SUP Racing – The Power of Confidence

Confident and ready to do the Olukai Ho'olaule'a with my 12'6" Naish Glide, my KIALOA rash guard and Sweet Waterwear Women's Pro Elite Performance tights

Confident and ready to do the Olukai Ho’olaule’a with my 12’6″ Naish Glide, my KIALOA rash guard and Sweet Waterwear Women’s Pro Elite Performance tights

The unknown – it’s exciting, scary and often avoided. In 2012 while reading a blog post by Suzie Cooney (certified personal trainer – Suzie Trains Maui) I heard about an open ocean, down wind race event. It was the Olukai Ho’olaule’a – and Suzie inspired us to give the 3 mile “fun race” a try.

We were hooked after the fun race (luau, music, sailing on the Olukai sailing canoe and the spirit of aloha) and started training for the 2013 full Olukai Ho’olule’a run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park.suzie fun 2014

The conditions for the 2013 event were the worst(according to many locals) in the five years the event had been run. Winds was light or from wrong directions and the swells were breaking huge on the inner reefs. Deep ocean swells were coming chaotically from  directions that didn’t invite an easy connection of glides.

I was riding the Naish Glide 14′ (27 1/4 inches wide) after a week of practice. It was rocket fast and – for my skills – something I could handle in consistent friendly small swells, but not THAT DAY. Yup, I was in the water a LOT! Just the same the experience was exhilarating and I could hardly wait for the 2014 event. (video here)

Blue hat is me at the N1SCO World Championships in 2013 (Lake Las Vegas)

Blue hat is me at the N1SCO World Championships in 2013 (Lake Las Vegas)

Here’s where confidence made all the difference. Living in Oregon, far from Maui and the type of conditions I selected for my favored racing environment,  many resources allowed me to be fully prepared for absolute fun and my best Maliko run to date. I continued to train with motivation and advice, stories and smiles from Suzie Cooney. The team at Naish Maui Pro Center listened to my adventure with the 14′ race board and helped me select the 12’6″ Naish Glide for this year’s Olukai Ho’olaulea. The video below shows highlights. I was confident, stable and caught dozens upon dozens of swells and glides. After almost a year riding and paddling, catching waves and racing on my inflatable 12’6″ Naish ONE I hit the water ready for fun!

The wind was more fresh (Yay) than expected and it was a headwind workout to get to the starting line. I put my head done and started cranking up my speed to get there in time for the start. Confidence-builder =  hearing the cool, calm voice of Suzie Cooney who’s always ready to share her expertise on the water. “Slow down, stay calm, and save your energy for the event,” she said with a grin.

And before I knew it, we were off – and it was SO MUCH FUN. I placed better than I expected among the top 30 women – and what’s more. I gained so much confidence that my next down wind races will be on the newly designed Naish Glide 14.0 GS. Locally I can rent one from Big Winds for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and reserve one on Maui at the Naish Maui Pro Center. Read more on 5 Steps to Build YOUR Racing Confidence.

5 Steps to Building SUP Racing Confidence (Click for Full Article)

5 ways to Build SUP Racing Confidence

bopstartjudy9If you want to be a writer – write! If you want to gain confidence in racing – race! Here’s a short list that can help, especially if you live far from the sort of water you’ll be racing in and if you will need to rent top-quality equipment for the event.

1. Practice on the  equipment you will be using for the event  – I went from using an 11’3″ all round SUP board to using a 14′ Naish Glide (the 2013 27 1/4″ wide 14.0 foot Glide). I got to Maui 6 days before the 2013 Olukai Ho’olaule’a and went directly to the Naish Maui Pro Center where Coach and Jay listened to what my husband, Ed, and I wanted to do. With every type of SUP surf and race board available for rent, they analyzed our skills in order to match us with what we could handle. A half hour later we were headed to the water with the 14′ Glides on the roof of the rental car. boo3

Hours of practice on that equipment gave us both an eye-opener (27 1/4 inches demands a new balance skills!) and time to gain confidence on the boards we would be using in our Maliko run event. (see the story that explains why I chose the Naish 12’6″ Glide for the down wind event this year and why I will be riding the newly designed Naish Glide 14.0 GX or GS for my down wind events moving forward).

