Stand Up, Sit Down: Paddle Paddle Paddle

archie-canoeaerila It’s funny, but it was just after the most amazing standup paddle event I have ever done, the Olukai Ho’olaule’a, that I first became seriously interested in the tradition and beauty of sailing canoes. Returning to home town, Bend Oregon, the pull to be a part of the local outrigger team and culture kept growing.

Finally in early April the announcement came: The Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club was having its wash-wax and launch with evening team practices to follow.wash rig

Yup, it had to be windy, cold and rainy – with a few snow flurries during that first week. You have to be tough to paddle in the Pacific Northwest!  But the team spirit was warm and off we went, Ed and I stoked to be in seat 3 (Hut-Ho) and 4, Kialoa hybrid paddles in hand.

The rhythm of the entire 6 was awesome. We did hesitation drills and the lightbulb went on about how important it was to absolutely nail the catch for most power.  We did just under 3 miles before our fingers were freezing – holy cow! I am hooked.

The second practice was 2 days later and the skies had cleared and the temperature reached a balmy 48 degrees. I was in seat 2 behind Jen Kjellesvik – ultimate river woman and powerful paddler (Adventure Fitness Bend – Jenn will be guiding SUP and rafting on the Rogue River this summer – story coming soon).  Mirroring her body position and matching her recovery and set delivered some much-needed muscle memory over the 5 miles we enjoyed that evening.

As the sun set in Central Oregon (smack dab in the middle of the high desert) the Deschutes River became the connection to ages of outrigger tradition. (video here)

In between practice sessions here’s a technique video by KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele, Luke Evslin, that provides valuable insights for newbies and experienced paddlers alike. Standing up or sitting down, paddling seems to bring out the best in all of us! Grab your paddle and get on the water!

Power to Inspire with Malama

The reality is that by choosing to move ourselves across, over and through the magnificent waters of our world via a board and a paddle we have chosen to be self-powered.  That sets the stage for a number of metaphors. Does it inspire you to share your story? Share why you chose SUP or any other power-related tale- we’re interested.

We have one section of this site dedicated to SUP Muses.  We define SUP Muses as a category of SUP influencers whose stories inspire! Do you know a SUP Muse like Candice ApplebyKaren WrennSuzie CooneyHeather Relyea Baus or Brit Oliphant – let us meet them.

dave8SUP Ambassador:  I live in Oregon, home of the paddle family of Meg and Dave Chun and their KIALOA paddles.  I came by my first Kialoa paddle by borrowing those owned by friends.  Over time I have come to admire the technology, feel, strength and lightness of my KIALOA paddle design, but my first connection and commitment to the Kialoa company came from their attitude and traditions. (Design video chat here)

This next piece is from their website: Born on the Island of Oahu in 1991, KIALOA Paddles grew out of Dave Chun’s love for the sport of outrigger canoe racing.   Driven by the desire to build the best paddles in the world, Dave started crafting wood paddles on his parents’ lanai.  Shortly thereafter, he met Meg, a mid-westerner transplanted to Hawaii.  It was a marriage of west and east, island heritage and mainland progressiveness.  The Chuns moved the company to Bend, Oregon in 1992, bringing the Aloha spirit with them.

Against all odds, they started an outrigger club in the High Desert. Nowadays KIALOA makes a full line of stand up, outrigger and dragon boat paddles.  As a KIALOA Paddles E’lele (ambassador) I take my role with a grain of fun and plenty of listening – to all of you!boc1

I believe that as a global water loving “family” we can accomplish our mission to preserve our planet’s waters and help move them to be even more healthy.  One of the cornerstones of the Kialoa vision is Malama: Stewardship.

Channeling My Inner Karen Wrenn

The countdown to many of our spring and summer races and down-winders is moving from triple digits to double digits. Can you believe it is just 67 days until the Olukai Ho’olaule’a? The Carolina Cup is just around the corner and across the globe there seems to be an event every weekend from March through the summer. It’s time to step up the training!

Today in Central Oregon dawned sunny with 7 am temps approaching 40 degrees – rare and special after seemingly weeks of fog and cold, wet weather. As the temperature rises, so does the wind speed – bummer! Before I head down to grab my 5 ml surf booties, farmer john wetsuit (oh, please do not let me fall in), wool baselayer and a warm hat I need a dose of pure inspiration.

There’s probably nothing better than a pep talk from three Pacific Northwest paddlers who brave the elements in any condition most days of the week: Karen Wrenn, Cyril Burguiere and Beau Whitehead. Fortunately, KIALOA Paddles created a short and powerful film featuring these bold paddlers.

