Maui Magic: Surf and Downwinders

Home sweet home when on Maui - Naish Maui Pro Center

Home sweet home when on Maui – Naish Maui Pro Center

Months of planning and dreaming precede every trip to Hawaii or any of our favorite surfing and paddling destinations. When we head to Maui, it is so relaxing and cool to know exactly where we will rent top quality boards and feel “local” from the moment we walk in the door.

Just minutes from the airport, we usually change from mainland shoes to our Olukai’s at the car rental booth and shoot right on over to grab our boards. Then it is off to the Naish Maui Pro Center.naishimport1

A quick phone call was all we needed to chat with Coach, Jay or any member of the team. We discussed December weather, surf probability – and got our Hokuas and our downwind Naish ONEs for fun all week,

Jay, Coach and the entire Naish Maui ProCenter team is YOUR local connection on Maui

Jay, Coach and the entire Naish Maui ProCenter team is YOUR local connection on Maui

Not only is the shop filled with great kiteboarding gear, apparel and awesome boards – but local knowledge and a casual willingness to share. For instance – the wind was blowing crazy, a Kona wind and we were not familiar with that. Jay let us know (by checking the computer right at the counter) where the protected bays and surf spots might be (Launiupoko not Ka’anapali Beach).

There is a culture that oozes from Naish Maui Pro Center. Naish is a company that builds awesome boards for every water sport – wind, kite, surf and downwind. Beyond the top quality manufacturing we expect from Naish, how often do you think of the culture behind the brand. Seriously – Robby Naish has soared past his 50th birthday and continues to seek adventure and challenges, records and fun on the water. (More here). That is the creative energy driving the company.

Team Naish includes gracious, community-building and off the charts phenomenal water athletes like Suzie Cooney (training), Kai Lenny, Kody Kerbox, Casper Steinfath, Riggs Napoleon, Manca Notar and more. When you walk out of the shop with your Naish boards, paddle and maybe a sweet Naish rash guard you simply feel, COOL.

We will be back for the Olukai Ho’olaule’a in May and the fun race the last Saturday in April. If you want gear for that week – Reserve now! Whenever you head to Maui – be local, be a part of the ALOHA that is Naish Maui Pro Center. Whether we are surfing or downwinding (YES, the Naish ONE rocks) we find what we need at Naish Maui Pro Center (and can trade out as wind and weather dictate).naish4

 

SUP Racing – The Power of Confidence

Confident and ready to do the Olukai Ho'olaule'a with my 12'6" Naish Glide, my KIALOA rash guard and Sweet Waterwear Women's Pro Elite Performance tights

Confident and ready to do the Olukai Ho’olaule’a with my 12’6″ Naish Glide, my KIALOA rash guard and Sweet Waterwear Women’s Pro Elite Performance tights

The unknown – it’s exciting, scary and often avoided. In 2012 while reading a blog post by Suzie Cooney (certified personal trainer – Suzie Trains Maui) I heard about an open ocean, down wind race event. It was the Olukai Ho’olaule’a – and Suzie inspired us to give the 3 mile “fun race” a try.

We were hooked after the fun race (luau, music, sailing on the Olukai sailing canoe and the spirit of aloha) and started training for the 2013 full Olukai Ho’olule’a run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park.suzie fun 2014

The conditions for the 2013 event were the worst(according to many locals) in the five years the event had been run. Winds was light or from wrong directions and the swells were breaking huge on the inner reefs. Deep ocean swells were coming chaotically from  directions that didn’t invite an easy connection of glides.

I was riding the Naish Glide 14′ (27 1/4 inches wide) after a week of practice. It was rocket fast and – for my skills – something I could handle in consistent friendly small swells, but not THAT DAY. Yup, I was in the water a LOT! Just the same the experience was exhilarating and I could hardly wait for the 2014 event. (video here)

Blue hat is me at the N1SCO World Championships in 2013 (Lake Las Vegas)

Blue hat is me at the N1SCO World Championships in 2013 (Lake Las Vegas)

Here’s where confidence made all the difference. Living in Oregon, far from Maui and the type of conditions I selected for my favored racing environment,  many resources allowed me to be fully prepared for absolute fun and my best Maliko run to date. I continued to train with motivation and advice, stories and smiles from Suzie Cooney. The team at Naish Maui Pro Center listened to my adventure with the 14′ race board and helped me select the 12’6″ Naish Glide for this year’s Olukai Ho’olaulea. The video below shows highlights. I was confident, stable and caught dozens upon dozens of swells and glides. After almost a year riding and paddling, catching waves and racing on my inflatable 12’6″ Naish ONE I hit the water ready for fun!