We had a hundred questions and they had both the answers and the patience to share with us even though we were in town for just a week. Find the local team with that degree of customer service and expertise.

2. Plan ahead and talk to experts you can trust – The moment we completed our practice “fun” short Olukai Ho’olaule’a event in 2012 we began planning for the full 2013 event.  Completing that event let us know where the “holes” in our skill set were.  We started planning for the 2014 event immediately. Having the resource of Steve Gates and the team at Big Winds in Hood River, Oregon is awesome. We participated in their downwind clinic with Jeremy Riggs and gained more time on the 14′ Naish Glide.

Elite racer (and overall women's winner) Fiona Wylde and friend ready for Naish ONE fun

Elite racer (and overall women’s winner) Fiona Wylde and friend ready for Naish ONE fun

At the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge in August 2013 we were able to try the Naish ONE, the inflatable 12′ 6″ SUP board. Thanks to Charlie Burwell and the Naish team members on site, particularly Chuck Patterson, we saw how versatile and absolutely cool the Naish ONEs were (and bought 2 of them!)

Over the year leading to the 2014 Olukai Ho’olaule’a we communicated often with Coach and Jay at the Naish Maui Pro Center planning which board we should rent for the event. Since we were spending so much time on our Naish ONE boards we decided to use the 12’6″ Glide. Our goal was to stay on the board (talk about ultimate stability and glides!) and not worry so much about speed.

After the event we were able to reflect on the experience with Jay an determine that the newly designed Naish Glide 14’0″ GX and GS is going to be the board for us – as our skills dictate, for the 2015 event. The newly designed Glide is 29 1/4 inches wide which will give a sweet stability along with the speed we want. Luckily, Steve Gates at Big Winds has reserved that exact board for us to use for the August 2014 Naish Columbia  Gorge Paddle Challenge. We plan to do some down wind training runs with his clinic leaders.

Find your local experts and experts at your travel destination. It makes all the difference in confidence.

3. Practice in conditions similar to your event – Living in Oregon’s high desert does not provide lots of opportunity to practice in the conditions that Mother Nature delivers in open ocean down wind races.  We are fortunate to be able to travel about a 3-hour drive to get similar challenges in the mighty Columbia River.

When we need to be more local we check the weather report for windy days on local lakes and reservoirs.  Four friends, two cars and a shuttle plan can provide a great day of fun – and the practice we need.

Suzie Cooney (CPT) of Suzie Trains Maui lives the training advice she shares both on Maui and online.

Suzie Cooney (CPT) of Suzie Trains Maui lives the training advice she shares both on Maui and online.

4. Train for the demands of the event -Winter! What a perfect excuse to forego paddling and take up couch surfing (Noooo!), skiing or snowshoeing. If you are serious about your paddling technique – paddle. If you are serious about your strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and speed – get a trainer who paddles.  We have an area in our garage filled with TRX equipment, Indo boards and a spin bike.  We fear we would not be either skilled at how to train or motivated to stay with it without the inspiration of Suzie Cooney. Check her blog for examples. 

5. Leave your expectations at the door – Every event delivers as much of an adrenaline rush as it delivers a chance to connect with like minded SUP athletes. SUP is unique in that you are right there in the watery “arena” with the most elite paddlers in the world – so often. We compete in the most beautiful waters on the planet. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind blows snot or the temps drop to some crazy cold level, but if we show up, compete and finish then we win. We win the fodder for “talk story” and plans for next time. As Connor Baxter says, “Always have fun and never give up.” That works for me!

SUP Jazzed: Mighty Columbia River Gorge

A short 10 months ago I hopped on my 11’3″ surfboard (too scared to use the Naish 14′ Glide recommended by cool Steve Gates) and launched into 30+ mph winds and screaming river waves.  It was my first foray into the Columbia River and my first real down winder. Jazzed is an understatement, hooked on the stoke became the reality.

Judy and Ed loving life on a down-current glassy Columbia Gorge paddle

Judy and Ed loving life on a down-current glassy Columbia Gorge paddle

If I knew then what I know now, I would have totally paddled the Naish 14′ Glide – holy cow what a ride!

