G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jeremy Riggs and the SIC Bullet 14

Thanks to the generosity of John Griffith (SIC) and Scott Ruble (Covewater SUP Santa Cruz) I was able to arrange an interview and coaching session with Jeremy Riggs ( almost immediately upon my arrival in Maui. After our first meeting and interview we headed up to Maliko for what turned out to be an incredibly fun and informative downwinder with one of the best riders in the world. Many thanks to John, Scott and Jeremy (and Maui) for making it happen.

Jeremy Riggs
Where do you reside: Wailuku HI
What was your first/best experience on an SIC: My first experience on an SIC was on an F-16 during a Maliko run. It was my first time using a rudder. I learned a lot that day about following the bumps and about the advantage of having complete control of the board. It changed the way I approached downwind racing in a very productive way. My best experience on an SIC board was completing my first Molokai to Oahu channel crossing with my partner Nabil Vogel back in 2007. We trained very hard for the challenge and when it was over there was just that amazing feeling of accomplishment. I knew right then that this race was something I wanted to be a part of for many years to come.
What does the name SIC mean to you: A company that's committed to building the fastest and most innovative boards available and having fun while doing so.
Paddling background: I started doing Maliko runs back in 2002 on a prone paddle board. I remember catching these really long glides and wishing I could stand up for some of them but the boards were just way to tippy. Then I heard about the stand up boards in 2004 and I had to have one. I got my first SUP in 2005, made myself a paddle with a broken canoe paddle and an old windsurf mast and entered my first Maliko race that year. I was the only SUP in that race and there was close to 100 canoes. Those guys thought I was crazy and honestly I didn't know what to expect because this was my first time going all the way to the harbor. As I got closer to the finish there was a lot of canoe paddlers cheering me on. It was a great feeling and a great day. Gotta thank the Maui Canoe and Kayak Club for making that day such a fun and memorable experience for me.
What do you think SIC name means in the world of SUP: Proven race boards and if you want to do well in the channel races, you better order or reserve one well in advance.
What is your best crazy Dutchmen story: Mark has shown up to so many races with a board that he just finished making and the race ends up being the test run. We've done a couple of channel crossings together and in 2009 we partnered up for the Molokai to Oahu. I thought we were going to use the F-16 because that's what we were training on. When we met up on Molokai, sure enough Mark had built a new prototype for the race. We decided we would try it out in the biggest race of the season. It worked great! We ended up taking 2nd place that year.
How long have you been surfing and paddling: I grew up in North Carolina and spent most my time at the beach on a bodyboard. I didn't own a surfboard until after college and I moved out to Maui with dreams of becoming a professional bodyboarder. I was humbled right off the bat once I felt the power of the Pacific Ocean and saw the level of talent out here in Hawaii. I started surfing in the upright position in 2000 and I've been hooked since then.
Background text courtesy of the SIC website.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Olukai Ho'olaulea 2013 - An Insider's Review From The Back of the Pack

The night before the race it rained cats and dogs at our place near Paia. The wind and the rain made me think, storm surf. It was way less than the idyllic Hawaiian sun, surf and perfect wind conditions I had envisioned. But that's what makes it real, so it was game on.

Mariposa and I picked up Kyle, Carla, Lauren and Scott at Kanaha for the shuttle ride north to Maliko. Turning onto the dirt road and into the gulch was an instant picture of what it looks like to cram six pounds of stuff into a two pound box. Boards, people, cars, trucks, tents were everywhere. Thank goodness for the Maui County Sheriffs who were doing a first class job of traffic control. It was the polar opposite of what the gulch usually looks like. To top it off, the heavy rain had triggered a flood advisory so the creek was flowing gangbusters with plenty of ponding and patches of mud to negotiate.

This of course was all taken in stride by locals and visitors alike and the mood was festive, fun and exciting. In comparison to the Paddle IMUA last week, the Olukai definitely feels more "commercial". That's not derogatory, it's just the way it felt to me. The IMUA is really a fund raiser for a local community service organization while the Olukai is in major part a professional race with a hefty purse for the top six male and female winners. There are also a lot more participants in the Olukai race.

331 paddlers made their way out to the water start at 11:30. Prior to that the event organizers moved us all very smoothly and flawlessly through the check-in, registration, safety meeting, and pule (with group hug during which the wind in the gulch increased five fold).
Scott and Lauren entered the water quickly and made their way close to the front of the pack, while Kyle and I took our time paddling out through the choppy cove channel and into the open water to wait near the back of the pack.

