SUP MUSE: Karen Wrenn

There are many meaning of “muse” – both as a noun and as a verb. One meaning I like is describing a muse as an inspiration, a catalyst for change. We can have many muses on our journey in life, in sport and adventure. Karen Wrenn inspires many  – an active “verb” of a person. She’s also a true catalyst for change. Do you want to be better at something and reach new goals? I know I do, and I know that I can do it better when a muse helps along the way. Karen, Naish team rider, seems to always be on the move sharing her spirit and aloha for standup paddling.

KIALOA captured the determination and drive that Karen Wrenn harnesses during winter training

KIALOA captured the determination and drive that Karen Wrenn harnesses during winter training

Ask a busy person! I did, and Karen generously shared some time and insights. First, some background: Few are more busy than Karen – wife, mother, friend, athlete, teacher and SUP superwoman. We all know that honing our skills and keeping whatever our personal “athletic edge” might be is a full-time effort. In the cold and wet Pacific Northwest, staying trained and motivated takes a bit more psyching up. The recent photo used in a cool ad for KIALOA paddles captures that “brace yourself for a cold an challenging training run” moment perfectly.

I have been less determined to brave the wet and cold through January and February – then March arrived with a few days that shouted “SPRING” with abundant sun and little wind. No question! It was time to head to the Deschutes River and take a few loops. No one else was out that day. It was a visual and sensory wonderland to be gliding up-current and getting cobwebs out of arms, trunk and legs. Luckily, I had my GoPro with the board suction mount. It stayed on solidly and could be shifted from front view to back view easily.

The next day was full of OUCH! I watched the video of my paddle (see above) noticing a strange inward rotation of my knees and a waggle of the hips that seemed out of place. I had just gone through my first of three series of knee injections (yup, the old meniscus has apparently vanished). The last thing I want to do is annoy my knee further. So I sent off the video to Karen for some insights. We had connected at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge last year when she encouraged me as I tried the fast and sleek Naish Glide for the first time.

You may want to have your own technique guide do what Karen suggested, film from behind for a better view of body mechanics. The second suggestion was to adjust my stance from time to time. Karen explains, ” One thing I do all the time when something is bothering me is to play around with my stance. I think with a bit of a narrower stance you might not be able to lean the knee in so much Or, possibly a slightly staggered stance might help to. If you haven’t already… play around with that. Try a narrow, try a wider than usual and a slightly staggered stance and see what happens.”

Karen’s next suggestion reinforced my commitment to the twists and stretches of yoga, “Try to also focus on the torso rotation being a little higher making it happen through the rib cage instead of  by your hips. When I am paddling really hard and efficiently I feel sore through my the sides of my ribcage. If the rotation is happening a little higher you might find that your hips stay a little more fixed and that would cause less inward knee movement. It would give you the torso rotation and take it out of so much arms.”

There is no doubt that I will take these few suggestions to the river and to my indoor TRX training. Motivated even more – it’s only 56 days until Ed and I head to Maui, get our Naish 14′ Glides and prep for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a Maliko Run. Yipppeee! And thanks so much for your suggestions, Karen!

Talking Story – Maui

This will be broadcast live on January 13 from http://www.olukai.com

This will be broadcast live on January 13 from http://www.olukai.com

We have written a number of articles based on “story,” – yours, mine and the collective “ours.”  Humans love a great story and we all can recall a time when we were enlightened or entertained by an excellent story-teller.  If any of you have heard of TEDx or follow the amazing short videos available online, you know the vast depth of topic and talent participating. One of my personal goals is to attend a TEDX in person. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for people in cities around the world to host their own, local version of the TEDx experience. We enjoyed TEDx Bend (Oregon) last year for the first time – and it was an exhilarating, sold-out event.

On January 13, we all have an opportunity to experience TEDX Maui, sponsored by Olukai. We’ve walked a lot of miles in our comfortable, top-notch Olukai sandals and shoes, and we’ve written numerous times about their “give back to community” company culture. It’s doubly fun to invite you all to join us in watching TEDx Maui online. Message us on Facebook if you plan to view and/or Tweet during the event. We’ll link to you.