We recently survived one of the strangest down-wind Maliko runs (no wind, huge swell and confused chop) at the Olukai Ho’olaulea. The glides we got were awesome fun and only got us more hooked. We were in Hood River, Oregon for a clinic by Jeremy Riggs hosted by Steve Gates at BigWinds. Saturday dawned glassy so we did the “cocktail cruise” from Mosier to the Hood River event center. We took the BigWinds shuttle and had an absolute party for the sense as we cruised the 8 mile section.  In anticipation for the huge wind predicted for Sunday, we practiced some tail turns (splash!!!) and bracing. (anticipating Sunday’s clinic with Jeremy Riggs)

The Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge of 2012 was an amazing gathering or elite watermen and women, well-coached youth paddlers and every sort of talent in-between.  Clinics were provided, experts were available and safety crews on jet skis created a terrific event from start to finish.  There were well-attended clinics by Naish team rider, Karen Wrenn and great support and fun for all! The grom clinic given by Kai Lenny was one example of the positive attitude and easy manner of teaching while sharing expertise that Kai enjoys. (Be sure to catch the new GQ trailer featuring Naish team rider, Kai Lenny – well done!)

Hood River - be there and look for Elder SUP - can't wait to meet you

Hood River – be there and look for Elder SUP – can’t wait to meet you

There’s no question where we’ll be the weekend of August 17-18, 2013. We’ll be at Hood River with hundreds of others all praying for wind.  When you think of the Columbia River Gorge you probably picture trees bending and whitecaps boiling from the consistent winds generated by conditions at the river’s mouth near Astoria, OR.  For paddlers of all skill levels, there is something for everyone. You might just come upon the Gorge on one of its quieter days.

If you do, simply head over to BigWinds, talk to Jason or Steve and get yourself a Naish Glide. Windy or glassy, you are in for a sensory celebration.

GoPro: Wordsmithing Images

Each week I look forward to receiving links to GoPro VIDEO OF THE DAY.  Astounding views, amazing athletes, adventures and non-stop-action abound! Always diverse and endlessly cool – naturally when my friends and I watch these we hope to create something of that caliber ourselves.  We are passionate about standup paddling of every sort and we’re crazy about getting in and on the water at every opportunity.

Full moon magic is an Elder SUP routine, how about you?

Full moon magic is an Elder SUP routine, how about you?

Take the Water – Wherever You Are: Talking story around the fire on the beach, at a lakeside campsite or over a brew in a river town used to be the default way to re-live great SUP experiences. Armed with a GoPro easily strapped to a chest mount, a head mount, or a solid mount on our board we seamlessly collect images as we play our way through the day – or full moon night.  There’s no end to the number of ways we can “take the water wherever we are” via cool video clips and movies – Dropbox, Vimeo, Picasa, YouTube, Facebook, blogs.

The next question begs, “How many of your videos are so compelling that friends – and friends of friends – actually want to watch your story?”  For me, as long as there is beautiful water, people grinning and having a good time and a play of light and sights – then I am into a video. Next caveat, attention span.

We love a production called, Reflections, but at 8 minutes it’s asking for a lot from most of us. As a poetic approach to editing wonderful video footage, it’s inspiring.

Where's your inspiration-generating water?

Where’s your inspiration-generating water? Here is Suzie Cooney of SuzieTrainsMaui.com getting her stoke on!

So here’s our plan. During an upcoming vacation to Maui, rather than trying to get epic shots of us catching waves (not so much) or attempting to capture the energy and magic of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a while actually participating, we will simply capture what we capture. We’ll plan some shots that would set a mood or emotion.  Later, all sun-burnt, salty and inspired, we’ll create the wordsmith story, maybe even a poem, that comes to mind. With that as a guide, we can watch our GoPro footage again and again. Grabbing scenes and images that can be woven into a story may be commonplace for many videographers. For us, it’s going to be new – an adventure of its own.

For a terrific example of great word-smithing of images can be, check out Blue Sway by Paul McCartney, below.

SUP: Da Feet

That moment after a too-steep take-off when the nose of your surfboard buries deep, that moment just before you rocket through the air tightly clutching your paddle – you know! You know that your feet were not in the ideal position to trim your board successfully – it’s obvious.

Karen Wrenn posted this very cool photo - great color and an easy way to study foot position and technique.

Karen Wrenn posted this very cool photo – great color and an easy way to study foot position and technique.

