When did you discover stand up paddle boarding what appeals about SUP?
I first tried Stand Up Paddling in 2011 in the Boston Harbor in summer. I was doing a lot of sea kayak guiding and instructing, when a colleague of mine showed me her SUP. I hopped on it and had a blast. I really enjoy the vantage point you get on the water, and I find I am better able to use more of body while paddling then I do while kayaking or canoeing.
Did you find it easy to learn or was it an uphill struggle?
Because I was a competitive swimmer all thru school, and I have been active in paddle sports for a long time, it was fairly easy to switch to SUP. Though, as I have progressed into SUP surfing, white water, and racing I have definitely plateaued several times.
Do you do any sports outside of SUP? If so, what are they and how do they help with cross over training – if at all?
Of course! I have not found a single water sport that I have not enjoyed. I do a lot of sea kayaking, surfing, sailing, swimming, and canoeing. Because of my work as an outdoor adventure educator, I am active in a lot of other outdoor pursuits such as climbing and hiking. They’re not a traditional sport, but they take a lot of fitness, coordination, and mental stamina. I also skate, cycle, and trail run.
For myself, I have always found some benefit from one sport to the other. In many cases it is just physical conditioning, where others, such as surfing, I feel help improve my balance and coordination. Sailing and sea kayaking have really increased my awareness of the wind and swell to use to my advantage. Climbing really helps with mental stamina since I am not a huge fan of heights.
How’d you get hooked up with Whatzsup? Tell us a bit about your relationship there…
It’s a funny story actually. I was borrowing a friend’s SUP and paddle on a windy day back in the spring of 2015, and I broke their paddle shaft in half. That was partly because the paddle was old, and I was also putting a lot of torque on the paddle. I went to Blue Sky to see about purchasing another paddle and found out about the Whatzsup shop in Sai Kung. From there I kept running into their staff at events and around town. After the first international race in 2015, I got to know the owner and his brother better.
After the second international race in 2016 out at Tai Long Wan, I was asked by Franki to join as a Team Rider for them. I was pretty siked about it. I paddled a few different boards, and then I found the ONE SUP Evo to be a pretty good board for a variety of races from flat water to wind and chop.
Which events will you be focusing on next year?
I will really be focusing on the longer races of 8 km and upwards, especially those that are more open to wind and swell. I have never been a sprinter, so my focus will be on the races that require endurance and reading the wind and swell. The longer, open races need not only physical strength and technique, but require you to read the ocean.
Do you think SUP will one day be in the Olympics now that surfing has been accepted? And how do you feel about it?
Absolutely! The sport is growing exponentially, and there are so many ways that SUP can be used. I think once more consistent regulations are in place it will be apart of the Olympics. It is a fairly simple sport to get started with and the community is very open. Hopefully, SUP will never take on the “elitest” attitude that some sports have.
Which board and paddle do you use the most and why?
At the moment I have several boards and paddles that I am using for different purposes. I have a 9’6” inflatable (NRS Czar) with a 3 piece fiberglass paddle (Werner Session) that I use for whitewater and traveling. I have a 14’ inflatable (SIC Airglide FX Pro) with a 90 sq in carbon/glass blade and shaft that puts my arm at an 80 degree angle carbon and glass blend (SIC Glide) that I use for downwinders and training.
The board I am using for racing and performance is a 14’ 23” (ONE SUP Evo) with a 100 sq inch carbon blade and shaft length that puts my arm at around a 60 degree angle (Hulu Carbon by Kiaola). It’s a skinny board, that I am growing into. I really like that it doesn’t take much effort to get it going, and when there are some bumps on the water it is really easy to catch them!
Can you tell us a little about the sport SUP?
Well SUP is a fast-growing sport, and it has spread from races and sprints to including surfing, whitewater, and a combination of these. The community is very open and positive, and many people that compete in SUP are also multi-sport athletes. SUP boards are getting more affordable from different construction designs and easier to store with the advent of inflatables and sturdy break down paddles.
Where do you see HK SUP in the next few years?
I have been living here for 3 years now, and every year there seems to be more and more people out on the water on SUPs. It’s great to see, since of the other water/paddle sports I find it easier to get people started. It’s more intuitive and natural I think then say kayaking. The races have been growing as well, so I could see it growing in Hong Kong and China to be similar to the races and competitions in North America or Australia.
What’s the most misunderstood thing about SUP?
Well, at first, board sports and paddle sports wanted nothing to do with it. Now that it’s gaining popularity and people are showing there is a lot that can be done with it, the ISA and the ICF are arguing about who should regulate it. I find that to be the most misunderstood part. It’s not purely a board sport, nor is it purely a paddle sport. It is a hybrid of the two. When most people get on it to paddle flatwater they try to treat it like a canoe or kayak, which isn’t the most effective way. When people get them out in the surf, they try to treat it exactly like a surfboard and forget the paddle, which reduces what you can do with it.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about it?
For me, I would say that regardless of your physical ability and coordination there is a board that can suit you, and falling off of the board is completely allowed! It’s a part of the fun and the challenge.
Is there anything you would say to those who are interested in SUP sport but are still considering whether to do it?
Hmm…I would say at the very least trial it out a few times. You don’t have to go out and buy a brand new board and paddle. There are plenty of rental shops popping up that you can go and have a taster session. With that in mind, if you don’t have any prior water sport or paddle sport experience, I would get a lesson first. And Youtube videos don’t count!
If given the chance, would you be interested in representing Hong Kong in a competition in another country or internationally?
As of the end of 2017, I will have been living and working in Hong Kong for 3 years, and during that time I have spent a total of 5 weeks in my home country of the US. I would be excited and happy to represent Hong Kong in an SUP event if given the chance!