Elder SUP to Elder Sail?

hmjsail Sailing has been a big part of my life since the late 1960’s when my (then high school sweetie) Ed taught me how. We sailed all over the Atlantic off Hollywood Beach, FL until our honeymoon in 1970. Then we chartered a sweet sloop and explored the Abaco, Bahamas out islands.

Over the years we were crew or captain on many ocean races and sailed our Hobie Cat and our Cal 25 for fun and adventures. In the early 1980’s I wrote a weight training/endurance article for WindRider magazine in trade for a sailboard. Surfing and sailing – what a combo.

I did not love it at first try – but after about 6 different sessions over many days I remember clearly that “aha” moment when things clicked. I was hooked. What an amazing way to “surf” when there were little waves. In S. Florida there always seems to be a steady breeze. I would drag my little kids along (literally) – these days there is no way I’d do that without flotation devices – ahh, the 80’s were another era altogether. kiki

Finally, after almost 40 years I am the proud owner of a Starboard Windsurfer.  It is inflatable and easy to travel with. Where do I plan to take it for my first warm water adventure? Back to the Abaco, Bahamas out-islands, of course.

A great feature of the 12′ 6″ Touring board with Zen technology is that it can easily be paddled so that SUP fun can partner with windsurfing fun.

Starboard-windsurfing-2019-WindSUP-inflatable-11.6-84x300Once I am back from the Bahamas and home in Ben, I know I will have plenty of days spent up at Elk Lake. Before Hood River and the Columbia Gorge brought sailboarding to new levels of speed, planing and and now – foiling, Elk Lake was the scene of its share of riding the wind. I am hoping to inspire more people to join me this summer!

Watch the video here:

svein-inflatable.jpg

Elk Lake, is about a 35-40 minute drive from Bend, Oregon and though the Elk Lake Lodge is open year round, the lake and road are usually open from Memorial Day weekend til the first snows in the Fall. Typically the lake is flat in the morning and the winds kick in during the middle of the afternoon. Most windsurfing happens after 1 p.m.

If you paddle and/or windsurf this lake, be sure to tuck some ice cream money in your board shorts and stop by the Elk Lake Lodge on the West side of the Lake (opposite Sunset Beach). The buoys are set up as a race course for standup paddling right now. It’s gonna be fun to windsurf big boards or paddle.

elk lake fog

 

Naish: Organically Cool Culture

Marti'n grabs all the board sports with gusto

Marti’n grabs all the board sports with gusto

In early December, Ed and I went to the Naish Maui Pro Center to get a couple of SUP surf boards.  We planned to mix up our water fun as we already were loving time on the Naish Glide. We were greeted by a warm smile and limitless expert help from Martin Verrastro. In no time, we felt like old friends as he showed us various boards, inquired about our abilities and where we’d be surfing. By the time we drove happily away with two Naish Mana 9’5″ boards on the roof of the car we’d learned so much about all the cool Naish options. Martin provided one more example of the sort of watermen (and women) who are part of the Naish culture.

Naish team riders come to mind when we think of “the face of Naish,” but it’s the entire Naish team from corporate, to store, to the water that live and share the vision and mission.  I’d like to introduce you to Martin, as an example.

First and foremost, Martin is a windsurfer who loves watersports, including Stand Up Paddle boarding, kiteboarding, surfing. Back when he learned to windsurf in Buenos Aires, Argentina, SUP and Kiteboarding didn’t exist. But even back then, according to Martin, “like most of the windsurfers at that time, Robby Naish was our big Hero. I still remember I used to call my windsurfers friends “Robby” to make them feel important and to motivate them when they were trying new tricks using a big long board. I’d say ‘good job Robby’ or ‘Robby, the wind is up, let’s go windsurfing’ when I called them by telephone. It was fun.”

Marti'n with Robby Naish and Dave Barral

Marti’n with Robby Naish and Dave Barral

In May 2009 as a network engineer at an IT company in Orange County,  Martin felt it was time to follow the dream he had when he first began windsurfing – to teach windsurfing and Kiteboarding in USA like he had during summers in Argentina.

martincruisIn May 2009 Hood River Oregon seemed the “perfect place” to start his adventure. There is no mistaking the excited amazement Martin had as he shared the story, “I called Jak Wilberscheid, owner of Hood River Water Play. He offered me the chance to teach during the summer of 2009 for his school. Judy! Let me tell you, when I discovered the beauty of Hood River  while working  at Jak’s school, that experience changed my life.”

I heartily agree with Martin’s  wish that I might meet Jak one day. I have no doubt he’s as an amazing person as Martin described.

The Gorge is where Martin discovered SUPing. Many events take place at Waterfront Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  He used to paddle with his friends from the event site, in the Oregon side to the hatchery in Washington side when the wind was off.

By the end of September along the Columbia River as the weather changes to Fall, wind conditions aren’t so stellar. The changes sent Martin back to California full of great memories and experiences. He set his sights on Hawaii and teaching windsurfing and kiteboarding  for “Action Sports Maui” owned and operated by the training director of IKO “international kiteboarding association” David and Suzie Dorn. At the same time he did fiberglass repairs for Kanaha Kai, a windsurf and SUP, surf shop in the north shore.

