Connor Baxter Wins The Bilbao World SUP Challenge

When Connor Baxter writes a recap of his races, it’s like being right there on the water with him.  FOLLOW Connor on social media (links below) to get all his updates as they happen.  You can get the full story from SUPRacer. Read his recap now:
(Connor Baxter) The 2016 Bilbao World SUP Challenge was another huge success. Every year this event is one of the biggest stops on the Euro Tour, with an elite field of paddlers and great weekend vibe.
After a few days relaxing through Paris and Bordeaux I got to the city on Wednesday. I did a nice jog along the river where the race was going to be held, to start visualizing and planning what I needed to do.
The race was being held during max high tide, so there was little current to worry about. For that reason I just had to focus on paddling. As it got closer to the contest day the nerves and excitement started to kick in and I was ready to go! This year the points were only on the distance race so that meant one day of 120% effort. bilboa4
The race started at 4:30 in the afternoon, so it was a lazy morning of stretching and eating food before game time. When I got to the event site I set up my Starboard Sprint with my Manta Futures Fin and headed up to the starting line. It was a standing up rolling start and when that horn blew, I was a little caught off guard.  I fell back into the super choppy water. Then, I managed to catch a few little wakes from everyone and got some clean water That’s when I started to get into my rhythm for the next 14 kilometers.
There were a total of six turns in the course and I knew that negotiating them well was the only way to drop the huge train that was lined up. There were a few huge surges that dropped some of the train, but the top ten guys hung on and were together for the whole race.
bilboa3I felt really good and kept telling myself that “I got this”, which gave me a lot of energy to stay in the lead pack. Coming into the second to last turn the gear shifted and everyone had the pedal to the metal – and I dropped back to fifth place and was hurting, but then I got some inspiration from one of the greatest athletes Muhammad Ali, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” So I went in the next gear and started passing forth place and then into third before the last turn. bilboa2
As I got closer to the final buoy turn I knew if I wanted a shot at winning I needed to be turning on the inside and be the first one to turn. So I sprinted again to get on Michael Booth’s inside for the turn. I quickly turned and put my head down for the final sprint. My body was cramping up, but I just kept telling myself – mind over matter – and I sprinted even harder, until I crossed the finish line in first place.
I was super stoked to win the distance race and knowing that there wasn’t a second day of racing was a great feeling. Now off to the fourth stop of the Euro Tour – San Sebastián!!

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Dakine, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, GoPrHammer Nutrition, Go Pro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro and Hi-Tech Sports.

Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. Great Event!! A definite MUST for next year!!!

Aloha,
Connor Baxter

You can stay in touch with Connor:
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Subscribing to Connor’s  Blog
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Bend, OR = Great SUP Destination

Photo by Dennis Oliphant of Sun Country Tours

Photo by Dennis Oliphant of Sun Country Tours

You heard it here – and it’s pretty cool! The TODAY show has noticed that Bend, Oregon is an amazing place to bike, hike and STANDUP PADDLE. But we knew that! The video clip shows local, Tom Burke, doing a casual tail turn.

We could have given them connections to many more video clips, right Chip Booth, Dennis Oliphant, Michelle Alvarado and many more! If any networks are looking for the in-depth story Bendites can help!

The VIDEO is here!

Wicked Water Problems: Island-style Solutions

bahama3Imagine you are enjoying a cool drink while overlooking the beautiful crystal blue water of the Caribbean and the white sand beaches of the Bahamas. As you think about it, you wonder — where did these ice cubes come from, and where did the water come from that made the punch?

You’re surrounded by the beautiful seawater, but you know you can’t drink it. That leaves a small dot of an island as the only source for your water. More than likely the water in your drink came from a well. But given the small size of the island, the amount of fresh groundwater available is limited.

So the question: Where do tourists get their water? Do they get from it from the same well that the island’s residents do, or does the resort ship in its own water?

A bigger and better question: Could our youngest generation- who will be inheriting such water issues- be inspired to imagine solutions both creative and effective for solving such wicked problems?

(Pause for a moment and watch a video that will inspire and knock your socks off)

More than likely, the resort takes the water out of the island aquifer and treats it to make the water a level of freshness acceptable to tourists. Unfortunately, as the water is drawn from the local aquifer and treated, the fresh water that remains for the Bahamian residents becomes saltier.bahama1

Is this fair to the residents? Which is more important, fresh water for the tourism industry or freshwater for island residents? Is the salty water from the aquifer a minor inconvenience for the residents who can buy bottled freshwater, or is it a social injustice that takes away a basic human right from the resident?

There are no simple answers to these questions. The fact is the residents need the tourism industry to earn money and make a living. On the other hand, the degradation of water quality is a negative impact on the islanders’ quality of life. 

bahamas4Such a dilemma represents a “wicked problem” (Rittel and Webber 1973). A wicked problem represents a conflict between stakeholders (tourists and Bahamians in this example) that has no clear-cut answers and no clear winners or losers. More than likely such a wicked problem will continue over time and never be resolved to either side’s satisfaction. 