From the Olukai website, “A live broadcast of the TEDxMaui event will be accessible through www.olukai.com with opening ceremonies beginning at 9:00 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time / 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. People across the country and beyond can also follow TEDxMaui live on Twitter at @tedxmaui and participate in live conversation by using the #TEDxMaui2013 hashtag. (If you are on Twitter, using the hashtag and following live discussion is great fun.)

Similar to the mission of OluKai’s Talk Story series (an original collection of short videos and photography curated to inspire and connect people across cultures), the day-long conference will encourage global thinking and positive action with luminary speakers such as Archie Kalepa, mentor to OluKai, big-wave surfer and innovative waterman recently inducted to the Hawaii Watermen’s Hall of Fame; Alex Grey, visionary medical illustrator from Harvard Medical School whose art has been featured in Time, Newsweek, on the Discovery Channel and albums of Tool, Beastie Boys and Nirvana; Quayle Hodek, renewable energy expert named one of the ‘7 Hottest CEO’s’ by Treehugger.com and one of Red Herring’s ‘Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 35;’ Jenelle Peterson, an inspired teacher who has taught in classrooms from Compton to Maui; and Kim Rosen, MFA, author of Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words whose work has been featured in media such as O Magazine and The New Yorker.

“OluKai is the founding partner of TEDxMaui and we are honored to continue in helping create an enduring platform for inspired thinking,” said Kerry Konrady, Director of Marketing for OluKai.

It’s all great – especially planning for the upcoming Olukai Ho’olaule’a May 11-12, 2013.

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!

Right Name – Excellent Initials

Sometimes fate seems to send a subtle message in ordinary observations. This time it came from a name and the resulting initials – Suzie Cooney, SC.

Ed and I are in week 8 of our “Eddie Will Go on the Olukai Ho’olaule’a” race – comeback from extensive shoulder surgery. Week 8 is the best one yet. We are actually in Maui and are SUP surfing and doing sweet down-winders every day on our Naish 14′ Glide GX. Last night we had dinner with our trainer-from-a-distance, Suzie Cooney, CPT of Suzie Trains Maui. IMGP0149

There’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation over ono burgers at the Fish Market Restaurant in Paia, especially after all the support we’ve gained from Suzie over the past months. How did two 63 year olds from Oregon come to be trained by Suzie Cooney on Maui? That’s quite a story.

We were casually playing at down-wind riding while on vacation in Maui in May 2011. Hearing that the Olukai Ho’olaule’a offered a “fun race” of just 4 miles we grabbed our rental surfboards and registered. The day of the race we were all butterflies and doubt.  Ed was having shoulder surgery 4 days later and we were second-guessing everything. Then the announcer gathered us all for a pre-race warm-up, and we met Suzie.

suzierace_00001With a warm smile and ultimate encouragement she talked and moved the nervous group through breathing, stretching and a warm-up. Surprisingly, by the time we were done the group had a relaxed and solidified feel. Then we were off for one of the most exhilarating fun-runs ever. We decided that when Ed was able to train after his surgery, just seven weeks ago, we would start training with Suzie. We set a goal to do the 8-mile run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha. Suzie’s regimine has been just what Ed needed.

Meeting up with Suzie last night confirmed it, she has the absolute best initials for her spirit and talent:

  1. SC – Sincere compassion: Ed is coming back from an injury and Suzie’s compassion for the struggle is obvious. It takes quite a bit of digging to gain the information that might attribute to that. Suzie is no stranger to injury, rehab, set-backs and the value of dedication and solid training. She has walked the talk, and then some.
  2. SC – Social commitment: Much like Olukai, the sponsor of the Ho’olaule’a, Suzie has always had a strong commitment to her community and sharing her expertise and talent. We love that and it sets the same tone that we go for at Elder SUP
  3. SC – Strategic communication: Suzie is about the busiest person I know. There is no place for the luxury of time wasted. When we use SKYPE or e-mail to gain insights and training strategies Suzie is always ready to communicate, but to the point and with disciplined replies.  It is a great way to allow her expertise from Paia, Maui to reach out to wherever clients are.
  4. SC – Solid collaboration: Suzie spends time with a diverse group of peers from both the fitness and surf/SUP/paddling disciplines. She’s an avid listener and seems to have an uncanny ability to tweak out information and then share-collaborate easily. These skills are obvious if you cruise her website, see the photos, read the articles, and watch the well-edited videos.
  5. SC – Sea Connection: Suzie is a waterwoman and is undeniably connected to the sea. Her stories, grins, and passionate dedication to sharing this connection is a gift. We are better at our SUP dreams because of her inspiration. Better yet, we are determined to return home and make the most of the next 5 months before we launch into the sea from Maliko Gulch.

