SUP Connection: Tandem Fun with Kids

Mother-daughter stoke as Heather Relyea Baus and daughter, Savannah, stay in synch at the Carolina Cup.

Mother-daughter stoke as Heather Relyea Baus and daughter, Savannah, stay in synch at the Carolina Cup.

We recently posted an article by Cyril Burguiere that celebrated “family” as an integral part of his life, sports and SUP.  Earlier in that same week the crowd at the Carolina Cup clicked endless images of mother-daughter team, Heather Relyea Baus and her daughter Savannah as they tandem-ed their way through 12.5 mile “Graveyard” Elite Race course. I think the many participants and onlookers saw something more than two determined and prepared athletes competing in a very challenging race.  Heather says it best in her own words, “When we look back on the photos its all very surreal and inspiring to me as an athlete as well as a Mom.  I look at the photos and don’t really see us.. just something a lot deeper. ”  Browsing through a few sample images (below), you’ll feel the same something more!

The race, the hand-in-hand finish and the after race connection all capture a synchronicity of spirit nurtured through countless hours of shared fun and effort in, on and around the water. More images are available by Nicholas Leason.


Crucial to successfully completing the elite race course is the choice of SUP board.  Heather explains, “Nick Leason owner of MHL custom and shaper Greg Jaudon and myself decided to design a true unlimited board that could suit my daughter and me as a tandem board or super fast unlimited board for the solo guy.  The board is 16′ x 25″ .  This may seem narrow, but really the longer the board the more narrow you can go.  MHL has the magic touch for stability.  These guys are amazing. ” By the way, the mother-daughter team finished 5th overall females and 1st in class with a time of 2:44:06.

ES:  How did you train and what were some highlights of the race?

HRB:  We sort of eased into the “training” to where it didn’t feel like training but just time on the water together, we really enjoy this.  My daughter is quite the chatter box on the board and we both love the diversity of paddling in the panhandle area of Florida.  The conditions of the water, currents and wind are forever changing compared to our past experience when we lived in Puerto Rico.  I think what excites Savannah the most on our paddles is the diversity of nature we see  while out on the water.  This winter we focused on ocean skills and tandem downwinding technique. This has been a real thrill learning together and it certainly paid off at the Carolina Cup!

ES: The dialog between the two of you from the race that you posted on Facebook was priceless!    The dialog in general is pretty hilarious, mother and daughter have two very different takes on the experience as it unfolds.  Sampling below:

SAVANNAH: “Wow Mom did you see all those amazing houses??? MOM: “Hang tough S we’re leading the unlimited”! SAVANNAH: “Mom why aren’t you going faster??” MOM: “Because i’m dying”… SAVANNAH: “I’m gonna pop some tags.. I got 20 dollars in my pocket….!!” MOM: “Go S… Annabel Anderson is passing us!”… SAVANNAH: “OMG MOM!!!! Those waves are HUGE and they’re breaking!!!!!” MOM:..” WE GOT THIS”.. SAVANNAH: “How much farther”??

HRB: I think because she is not looking directly at “mom” she tends to open up more and really talk about things.  Some days are “serious matters”  you know… like informing she needs to change the trucks out on her skateboard…. to recipe ideas for dinner and I think an entire week of Harry Potter series summary.  OH and many, many National Anthem practices out on the water.. 🙂  The dialog for Carolina Cup was not as energized as training paddles..that was a really tough race for both of us.  However she did sing, comment on the gorgeous homes, inform me she had to pee.. and how much farther!

If you follow Heather on Facebook, you’ll notice a wide diversity of watersports she enjoys with her family.  I wondered if she always was a competitive athlete and what set her down the path toward being the waterwoman she is today.  heather shared some background, “Really, while growing up I was clueless about “competitive” sports.  I do remember being in junior high and getting to play volley ball. I was so naive that I didn’t realize there was actually a “first strong,” and then the rest of the team.  I just played and loved it – then made first string later.  Following the volleyball, I ran cross-country and pretty much choked on nerves at every race to the point where I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Luckily I incorporated running into my adult life for a small bit of fitness while mainly focusing on my aviation career.  Because of all the travel, most of my 20’s were spent running on hotel gym treadmills. The influence of water was pretty consistent as I was growing up.  Every weekend we went to the lake and just played. I waterskied and sailed on a Sunfish every chance I got. “
6Fun on water and fun sailing was woven into family life from the start.  Daughter, Savannah, started sailing and competing in regattas at age 6. Soon she wanted to accompany Mom on her training runs for the Molokai to Oahu race in 2011.  According to heather, “Savannah is very unique and I learn a lot from my daughter.  She has style both on and off the water.”   young
In the beginning of 2009 when Heather was still living in Puerto Rico, she won her second stateside race in a row in Seaside, FL. That caught notice from KIALOA Paddles who, according to Heather, “ROCKS!”
As a KIALOA team rider she has discovered the sense of “ohana” or family that is a KIALOA constant.  Being an ambassador for KIALOA has been an honor for Heather who describes which paddles she uses and why, “I personally use the KIALOA Toro for racing and the Methane for surfing. Savannah uses the Pipes most of the time but is just about tall enough to use my HULU.”
As the creator, designer and lead on the US made cool product called “Board Baggies,” Heather stays busy on and off the water. We look forward to some news about where she’s going with the product, stay tuned. You’re gonna want to see the new fabrics, colors and options.
We’re excited to publish this article in the appropriate time of year, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! The same sense of ohana (family) we mentioned earlier when describing the KIALOA way is a common quest for us all.  We look forward to seeing your ohana pictures and hearing your stories. Just e-mail us or MESSAGE us on Facebook.

