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 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.

megoc2

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!

 

Archie Kalepa: Walk the Talk -TEDx

archie-canoeaerila

The first time we saw Archie Kalepa was at the 2012 Olukai Ho’olaule’a event at Kanaha beach on Maui. We were on the beach waiting for our turn to ride on the new Olukai sailing canoe, Kamakani Eleu (the spirited wind). Lots of the Olukai team were sitting around talking story and we were fascinated. Little did we know the legendary watermen surrounding us, including Archie. By the time we flew across the swells we had a solid appreciation of the culture and spirit behind the teams who race these sailing canoes – and the Olukai team that brings the Ho’olaule’a experience to us all.

 What a surprise to find Archie’s presentation at Olukai’s TEDx Maui online. (see video below). Archie Kalepa, one of Hawaii’s greatest ocean sports pioneers, Hawaiian Lifeguard, and Director of Maui County Ocean Safety Division recently retired and joined the OluKai marketing team full-time as the Konohiki (caretaker). As the Konohiki, Kalepa will support and direct the brand in remaining authentic to the ocean lifestyle and respectful of the Hawaiian culture through hands-on participation in marketing activation.Who could be better at maintaining strong ties to the Hawaiian culture?

Settling in front of my computer with a cup of coffee this cold Oregon winter morning I got both butterflies and inspiration from Archie’s compelling style of story-telling. He explained, “In surfing as in life you need to know where you need to be.” On a surfing canoe there is a huge difference between “riding” and surfing. To truly surf you need to know the lineup, study the wind and be where you need to be. We need to be adaptable and “crack the code” or find the formula for both challenging surf spots and – life. Archie’s true passion is using his skills to share the experience with friends while keeping them safe. archie-board5

With more than 30 years as a Hawaiian Lifeguard, this elite and humble waterman has saved countless lives, revolutionized lifeguarding today as one of the pioneers of personal-water-craft (PWC) and PWC sleds for use in tow-in surfing and ocean rescue, and became the trailblazer in establishing long distance SUP racing. In August of 2012, he was inducted into Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation’s Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame, the highest honor a waterman can achieve in Hawaii.

archiek-canyonIn call to us all to reach for our dreams and risk taking the steps to achieving those dreams, Archie noted that we are becoming out of tune with nature. By using technology instead of our instincts we miss many authetic and life changing opportunities. One such opportunity came Archie’s way and he grabbed it – going 187 miles in 17 days he was the first to SUP the entire length of the Grand Canyon. (video and story here)

“Connect with your culture,” advises Archie. As a waterman or in everyday choices, life is like a big ride. Talk about a big ride, Archie shared the story of his favorite ride on the iconic wave off Maui’s north shore, Pe’ahi. Because so many people visit Maui and go to the trouble to make their way through muddy and gullied dirt roads to take their place on the cliff to see (or more often not see) the break, Archie poses the idea that as a wonder of the world Pe’ahi should be recognized as such.

Archie Kalepa surfing Pe'ahi - photo by Damian Antioco

Archie Kalepa surfing Pe’ahi – photo by Damian Antioco

As a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Archie has traveled to Tahiti on both the Hokulea and the Hawaiiloa traditional voyaging canoes, and is dedicated to resurrecting interest in the traditional Hawaiian sport of canoe surfing. 

As a public-safety expert, a big-wave surfer and a Hawaiian Waterman, Archie Kalepa is driven to help others and spread what he calls the spirit of “aloha,” the Hawaiian greeting. “Sharing the spirit of aloha is always giving somebody a helping hand, always giving somebody a kiss. Always when somebody needs help, you help them, show them how to be good people,” he says. “That’s what the aloha spirit is, showing people love. It’s what people from Hawaii do. It’s how we live our life.”

 Archie Kalepa: Foil Boarding from OluKai on Vimeo.

Olukai Ho’olaule’a: Recap by Connor

On the STANDUP PADDLE MAGAZINE’s Facebook page there was a great recap of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a posted.  I am sharing the whole summary by Connor Baxter here. It’s almost like being there again!

Connor baxter, Dave Kalama, Kai Lenny, Suzie Cooney and all the elite SUP racers are in the front ready for a challenging run.

Connor Baxter, Dave Kalama, Kai Lenny, Suzie Cooney and all the elite SUP racers are in the front ready for a challenging run.

“The Olukai Ho’olaule’a is a great event. Every year paddlers look forward to competing at this event in the infamous Maliko downwinder. The day started out with rain and very light winds. But, when driving down along the north shore we could see that the wind was picking up and the rain had stopped – and there were a few whitecaps. It was looking like it was going to be a good day. Driving into Maliko Gulch, I knew there were going to be a bunch of people – there were cars parked all the way out to the highway – and it was only 10am. What a great turnout.