If you’re having trouble getting out on the water when conditions are less than ideal – super charge your motivation with this video.

 

Slow Down 2 Go Fast

During the winter months we find a lot of our SUP training taking place in a gym or through cross-training legs and core on the ski slope.  Even with a winter as mild as we have been enjoying in central Oregon, with daytime temperatures reaching the mid-40’s on many days lately, time on the water is rare.

For that reason, we have been searching for good training tips available online at various blogs and through video. While watching a KIALOA Paddles video I expected to be learning about paddle design and the history of the “dihedral,” when right in the middle of the conversation, Dave Chun tossed out a simple training tip that really resonated with me. (VIDEO below)

At minute 1:40 the tip begins – “If you find your paddle wobbling in the water maybe it’s because you’re not moving past the paddle fast enough. At that point you need to slow your pull down.

Dave continues to explain, “You don’t need to pull less hard. Slow down the rhythm and get the board to move past the paddle – in synch.” I knew this but hadn’t combined slowing a bit while maintaining a strong pull to allow the board to move past the paddle – not the other way around. Cold or not! Today I’ll be out on the river giving this a try. Mahalo, Dave and KIALOA!

65 – Medicare and Water Athletes

My seventh decade - bring it!

My seventh decade – bring it!

Imagine the 65 year old woman on Medicare – and then throw away the image that is most often visualized.  Unless you “saw” a lean, strong, bold, fit, focused and fun-loving athlete you missed a trend that’s fueling many athletes above a certain age.  Runners, cyclists, skiers and “sporty”-women build more than hard abs or a toned butt. They build resilience by working through pain, pushing onward and knowing the hard work will pay off. They gain a social network and optimistic perspective on life and potential. Water athletes have another aspect to their active passion – water! Water in lakes, oceans, rivers and bays add a non-jarring celebration of the senses.

Each athletic endeavor enjoyed by the 65+ year-old can deliver amazing benefits when training and practice are balanced with good coaching, listening to one’s own body and a respect for current abilities. This is true for all athletes, but leaps in importance as we journey into those upper decades. But – WOW! – the benefits rock our world.

My primary sport of choice (when I am not skiing, hiking, cycling or playing outside) is standup paddling and surfing. In the course of meeting plenty of my peers at races, at the surf break and simply paddling in beautiful places I have heard so many stories of survivors – survivors of accident, disease, loss, life disappointments and challenges beyond measure. These stories were most often shared without a whine, but rather with a smile and sense of serenity. We water athletes know that regular and consistent exercise fights anxiety and depression better than drugs. The ability to cope with the stress is directly related to the endorphins we have in our body. Because we regularly tap those endorphins we are able to do it when stress hits. Research shows that highly stressful emotional events (which seem to come in quick succession as we age and simply live those extra decades) can result in a permanent suppression of endorphin levels. It just makes sense – stimulate those endorphins with fun on whatever incredible body of water you can find. Get the SUP Perspective instead of what the pharmacy can provide.

Who the heck is THAT in the mirror? Have you ever been shocked by the wrinkles and sags that are the inevitable surprise of aging? Plastic is not the route to increasing our self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness. Grab your paddle and fuel a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients to your brain to improve functioning. After a downwind cruise with friends or a training paddle across a mountain lake you feel ready to take on the world. As we gain those decades we need our self-esteem. No matter where you live there are professionals, clubs, groups and water that you can tap into as you develop into a water athlete. Watch that self esteem soar!

Getting older is not for sissies – you’ve heard that one and I bet you’re nodding “oh yeah!” right now. There’s a world of freedom in the journey.  I recently threw my inflatable Naish ONE 12’6″ raceboard in a duffel bag and headed to Lake Las Vegas for the N1SCO World Championships. Was it because I am an elite racer and super -speedy? Heck, no.  I write and tell stories. Did I compete with the rest of the wonderful water athletes aged 10 and teens through all the decades? You bet. My trophy? I finished the races, often in last place. I had trained and practiced. I AM a water athlete and i had FUN! (catch the video below and on the Elder SUP YouTUbe channel)

Sweet paddle - and thanks for the gear Sweet Waterwear

Sweet paddle – and thanks for the gear Sweet Waterwear

Racing is not the only way to feed your inner water athlete and suer-charge attitude and well-being. Just being out in nature, balancing on your board and paddling with your entire being is a treasure. Check out a recent Fall paddle in Central Oregon – then go find your stoke! This article is dedicated to so many who have inspired me – to name a few Peggy K, Suzie M, Nansee B, Dagmar E, Steve G, Ed S, Randall B, Dennis O, Gerry L … and the list goes on!