Around the world as people gobble up resource, create too much trash, plastic and waste – and as global weather cycles ebb and flow, the need for creative, unique and imagination-rich solutions is becoming more crucial. Did you watch the video about the billboard that makes water?

bahama2 - CopyWe CAN empower our tech-savvy and vulnerable youth who will be inheriting our planet. We can begin with one youth, one school and one community at a time. We can invest in solutions by empowering the very youth for whom we hope to save our global waters. We can begin with a hefty dose of FUN, the SUP kind.

Connecting technology, active ocean sport, resources and fertile ground for nurturing solutions can empower solutions for island communities challenged by wicked water issues. That is the premise of ELDER SUP’s crowd-funding project: STANDUP FOR MOTHER OCEAN. We will begin connecting our support and advocacy in than the incredible Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

Want to learn more? FOLLOW ELDER SUP on Facebook

 

Archie Kalepa: Walk the Talk -TEDx

archie-canoeaerila

The first time we saw Archie Kalepa was at the 2012 Olukai Ho’olaule’a event at Kanaha beach on Maui. We were on the beach waiting for our turn to ride on the new Olukai sailing canoe, Kamakani Eleu (the spirited wind). Lots of the Olukai team were sitting around talking story and we were fascinated. Little did we know the legendary watermen surrounding us, including Archie. By the time we flew across the swells we had a solid appreciation of the culture and spirit behind the teams who race these sailing canoes – and the Olukai team that brings the Ho’olaule’a experience to us all.

 What a surprise to find Archie’s presentation at Olukai’s TEDx Maui online. (see video below). Archie Kalepa, one of Hawaii’s greatest ocean sports pioneers, Hawaiian Lifeguard, and Director of Maui County Ocean Safety Division recently retired and joined the OluKai marketing team full-time as the Konohiki (caretaker). As the Konohiki, Kalepa will support and direct the brand in remaining authentic to the ocean lifestyle and respectful of the Hawaiian culture through hands-on participation in marketing activation.Who could be better at maintaining strong ties to the Hawaiian culture?

Settling in front of my computer with a cup of coffee this cold Oregon winter morning I got both butterflies and inspiration from Archie’s compelling style of story-telling. He explained, “In surfing as in life you need to know where you need to be.” On a surfing canoe there is a huge difference between “riding” and surfing. To truly surf you need to know the lineup, study the wind and be where you need to be. We need to be adaptable and “crack the code” or find the formula for both challenging surf spots and – life. Archie’s true passion is using his skills to share the experience with friends while keeping them safe. archie-board5

With more than 30 years as a Hawaiian Lifeguard, this elite and humble waterman has saved countless lives, revolutionized lifeguarding today as one of the pioneers of personal-water-craft (PWC) and PWC sleds for use in tow-in surfing and ocean rescue, and became the trailblazer in establishing long distance SUP racing. In August of 2012, he was inducted into Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation’s Hawaii Waterman Hall of Fame, the highest honor a waterman can achieve in Hawaii.

archiek-canyonIn call to us all to reach for our dreams and risk taking the steps to achieving those dreams, Archie noted that we are becoming out of tune with nature. By using technology instead of our instincts we miss many authetic and life changing opportunities. One such opportunity came Archie’s way and he grabbed it – going 187 miles in 17 days he was the first to SUP the entire length of the Grand Canyon. (video and story here)

“Connect with your culture,” advises Archie. As a waterman or in everyday choices, life is like a big ride. Talk about a big ride, Archie shared the story of his favorite ride on the iconic wave off Maui’s north shore, Pe’ahi. Because so many people visit Maui and go to the trouble to make their way through muddy and gullied dirt roads to take their place on the cliff to see (or more often not see) the break, Archie poses the idea that as a wonder of the world Pe’ahi should be recognized as such.

Archie Kalepa surfing Pe'ahi - photo by Damian Antioco

Archie Kalepa surfing Pe’ahi – photo by Damian Antioco

As a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Archie has traveled to Tahiti on both the Hokulea and the Hawaiiloa traditional voyaging canoes, and is dedicated to resurrecting interest in the traditional Hawaiian sport of canoe surfing. 

As a public-safety expert, a big-wave surfer and a Hawaiian Waterman, Archie Kalepa is driven to help others and spread what he calls the spirit of “aloha,” the Hawaiian greeting. “Sharing the spirit of aloha is always giving somebody a helping hand, always giving somebody a kiss. Always when somebody needs help, you help them, show them how to be good people,” he says. “That’s what the aloha spirit is, showing people love. It’s what people from Hawaii do. It’s how we live our life.”

 Archie Kalepa: Foil Boarding from OluKai on Vimeo.

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)

 

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!

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.