More subtle are the changes in board trim and efficiency or glide that occur with where your feet are place and the balance of weight on those two feet when going in flat-water or downwind. A good example is the way Karen Wrenn is positioned in the photo to the left. She was kind enough to explain, “If you notice how my feet are really far on the left side of the board… it’s because there was a super strong side wind coming over my left shoulder. I had to position myself on the far left of the board to keep from getting pushed by the wind to the left. With my body weight on the left side of the board it allowed me to get my left rail down and prevent getting pushed and tipped.”

Knowing the force of winds in the gnarly Columbia Gorge area where Karen spends a great deal of training time, that is good to know. As the weather warms, our local SUP community plan many jaunts to the Hood River and Portland area for down wind fun.

With just a few weeks before the most challenging down wind adventure of our lives at Maliko Gulch and the Olukai Ho’olaule’a, we have been barefooting it on the sleek 14′ Naish Glide as winter hiccups into spring.  Balance as we maneuver is crucial – falling into the barely above freezing Deschutes River is not an option.

There’s the rub! Tail turn practice goes tentative – and immediately balance becomes sketchy.  It’s a great mental practice to feel the right movement to position and coordinate strong paddle strokes.

Evening light adding to our bliss!

Evening light adding to our bliss!

Our puzzle remains – what’s the best foot position for the various aspects of conditions we’ll encounter on the Maliko down wind route?  We will be sharing this post far and near, hoping for insights and input. While we will be participating in a “race,” our goal is safe completion of the journey.

Wondering how this foot position is for strong "wind in the face" situations

Wondering how this foot position is for strong “wind in the face” situations

Ed is experimenting with feet further back, noticing the impact of the tail drag vs speed and efficiency

Ed is experimenting with feet further back, noticing the impact of the tail drag vs speed and efficiency

We know we have awesome equipment with our Naish 14′ Glides underfoot, so we hope to refine our skills so that we can make the best of the famed “glides” we’ll be earning along the way.  How incredibly cool is it going to be to feel that first rush of wind after going beyond the cliff at Maliko Gulch! What a thrill it’s going to be to be surrounded by hundreds of other paddlers as the swells start rising on our quarter and from directly behind!

Butterflies – yup! We can’t wait to practice in the warm ocean – to fall as often as needed into WARM water – and to peddle forwards and back along the foot-friendly deck of the Naish Glide.  The best and right equipment for the adventure adds so much confidence and fun to the mix! Yeah, the stoke is fueled.

Please share your insights and comments on the blog or via e-mail eldersup@gmail.com – some comments we have received so far can be read at Aloha of the Paddle.

This seems to be a good foot position for flat water up wind and down - comments?

This seems to be a good foot position for flat water up wind and down – comments?

Gotta Get a Glide (Go Naish)

The Journey to Maliko Gulch continues. We have been posting numerous articles since October 2012 documenting the on land training routine two 63 year-olds are following in order to be physically ready for the demands of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a race from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha. No matter how much land training we do,  water time with the right equipment is crucial.

Right now we own three standup surfboards (an 11’6″, a 10’6″ and an 11’3″). With winter closing in on our home town, water time on the snow-closed lakes is over. We can still paddle the quick-moving Deschutes River in temps above 35. Below that, ice on the deck pad (not to mention in the river) makes a SUP run less than desirable.

Fortunately, we managed to save for a trip to Maui the first week of December (Happy Birthday, Ed and Merry Christmas to us both!). Our plan was to get some time doing down wind and some glide-training using the Naish 14′ Glide GS and the Glide 14’0 GX.

Both of the 14’0″ Glides feature a low rocker displacement bow and a flat rocker bottom shape to increase acceleration with each paddle stroke. I am not the strongest paddler in any mix so when I get my technique as right as possible I want maximum ZOOM from the effort.  Reading about increased acceleration with each stroke in one thing, putting together 10-20 paddle strokes that seem easier and more power-producing with each return – now that’s ZOOM!

