Tag Archives: Brody Welte

2013: Breakout Year for SUP?

By Pete Williams

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

ORLANDO – Surf Expo, the semi-annual trade convention that converges here at the Orange County Convention Center, perhaps should be renamed SUP Expo.

Everywhere we looked on Saturday, stand-up paddleboarding dominated the scene. There were two dozen board manufacturers, more than double the amount from just two years ago, and only a fraction of those represented on Thursday during SUP Demo Day at a nearby watersports facility.

Perhaps the coolest product we saw was the Nocqua 2000 LED system, LED lights that go on the bottom of a paddleboard that light the water below, enabling the paddler to go out at night. (We’re hoping the $399.99 price tag comes down over time.) Even products such as the DryCase and the GoPro Camera, though not SUP-specific, seem made for the sport.

SUP Expo – er – Surf Expo is just one sign of the phenomenon. When I got my first board early in 2011, the sport still was catching on here in Florida. Even though my Paddle Fit co-author Brody Welte had launched a successful SUP business in St. Petersburg two years earlier, I still got odd looks out on the water and occasionally had to explain what I was doing.

These days, it’s impossible to drive for more than an hour in Central Florida and not see a paddleboard strapped to a car. I counted at least two dozen paddleboarders out on the Dunedin Causeway Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t that long ago where I would have been one of only a few out there dodging boats and jet skis. Attendance at SUP races, though still modest compared to running and triathlon, has increased significantly. Benderson Park, the new $40 million, man-made watersports park in Sarasota that has hosted several SUP events, is tailor-made for the sport.

Why the boom? Here are a few theories:

HelgaSUP2IT’S THE BEST WORKOUT EVER: If you want to see some seriously jacked physiques, watch the elite division of a SUP race. SUP combines core training, balance work, and rotational movements. It’s like working out on a giant BOSU ball. Plus, there’s perhaps no better cardio workout than doing intervals on a paddleboard. Find a few buoys, crab traps or other markers in the water and alternate between sprinting and paddling at a relaxed pace. There are SUP Pilates and SUP yoga classes, which are more fun (and definitely more challenging) than traditional yoga and Pilates.

IT’S MORE FUN THAN RUNNING: We’re big fans of distance running. But how much fun is running, really, when many people can’t do it unless they’re tethered to some sort of music device? If you find running boring, try SUP. And while it’s true that you can use a DryCase or some other device to keep your music dry, few paddlers do. That’s because they don’t need to be entertained out on the water. (On a safety note, paddlers should not wear earphones so they can hear oncoming boat and jet ski traffic. Now if only cyclists would get that message and stop with the distracted riding.)

SUP yoga enthusiasts at Surf Expo on Saturday

SUP yoga enthusiasts at Surf Expo on Saturday

IT’S MORE BADASS THAN KAYAKING OR BOATING: I’m often paddling when some jerk in a six-figure boat flies by way too fast, with a beer in one hand and his bloated, sunburned belly jiggling in the breeze. I’ll think of all the money and effort it takes to experience a day on the water like that.

Nothing against boating – and I’m thankful for my friends with boats – but SUP is a more enjoyable, less expensive way to spend a few hours on the water. SUP often is compared to kayaking – or at least a hybrid of surfing and kayaking – and that’s an accurate analogy. But sitting down doesn’t produce the same experience as SUP. You don’t see as many sea critters or get as much of a workout.

IT’S SAFER: Like any watersport, SUP can be dangerous. I prefer to paddle on weekdays since there’s less boat and jet ski traffic. For a while, paddlers resisted life jackets and leashes much like some motorcycle enthusiasts won’t ride with helmets. But there are plenty of small, lightweight personal flotation devices that fit around the waist and these days even experienced paddlers wear them. (If you can’t swim at least a quarter-mile in open water, you should definitely be wearing one.) Unlike cycling, where any fall is going to produce at least road rash, falling off a paddleboard will just make you wet. Unlike running, you’re not pounding your joints into concrete or asphalt hundreds of times an hour.

SUPSandyWOMEN ARE EARLY ADAPTORS: Women drive the popularity of anything. Triathlon boomed six or eight years ago when more women got involved. More recently, we’ve seen the same phenomenon with half-marathons and obstacle races and it’s also fueling the growth of SUP. Women tend to be more adventurous and have better balance than guys, who worry that they’ll fall on their butts and look foolish on paddleboards. (SUP actually is much easier than it looks.) This is true of females of all ages. I’ve introduced a number of kids to SUP and inevitably the girls get it faster and show more patience as they learn.

