SUP Inspiration: Candice Appleby

One of the most unassuming leaders of the SUP mentoring/give-back culture is Candice Appleby.  In a most round-about way, she inspires even the non-SUP folks among us.  Here’s a story:

In 1998 we bought property in Oregon after 52 years in South Florida – the polar opposite in culture and environment. From malls and crowded beaches we met rivers and coasts where fleece replaced bikinis.  We met the architect who’d design our new home high above a river canyon, Rick Wright. Little did we know the gift he’d give us in the form of white-water kayak training and fun. Eventually we became “family” with the entire Wright clan in spite of the fact we ditched white water kayaking for standup paddling.  rickw

ricksurfWhat’s Candice got to do with this? Well, Rick Wright is a highly skilled, first class white water kayaker. He’s happiest maneuvering down gnarly stretches of river. Yet, in March, he went to the 27th annual Santa Cruz Paddle Fest where he entered and rode amazing waves in his surf kayak. “Totally stoked” best describes Rick’s take-away from the event and his two sessions at Cowells. Since Candice rocked it and won at Steamer Lane – what’s the connection?

Rick had the chance to watch the SUP events at Steamer Lane and he had the chance to observe first hand the pure determination and athleticism that drove Candice to her win.  As an avid and dedicated student of Tai Kwon Do and a local Class 4-5 mainstay in Bend Oregon, Rick knows excellence and practiced honing of natural skills when he sees it.  When a quarterback throws that impossible pass, when a golfer drops the challenging chip 2 inches from the cup – we’ve all seen athletic greatness in action. For standup paddling, the televised spots are few and far between. That’s likely why the live-action Candice was so impressive. While Candice wasn’t the only amazing waterwoman (or waterman) in the event, her prowess and performance struck our friend Rick.

crunTonight, over margaritas and bridge (yes, we old geezers play bridge for fun) the conversation turned to our next trip together. Without question we are determined to all be at the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest in 2014.  Rick is a solid 14 pounds lighter than he was in early February. He’s training hard and eating well.  What will be keeping his fitness-stoke alive from now until the next time we all surf some practice waves at the Oregon coast for freezing-pounding surf?  It’s a memory of a competition and an image of training.

Rick described his fantastic kayak-surf session at Cowells but his absolute awe was obvious when he described the grace and power of Candice Appleby in her heats at the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest. “She was bent at the waist and digging hard – steadily and endlessly throughout her heat. She rode waves with so much style, strength and beauty.”

The picture to the left is one that Rick saw on Facebook. To him, it is a perfect example of strength and gracefulness, power and motivation.  Because a leader in the world of SUP has honed her expertise so well – and captures images of the process – a 6th decade white water kayaker/kayak surfer is inspired to reach his own limits and potential.

Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and all the social media opps might seem stale and over-used at times. But because we have the chance to connect with excellence through that same media we can be motivated and inspired. We celebrate the power of social media and the story our sport is creating one champion, one Candice, one Rick, at a time.

What’s your story? Share with us on Facebook or Pinterest!

Aloha of the Paddle

Our SUP paddle – connecting us to our water, our power, our speed and the aloha of our our sport. Choose wisely and understand small tweaks in sizing and technique that make all the difference.  Part of the “aloha of the paddle” is the great community of people willing to share info and insights about all aspects that impact both performance and enjoyment!

A conversation with Randall Barna, SUP pioneer and owner of FootForm Performance Orthotics Center in Bend Oregon, always leads to great technique insights. During a recent paddle I was absently day-dreaming about my soon-to-be delivered Hulu KIALOA paddle while listening to the steady rippling of wind current under my board.  I wasn’t really thinking of my technique, just sensing the paddle position through the reach and recovery and watching out for river otters. Randall commented, “You might want to try something a little differently as you switch your paddle from side to side.”

I am always up for more power or speed, especially if it’s driven by efficiency. Randall showed me a seamless way to switch my paddle from side to side. Removing the upper hand as the lower hand remains steady on the paddle during the crossover (maybe inching it up the shaft an inch or so) allows the “new” bottom hand to grab at just the right spot allowing an immediate “reach and dig” as the new upper hand slides up to the grip. It was a simple change but really added a solid confidence to switching paddle sides.

Board speed and chop, two foot placement variables

Board speed and chop, two foot placement variables

As long as Randall was sharing insights gained by a lifetime of wind and water sports I invited him to share tips on foot placement. “The key to foot placement is adapting and adjusting to all the variables. As soon as you think you’ve nailed your stance something changes! The two main variables are board speed and chop. The two errors are tail drag and pushing the nose.

You’re too far back on the board and tail drag is a drag. It slows you down more than anything else! Too far forward and you’re pushing water instead of gliding. The key is a balance between the two.”
Variables in board speed require you to make constant, minor adjustments. Take some pictures of yourself on your board while pictures standing still. Is  the tail is out of the water? With a little speed the tail is right on the surface. That’s because under power the board starts sinking into the trough of it’s own bow wave. naishbow
Randall continued, “Progressing into higher speeds the bow wave gets bigger, the board lower, and eventually it hits “hull speed,” a point where it won’t go any faster no matter how hard you paddle.  Every board responds to this differently and is dependent on the weight of the paddler too. You just have to experiment with foot placement at hull speed, find your sweet spot, and mark your toe line on your board as an instant reference.”
Note: huge grin on Randall’s face as he shares this: “The big thrill in riding an SUP is planing! To achieve planing you have to get your bow through your bow wave, up and over it! Nobody has ever accomplished this by paddling. Longer boards are faster due to a longer interval between the bow wave and tail wave,but still no planing via paddle.  It takes a boost from an outside source like wind and waves. As soon a the boards cuts-loose onto a plane you have to adjust your foot position faster than poop-thorough-a-goose. The nose will dive, the tail was lifted by the wave, so step back. You need to constantly walk the board and paddle to keep it on a plane, and enjoy the ride.”
Champing at the bit to get on  Naish 14' Glides on Maui