Happy times in Maui with Naish Glide 14'0 GS and GX

Happy times in Maui with Naish Glide 14’0 GS and GX

Maui is one windy place. Between the swells and the wind chop, I had some trepidation about going a long ocean distance on a race board with 27 1/4″ width.  Standing still in wind chop did require a nice deep flex of the legs and a paddle in the water for stability. But once I got a rhythm going I was jazzed by how stable the Glide was.  According to the description page on the Naish website, “The recessed deck provides a lower center of effort for stability to increase paddle power and gliding distance.” I’m glad the Naish designers got it right.  The result is a ton of fun and very confidence-building.

The Glide 14’0 GX features a carbon construction with wood reinforcement in the stance area. My experience and ability to perceive nuances between the Glide GS and the Glide GX is minimal.  The carbon construction of the Glide GX really became dear to my heart when I lifted it for a carry up the beach or to load onto the roof racks. That GX is well-balanced and light. the hand-hold grip in the deck is set off center. I tried carrying with the grip high and then with it toward the low side. The low side worked well for my arm length – and the board carried so easily.

The easy-to-manage feature of the Glide GX is just one reason to give the board a try.  We all look at our budget and price during the decision-making process when it comes to adding boards to our quiver. The more I try and the more I learn, the “big picture” of function-fun-value has become the primary decision-driver.

Okay, now for the high point of the first day on the Glide 14’0.  At the halfway point of our 8 mile paddle, we were at a break called Rainbows off West Maui. The wind was relatively low and a swell of glassy, waist-high waves was charging toward a shelf reef at mid tide. It was a brilliantly clear mix of sea, sky and surf. I turned the Glide toward shore and waited for the second wave of the set. Paddling hard, I felt the Glide engage in the wave and before I knew it I was surfing sweetly toward shore. Stable as anything, I rode that small wall to the right until it began to fold into more turbulent foam. Uh oh, I was not on a surfboard and no amount of wishing was going to give me a bottom turn to the left. I bailed out far enough from the reef to be safe.

Exhilaration! I know that when I’m on a down-winder with the Glide 14 I’ll be able to do what its name suggests: catch and connect the glides.  And that’s what its all about!

View from the nose - first wave caught on the Naish Glide GX 14'

View from the nose – first wave caught on the Naish Glide GX 14′

For a short video via GoPro: Disclaimer, it was my first day filming and first try at editing. Fun but not for prime time!

Crush on a Hero (GoPro)

There was a time when golf was not a televised sport. Logic had it that watching a bunch of golfers whack a little white ball around a golf course, no matter how beautiful the course, would not be entertaining. Millions of rabid viewers later, the power of a great story woven into well shot images made all the difference.  We engage with diverse characters (pros) developed across their careers whether we play or not. Watching golf is adventure and drama when the story and filming is exceptional.

With the amazing digital and video tools available we have a chance to “film life.” We can see the images and become engaged in stories of all types created by pros-and people just like us. As in golf, some are going to gain a huge audience – others, not so much. For example, put the best set of golf clubs in my hands and bring the best video team on site to film my round of 18 holes, no one would care to watch. There’s no way I could deliver the shots or drama viewers need.

Similarly, I actually do own “the best” in equipment – the GoPro. Based on my skills and needs I selected the HERO3 Silver Edition. Armed with chest mount and surfboard mount I set off to document an 8 mile flatwater paddle down the incredibly beautiful coast of west Maui for my first Go Pro experience.  Ed and I took off, taking turns paddling the Naish Glide GS 14 where we’d mounted the GoPro surfboard mount.

The best equipment can’t counter boring footage and inexperience. We had a chest strap to mount the GoPro – but didn’t use it. The surfboard mount can be turned to face the surfer – we didn’t do that. We aimed the GoPro forward and simply let it run for 90 straight minutes of mostly downwind paddling.  The Go Pro Cineform Studio software is easily learned, even by a techno-phobe like me.  Thanks to lots of YouTube and online experts sharing insights every question that came to mind had an easy to access answer. All of that couldn’t make up for my relatively boring footage and lame editing skills.

View from the nose - first wave caught on the Naish Glide GX 14'

View from the nose – first wave caught on the Naish Glide GX 14′

Do I mind? Not really. No matter what, I have documentation of that very first, massively exhilarating ride I got on a chest high glassy wave on the Naish 14′ Glide GX in the few seconds before I bailed out. It was nearly dead low tide and a reef loomed too close to the surface. Editing that first set of Go Pro footage is the start of a cool new hobby. Priceless – and day one on my learning curve.