We had five minutes until the green flag fell as I sat down to wait for the start of the race at noon. Good thing because the paddle out was strenuous enough that my legs needed a short rest before beginning the 8-mile paddle to Kanaha Beach Park. Thirty seconds later, 100 yards to the front, all the racers jumped to their feet and started paddling downwind. So much for the rest break. The green flag waved and the race started five minutes early.

Unseasonally light trade wind conditions had prevailed for several days preceding the race, but today the "wet trades" had picked up, and the wind had freshened significantly, putting up more than enough bumps and glides to have fun. There was also a healthy late season northerly swell in the water, adding to the rhythmic rolling of the sea surface, and delivering waist high to overhead waves over the reefs at Kanaha.

Connor Baxter won the race, finishing in 48 minutes at an average speed of 10 miles per hour. I was hot on his heels at twice the time and half the speed. He neither waited for me to catch up with him, nor worried that I would do so. This thankfully took a lot of pressure off me so that all I really had to worry about was making it through the reef at Kanaha with board and body intact.
A couple days before the race my buddy Bill Boyum had taken me out to the reef to show me the best spot to cross. That was in no to small surf conditions, and on the day of the race he gave me an alternate choice which I used because it was safer.

My downwind paddle was just a normal downwinder for me. The main difference was instead of having several or no people around me, I had a couple hundred people. I really benefited from my coaching session with Jeremy Riggs ( earlier in the week, and caught a lot more bumps and glides because of what he taught me. Mahalos Jeremy!

Soon enough I had to make the decision to turn into the beach and cross the reef. I visualized Bill's geographical landmarks as best I could remember from our conversation (having never taken this route before) and headed for a spot in the reef that looked deep enough to cross with little risk of getting bucked off and tossed in by the turbulent incoming surf.

The waves were incessant. No lulls, just constant waves some bigger, some smaller. A guy older than me (hard to imagine, at least he looked older) went knee paddling by me, into a wave and got wrecked over the reef. I wasn't going to knee paddle, no, I'm riding stand up over this reef.
I had to plop down on my board and straddle it while I waited for the guy to get washed out of the way before catching my ride. I picked the one I wanted, jumped to my feet and stroked hard to pull into the waist high wave that was now lifting the tail and carrying me forward. I was now moving swiftly on my wave, jamming across the reef. "I've got this made," I thought, just before my board made a violently uncontrollable right turn from which I could not recover. I flew off the left side of the board, hat going one way, board the other.

Fortunately I had made it most of the way across the reef. I recovered quickly and was up and paddling toward the finish line a half mile away in my version of a sprint. I blew past the old guy who by now was running on fumes. Now I was neck and neck with my real competition, a 12 year old boy (the next Kai Lenny no doubt) and a young local woman easily less than a third my age. (The next Andrea Moeller for sure.) I was actually staying on pace with these two kids when from out of nowhere I caught a series of nearly invisible bumps that put me way out in front for good. I'm sure they were disappointed that the gray haired haole smoked 'em. (Actually, I'm sure they had no idea what odd machinations were coursing through the mind of an old white guy they hadn't even noticed.)

So what do sprinting and paddling have in common? I don't know either but there was a 300 yard run to the finish line from where we landed. I whipped out the GoPro from my hydration pack front pocket and videod my jog (and the adoring crowd) to the finish line as Scott joined me. Kyle was in a few minutes later and we ran with him to the line and the thoughtfully produced and thankfully received cups of cold water.

I was more tired from the run than the paddle but recovered quickly to join up with the gang for the after race grinds, awards ceremony and entertainment. By now a light but consistent rain was falling putting something of a damper on the festivities. (I know, cheap shot.) Kyle and Carla needed to get back to Kihei, and Scott and Lauren to Papakea. Hogan (winner of the Paddle IMUA prone paddleboard division) and his girlfriend Tracy (who teaches at U of H Maui campus) had joined us for eats under the canoe club pavilion roof so after lunch and some chat we said our farewells with hugs and smooches all around.

The race results are all over the internet and Facebook so I won't write them here. This was the fifth edition of the Olukai race. There is no doubt that it is an astounding success that has been wholeheartedly embraced by the local (and world wide) paddling community, and will continue to grow. It will be interesting to follow how Olukai manages the future growth and popularity of this amazingly successful race.

I've been watching the Ho'olaulea for the last couple years and have always been attracted by the excitement, the romance and the mystique of the fabled Maui Maliko runs. That I have been able to participate in both the Olukai and Paddle IMUA races these past several weeks has been a real blessing to my life and something I will long remember with the best feelings.
And yeah....Maui No Ka Oi. Believe it!