Most importantly, women control household budgets. A quality board starts at $1,000 and paddles in the $150 range. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but road and triathlon bikes cost more and require far more maintenance. Heck, avid runners spend $1,000 on shoes every two or three years. Boards can last indefinitely.

Two years ago, it seemed SUP would be a niche phenomenon.

Now it seems like everyone is looking to take a stand.


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Great American Paddle-In

By Pete Williams

Talking paddling and writing

I love the Great American Teach-In, where parents come to school and talk with their kids’ classes about what they do for a living.

As a writer, though, it’s a challenge to compete with brave people in uniform: cops, firefighters, military. They have cool stories and even better props.

I did my first Teach-In in 2008 and back then I thought kids might find my sportswriter perspective interesting. After all, my kids go to a school adjacent to the Toronto Blue Jays spring training site. Tampa Bay is a sports crazed market. Surely, they’d find it cool that I go to sports events, interview athletes, and write about it.

What I found, however, is kids weren’t that interested, which should trouble those who run professional sports teams. When I was 8 years old, I could rattle off every player on the Blue Jays – at the time a two-year-old expansion franchise – and I lived in Virginia.

These days, I wonder what would happen if Jose Bautista walked behind the outfield wall during spring training, strolled through the school courtyard and into the lunchroom in uniform. How many kids would know who he was?

I gave my same sportswriter spiel in 2009 and 2010. I brought a DVD of my television appearances talking sports and kids found that slightly more interesting.

Today I took a different approach, bringing in a stand-up paddleboard and an iPad, which I used to show off Paddle Fit, the “vook” (video book) on stand-up paddleboarding I had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte, who recently moved from the Tampa Bay area to San Diego.

Even though I only brought an 8-foot kids paddleboard, as opposed to my 12-foot-6 board, that was enough to draw oohs and ahs the moment I walked in the door. I demonstrated how to size a paddle and proper paddling technique. The vook helped a lot.

The third graders and first graders asked a lot of great questions about writing and paddleboarding, though the first graders seemed much more concerned about encountering sharks.

Why didn’t I take this approach earlier for the Great American Teach-In? After all, the media world I’ve worked in over the last 20 years is unrecognizable today. Who knows what it will look like in five years?

Last week, I spoke to a feature writing class at the University of South Florida, a group composed of communications majors. I couldn’t help but wonder what these kids planned to do with their degrees.

Go into journalism? Really?

The first graders and third graders are passionate about writing. They asked what I like to write about and I stressed how it’s a lot easier to write about things that interest you. For me, that’s been sports, business, fitness, and now endurance sports. Adapt to new technologies – like the iPad and vook – and you can keep writing forever, at least I hope.

After speaking to my second class, I packed up the paddles and board and headed out. I’m not doing noble work like the folks in uniform, but at least I could hold my own at The Great American Teach-In.

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Chipotle Empire Grows

By Pete Williams

Chipotle's newest location: Countryside

Chipotle will open a new restaurant on Tuesday, which isn’t exactly headline-grabbing news. The Denver-based chain is up over 1,200 stores and now is in London and coming soon to Paris. The company recently opened a new Asian-themed restaurant in D.C. called the Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.

But this particular new Chipotle will be in Clearwater, Florida, across from the Countryside Mall, much closer to my home than my current six-mile commute, meaning I’ll somehow eat at Chipotle more than I already do.

Chipotle has close ties to the endurance sports world, even though the company does precious little in terms of advertising and marketing. For starters, it’s a favorite among endurance athletes because it’s tasty, high-quality performance fuel.

Company founder Steve Ells believes in using only meat and dairy products from animals that have been raised in family farms, not factory farms, which means they haven’t been confined and injected with hormones. Veggies are organic and locally sourced, wherever possible.

Ells, a classically-trained chef who starred in the recent reality series “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” is changing the way Americans eat fast food and for that he should be commended. Heck, he’s already receiving accolades for forcing the food industry to go back to nature and away from the processed food model that is making Americans fat and killing them. Last month The Wall Street Journal named Ells the 2011 Food Innovator of the Year for “bringing sustainable agriculture to the masses.”