Radiating Insights and SUP Aloha

I live in Oregon and have had the good fortune to meet Karen Wrenn a few times. From those experiences I recognized that on top of being an incredible athlete and a stellar Mom, she is extraordinarily giving when it comes to what she’s learned through SUP. So I follow her blog, and follow her posts on Facebook.  You may want to as well.

Karen Wrenn introducing her group to proper paddle technique. Photo by Ed Shasek

Just last week at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge we arrived on Friday just in time to attend the Positively Kai Grom Clinic.  There, nearly engulfed by several dozen eager pre-teens was smiling, calm Karen.  Kids at that age can behave like a herd of cats, but they remained focused and attentive throughout the land training. Parents hovering around the edges seemed particularly pleased when Karen made sure the kids got their PDFs or borrowed one for water time. One worried mom pulled Karen to the side, hands holding tight on your young son’s shoulders. After a few moments’ conversation, with a smile, the mom handed off the boy who no longer seemed so hesitant. Confidence at each step of the way seemed to be the theme.

With the clinic on Friday, a course race on Saturday and a blustery down wind run on Sunday every on of the top athletes had plenty on their plates. Just the same, Karen took some time to answer my questions about what would be my very first experience on the Columbia River. I haven’t determined what race board to buy just yet and have only about 4 lake races using a 12’6″ Hobie or Amundson. Steve Gates had already hooked me on the benefits of using a race board like the Naish Glides he carries at Big Winds.  As a Naish team rider, Karen showed me why she chose the Glide as well.

I had never been in the Columbia River, not had I ever paddled any board larger than 12 feet long. I asked Karen, “Would it be crazy for me to use my 11’3″ Amundson surfboard in the conditions we’ll have in Sunday? Will I be like dead last, or crazy slow?” The winds were expected to be 30-40 mph and i was freaking out more than a little.

That was the beginning of a valuable conversation. I learned where to go on the river and what to do should a barge come along. (A HUGE double barge did send me almost to the Washington side of the river)  She explained the sort of swells I might encounter and how to surf them to connect the most glides. Best of all, her easy assessment of my ability to not only do the race but also enjoy it gave me one more level of confidence.  Cool too, was being able to watch Karen’s technique in the course race, rounding marks, planting her paddle for the “catch” and using her legs and core. And did her Glide ever “gliiiiiiiide!”

Karen Wrenn rounds the bay buoy in the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge course race. Photo by Ed Shasek

I guess it all added up. Holy cow! I am solidly addicted to the sort of conditions we had on the Gorge Paddle Challenge downwinder. Totally jazzed I can’t wait to get back there to do it again – Summer 2013.

It hadn’t been too long ago that the ultimate SUP race, the Molokai 2 Oahu race took place. I have been a swimming, sailing, surfing, ocean person since birth and crossing big ocean expanses (with safety and support) has been a dream. (I wrote about that dream in an earlier blog)  Could I ever train enough in this seventh decade of life to manage that? Deliriously I thought – maybe?

With further insight I realize that the novice attempting that crossing – in or out of that event- would be somewhat disrespectful to the power of that channel and the esteem of the challenge. Karen wrote a powerful blog about Molokai 2 Oahu not too long ago. The article wove the challenge with the tradition. It underscored the dedication and training commitment the athletes who successfully cross the channel have invested.

I know that the Molokai 2 Oahu will always be what it has been to me – a dream. But it is also a window to what the top athletes in SUP can do. In my own way, at my own level I can be my best by keeping personal abilities in perspective. Training as much as I can as wisely as I can toward the events that make sense for me might be more fulfilling than chasing a dream.

Karen Wrenn with her signature smile racing to the finish.

Thanks to the athletes like Karen, Candice Appleby, Brit Oliphant and Suzie Cooney we can all aspire to our best. Follow their blogs, see what they dedicate to the sport through Facebook and YouTube video. Be the best YOU can be and celebrate the journey. Smile!

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.