Champing at the bit to get on Naish 14′ Glides on Maui

Experimenting on flat water is not easily transferred to choppy waters. The nose of the board becomes the focus.  If your nose is pushing, it will slap each chop and be very slow. Find a foot position where the nose will penetrate the chop without slapping or pushing. Side chop, and accompanying wind, can catch your nose and flip you over! Try a surfer-stance for more stability, with the wind at your back. You won’t be switching sides with side-winds anyway so this works. Another source of choppy water is when drafting another SUP. Then you’re dealing with their tail wake, your bow wake, and the chop all at once! All of this is a never ending challenge and one of the things that makes standup paddling so darn much fun!

Surf is Where? Arizona!

Lake Pleasant near Phoenix AZ, home of Standup Paddle Arizona http://standuppaddlearizona.com/

Without a wave in sight, an active bunch of standup paddlers have found a perfect place to hone their skills and enjoy their SUP adventures – in Lake Pleasant near Phoenix, AZ.

Stand up paddle boarding in AZ is fortunate to have a leader like Chandler local, Chad Brockman.

Chad Brockman enjoys paddling with a friend!

Chad has a versatile business and provides a myriad of resources for SUPers in Arizona.  As an instructor, he provides a strong foundation for the sport, especially for newbies, by  instructing them how to learn and practice the proper stroke.  Water is a haven from heat, a great medium for fitness, but it can also be a powerful, even destructive, force. Chad includes lessons on  how to read the water and be safe in and around a variety of waters.

Chad has been living in and around the water for 51 years.  That experiences has included plenty of adventures, but also some trials and tribulations.  “Talking story” and sharing insights based on experience adds to the value of Chad’s instruction.

Chad explains, “SUP Health not only improves your physical condition, it will gift you with a healthy mental outlook.” Part of starting new people on standup paddling is giving the “straight scoop” about purchasing the right equipment. Being able to grow into, not out of, equipment saves money and frustration in the long run.  We could not agree more.

If you live in AZ you have a super resource available. Whether you are recovering from an injury or simply want a way to have fun with friends and family and escape the intense heat, SUP is the way to go.

Anyone can do this! Standup paddle boarding can be done any time of day, even by the light of the moon. Join Arizona Standup Paddle for what could be the most fun you’ve had on the water! Chad Brockman is a bona-fide waterman with over four decades of experience world-wide. He has been introducing this new sport of SUP to the valley for five years.  Chad has become an ACE Certified SUP Fitness and a World Paddle Association Safety Instructor.

The state of Arizona offers great weather year-round. Stand-up-paddle boarding is growing as more and more people, products and places are being discovered daily.

This is a great opportunity to try out this new sport. We all like walking on water, now we can run! And get wet, and have fun with our dogs! 

 

 

 

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. 

Heroes and Hats

Many sports have had their heroes – baseball’s Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente come to mind. From Arnold Palmer to Billie Jean King, sports greats often reach out to their community, to youth, and refine their sport to its highest levels.  From the ancient heroes of standup paddle surfing, or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, to the modern pioneers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama who re-introduced the ancient sport of paddle surfing to the modern water sports world. Gerry Lopez is best known as Mr. Pipeline for pioneering one of the most challenging waves in the world with style. It was his experience and knowledge of waves and riding that allowed him to provide new SUP board shapes for these pioneers and many others.

Those who have helped standup paddling and SUP surfing become the global phenomenon it is are certainly heroes for the sport. SUP paddling and surfing is a sport with dedicated professionals who travel almost constantly as ambassadors for the sport we love.  Among them are Chuck Patterson and Karen Wrenn.  I was fortunate to meet both of these great athletes – and all round generously warm and caring people – in Bend, OR. Not only did they give popular and well-liked clinics for both beginners and advanced paddlers, they participated in all the races.

Yes, they grabbed their paddles and won the long course event (smiling and cheering on others all the way), but then they gathered at the short course, less competitive race, and built energy and zest into that race as well.  All racers got a great bag of schwag – and one of the cool new hats from Kialoa. 

I don’t usually do the “autograph” thing, but Chuck was so accessible and the spirit of the day was exactly what the sport of SUP is all about – at least in my mind.  Even though the hat is getting salty and sun-bleached, I like the reminder from the autograph when I slip it over my ponytail and head out to the water.

“Mana in humans is manifested as great skills, talents, strengths, intelligence and character. When using a KIALOA Paddle, that electric sensation one feels is the Mana. Keep Paddling,”  is quote by  Gerry Lopez on the Kialoa site.  I know that when SUP greats like Chuck and Karen are present at an SUP event they expend almost as much energy sharing their mana as they do in paddling.

Who’s the local hero for SUP in your community? Who personifies the characteristics that help the sport go from good to great in your locality? We look forward to hearing your stories and posting your photos – or linking to your blogs.  You don’t have to be a pro to be the local hero. Your “autograph” on the experience of others builds out tradition and culture – share it.