The wind was more fresh (Yay) than expected and it was a headwind workout to get to the starting line. I put my head done and started cranking up my speed to get there in time for the start. Confidence-builder =  hearing the cool, calm voice of Suzie Cooney who’s always ready to share her expertise on the water. “Slow down, stay calm, and save your energy for the event,” she said with a grin.

And before I knew it, we were off – and it was SO MUCH FUN. I placed better than I expected among the top 30 women – and what’s more. I gained so much confidence that my next down wind races will be on the newly designed Naish Glide 14.0 GS. Locally I can rent one from Big Winds for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and reserve one on Maui at the Naish Maui Pro Center. Read more on 5 Steps to Build YOUR Racing Confidence.

5 Steps to Building SUP Racing Confidence (Click for Full Article)

SUP Endurance: Karen Wrenn Rocks

In a few short weeks SUP endurance athletes will gather for a cause at the 100 Mile Paddle, the ultimate adventure paddle & race for teams and elite paddlers.

100mile3This two day adventure paddle will start 75 miles north of NYC and follow the Hudson River to a breathtaking loop around Manhattan. It’s not surprising that KIALOA Paddles team rider, Karen Wrenn will be there paddling strong and raising funds for causes she cares about. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and funding for Autism Charities and Clean Water Initiatives.

As cool as the event sounds, it is not for the un-prepared.  Training for an endurance event of this sort is almost as grueling as training to, let’s see, climb Mt Everest.  The point is that the athletes able to solo a 100-mile paddle have demonstrated discipline, commitment and focus in their training.  So, what about us mere mortals who might want to do a crossing, paddle 30-40 miles or simply prep for race season?

Karen Wrenn training with friends

Karen Wrenn training with friends

If you take a page out of Karen’s book you’ll add a key ingredient – have fun training.  If you follow Karen’s blog or LIKE her on Facebook you’ll discover how she keeps the stoke going.  You’ll see her on one of her quiver of NAISH SUP boards almost every day.  All work and no play is definitely not her style. A busy mom, Karen adds family fun to time on the water for a terrific win-win experience. wrenn-100

Whether on the flatwaters of an Oregon lake, the often gnarly surf on the Pacific coast or fighting upstream currents (and dodging freighters) on the Columbia River, Karen is putting her time in to prepare well for the 100 Mile Paddle.

Another NAISH SUP team rider, Suzie Cooney, CPT, has shared some endurance training ideas that any of us can use.  She is excellent at breaking down each aspect of strength and endurance required for your best SUP experience. According to Suzie, “You already know that balance is a huge part of being a good paddler but so is leg strength.  It’s much easier to train the larger muscle groups such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calve muscles, but what about the tine supportive muscles around the ankle joint, knees and hips?  They are often under trained and overlooked.”

I couldn’t agree more. I read Suzie’s article and have added her suggestions to my weekly training routine – with surprising results. I look forward to hearing your comments.

wrenn-naishboard1Maybe we won’t charge the Maliko run like Suzie Cooney or raise funds for great causes via a 100 mile endurance race like Karen Wrenn – but we can grab our best endurance ability with gusto – and a grin!

You can follow Karen Wrenn on Twitter.

Maliko Musings: Olukai Ho’olaule’a

When experienced standup paddlers describe the downwind run you are about to do the very next day and they say, “It’s going to be harrowing, huge swells and very little wind,” that does not build confidence!

The start of the 2013 Olukai Ho'olaule'a at Maliko Gulch

The start of the 2013 Olukai Ho’olaule’a at Maliko Gulch

Those very conditions greeted 336 SUP downwind racers at the 5th Olukai Ho’olaule’a on May 11.  Little did I know as I paddled out of the Maliko Gulch what was in store.  The tide was flowing in, the swells delivered confused chop and the wind clocked toward our faces as we paddled past the reefs and cliffs about a mile and a quarter straight out to sea and the starting line.  I believed the waves would be my nemesis, but one wave in particular delivered the defining moment of that all-round incredible event!  Here’s the story:

Like most of the participants, I spent a great deal of time paddling on my knees, really getting a challenging balance workout while going for the glides or taking some head-first dunks into the confused sea.  When I had feet under me, eyes on the horizon and my paddle technique cranking out smoothly, holy cow, the Naish 14′ Glide I was riding accelerated with glee and practically begged to connect those glides. Exhilarating stuff for sure. Light as a feather, my KIALOA Hulu paddle powered me through chop and (YAY!) let me brace, balance and avoid plenty of wipeouts.