Share your stories by e-mailing me at Elder SUP

Who Won: Battle of the Paddle 2013

bopstartjudy9There was a moment during the 2013 Battle of the Paddle that will probably remain etched in my memory for a very long time. We were all packed like sardines 4-5 levels deep, shoulder to shoulder with our boards in hand. There were 400+ of us all waiting to hear the horn for “GO!”  The sky was clear, the sun was warm and the set that was rolling in was waist high and beautiful.  I felt the sand under my bare feet and the light weight of my KIALOA Hulu paddle in my hand.

That paddle and I had hundreds of hours and many, many miles of paddling together. We had surfed gnarly Pacific City in cold, chaotic waves. We’d gone up and down the Deschutes rRver through town and around High Cascade lakes all summer long. For several years I’d dreamed of being in that spot – at the start of the BOP. The stars had aligned and here I was! The usual pre-race butterflies simply didn’t hit me – I was super-charged with energy and happiness just being in the midst of so many people prepared to do a pretty challenging event. There was a possibility of a wave set hitting us all at the Hammer buoy turn, sort of like we had just seen with the elite paddlers .  Whatever, I was ready!bophammer7

To most, Battle of the Paddle is the race of the year. People flock to Dana Point, California to participate and watch the carnage of the elite race and to witness the top athletes of standup paddling battle it out. The event itself is one of the largest SUP races in the world  with over 450 open competitors and close to 200 elite competitors. For me, it was a “bucket list” dream come true.

The green line went to the yellow buoy, our first sprint leg of the race. The black buoy is the infamous Hammer buoy

The green line went to the yellow buoy, our first sprint leg of the race. The black buoy is the infamous Hammer buoy

Suddenly the horn sounded and we were off!  People were bumping boards, falling off, and running into each other. It was mayhem! I got hit from behind.  I was being drafted by a guy who later told me he drafted me the entire race. That was cool since he was about 20 years younger. Did he realize he was drafting Granny? (LOL). I didn’t fall and somehow paddled up and over a few waves with a clear shot to the first buoy. That first turn was sketchy with people crowding and falling. I took a wide line far from the buoy and made a clean turn – the race was ON!

People were unbelievably friendly, apologizing for bumps, making way at buoys and generally chatting and laughing.  Parents and kids on separate boards were using the event for a truly great shared experience. They were giving guidance, confidence and support when things got tough on the upwind and side chop legs.  Time sped by, as did the 4.08 miles – too fast.  I was savoring every moment from the feel of the waves breaking over my feet, to the pounding of my heart as I paddled hard, and the wonderful salty air and sunshine.

Before I knew it I was rounding buoy #1 for the last time and it was time for the sprint for the shore.  I was shoulder to shoulder with another paddler and we were both giving it our all. A few hundred yards from shore a set came in and we both felt the first wave billow under our boards. We were ready as the second wave came up we paddled like crazy – I got it! What exhilaration to be propelled with a glassy wave all the way to the shore – holy cow!

bopallA quick back step at the shore break allowed the wave to flow under my board, then it was JUMP ON THE BEACH – LEAVE THE BOARD, KEEP THE PADDLE AND RUN TO THE FINISH! Too soon it was over.  But the epic adventure was just starting for the elite racers. With the OPEN class completed it was time for the elite finals. Spectators stood spellbound as the elite women, in their separate start, showed us what they were made of. It was absolute athleticism and SUP thrills.  The elite men came next. If you haven’t followed the many videos and photos of that event Google it now! Kai Lenny, Connor Baxter, Danny Ching and every competitor gave us a show to remember.

bopcharlesOther dramas played out in the Open course and during the kids’ events. There were wins for all. One paddler in particular was Charles Webb. From an injury sustained in a motorcycle accident, Charlie competed as a paraplegic athlete and an “I can” champion inspiring us all. Riding out on an adaptive board, Charles Webb wheeled onto his vessel and with a nudge from the shore, embarked on the open water course. I saw him managing balance and paddling precision at the #1 buoy during the second lap of the course.  Do yourself a favor and read about Charlie’s journey from rehab, to surfing to the Battle of the Paddle (article here)

jaimek-paddle1

My Kialoa paddle has opened so many door to this “elder” water athlete

bopwin1At the awards ceremony I received a beautiful wooden paddle as a 1st Place trophy for my age group.  I finished somewhere in the top 70% of racers – with about 300 in front of my finish and about 140 behind.