Postscript: I've got plenty of video on the cards of this event as well as the Paddle IMUA. But since I'm posting everything on my smartphone, I won't be able to make the movies until I get home in a couple weeks. Stayed tuned.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Three Days and Counting

I suppose there's always something of a good news bad news scenario. What's good for some, may not always be good for others. Some need rain, some don't. And on it goes.

There is a wind drought on Maui. This was supposed to be a downwinder vacation. But then the wind stopped.

I was fortunate enough to get a couple downwinders in upon my arrival. But since then, nada, zilch, nothing. But now the good news.

My wife and best friend Mariposa has parlayed this unique opportunity to learn how to SUP. Without wind it's calm just about everywhere, just about all the time, offering the perfect conditions for flat water paddling, even in the nearshore to more open ocean expanses. She loves it. Genuinely I am stoked.

She has turned into, what I call, a SUP "monster". Every day now, for the last three days, without fail, we go paddling. Who am I to argue with such passion? We will paddle. We're even talking about extending for a week. Who am I to argue?

And so we have now come full circle in our paddling history. I learned how to SUP on Oahu 2007, she learned how to SUP on Maui in 2013. The bond is forever set. We are man and wife and now, more deeply, SUP brother and sister. May the force be with us.....or something.

The full video series will be forth coming upon my return to the mainland.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Few Downwinding Tips

Here are a few tips from Jeremy Riggs via a couple online resources and from a couple things he told me that were really helpful.

Links are at the end and I'd also check out Jeremy's website Paddle with Riggs dot com.

From Elder SUP: 1) The key thing is keeping up your momentum.  Shorter rapid paddle strokes keep momentum going – keep speed up.

2) Don’t go right up the back of the wave in front of you – that will slow you down as you paddle UP(hill).

3) Look for the place to keep the momentum going, a place to guide the board into the trough where you can catch the next bump – and have tons more FUN!

From me: 1) The reason paddlers get tired is they paddle too much. Don't paddle when you can't go anywhere because you're fighting the ocean. The ocean will win. Don't knock yourself out. Focus on catching the next bump.

2) Don't take too many strokes on one side of the board. That can easily lead to the tail sliding around and you will fall off. Jeremy's "rule of thumb" is no more than three on one side before switching.

3) One more like ready to switch paddling sides quickly to not only change direction (and catch or stay with the bump) but to keep from sliding out.

4) Be ready to back peddle quickly when you catch a steep one so you can keep from pearling. You have to be fast to the tail and then quickly move forward again to stay in trim and stay in the glide. (Standing too far back on the tail is like putting the brakes on.)

5) Don't just watch the nose of the board, a good downwinder is constantly looking around, left and right, seeing what's coming in the smaller bumps to gain speed in order to catch the bigger, longer glides.

#5 was the hardest one of all and where Jeremy's coaching is essential. During our session he was constantly calling me into bumps that I didn't even see. But this skill isn't something you'll learn overnight. It takes time and practice. The cool thing is that it's really fun learning and no worries, you WILL catch bumps!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bill's & My Paddle IMUA Re-cap

My friend Bill Boyum is a longtime Maui local and veteran waterman who has been involved with Maui wind and paddling sports from the beginning. Here's his re-cap of the race from an email he sent this morning.

"I went swimming with Shirley in the morning, but as we finished I saw a bit of a wind line outside so we drove up to watch the start from the cliff above Maliko.

In the final hour before the start the wind doubled from 7 to 14 and more importantly went from straight onshore to about 45 degree angle onshore. The surface set up with very small, very organized clean lines.

Almost immediately we heard the horn and an armada of OC-1s blazed out of the gulch, followed closely by Bart, then Jeremy and Scott.

Out of the gulch Jeremy Riggs, with his 17 foot 24" 26lb no pad, wax deck Bullet,leaped ahead of Bart on his 14' Starboard Race. Those little bumps were perfect terrain for JR's board. He was even passing some Oc-1s. Already 50 yds back in second, was Scott and then Bart. But working his way to a much farther out line was Livio, who from appearances from our angle, was losing ground to the inside guys, who were reaping full harvest of the onshore angle glides. But Livio is a vet and it was also evident that Dave Kalama was moving out to that outside line as well in an OC-2. A much different tactic than the pack.

So I paced Jeremy from the drive down and he was holding just under 8 minute miles for the first two.

Then we couldn't see and we drove to town to see Iron Man 3. It was sold out so Shirley says, lets go see who wins. In the harbor, finishing at 1:14 was Livio and JR a minute behind.

