Sports Imaging: Stehlik Glides

About 18 months ago we visited Oahu and were fortunate to discover Blue Planet, an SUP center just a few miles from Waikiki. Blue Planet is owned by Robert Stehlik, a talented paddler consistently sharing his time and expertise to all levels – from rank beginner to the downwind experts. We had a great time at one of the many free clinics he offers and loved trying out race boards for the first time in 2011.



Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet has a wealth of open ocean crossings as the foundation for teaching others.

Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet has a wealth of open ocean crossings as the foundation for teaching others.

Robert Stehlik combined his talent with a GoPro video and decided to  paddle the Hawaii Kai downwind run on Oahu while narrating it. With a summer full of all sorts of downwind runs (with the Wickiup in Central Oregon coming up soon) we decided to take some time to really study Robert’s videos.  It is really insightful to hear the coaching tips and tricks as he is actually doing them.

Wide open downwind spaces - heading toward Waikiki

Wide open downwind spaces – heading toward Waikiki

While the tips on paddle cadence were definitely valuable, the tips on reading waves and increasing the opportunities to ride glides both left and right really hit home.

I absolutely agree with Robert when he says, “Downwind runs are exciting and fun.   In the surf, you are often waiting for a set or your turn to catch the next wave.  On a downwinder, there are no crowds, you have long windswells that stretch across the whole ocean to play with, you are always on the move, going from one glide to the next, surfing the bumps.

Plan ahead, know the waters, route and weather before heading out on a downwinder.

Plan ahead, know the waters, route and weather before heading out on a downwinder.

There is no doubt that doing any length downwinder requires preparation, planning, a partner and the appropriate safety gear.  The pre-downwinder prep including balance training, awareness and a depth of open water experience can make all the difference in the experience.
Robert advises, “It can also be dangerous to head out into the open ocean unprepared, so make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
I enjoy sharing what I have learned and have been offering coaching to paddlers that want to experience the joy of downwind paddling.   For more information on SUP lessons and coaching offered by Blue Planet, please visit the website for more information.


Robert Stehlik Walks (on water) the Talk

I first “met” Robert Stehlik through a few of his Zen Waterman blog which he co-authors (the SUP part) with Len Barrow (surfing).  The blog explores Surfing and Stand Up Paddling as Zen arts with features including: focus and paying attention to technique, equipment, mental aspects, the interplay with nature and others. His interview with Gerry Lopez was one that caught my attention – and before I knew it I’d read through almost the entire blog.

As a 62 year old hoping to maximize both fitness and results through honing the best techniques possible, Robert’s article on “catch and reach” was really interesting. That did it. I decided to give Robert a call in hopes I might meet him and learn more about how he trains and coaches the SUP novice and experienced crowd on Oahu. I was planning to be there the second week of December. As luck would have it (YES!) I arrived in time to experience his December clinic.

For Robert, the clinics are much more than a chance to sell boards. The most important things is to make sure that the initial introduction to the sport is a positive one for the participants. That philosophy was integrated into all aspects of the clinic we experienced.

We walked to the meeting area near AlaMoana and saw about 30 people, most out on the water trying the vast array of top quality boards and paddles.

One local newbie, Emily,  trying standup paddling for the first time confessed that she has a tendency to be tense when learning a new sport. It isn’t the challenge – she loves that. Her concern was that she would do it all wrong.  Emily was lucky – she met one of the Blue Planet Hawaii trainers, Phil. Phil was just one of the patient and skilled trainers ready to surprise people with easy to follow training. One by one we saw it happen. Just like Emily, people were embracing their new favorite sport.  

Phil was quick to explain that while SUP can provide excellent fitness benefits, the most compelling aspect is its ability to connect people with nature.

Teaching is far more than a casual side interest among the team at Blue Planet Hawaii.  Robert definitely walks the talk. His background of training and dedication to meeting his own personal SUP goals become fodder for sharing with customers, clients and SUP students. Robert completed the Molokai channel crossing race on a Stand Up Surfboard in 2009,   one of his big personal goals. Months of training and planning paid off and he finished the 32- mile course in a respectable time of 6hrs 15min and 7th overall of all Solo SUP paddlers.

True to his personality, Robert was quick to thank his wife Sharon for her support. She came along on the escort boat and let Robert go on long training paddle runs for the last few months before the event. It takes a team – and that is what Robert has developed at Blue Planet Surf.