SUP for Everyone: Naish ONE

Giving it my all in the OPEN Course race - so much fun!

Giving it my all in the OPEN Course race – so much fun!

Last weekend I competed in the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Compete is not the right word. Let’s just say that I was on my board and paddling in both the downwind and course OPEN class races and having a blast. Energy was high, the elite paddlers were exciting to watch and meet and the wind conditions kept us all on our toes.  The paddlers from the BigWinds JET team were inspirational, and true ambassadors for both our sport and their coach, Steve Gates.

bonnoe

Bonnie Fromm leading our OPEN Women’s Course Race

If I had to think of one disappointing part of the weekend, it was that I won both a first and second place award.  I had paddled hard and enjoyed catching glide after glide on the Saturday downwind event – and then because there were only two of us in the age 50+ category riding a 14′ board I was fortunate to win (out of two??). Then on Sunday’s course race the real  “win” was showing up and participating. The wind cranked furiously  through the Gorge and made our 4 laps  on the upwind leg and turning at the downwind buoy a mega-challenge.  I remembered to have fun – and I charged out of the water at the end of the event pretty darn stoked!  But placing second out of two (YAY! Bonnie Fromm rocks with the win) in the 50+ age group was no cause for celebration. The participation was the prize.

I was puzzled as to why there weren’t more women in our OPEN classes. What could be done to turn the avid SUP paddlers on shore into participants rather than spectators? How could all the organization, effort and energy of the race management team be shared among more OPEN athletes?  The elite classes were full of amazing, world-class competitors.  What about the rest of us? What sort of race event could generate entries and participation across a more broad bunch of paddlers?

I didn’t have to wait long for the answer.  Steve Gates and the team from Naish had a super-cool event planned.  They had a fleet of Naish ONEs (12’6″ inflatable one-design boards) on the beach and ready for a team relay event – with rules that leveled the playing field for any participants. The Team Relay was a fun four person relay race  contested on a short course right in front of the spectator viewing area at the Waterfront Park (Hood River, OR) . Each Team was required to have at least one athlete under age 16 and one female. The young paddler and the female couldn’t be the same person. Elite athleteswere placed onto teams by the Race Director, Steve Gates of BigWinds. The Relay Race was run all on Naish One boards,

As he announced the rules, Steve Gates explained the fun-factor of the “race, “Go out and have a blast with the Naish ONE boards. They are inflatable and forgiving if you run into each other or fall off. They’re just right for any size or skill-level. This is a fun a event, be prepared to get wet and laugh.” Well, that is exactly what happened.

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

The elite athletes, as you can see from the photos. were having as much fun as the 10-year-old kids.  Even though the elites had just completed 5 loops in a gnarly, windy course they were back to play. The spectators loved watching. One of the coolest things for me was to see people lining up to have a chance to demo the Naish ONEs once the event was over.  The “have-fun” spirit of the relay event seemed to last. People were paddling, sharing tips, bumping into each other, practicing tail-turns and buoy turns and generally sharing a hefty portion of aloha. And isn’t that what it’s all about? (Click on each image for a larger image)

naishrelay2 naishrelay3 naishrelay4 naishrelay5 naishrelay6

I am looking forward to seeing more events like the Naish ONE team relays. I expect as people gain experience and confidence in that laid-back race venue they will take a chance with an OPEN event or two. Racing, like life, is a lot more fun when we focus on the experience more than the outcome. The next place I know of in which there will be Naish ONE fun will be in Las Vegas in early October – read more here.

SUP Mentor: Candice Appleby

One year ago I had never set foot, or paddle, in the mighty Columbia River.  I planned to be a spectator at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. At the last minute, some confidence-building from Brit Oliphant and a 20-second chance conversation with Candice Appleby gave me the boost needed to “GO!” when the horn blew to start the downwind race in 2012. This year I had a bucket list goal: participate in both the downwinder and the course race no matter what the conditions.

alThe wind blew enough for the downwinder to make it fun and then it cranked up a few notches and nearly blew us off our boards on the 4 upwind legs of the course race.  At the end of the weekend you’d think that the coolest stoke would have been from competing in the events. That wasn’t so. As in most great parts of life, the real stoke comes from the people and connections.  Al Paterson who wrapped engaging stories and accurate commentating around every minute of the event was one such person.  Seeing the smiles on the face of Steve Gates as he supported, inspired and just plain had fun watching his amazing team of JET athletes on the water was another treasure.