From the very first paddle stroke, as fellow participants were lifted – then disappeared – behind the swells, my fear was that I’d not be able to negotiate the beach landing. All along the shoreline from Hookipa to Kanaha and points in between the swells met reefs and created a wall of crushing white-water challenge. About 75 minutes into the race Kanaha and the life guard stand was in view. I was paddling near Sean Sweet of Sweet Waterwear when I heard him say, “Judy, look right!”

Defining moment, uncaught wave of the day. And that was a good thing!

Defining moment, uncaught wave of the day. And that was a good thing!

I braced my paddle in the water to my right, swung my eyes over and looked straight up into a building and breaking wall of gray-green and foaming wave. There was just one reaction, and it surprised the living daylight out of me – I was like, “Yeah!” and went for it. Went for it as in, “I want to catch this thing.”  Lucky for me, very lucky, the water was deep enough that instead of crushing right onto me, it re-built as a pillowing swell and swept neatly under my Glide. Also lucky for me, I realized how much I love being in the ocean, riding waves, being part of a huge community of like-spirited paddlers and enjoying the fruits of much practice and training. It’s all a very cool journey.

It’s tough to put into words the impact an event like one’s first Maliko Gulch downwind run delivers. Instread, here’s a 4 minute video that tells the tale. Much appreciation (listed in the credits at the end) go to Naish International  (Haiku), KIALOA Paddles, GoPro, and Suzie Cooney, CPT.

SUP Training: Observations

Waking up to a big dawn, orange full moon in my face and a sudden “ouch” at the first moves of the day.  Upper back, ribs, and upper abs screamed resistance at my walk to the kitchen for morning coffee. And guess what – I am one HAPPY person.

Karen Wrenn SlideAfter getting more knee and low back fatigue during longer and stronger paddles over the years I reached out for some advice on technique. Fortunately, Karen Wrenn (super inspiring) shared some insights (you can follow her on Twitter) and with some practice I am creating a more effective technique.  I found this artistically beautiful video on the HangerFox Youtube channel that allows us to observe the technique that creates that highly effective paddle stroke that serves Karen so well.

With Vimeo, YouTube, blogs by pros and all sorts of social media links, we can “meet up” with SUP professionals we admire. SKYPE is another way we can get great training tips from our favorite pros. Suzie Cooney, CPT of SuzieTrainsMaui encourages SKYPE training and has had great success with that medium.

Robby Naish (happy birthday this week) and Kai Lenny in Alaska

Robby Naish (happy birthday this week) and Kai Lenny in Alaska

Recently I watched a short video of Kai Lenny and Robby Naish paddling around icebergs and basically “chilling” in Alaska. It’s good to study their stance, paddle placement, reach, posture and recovery during racing sequences as well as more recreational paddling.  Sometimes it’s tough to assimilate exactly what is making their performance so efficient and powerful.

dave-safebackThis very short video by Dave Kalama posted on the Distressed Mullet YouTube channel gives direct and easy to implement advice on how to protect your lower back. Hinging rather than bending is a habit that is not too difficult to hone – give the video a few, or maybe a couple of views then try the movement on your next paddle.

Dave Kalama provides a more advice in his blog article I found to be easy to put into practice. “Don’t rush.”

He explains that even if your technique is effective, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are utilizing it properly. If you rush through all the phases of your stroke and don’t take the time to execute each phase correctly, then you are not using your level of technique in an efficient way.

For me, one of the pieces I took away was to take the time to really drive the paddle down into the water. Create a complete stretch of your reach. According to Dave, ” it only costs you a little patience and time to completely extend your arm forward. Also, rushing through the recovery phase will break the flow of a smooth rhythm, which is where real efficiency resides. If you rush into getting your hips all the way back under you to the neutral position, then you miss out on all the potential momentum you can generate through the hips. dave-technique

During yesterday’s training that resulted in muscle fatigue and “good workout” soreness, it might have been that fully extended reach, getting my hips back to neutral and rotating the upper body appropriately that made all the difference.  There’s nothing like practice, exploration and observation to add even more fun to this sport we love so much!

We’d love to hear from you – what blogs, videos or images have been useful as you improve your technique?