You shoulda seen how red their faces were when they came in, looked like they'd been nuked. During the last section, as you of course know, the almost good enough wind at the start, had died off. It was hot hot hot."

My Re-cap: I was one of the folks on the inside line, trying to stay up with the back of the pack. For the first four miles there was OK wind but by the fifth mile it dropped off to none, or very light and variable. From there it was head down and grind it out looking for any little bump that would give me a boost towards the finish line at the Harbor. I was glad to be paddling the SIC Bullet 14 cuz that board is a wave magnet. I actually passed about a half dozen paddlers on longer boards by the time I reached the Harbor entrance.

I caught a few more good glides in those last miles but couldn't pick up many in the choppy, mixed up seas that were mated with the anemic winds. I'm sure that there were more little bumps to be ridden than I could chase down, and if I was Jeremy Riggs...but then I'm not Jeremy am I?

I'm not all that enamored of flat water paddling either (especially if you can go downwind instead) but as I rounded the breakwater standing on the rocking horse backwash beset sea surface this course had become, I was never so glad to see the flat water paddle that stretched out before me in my life.

From that big green navigation buoy at the Harbor entrance to the beach park finish line was an easy mile run. I was tired and hot but there's nothing like the end in sight to energize a body. (The thought of the Beer Garden didn't hold me back none either.)

At the end of the finish line chute, I was given a lovely purple and white orchid lei and an ice cold glass of water. I took two big gulps of water from the soon to be holding beer glass, and dumped the rest over my head. Home at last and in about an hour, when my temples stopped pounding and my face felt like it was no longer pressed up against a hot plate, I was feeling a whole lot better.

There were easily a couple hundred people at the after party and award ceremony and I think everyone felt good to be done. I had a sense of accomplishment that we had finished an event that was not only worthwhile and for a good cause, but a race course that was difficult, challenging and character building to complete on this day. We had all faced some degree of adversity and had overcome.

From there it was all good. Awards, raffle prizes, traditional Hawaiian dance and music, a fun afternoon for everyone.

Many thanks go out to IMUA Community Services, not only for what they do, but for putting on a first class race for the paddling ohana.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Downwinding The Maliko

Met up with Jeremy Riggs at Kanaha for the shuttle up to Maliko. We strapped the boards down on Justin's truck and were enroute in no time.

Jeremy is perhaps the most gifted downwind teacher/coach in Hawaii with bookings from folks that circle the planet. Sandwich Islands Composites (better known as SIC) has recently (and wisely) contracted with Jeremy to represent their company and use their boards. A good move. Great teacher, great boards.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I learned more from Jeremy in an hour and a half about downwind runs than in the last year and a half on my own. Jeremy is gifted with the patience, insight and skills to teach. The world needs more good teachers, the world gained one in Jeremy.

I paddled the 7 mile Maliko to Kanaha run on the SIC 14 ft. Bullet which Jeremy brought with him. I'll be writing more (including a video interview with Jeremy) on this board (and the unique Maui developed fin that was installed) but for now let me just say that this board is a competitor. Fast, maneuverable, durable and light, it will get you where you want to go in a hurry. That said, it is not a beginner's board. But more on all that later.

We made the 7 mile run in under 90 minutes, which for a dedicated downwind paddler is slow, but we stopped three or four times for some "classroom instruction" and pep talks. If only all our educational experiences could include a classroom environment sitting in emerald seas over a multicolored reef with big turtles poking their curious heads at you at random times, we'd probably all be a lot smarter.

The take out at Kanaha was classic Hawaiian culture. We're carry our boards in, and a hoard of youngsters and their teachers are hauling their outrigger canoes out, to the sea from which we have just departed. The never ending cycle of spiritual and physical sustenance the ocean has provided since the beginning of time, is on display, now, in real time, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Jeremy needed to get going, time to pick up his beautiful girls from school. Mariposa arrived right on time to pick me up for the ride back to the Sugar Ranch. It was all over too soon. But then, it's only day two. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sugar Ranch Maui - Day One

Arrived on time via Hawaiian Air and made no delay in beating feet to the Sugar Ranch. Fantastic location in a fantastic place. Settled in to our first class accommodations, jumped in the truck and gased it to Bills to get the board and paddle I'm gonna use. 14-6 and Kenalu paddle, both a little long for what I'm used to, but we'll make it work. Justin was down for a short Maliko to Sugar Cove run. Perfect for my first downwinder on Maui. 87 degree air, 75 degree water.Life isn't good, it's great!