Martin explained, “In September 2011, “Coach” Jeff Hughes, manager of Naish Maui Pro Center  offered me the chance to work at the shop. Of course I accepted. Naish has the highest standards and is by far the best company in the world  in windsurfing, kiteboarding and Stand Up Paddle.  As a watersports instructor I’m pleased that most schools around the world are using Naish gear and of course, that is what we use in our school.”

martinteach

Marti’n has the experience, passion and personality to make a windsurfer from a “newbie. martin3

The icing on the cake, Martin says, “Robby Naish is my personal hero. It’s easy and enjoyable to work for someone for whom I have so much respect and admiration.”

Marti’n’s Favorite Naish Products:

Windsurf:

For Beginners, when I’m teaching

Board: Naish Kailua 230L

Sail: Naish Scout 2.5 SE

In Marti’n’s opinion, this gear should be the standard for entry level windsurfing in all the schools around the world because it makes learning windsurfing really easy and enjoyable.

When Marti’n winsurfs he uses:

Board: 80L Koncept

Sail: 5.0 Force

Harness: Moto 2012

Harness Lines: 26”

Boom: CB wave pro 140-190

Kiteboarding:

When I’m teaching Kiteboarding and when I’m riding myself I love the new ride. It is an all-round, entry level kite that offers great low end, effortless water re-launch and has a 2-strut design. Kiteboard: Naish Gun 6′ 2012 (Full Carbon Sandwich Construction) is my favorite.
It’s the perfect board for the Maui gusty winds and waves, it offers outstanding control in strong winds and choppy water with excellent stability.

Stand Up Paddle (SUP)

Board: Mana 10’0 wood sandwich (bamboo)

Paddle: Kaholo 9.0 fixed SDS (full carbon)

I really love the Mana 10’0, for small surf and flat water. It has an exaggerated tail rocker  for great turning performance. It’s wide and easy to maneuver, has 210 Liters, and a single-concave bottom shape.

For a downwinder when I’m doing t the “classic  9 mile Maliko Run, from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor” in the northshore of Maui,  I prefer  the Nalu 11’6.

“As a watersports Instructor, I know that when I  ride a Naish, I am not only riding the best, I am riding with the best. Naish No Ka Oi. Aloha!”

Suzie Trains Maui – and Eddie!

Back in the day – 1966-1970 to be exact – Ed and I were playing at surfing the mushy calf-high waves we had in balmy South Florida. We were the Beach Boys-era sweethearts. From 1970-2007 we didn’t surf, using our ocean time to sail, scuba, windsurf, fish, finish college and raise the family.  2001 found us moving life to Oregon, and by 2007 we discovered standup paddling and were back in the surf 4 decades later!

In the natural progression of things, two diverse events influenced our Summer 2012 activities.  One was Ed’s second rotator cuff surgery (yes, he was brave enough to go through that torture twice) and our trip to Maui to try the short version of the Ho’olaule’a event. Four days after the coolest downwind adventure either of us had experiences poor Ed went under the knife. But not before we were hooked on downwind, open ocean fun!

   

In the pictures above, it’s easy to see we are still the happy ocean-loving “kids” we were back in 1967 but it’s also easy to see that our abs are a bit worse for wear at age 63. Fortunately, just before the start of our event, Maui local and globally respected standup paddler/athlete, Suzie Cooney, provided a pre-race warmup. That gave us a chance not only to meet Suzie but to get to know a bit about her dedication to training a diverse group of clients from the casual paddler to elite athletes. As Ed went from wearing a sling to hefting the 3 lb weights he’s now using in PT we both made a commitment to getting into our best functional fitness over the next 8 months.

As much as we already know about exercise and nutrition, we realize that insights, motivation and programming provided by a respected professional is mandatory, especially as we embrace our seventh decade. Over the summer, Suzie Cooney has been kind enough to listen to our plan to follow her training “at a distance.” Nothing can replace actual time at her training facility with her customized training delivered face to face. Just the same, we have made a decision to glean as much as we can from her blog and conversations.  We have a solid goal in mind. We plan to be at the start line on May 11, 2013 ready to enjoy the full Olukai Ho’olaule’a downwind run from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha.

“Pie in the sky” – This Saturday I plan to join other hopefuls as I buy a couple of lotto tickets – would be cool to win $5000 or so. We’d probably jet off to Maui in November and prepare for Maliko at Suzie’s upcoming clinic. Meanwhile, training in Oregon is underway. The “training table” is becoming ever more healthful and an Indo Board is on its way to our home.  The digital age could very well allow us the best connection with our partner in preparation, Suzie Cooney. Most watched film this week – this training session from the Suzie Trains Maui blog. YES! We want endurance, core strength and balance. This is an excellent overview of some training options. Bring it, Suzie!

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.

How old would she be?