Once we got there – I checked in and got my board ready. And, of course had to say hi to everyone. At 11:30 we had a pule, a Hawaiian prayer and then all 300+ of us hit the water for a 12:00 start. It was a water start on the outside of the bay. The wind was a little onshore so I decided to start further outside. Once we were all lined up on the water the boat waved a yellow flag so we got ready to race. And bam the green flag went up and I sprinted right from the beginning. Dave Kalama and I pulled away right from the beginning and like always – were just trading off back and forth.

Dave Kalama showing his powerful form making his way to a strong finish

Dave Kalama showing his powerful form making his way to a strong finish

Once we got to outer Baldwin I knew I had to put a gap on Dave. So I put my head down and I shifted into 6th gear and didn’t stop until I had a comfortable lead. Once I was a little ahead, I got into a steady rhythm and kept going.

Coming into Camp One I was a little nervous, because I didn’t have a leash and there were waves. So I caught a medium size one and stepped to the tail and rode the wave to the inside. Once I hit the flat water I just kept my head down and sprinted all the way to the finish.

connor111

Awesome shot captured by Terry Marie Galpin

I had a good lead of a minute and a half on Dave – and two and a half minutes on Kai in third place. I hit the beach and ran all the way to the finish line and spur of the moment I got a great idea to dolphin dive across the finish line – even though there was no one even close to me.

Overall it was a great event and I had a lot of fun and really stoked to defend my title and hope to do it again next year! I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Maui Jim, Rainbow Sandals, Trident Sports, Rista Fins, Dakine, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Igloo Coolers, Sunrite Maui, Hammer Nutrition, iDcard, EFX and Hi-Tech Sports. Also a big

Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers.”

Aloha, Connor Baxter

SUP Love: Sounds Like Hokua

Ah, love is in the air – it’s May and warm – but better yet, salt is in the air.  Ed and I are on Maui just as weather at home is figuring out how to move from winter to spring.

We are a salt-craving duo. I started surfing in 1965 with the same guy I am surfing with now. Yup, heading into our 43rd anniversary we’ve still got the love.  That said, I must confess a new crush – a wild and wonderful new crush on something fresh, sleek, sporty and fast – the Naish Hokua 9’0.” So, here’s the story.

naishmay1

Savoring the day after a sweet training paddle and surf session on the Naish 14′ Glide

My surfer guy, Ed, and I had a 40 year hiatus from surfing and re-discovered our love of walking on water in 2005 as we launched into standup paddling – and surfing.  Now it’s May and we’re on Maui prepping for the tradition and adventure of the Olukai Ho’olaule’aHo’olaule’a – literally, it means “celebration”, according to Olukai, it’s also an expression of gratitude. We feel that way as well.

Since enjoying the small, “fun,” version of the Ho’olaule’a last year we have had the great fortune to meet so many great friends, professionals and athletes connected by Maui’s culture and events.  What a treasure. The team at Naish Maui Pro Center stands out as a key part of what has made the experience what it is.

Talk about in-depth experience, passion for their respective board sports and endless patience for questions and sharing advice – and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you ever rented SUP equipment during a vacation? It can be a real grab bag of choices. Many times we’ve headed out with less-than-amazing equipment, heavy paddles and a wave good bye once the credit card has been swiped. The team at Naish Maui Pro Center lives a very different vibe.  Martin never stops smiling as he fine tunes and repairs the rental fleet maintaining tip top condition and appearance.  Sam has a knack for considering our abilities and matching that to the breaks that could provide us the best experience on any given day.  Jay is obviously proud of both the retail and rental aspects of the shop, as well as the culture that’s been developed. It was fun to chat with a few Naish riding Maui locals out at the break as they inquired where we got our Hokuas. The moment we said, ” We rented them over at Naish Maui Pro Center,” they immediately shared a similar story or two.

Be prepared to be an SUP kid in a candy store at the Naish Maui Pro Center. Rack after rack of Naish board choices spread as far as the eye can see. There’s something for every ability and size. It was there in front of the area holding the Hokua line that I saw it – the Hokua 9’0.” I surf an 11’3″ all round board and love it – but sadly, it couldn’t hold a candle to this sleek and snappy  Hokua calling my name. Heck, at my age (63) and my surfing ability (you’ll see in the video) would I be able to stand on it, balance and even catch a wave? I didn’t care, it was too beautiful not to take as my board of choice for surfing this week. Take a look at the 1-minute video collage of an afternoon of glassy awesome-ness at Launiupoko.

In love there is always “that moment!” While I had plenty of fun rides and better bottom turns than I’d ever enjoyed, there was that moment of connection. A larger than usual set had come in with a chest high swell rather than the thigh highs of the day.  This glassy wall peaked in front of me and the lip took a sudden and crushing fold down, breaking right in front of me. I dug in my paddle and braced, expecting to the be tossed in the drink.

HA! Not so. That Hokua easily broke through the wave, the power of the crest whipped past my ankles and I did this quick turn, and (SURPRISE) caught the next wave in the set.  We’ve seen the pros make the Hokua perform. How cool that it can bring even the novice to a new level of SUP fun!

(The BIG Story:  Naish 14′ Glides  for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a on Saturday)

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.