SUP Lessons from Seat 2

Timing and “The Catch”

That sound when the catch just doesn’t catch, that “gurgle.” Something about that sound screams, “Wrong!”

During standup paddling, as we work on technique, getting the catch solid is a direct driver of our speed and power. While  a great coach and lots of water time can provide improvement, really refining the catch is a long term commitment. In order not to get bad habits, consistent feedback is a must. When I train for standup paddle races and events I do my best to get the stroke right, but what is missing is a constant feedback loop so only my good technique and habits stick.

oc6-1When reach, the power stroke and a hasty return is perfect in timing, the feel and the sound is pure music and synchronicity. While we can practice these parts of the stroke while standup paddling, every aspect of our technique is even more easily analyzed while paddling with your team in an OC-6. A team provides feedback on so many levels: feel, tips and visual cues from others.

I have had the good fortune to paddle in Seat Two behind one of our more experienced team members, Lisa Jakubowski, as she brings us through a practice as stroke in Seat One. We don’t talk while training but recently she mentioned how she was trying to refine her stroke to avoid the “plunks” and “gurgles.” Being so close behind her, mimicking her style and technique, working on timing the best i could, I decided to work to eliminate the gurgle as well.

Focusing on the one thing was amazing. It began with watching her upper arm and shoulder as she moved through her power and return phase. As if we were connected, my upper arm/shoulder attached to hers. I began to get some solid timing, great for seat 4 and 6 to follow.

Next I matched her hip rotation, working to drive with my forward foot and hip at the exact same time that she did.  Mid way through our 10-mile training drills she mentioned, “When I really drive with my hip, rather than over – reaching with my upper body, I actually get an ideal amount of shoulder rotation. That results in a greater reach. I pause that nano-second at the reach then make sure i get a solid catch.” (Here is a great coaching video from KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin – coaching Lisa Jakubowski. Thanks to Lisa for sharing it)

Lisa gave me a few tips on how to “feel” that perfect moment between momentum and power when the catch can be ideally executed. At that moment the canoe seems to be moving with exquisite smoothness. The paddle matches the speed of the boat. As I began the return with my paddle I gave a gentle punch with my lower arm. This momentum opened my joints  and stretched my muscles.

The energy of following the action of Lisa in front of me and the timing of the entire team in the canoe fed my ability to maintain speed, power and intensity as needed for all 4 laps of our 2.5 loop on the Deschutes River.

Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH

Luke Evslin demonstrates the REACH

KIALOA Paddles ‘Elele Luke Evslin demonstrates the Catch



Tradition, Technology, Together… Living It!

Again and again, island by island, the KIALOA spirit bumps into us as we travel.  Ed and I are 42 years into our marriage but a solid 48 into the life we love together. From the early days we were in, on and around the ocean (Atlantic in S. Florida) and Hawaii dreaming from the beginning.  We both wonder at what twists and turns our lives would have taken if we turned our back on the scholarship/college route that was the “right” choice and instead, headed off to Hawaii like Meg Chun did.

If you don’t know the story, it’s a great one. Meg met Dave Chun and over many years the amazing company called  KIALOA evolved. Sure, they share a great line of paddles with the world, but more than that, they share a spirit of ohana. They live and breathe technology and tradition together on the water. It is so much more than an accurate marketing message, it is real and we bump in to it on every island we visit. One example: Check out this link.

Most recently we visited Maui and were staying on West Maui. Ed and I planned to stretch the envelope of what our 62 year-old selves could do on the ocean – we planned to prepare for the Olukai Ho’olealau during our vacation (some people rest on the beach and enjoy “umbrella drinks.”)

Each morning we drove our car 4 miles down Kaanapali Beach and parked it. We walked back to our hotel along the cool walkway at 6 am.  The plan was to put our boards in the water and do a sweet down-winder back to our car (with a few surf sessions along the way). One morning we met Barry as he was prepping some paddlers for an outing in his outrigger canoe. What caught our eye was the “KIALOA” logo on the side and a quiver of brand new Kialoa wood outrigger canoe paddles. It was obvious that Barry was providing a top-of-the-line experience.

We chatted with Barry for a spell and learned of his personal paddling aspirations. Like many other pros we have encountered, Barry was especially grateful for the support and sponsorship of Meg and Dave Chun at KIALOA. We stood on the lawn as the early morning light brightened the skies and illuminated Lanai out to our right. Like many of the paddling athletes we’ve met in the past, Barry could “talk story” about the spirit of Kialoa endlessly.

He had so many tales to share, and experiences to remember. It was cool to see so much enthusiasm for taking the casual “tourist” out on a traditional outrigger experience. For Barry, the few hours he had with each guest was simply a chance to instill an appreciation of the sea, of the Maui traditions and of the paddling culture. 

An hour later when we were deep in to our down-winder we saw Barry and his paddlers working their way upwind on what would sure to be a treasured memory of Maui.  Even in the hands of first time outrigger paddlers it was great to see that Barry provided the best. Each member of the day’s outrigger “team” was using a quality KIALOA paddle made of fine woods and exquisitely finished. The feel, the balance and the beauty all added to the experience for the all. It is his way, it is the way Kialoa inspires.