I recently saw a very cool photo on the Standup Journal Facebook page. It was “Mom Feet,” Fran – mother of Standup Journal Publisher Clay Feeter. Meet the team here and remember, “The rest of the team is US!” Cool as a cucumber and smiling broadly, Fran looked totally at home paddling at age 82 – and why not? As she says, “Attitude is everything! I still feel like a kid (except for the joints!). I have on my refrigerator a quote from Satchel Paige: ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?’ ” Right on!

Fran dove into motherhood with a surprise bonus of twins. Twin Kurt learned to windsurf early in the day, and got the rest of the family involved, including twin Clay, now publisher of Stand Up Journal. The family became ‘groupies’ in the windsurfing world, going to events in northern California, some organized by Clay and daughter Christi. There we met world renowned windsurfers, and were treated with friendship by all the young people. We never were made to feel like “old codgers”. Daughter Kerry and husband Bob joined in on events and gave them their  first grandchild soon joined by 6 more! I wondered what Fran attributes her young at heart approach to life. She says, “Our four children have been a major part in keeping us mentally young! ”


     

In the collection of photos (above) it’s hard to miss the smiles all around.  No wonder. You’ve been to the beach where 90% of the crowd takes the beach towel/beach chair route for the day. After a spin on the sea it’s hard not to grin. During the pre-2011 Battle of the Paddle festivities on Molokai Fran enjoyed some time with the competitors – and with Chuck Patterson whose grin voltage is in the Fran range! Fran decided to test out a Naish race board. Really, it’s commonplace for “grandma” to return home from errands, like the grocery store, and ask for help carrying in those heavy groceries. With the confidence and strength from a lifetime of sailing, windsurfing and paddling, Fran easily carried her own board to and from the water, like the true waterwoman she is.

Fran and Bill Feeter at home on Molokai

It’s no surprise that the ocean has been a tremendously significant influence on Fran’s lifestyle and life choices. “I actually got into making windsurfing sails in the very early days before they became so ‘high tech’. When my husband retired from teaching in northern California, I said, ‘Let’s go where the water’s warm’….so we explored the Caribbean (Belize and Virgin Islands), but decided to stay in the U.S. and move to Maui. We were there 3 years, then discovered that we could afford a house on the beach in Molokai.”

“When we moved here in 1991, we kept our sails rigged and hanging in the carport, so we could just grab them and go when the wind and tide was right (we have a fringing reef – the only one in the U.S. – just offshore, so need a foot of tide to clear it). We actually stopped windsurfing about 10 – 12 years ago. We both had knee problems (I had to drop out of hula). Knee replacement has solved that problem, but we had gotten out of the habit of windsurfing. ” True to “that’s the way Fran does it,” she stays active with the hula group helping with costumes these days.

When I asked Fran how she began standup paddling, Fran recalled her first experience five years ago. She had flown into Boston, then drove a rental car to New Hampshire to visit Clay, who lived with Joyce on a beautiful small lake. She recalls, “It was about 5 p.m. when I arrived, but Clay insisted I go out with them on a standup board right away. I put on my swim suit, sure I would immediately fall in. Well – it was an amazing experience! It was getting dusk, and we paddled around a small island in the middle of the lake, picked a few berries. Then continued on up to the end of the lake. On the way back we saw loons swimming along. I had never seen a loon, and it was ‘chicken skin’ to hear them. And amazingly, I didn’t fall in.”

    

By the way, check out the paddle Fran sports as she’s cruising the crystal clear waters of her favorite inner lagoon these days. The custom and personalized wood inlay paddle was a gift from son, Clay.

At Elder SUP we focus on stories in which people share their connection to the rituals and traditions around the sea and the environment, values and the impact those things have made for them personally. I asked Fran if there any stories she would like to share related to that topic?. “Being in Hawaii means the Ocean is part of your life. I’ve had the chance of sailing on the Hokule’a, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe replica (our neighbor is a regular member of the crew), and have made 3 ‘man overboard’ flags for the vessel. We are also volunteers with the Green Sea Turtle project here in Molokai. We go to Kawa’aloa beach once a week in the summer to see if any nests have been dug. The nest is marked, then when we see the hatching tracks we wait 3 – 5 days then dig the next and count the turtle shells, and rescue any babies that didn’t make it out. Results are sent to George Balazs in Oahu who is in charge of the state program. And of course, walks on the beach are a regular part of my ‘fitness’ program.”

Being outdoors, self-propelled across bodies of water is exhilarating! We have an entire section of our blog dedicated to that SUP Perspective. For anyone reading about the active connection Fran keeps with her local community’s traditions and environmental activities I hope it inspires a local look around. Wherever there is water, wildlife and people there are opportunities to connect and make a difference.

You know, thinking back on Fran’s story of her first day SUPing, I don’t think it would have dampened Fran’s enthusiasm one teeny bit if she had fallen in on that first day. She’s got a zesty sense of humor and easily laughs at herself, taking life with a light spirit.  While the “elder” in Elder SUP refers to tradition and history around the sport we love, the fact that Fran is 82 does make her “elder” in the calendar sense of the word. Because she treasures and honors the sense of family and connection, she’s a true inspiration. Her paddling story has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude. I hope to head to Molokai one day soon and take an SUP cruise in her neck of the sea.