SO who won the Battle of the Paddle? You only had to be on the beach at any point during the entire weekend to know the answer. Every single person who was walking around with paddle in hand had a “win.”

Winners All! We were all part of a gathering of the best in the world and hundreds who were at their personal best. We had amazing weather, brilliant sun and epic events to watch.  We took our paddles and our skills to the ocean and showed up. We put our paddles to the water and self-propelled ourselves over a course full of chaos and unknowns.  We came from near and far to add our energy to a celebration of so many things we love about SUP, surfing, paddling, wind, waves, competition, tradition and camaraderie. We all won! Thanks to Sparky Longley and Gerry Lopez, the Rainbow Sandals family and all the sponsors who made the 6th Battle of the Paddle all that it is. (some stats)bopcollage

SUP Insights: Dave Chun & Aha!

coursestartPrepping for the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge a few weeks ago the goal was to increase my speed over a 5 mile distance. Little did I realize how insane the upwind legs of the Sunday course race would be – 4 gnarly laps!  The training I did was adequate – but the level of fatigue I had over the next week pretty much let me know that I pushed my limits endurance-wise.  Even with the great advice shared by Candice Appleby before the race, I knew I wasn’t getting every ounce of speed or power from the efforts of my paddle strokes.

It wasn’t until I got back home and went out for a training session that the most valuable insight of my weekend at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge really hit home.  I had been hanging out with a group of people all chatting in the KIALOA Paddles tent before the awards on Saturday.  A few strong looking paddlers from Vancouver were asking Dave Chun about which paddle to add to their KIALOA quiver,  As it usually does with Dave Chun, conversations about paddles tend to morph into conversations about design and technique.  He’s so passionate and knowledgeable about every aspect of his life’s work he simply can’t help it.  dave-design

The guys were skilled at both outrigger paddling and standup. So in the explanation, Dave was comparing and contrasting body position, stroke and technique. Always eager to learn more I listened like a fly on the wall.  It seemed that recently I’d honed my reach and blade entry into the water, but there was always room to refine things even more. All the phases of the stroke have to work together smoothly for the stroke to be efficient and without good reach and catch, the stroke won’t be effective.

Dave was explaining aspects of the “catch.” The “catch” is the point where the blade is fully buried and locked onto the water. It is natural  that the stroke begin as you begin to put the paddle into the water. You will naturally begin to pull on the paddle and begin to apply pressure to the water with the blade, even before the blade is fully buried. SO, it is important to “bury the blade” relatively quickly. The paddle should not “float” down to the water. Reach and drive the paddle into the water and make the catch  as far in front of you as possible. Since ALL of the stroke is in front, and never behind your body, the more in front of you that the paddle gets fully buried and makes the “catch” the longer stroke you will have!

While I don’t always execute the reach and set-up, followed by a great catch, I had heard this before.  What I never “heard” before was a key bit of information.  Dave explained that a mistake that’s sometimes made is to begin pulling the paddle back or attempting to begin to drive the board forward before the catch has been completed. It’s a brief second of time, but important to fully execute the catch before moving through the paddle stroke. The focus should be on entering the water smoothly and quickly with the paddle edge slicing into the water cleanly, creating minimal turbulence. Once the blade is fully submerged and “planted” it’s time to apply the power. If you start pulling too soon, the blade tends to cavitate (air bubbles form along edges of blade) and will slip through the water instead of holding.

Planting the paddle: That was something I never thought about – and probably rarely did. So eager to turn over another stroke, I did a reach-catch-pull without getting that minute time period of allowing the blade to “plant.”

catchPaddling in wind, paddling currents upstream and down all make it difficult to really determine the impact on speed or efficiency that a single change might deliver.  Yesterday as I did my 60 minute training session I picked a section of the river that would be somewhat consistent over the hour. Wearing a heart rate monitor I did 1-mile loops up and down stream. The miles flew by, maybe because so much concentration was going into refining that catch and “plant.” In any event some things were both cool and surprising.

My average time per mile was about 25 seconds faster. My heart rate per minute was 5-8 beats per minute slower. That led to a perceived exertion that was less – while going faster. My limitation when racing is usually central (my heart rate rockets off the chart) before my muscles beg for relief.  This was fun!  Our sport can keep us refining skills and learning constantly – and that’s just one more thing to get us back on the water working hard again and again and again.