Please share your training, come back and dream-event stories with us.

Suzie Trains Maui – and Eddie!

Back in the day – 1966-1970 to be exact – Ed and I were playing at surfing the mushy calf-high waves we had in balmy South Florida. We were the Beach Boys-era sweethearts. From 1970-2007 we didn’t surf, using our ocean time to sail, scuba, windsurf, fish, finish college and raise the family.  2001 found us moving life to Oregon, and by 2007 we discovered standup paddling and were back in the surf 4 decades later!

In the natural progression of things, two diverse events influenced our Summer 2012 activities.  One was Ed’s second rotator cuff surgery (yes, he was brave enough to go through that torture twice) and our trip to Maui to try the short version of the Ho’olaule’a event. Four days after the coolest downwind adventure either of us had experiences poor Ed went under the knife. But not before we were hooked on downwind, open ocean fun!

   

In the pictures above, it’s easy to see we are still the happy ocean-loving “kids” we were back in 1967 but it’s also easy to see that our abs are a bit worse for wear at age 63. Fortunately, just before the start of our event, Maui local and globally respected standup paddler/athlete, Suzie Cooney, provided a pre-race warmup. That gave us a chance not only to meet Suzie but to get to know a bit about her dedication to training a diverse group of clients from the casual paddler to elite athletes. As Ed went from wearing a sling to hefting the 3 lb weights he’s now using in PT we both made a commitment to getting into our best functional fitness over the next 8 months.

As much as we already know about exercise and nutrition, we realize that insights, motivation and programming provided by a respected professional is mandatory, especially as we embrace our seventh decade. Over the summer, Suzie Cooney has been kind enough to listen to our plan to follow her training “at a distance.” Nothing can replace actual time at her training facility with her customized training delivered face to face. Just the same, we have made a decision to glean as much as we can from her blog and conversations.  We have a solid goal in mind. We plan to be at the start line on May 11, 2013 ready to enjoy the full Olukai Ho’olaule’a downwind run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha.

“Pie in the sky” – This Saturday I plan to join other hopefuls as I buy a couple of lotto tickets – would be cool to win $5000 or so. We’d probably jet off to Maui in November and prepare for Maliko at Suzie’s upcoming clinic. Meanwhile, training in Oregon is underway. The “training table” is becoming ever more healthful and an Indo Board is on its way to our home.  The digital age could very well allow us the best connection with our partner in preparation, Suzie Cooney. Most watched film this week – this training session from the Suzie Trains Maui blog. YES! We want endurance, core strength and balance. This is an excellent overview of some training options. Bring it, Suzie!

SUP Leaders Grinnin’ and Givin’

KIALOA paddles and Naish team rider, Chuck Patterson and his signature smile

Perhaps every sport has its heroes, good karma ambassadors and experts eager to share their time, skills and experience with newbies – but SUP seems to have more than its fair share.  As with most categories of leaders in most any field, the busiest seem to be the most eager to share.  Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn gave clinics at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge. Before and after their clinic they shared freely with any paddlers hammering the questions their way – and always with a smile!  Karen is a busy mom and competitor, but like Chuck she’s and incredible ambassador for our sport.