Steve Gates is the heart and inspiration behind this amazing team of young water athletes

Steve Gates is the heart and inspiration behind this amazing team of young water athletes

On Friday afternoon, Ed and I were sitting by the water watching some of the elite athletes out practicing. Among them was Candice Appleby. You can call what she was doing “Practice” but there is no doubt that she was simply having a blast. She was negotiating tail turns and maneuvers again and again, all with a big grin and “wooops” when she’d splash in the river – back up for more.

funFun as it was it had to be exhausting, but you’d never know. From there Candice headed to a photo shoot with a few other of the elites and the next thing I saw, she was dashing around on the lawn playing tag with a few giggling kids. Throughout the weekend, parents would stop with their young paddlers to get a bit of advice or have a chat with Candice. No matter how close it was to a starting horn or how many others were around, Candice always seemed to have the time to connect, to talk, to hand off one of her hats and to make someone’s day!

She’s got time for the young – and the old. Both days I was the oldest female athlete on the courses – any win was a function of the minimal number of participants over age 50 (or 60!) This year I was fine doing the downwinder with Ed.  In fact, couldn’t wait to jump into that one. The course race with the wind blowing stink X 3 was another thing.  Standing on the beach before the event Candice came by to see how I was doing.  A few pointers on staying aerodynamic upwind and a quick demo of how to execute the short choppy strokes that could power me upwind changed the butterflies into readiness.

The race that started before the OPEN Women was the grom race. One youngster who seemed to be about 10 was not crying, but close to it. Her mom was doing her best to share confidence. Candice strolled over and checked out the situation. A few minutes, a few smiles later with new determination that little girl leaped to her feet at the start horn and paddled her way into windy chaos, never looking back!

Sprained ankle taped and ready to GO

Sprained ankle taped and ready to GO

The OPEN race began, and we all set off. It was grueling to reach that first upwind mark. Candice had told me to gather my balance and mindset after turning that mark for the downwind leg. Good to remember. I had some water, eased my breathing steady and got some glides going. I am not even going to talk about the chaos and challenge that turning the downwind mark to begin the uphill battle back upwind was. Suffice it to say I was exhausted by the time I made my way toward the turning buoy on the beach after lap number one. 2010-03-13 02.23.04

But from there, things got better. The wonderful JET girls in their bright orange shirts were fun to paddle around. Hearing them cheer and tease each other, give space at the buoys and generally compete with heart fueled the next few laps.  As I approached that challenging downwind turning mark for the last time I noticed Candice was in the water warming up doing repeats up and down wind by the shore.  Somehow she noticed me coming and gave a cheer that added energy to that last turn.  Heading toward the beach and the end she got a pretty big smile from me as I set up my position and strokes for the most power in that last segment. 2010-03-13 02.31.07

I don’t know how she balances it all. The world of an elite standup paddler is full of endless training, endless travel, and the need to be both leader and ambassador for our fledgling sport.  These elite women certainly don’t do all they do for the money, that’s another issue entirely.  For the many SUP athletes who benefit from athletes like Candice and their inspiration, we have the task of taking that example and making it our own. No matter what our experience or records of wins/losses, we all have something we can share.  Thanks for the example and for the inspiration, Candice Appleby.

Naish ONE: Fun!

In about 6 weeks I’ll be leaving on a jet plane for Battle of the Paddle. I missed it last year and cannot wait to be part of the biggest SUP celebration around. Nearly six MONTHS ago I started looking for a 12’6″ race board to rent. The initial quest was quite specific – and within a few months I was regretting the purchase of a plane ticket and the long long drive was starting to seem like the best bet. There were no boards of any kind, any size to rent (beg or borrow) for the event.  I was thinking of dumping the plane ticket and strapping my surfboard to the car and heading south to be a part of the OPEN Surfboard class.

Then I had the chance to talk with Steve Gates at Big Winds in Hood River, Oregon.  He had the answer for me – and for many others, most likely.  He invited me to come on up to take the Big Winds shuttle and give his demo/rental Naish ONE a try on my favorite down wind run from Viento to the Hood River event site.  Better yet, I thought I’d buy one – but these inflatable one-design standup 12’6″ boards are so popular that they’ll be sold out for another week or so.  I will have to wait until I arrive in Hood River for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge to get two Naish ONEs – one for me and one for hubby, Ed. We travel a lot by air – I think these Naish ONES will get more air miles than even water miles!

naishone1I carry way more baggage than what’s in the cool carry case for the Naish ONE. Rather than fill in the back story of the board specifications here, you can find out everything on the website.

