shore, then dig for the catch. Engage your core and really move the boat forward with the rotation of your hips coming back to center. That’s it, you are never coming back to center before your next stroke. Try that.”

So try that I did – and it ROCKED. The areas of my shoulder and upper arms that usually limited my endurance by pure muscle fatigue were not feeling a thing. It was a core and lats experience.

OK, back to SUP. Today on my Naish ONE I used the very technique that I have been practicing at outrigger practice. The gnarly offshore wind and the confused swell did its best to intimidate ad toss me off balance.

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Thanks for sharing your expertise with me and my beginner outrigger paddling skills

Never happened. What a fantastic 5 mile “into the wind” paddle to Diamond Head and beyond. What a cool late afternoon surf session at Pops on the Naish ONEs.

Olukai Ho’olaule’a, I can hardly wait. Thank you Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club! Thank you, Meg Chun!

 

If Shoulders Could Talk – The “Catch”

After watching the Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club practice in our local Deschutes River and observing the power, speed and fun the OC-1 paddlers generate I had to step off my standup paddle board for a try.

Hooked! After just a few weeks of OC-6 team practices I love the sport – and even more, I love what it has done for my SUP technique. While going fast and training for endurance is important, keeping injury-free while getting the most power from each stroke is a top priority.  Like many of you, I get some training from clinics and pros when possible and make the most of YouTube videos by athletes and trainers we respect.

jennnnnnnI actually had to get a sore shoulder in order to learn some key aspects of the outrigger paddle technique.  In seat 2 one afternoon I sat behind a super strong paddler and a KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele, Jen Kjellesvik (Standup paddle and Payette River Games podium winner). On each reach before the catch it seemed to me that her elbow and forearm set higher than the shoulder – so I mirrored that. The imagery of power I got from Jenn in seat 1 made me feel fast and strong – but my upper arm and shoulder felt fatigued and sore. I chalked that up to using new muscles.

Later when we switched out of the canoe for some dry land training with coach, Meg Chun, we were working on the set/hesitation and catch. One by one we showed our technique – and I showed the way I had done the stroke during practice. “Whoa!,” said Meg. It seemed that what I thought I was seeing from seat 2 was not what was really happening. Jen’s FOREARM and hand were above the shoulder (set-hesitate for that nano-second before each catch) but the elbow floated below the shoulder.

Just as I knew from standup technique, to keep my elbow below the shoulder, the same was true for outrigger. Meg’s training and explanation in the dry land clinic really brought this solidly home. Thinking about setting the scapula, images of bracing with the leg and pulling on a door handle, and repeats of a hesitation before the catch gave muscle-memory to this shoulder-happy technique.

Lisa Jabukowski shows great from (Photo by Dave Chun)

Lisa Jabukowski shows great from (Photo by Dave Chun)

A second lap in the OC-6 gave a chance to practice the technique – but a surprise bonus in imagery came paddling by. Team mate, Lisa Jabukowski, came past in her OC-1. For a few minutes she was off to my right. I watched her upper body through dozens of strokes and noticed her shoulder/back position before each catch and pull. I can’t describe exactly how her rotation was different from what I had been doing but watching her allowed me to make subtle changes. Everything about my stroke was feeling better and nothing was getting sore or unduly fatigued. oc6-1

The next time I was in the water after that clinic I happened to be standup paddling. With outrigger imaging in my mind I kept my bottom arm straight and my upper elbow below my shoulder on the recovery. HESITATION, set and DIG for a solid CATCH. Then using my legs and torso rotation I moved my board forward as the paddle held steady and smooth in the water.

Again and again, 8 strokes per side, for about 4 repeats I went slow and with focused intention. Then it was time to see what a bump in cadence might do.

Sweet! There was an absolutely cool connection between the power in my legs and the rotation of my torso – which moved my shoulders to the proper plane (thank you, Lisa).  I could feel the moment of catch before my legs enhanced by body rotation solidly ooooonched my board forward and past my paddle.

Next day shoulder soreness = NONE!! Muscle memory, great imagery and some solid coaching provided in the outrigger team setting is making a world of difference in my standup technique. If you have a chance to participate in both – give it a try.

Great training video by KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele, Luke Evslin (minute 4:00 was especially an “aha” segment for me.)