When my husband and I were in Maui last May for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a race, we tried the shorter course from Paia Bay to Kanaha – rather than the full Maliko Gulch run.  Local SUP trainer and world class athlete, Suzie Cooney consistently gave of her time and experience before and during the event. The absolutely amazing spirit of the team for Olukai and the encouragement from Suzie infected us with a focus on getting prepared for the 2013 Maliko Gulch run as part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a. We plan to learn from her online training tips and some actual training runs over the next months. If she hadn’t been so willing to share from her first meeting with two old SUP downwind “wannabees” we might not have had the confidence to complete training enough to compete (term used loosely – LOL)

KIALOA paddles team rider, Brit Oliphant

Most recently I have had the good fortune to know one of the younger leaders in  standup paddling, surfing, and all types of racing, Brit Oliphant. We share the same home town, and often cross paths on the Deschutes River that flows through town. As Brit offers training to all ages in groups large and small the constant is enthusiasm and a great smile. Day after day! Just out of high school, Brit has a love of life and maturity that’s rare at any age. While disciplined training has provided the fitness background needed to compete at the highest levels, an absolute love of oceans and rivers adds a special something else.

So, as I wavered in my commitment to watch-participate-watch, maybe, or participate (should I?) in the upcoming 2012 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge I went out for an easy paddle with a friend yesterday. “Hey, Judy!” I heard as I walked past the Sun Country SUP rentals at our RiverBend Park. It was Brit, back from a one day training trip to Hood River where she and fellow paddlers had done a few rounds of the 8 mile downwind course.

In chatting, she heard me mention that I was still wavering about doing the event and might just rent the Naish race board my friend Steve Gates recommended in case I decided to do the downwind on Sunday. Now, I know that Brit recently got a brand new Joe Bark designed Candice Appleby Model 12’6″ race board. She’d paddled it to a win at the recent Gerry Lopez Elk Lake WPA race and was obviously thrilled.  That said, without a moment’s hesitation Brit said, ‘Judy, if we aren’t racing at the same time you can use my board on Sunday.” Sharing a brand new anything is generous – but a race board – what a cool gesture, Brit.

Generosity like that is rare.  I won’t be borrowing her cool race board, yet the offer was easily sincere. The confidence I gained from Brit’s wholehearted advice, hints and belief that not only could I do the event but I would have a world of fun (if the wind cooperated) at the same time.  Let’s see what Sunday brings. My guess is that we will see Brit competing toward the front of the elite class, smile shining, having a blast whatever place comes her way. For me, I hope I muster the nerve to give it a go. Better register now!  

Suzie Cooney: Aloha, Respect and Solid Expertise

 I recently had the good fortune to meet Suzie Cooney doing what she does so often: providing her expertise for community events with great energy and generosity. You can also catch her working with clients at Suzie Trains Maui.  She has done over 23 free women’s clinics since 2009 that were, according to Suzie,  completely rewarding. Experiencing her enthusiasm as we did, it’s obvious that “giving” of her talent is a natural.

She gave the group doing a “fun race” part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a event a well-designed warm-up before our event. It warmed us up – and with her encouraging words – helped us get the jitters out.

It is not a surprise that Suzie has chosen to connect her love of standup paddling with her passion for helping others gain fitness and knowledge. Having been an athlete prior to arriving to Maui ( 1999 ), and also having had the opportunity to work with people in sports orthopedics on the mainland, having knowledge of the anatomy – putting the two together made great sense.  Suzie explains this further, “I have worked both sides of the counter so to speak!  As an athlete, getting injured, coming back and then having the chance to help people with a better outcome from their own injury gave me great compassion.  I thoroughly enjoy helping people be their best and providing them an environment to succeed.”

My husband, Ed, and I enjoyed every moment of our 3+ mile down-winder so much that we plan to train for the longer Maliko run next year. We are certain that wind and wave conditions will temper that decision – one not to be taken lightly. Suzie will be a wonderful person to help us through training and that day-of-the-event decision. She paddles that stretch of ocean regularly and shares this insight, “Maliko is a stretch of open ocean that commands respect, supreme water confidence and body endurance combined with the skill of paddle surfing and stand up paddling in the most intense and extreme conditions. A paddler who ventures on this 10 mile adventure must be ready for anything.  The swells combined with high winds usually averaging over 25mph offer a thrilling roller coaster ride down big troughs that can connect with what we call “bumps” up to 200 yards long, sometimes longer.  The exhilarating take offs and drops leave you wanting more. Ten miles of this without having to paddle your brains out is absolutely addicting!” The picture to the right shows Suzie is riding an “addictive” section of “bumps.”