What really has me jazzed is the opportunity for one-design racing, youth racing, family activities, and travel adventure and exploration that the Naish ONE can drive. (Follow Naish on Facebook)

One early entry in hosting a one-design event was the Weymouth Ecover Blue Mile, held at the 2012 Olympic water sports venue. It proved a resounding success with an amazing 467 people taking part in the Naish N1SCO One design SUP races and free taster sessions.  Naish UK put up £1,000 in prize money for a series of races, in which all riders used the Naish ONE 12‘6” N1SCO Inflatable board. The event included an intermediate race (400m), sprint races (100m), and a 1,500m course – the Ecover Blue Mile. Watch a recap of the event here: http://vimeo.com/71723598

Hundreds take part in Ecover Blue MIle Weymouth 2013

Hundreds take part in Ecover Blue MIle Weymouth 2013

Alex Tobutt, a representative of Naish UK, said the weekend had introduced SUP to brand new enthusiasts,  “The really nice thing was that the SUP racing wasn’t elitist; anyone could take part. “We had people of all ages and experience and some people had never done it before – and all of them were able to do it.  Another great thing was that although everyone was competing, they were also helping each other and supporting each other. ”

pramI grew up sailing and surfing, doing the juniors one-design sailing back in the 50’s. Then as our family grew up enjoying swimming and one-design sailing in a yacht club setting, the extensive value, family connection, sportsmanship and camaraderie around wind and water sports was priceless.  As yacht and sailing clubs begin to adopt standup paddling as a youth and family program option for sport and fitness, it’s important that the same careful consideration put into selecting one-design sailing craft is invested into the SUP purchase.

I have talked with a good number of sailing coaches and program managers who have bought a small fleet of standup boards based on the “flavor of the month” suggested by an eager retailer. It’s a real shame to miss the “boat,” so to speak on the powerful trend and historical value of the one-design class. If you have influence on a decision of this type, share this information and support a wise, long term investment.   It’s easy enough to locate a Naish dealer in your geographic area and get some solid information about the future of one-design and the versatility and performance of the Naish ONE.

Important, too, is to understand the organization behind this trend.  Take a look at the event home at N1SCO.  It’s exciting. Who knows, perhaps a young person you know (or you yourself) might just find themselves on the podium at an upcoming championship (Event Page)

 

SUP Jazzed: Mighty Columbia River Gorge

A short 10 months ago I hopped on my 11’3″ surfboard (too scared to use the Naish 14′ Glide recommended by cool Steve Gates) and launched into 30+ mph winds and screaming river waves.  It was my first foray into the Columbia River and my first real down winder. Jazzed is an understatement, hooked on the stoke became the reality.

Judy and Ed loving life on a down-current glassy Columbia Gorge paddle

Judy and Ed loving life on a down-current glassy Columbia Gorge paddle

If I knew then what I know now, I would have totally paddled the Naish 14′ Glide – holy cow what a ride!

We recently survived one of the strangest down-wind Maliko runs (no wind, huge swell and confused chop) at the Olukai Ho’olaulea. The glides we got were awesome fun and only got us more hooked. We were in Hood River, Oregon for a clinic by Jeremy Riggs hosted by Steve Gates at BigWinds. Saturday dawned glassy so we did the “cocktail cruise” from Mosier to the Hood River event center. We took the BigWinds shuttle and had an absolute party for the sense as we cruised the 8 mile section.  In anticipation for the huge wind predicted for Sunday, we practiced some tail turns (splash!!!) and bracing. (anticipating Sunday’s clinic with Jeremy Riggs)

The Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge of 2012 was an amazing gathering or elite watermen and women, well-coached youth paddlers and every sort of talent in-between.  Clinics were provided, experts were available and safety crews on jet skis created a terrific event from start to finish.  There were well-attended clinics by Naish team rider, Karen Wrenn and great support and fun for all! The grom clinic given by Kai Lenny was one example of the positive attitude and easy manner of teaching while sharing expertise that Kai enjoys. (Be sure to catch the new GQ trailer featuring Naish team rider, Kai Lenny – well done!)