 

GoPro: Wordsmithing Images

Each week I look forward to receiving links to GoPro VIDEO OF THE DAY.  Astounding views, amazing athletes, adventures and non-stop-action abound! Always diverse and endlessly cool – naturally when my friends and I watch these we hope to create something of that caliber ourselves.  We are passionate about standup paddling of every sort and we’re crazy about getting in and on the water at every opportunity.

Full moon magic is an Elder SUP routine, how about you?

Full moon magic is an Elder SUP routine, how about you?

Take the Water – Wherever You Are: Talking story around the fire on the beach, at a lakeside campsite or over a brew in a river town used to be the default way to re-live great SUP experiences. Armed with a GoPro easily strapped to a chest mount, a head mount, or a solid mount on our board we seamlessly collect images as we play our way through the day – or full moon night.  There’s no end to the number of ways we can “take the water wherever we are” via cool video clips and movies – Dropbox, Vimeo, Picasa, YouTube, Facebook, blogs.

The next question begs, “How many of your videos are so compelling that friends – and friends of friends – actually want to watch your story?”  For me, as long as there is beautiful water, people grinning and having a good time and a play of light and sights – then I am into a video. Next caveat, attention span.

We love a production called, Reflections, but at 8 minutes it’s asking for a lot from most of us. As a poetic approach to editing wonderful video footage, it’s inspiring.

Where's your inspiration-generating water?

Where’s your inspiration-generating water? Here is Suzie Cooney of SuzieTrainsMaui.com getting her stoke on!

So here’s our plan. During an upcoming vacation to Maui, rather than trying to get epic shots of us catching waves (not so much) or attempting to capture the energy and magic of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a while actually participating, we will simply capture what we capture. We’ll plan some shots that would set a mood or emotion.  Later, all sun-burnt, salty and inspired, we’ll create the wordsmith story, maybe even a poem, that comes to mind. With that as a guide, we can watch our GoPro footage again and again. Grabbing scenes and images that can be woven into a story may be commonplace for many videographers. For us, it’s going to be new – an adventure of its own.

For a terrific example of great word-smithing of images can be, check out Blue Sway by Paul McCartney, below.

SUP Senses: Listening

Taking a spin around the perimeter of a glassy lake at sunset, traveling upstream in a class I whitewater stretch or gliding shore-ward on a gently breaking wave or sense are alive.  We experience sights, smells, the feel of water on our bare feet and the sound of water. We hear the swoosh of a glassy glide and the slap slap slap of small ripples playing off the hull.

Sometimes when I am training for a steady pace over a longer time or distance, I set the “metronome” to the sound of the slap-slap-slap of water on the board. 1-2-3 and then 1-2-3, switch sides and, 1-2-3 then 1-2-3 in a steady pace. It gets easier to maintain a pace with a steady beat going in my head.

Then comes a real eye-opener. I had a GoPro facing forward on the bow and then facing back at me during a recent glassy paddle as dusk approached last week. (video here) My 1-2-3 was way more slow in pace than I had felt while actually executing the pace.  I needed to add some intervals – and soon! With just 51 days until the first downwind event of the season I want to be totally confident and ready to go my race and my skill level- but do it well.

karmathonevent030Last Sunday I had the chance to paddle a sweet, but frosty 42 degree, 6-miler through two loops in the Deschutes River as it winds through Bend, OR.  I went with a local SUP surfer and racer, Randall Barna. Randall watched my paddle stroke and tweaked my reach and return a bit. We discussed how much Karen Wrenn’s suggestion to keep my knees and hips facing forward even as the upper torso/ribs twist. Randall had a cool way of creating the image I needed to drive forward and be more efficient with my technique.

I tend to fall backward when tossed off balance, so Randall explained the reasons to stay fully balanced on all 4 corners of both feet. Rather than driving the board hard and down – then forward, the better image is “create a buoyant feel as you press the board forward with the sense of floating it lightly but firmly.” Thinking about these tweaks allowed miles to float by easily.

I still need to build a better fitness base for the upcoming paddle season. According to Suzie Cooney, CPT (of Suzie Trains Maui, a Naish team rider), “Music added to your own SUP training session can make a huge difference in you enjoying your training session and can actually help you increase your mileage and decrease your time. Get to know your heart and lung capacity and stress yourself accordingly. Make sure you are in good physical health and have proper clearance from your physician.” Great advice.  I read her excellent article on training with a balanced tempo playlist, donned my heart rate monitor and had some great paddles so far this week. You can do the same. Take the few short minutes needed to explore Suzie’s online training article – then go enjoy standup paddling with all your senses!