Another Suzi, a recent client of Cooney’s, recently arrived to Maui and found “Suzie Trains Maui” via the internet and through friends. Whatever the fitness level the client comes with, Cooney can customize the program to best meet both needs and expectation. The “other Suzie” was already an incredible surfer, sponsored skateboarder and all around charger.  Cooney was quite busy at the time the new client arrived, but Cooney made space in her schedule for “the other” Suzie. She insisted they start training right away and together they decided Maliko was “it” – just the right event to train toward.  The OluKai race would be her first competition and so the training began.  She felt with her base of surf knowledge and water experience this would be the ultimate challenge for her and allow her to have a goal and get into tip top shape.

She actually bought Cooney’s old race board and immediately Cooney got her out training in all conditions.  She then entered on her own, a smaller local race which turned out to be a crazy, unusual race with head winds the entire way.  Suzie Cooney explains, “It was tough, but a good taste for her. The moment I saw her paddle that Naish 14 foot Glide, I knew she had a special talent. I was stoked for her.”

In talking to Suzie, it is apparent that she is in the business heart and soul. She explains, “It’s a huge reward to prepare someone for their big day down Maliko.  It can go either really great or really bad. Sometimes people think they are ready and sometimes fear overcomes them and they simply can’t stand most of the run.  Coming out of the gulch takes the most out of people. It appears very calm and mellow from the ramp in the bay and soon as you hit the point, the wind can take your board and the swell can take you down so hard and fast you don’t know what hit you.  Most go out on their knees until they get the strength and body endurance to paddle hard against swell and big side winds until you’re out quite a ways.

I try to encourage people to interval train at high intensity because getting out of the gulch can take a lot of energy and there is no time to dilly dally. It’s full on until you get to turn the nose of your board down and head towards the amazing Iao Valley.  I teach people how to read the reefs along the way, where to have land marks and how to manage the changing conditions and often change half way down.  Keeping calm is the most important thing and relaxing your body if your not used to winds blasting at your back up to 40 mph.  Most people who have a wind sport in their life, like windsurfing or kiting do very well. They know how to read the water and wind which helps. 

All of Suzie’s clients first must do mini downwinders withher. A short down-winder could be like the one Ed and I did  from Paia Bay to Kanaha.  That experience serves to get novices  used to all that motion in the ocean.  From Suzie’s experience with many first timers, ” It’s a pretty big deal when we get to the harbor mouth and turn that tight corner in and then this sigh leaves their body, shoulders drop and the tension leaves their bodies! It’s pretty awesome.  Some are shaking, a couple have cried tears of joy and maybe a little relief.”

The people most likely to be labeled “watermen” (or waterwomen) are the least likely to adopt that label for themselves. Our time in Maui, especially at the Olukai Ho’olaule’a event, made us very aware of the waterman culture and spirit. We asked Suzie about that, “I believe always in giving back, for the more you give the more you get, especially from the ocean.  I’ve always admired how long time waterman and waterwomen have taken me under their wings and taught me how to respect the powers of the ocean and I wanted to do the same. So many people have no idea what it’s like to manage big or small waves, about the currents, the tides, the winds and how everything affects all aspects of what we enjoy out there.  Kula Sunn, Rell Sunn‘s sister is the biggest inspiration to me as she has spent a lot of time showing by example in all that she does.  We’ve surfed and dirt biked together and she would give her last gallon of gas or the shirt off her back.

It seems like a lot of athletes focus on what they won last or how many sponsors they have, and it’s really too bad.  They should be rewarded by the good deeds they do around their sport. SUP seems to attract kind and giving people who want to share with the world their joy for the sport. I love that.”

We were very fortunate to get to know Suzie. The true spirit of Aloha resonates within her spirit! When you’re in Maui looking for expert fitness and SUP training, call Suzie Trains Maui and Standup Paddling Fitness.