Hood River - be there and look for Elder SUP - can't wait to meet you

Hood River – be there and look for Elder SUP – can’t wait to meet you

There’s no question where we’ll be the weekend of August 17-18, 2013. We’ll be at Hood River with hundreds of others all praying for wind.  When you think of the Columbia River Gorge you probably picture trees bending and whitecaps boiling from the consistent winds generated by conditions at the river’s mouth near Astoria, OR.  For paddlers of all skill levels, there is something for everyone. You might just come upon the Gorge on one of its quieter days.

If you do, simply head over to BigWinds, talk to Jason or Steve and get yourself a Naish Glide. Windy or glassy, you are in for a sensory celebration.

Summer Sun: SUP Performance Wear

Midway through a 12 mile paddle in my Sweet Waterwear paddling top and compression pants

January warm in my Sweet Waterwear paddling top and compression pants

As temperatures rise we slap on the sunscreen and savor summer SUP fun.  As the paddles get longer, as your skills drive the quest for more adventures, more exploring, more down-wind wildness there’s another key item to consider – performance paddling gear. It’s not just a cozy layer to keep the chill off – the right gear makes all the difference as we push our endurance, challenge our muscles and work our joints.

The first thing we did was to check out the Naish 14′ Glides we’d be using all weekend.  Steve Gates and Jason at Big Winds took great care of us.  Hood River (Oregon) looks like Naish Central whether it’s SUP, windsurfing or kite-boarding. naish2naish-flga

We enjoyed a clinic by Jeremy Riggs of Maui as part of the fun provided by Big Winds in Hood River, Oregon. On Saturday the wind was a rare serene breeze allowing us to do a glassy down current run from Mosier back to the Hood River event center. Sunday roared in with steady 25 mph winds cranking up the Columbia River Gorge spiced with gusts of 30 mph or more.  The river provided sweet glides, a good bit of chaos with side chop and sets that encouraged us to try connecting glides and soaring.  It was epic for all 25 of us!

Candice Appleby shows us how it's done!

Candice Appleby shows us how it’s done!

Hauling my drippy self onto my board again and again was an effort. Instead of being chilly, as the wind quickly dried my Sweet Waterwear performance top I warmed up easily.  After the race while we chatted and enjoyed a local “cold beverage” my legs felt hugged and cared for in my Pro Elite Performance Tights.

We love to look toward our favorite elite water athletes for tips on gear and training – it just makes good sense to notice what they’re wearing for enhanced performance.  In the video below the silver arms of my performance top is just the half of the cool fuschia I love!

Saturday: Glassy Goodness ( see video here)

Sunday: Epic Columbia River Downwind

What is Elite SUP?

A great athlete is more than just the sum of their attributes. A great athlete brings something beyond the average to their sport. Not too long ago I wrote an article about Steve Gates Of Big Winds, a top notch shop in Hood River , OregonEstablished in the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River, Oregon in 1987, Big Winds is one of the largest windsurfingkiteboarding and stand up paddleboarding product and accessory stores in the United States. Their staff members are experienced players who are passionate about their sports and equipment and ready to offer expert advice. In addition to an enormous rental/demo fleet for all skill levels, ourwindsurfing and stand up paddleboarding school is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest and our lesson programs include kids camps, junior camps, and private and group lessons for men and women of all ages.

One of the JET-Big Winds Junior Elite Team pleased with her race!

One thing not mentioned in a description of Big Winds is the passionate and inspiring, Steve Gates. There were many incredible moments at the 2012 Columbia River Gorge Challenge, but among my favorites were moments watching Steve interact with his JET- Junior Elite Team  members. Even though circumstances kept Steve on shore instead of out on the river for the event, he was an integral part of every aspect from start to finish. Each time I spotted on of the JET signature orange shirt (see picture at right) Steve was usually who they sought out.

One of the jet athletes in particular had just finished the course race on Saturday. He raced from the water and through the finish line, made a hard left and jogged down to the beach where Steve was watching the event. High fives and smiles, hands actively pointing out something on the course, the two were immersed in an exciting recount of an event that was obviously cool and meaningful to both. This sort of connection was clear throughout the entire event. Steve’s commitment to the teens’ development through SUP was heart warming to observe.

If you didn’t know who Steve was as he quietly supported every aspect of the event through both days, you might have missed him as he wasn’t decked in the bright orange of his team.  

Steve Gates engaged is all aspects of the Gorge Paddle Challenge from start to finish and months of training for his JET athletes.

Steve Gates who realized an idea for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge into a great happening is a terrific example of an elite athlete in the sport. No matter what his expertise and abilities have generated as far as his own athletic accomplishments, his commitment to developing the youth of Hood River toward their best potential inspires the word, “elite” as one description of Steve.

We’ve written before about the “grinnin’ and giving” among SUP leaders, Steve is right there with them. His ready smile and endless bounty of commitment to the sport we love inspires.

What inspires Steve you might ask, “I am inspired by everyone who is trying to make our planet a better place for everybody.”

Teach a newbie to SUP if you have a chance, notice who’s giving time and coaching to your local younger athletes. There’s something for all of us to contribute toward making our planet a better place – one gesture at a time.

Radiating Insights and SUP Aloha

I live in Oregon and have had the good fortune to meet Karen Wrenn a few times. From those experiences I recognized that on top of being an incredible athlete and a stellar Mom, she is extraordinarily giving when it comes to what she’s learned through SUP. So I follow her blog, and follow her posts on Facebook.  You may want to as well.

Karen Wrenn introducing her group to proper paddle technique. Photo by Ed Shasek

Just last week at the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge we arrived on Friday just in time to attend the Positively Kai Grom Clinic.  There, nearly engulfed by several dozen eager pre-teens was smiling, calm Karen.  Kids at that age can behave like a herd of cats, but they remained focused and attentive throughout the land training. Parents hovering around the edges seemed particularly pleased when Karen made sure the kids got their PDFs or borrowed one for water time. One worried mom pulled Karen to the side, hands holding tight on your young son’s shoulders. After a few moments’ conversation, with a smile, the mom handed off the boy who no longer seemed so hesitant. Confidence at each step of the way seemed to be the theme.

With the clinic on Friday, a course race on Saturday and a blustery down wind run on Sunday every on of the top athletes had plenty on their plates. Just the same, Karen took some time to answer my questions about what would be my very first experience on the Columbia River. I haven’t determined what race board to buy just yet and have only about 4 lake races using a 12’6″ Hobie or Amundson. Steve Gates had already hooked me on the benefits of using a race board like the Naish Glides he carries at Big Winds.  As a Naish team rider, Karen showed me why she chose the Glide as well.

I had never been in the Columbia River, not had I ever paddled any board larger than 12 feet long. I asked Karen, “Would it be crazy for me to use my 11’3″ Amundson surfboard in the conditions we’ll have in Sunday? Will I be like dead last, or crazy slow?” The winds were expected to be 30-40 mph and i was freaking out more than a little.

That was the beginning of a valuable conversation. I learned where to go on the river and what to do should a barge come along. (A HUGE double barge did send me almost to the Washington side of the river)  She explained the sort of swells I might encounter and how to surf them to connect the most glides. Best of all, her easy assessment of my ability to not only do the race but also enjoy it gave me one more level of confidence.  Cool too, was being able to watch Karen’s technique in the course race, rounding marks, planting her paddle for the “catch” and using her legs and core. And did her Glide ever “gliiiiiiiide!”

Karen Wrenn rounds the bay buoy in the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge course race. Photo by Ed Shasek

I guess it all added up. Holy cow! I am solidly addicted to the sort of conditions we had on the Gorge Paddle Challenge downwinder. Totally jazzed I can’t wait to get back there to do it again – Summer 2013.

It hadn’t been too long ago that the ultimate SUP race, the Molokai 2 Oahu race took place. I have been a swimming, sailing, surfing, ocean person since birth and crossing big ocean expanses (with safety and support) has been a dream. (I wrote about that dream in an earlier blog)  Could I ever train enough in this seventh decade of life to manage that? Deliriously I thought – maybe?

With further insight I realize that the novice attempting that crossing – in or out of that event- would be somewhat disrespectful to the power of that channel and the esteem of the challenge. Karen wrote a powerful blog about Molokai 2 Oahu not too long ago. The article wove the challenge with the tradition. It underscored the dedication and training commitment the athletes who successfully cross the channel have invested.

I know that the Molokai 2 Oahu will always be what it has been to me – a dream. But it is also a window to what the top athletes in SUP can do. In my own way, at my own level I can be my best by keeping personal abilities in perspective. Training as much as I can as wisely as I can toward the events that make sense for me might be more fulfilling than chasing a dream.

Karen Wrenn with her signature smile racing to the finish.

Thanks to the athletes like Karen, Candice Appleby, Brit Oliphant and Suzie Cooney we can all aspire to our best. Follow their blogs, see what they dedicate to the sport through Facebook and YouTube video. Be the best YOU can be and celebrate the journey. Smile!