Still, there are two myths about Chipotle still out there. The first is that it was created by McDonald’s. Nope, Ells launched Chipotle in 1993 out of a tiny property near the University of Denver. He did, however, take about $300 million in McDonald’s money as an investment early in the company’s history to fuel Chipotle’s growth. McDonald’s had no influence on the company and was happy to walk away with triple its investment when Chipotle went public in 2006.

The second myth is that the food is bad for you. Admittedly, it can be a lot of calories. The key is to opt for the bowl, skipping the tortilla, and go with just one scoop of rice. Choose either sour cream or guacamole, not both. Drink water instead of soda. Voila – world’s healthiest, tastiest fast food.

I get that exact burrito bowl with black beans, mild and corn salsas, light cheese, lettuce, and chicken, for $8.31. It’s tough to eat the processed, semi-fresh stuff coming out of Subway or Quiznos for that price.

Mark Verstegen introduced me to Chipotle in Phoenix in 2002 when we began work on our first Core Performance book. Since then I’ve eaten at Chipotle between 500 and 1,000 times, which brings us to our third Chipotle myth: that you’ll get sick of the food. Chipotle does not have many food options, but apparently there are more than 1,200 taco and burrito combinations they can make.

I’ve eaten at dozens of Chipotles and I’ve yet to see one busier than the one just off Wall Street, which makes sense since CMG has been one of the hottest stocks over the last three years – and one of my biggest non-investment regrets.

Chipotle has an upscale-yet-casual decor that’s perfect for business lunches. Brody Welte and I did much of the work for our Paddle Fit “vook” on stand-up paddleboarding at Chipotle in St. Pete. Mark Verstegen and I worked on a chunk of each of our five Core Performance books at a Chipotle in Phoenix.

I can’t wait to get started on another – perhaps from the new Chipotle Countryside.

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Mr. Media Features Paddle Fit, Williams Interview

By Pete Williams

Bob Andelman, aka Mr. Media, did a terrific interview with me (terrific because of his efforts, not mine) about Paddle Fit, the stand-up paddleboarding video book “vook” I’ve had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte.

The first third is mostly interview, but then we kick into gear with some demonstrations. I’m pretty good at this, but check out Brody on Paddle Fit to see one of the world’s top SUP teachers in action.





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ESF’s Pete Williams on ABC 28 Talking Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Vodpod videos no longer available.

SUP on ABC, posted with vodpod

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Paddle Fit ‘Vook’ Now Available

By Pete Williams

Paddle Fit, the Vook

If you’re looking to learn the sport of stand-up paddleboarding, improve your technique, or perhaps take up an awesome core training program that can be done on the water on the board or on the beach, then you’ll want to check out Paddle Fit, the new “vook” I’ve had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte of Stand Up Fitness in St. Petersburg.

What is a vook? It’s an exciting new digital platform that combines text and video into one multimedia package for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. With Paddle Fit, you don’t just read about how to paddle or see photos of workout routines, you click onto videos shot in the Florida Keys by the talented folks at Encounter Creative.

I took up stand-up paddleboarding a year ago and it’s changed my life. Like Brody, I believe it’s the best workout ever created. You’re training on an unstable surface: a board on the water. It’s like working out on a giant BOSU ball. Proper paddle technique requires you to use your hips, shoulders and core properly. I’ve never had washboard abs until taking up SUP.

Best of all, it’s a lot of fun. Who wants to hang out in a gym, risk getting killed on a bicycle, or pound the pavement running when you can be getting a full-body, cardio core workout on the water, encountering all manner of cool wildlife in the process? Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than owning a boat.

Even if you just want to take leisurely paddles, you’ll have a blast with SUP, which is much easier than it looks. Anyone can get up on a board on the first try.

Paddle Fit, which includes more than 30 minutes of instructional video, is only $7.99 online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore.

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Entrepreneur Magazine Features YOLO

By Pete Williams

Happy YOLO Board Riders

Entrepreneur magazine featured YOLO Board founders Jeff Archer and Tom Losee in the August issue. Since establishing YOLO Board five years ago, the Santa Rosa Beach entrepreneurs have built one of the most recognizable brands in stand-up paddling.

YOLO – it’s an acronym for “You Only Live Once” – is the dominant brand in Florida, which is significant since Florida has more warm weather and calm water than anywhere in the United States. The company has earned a reputation for quality products and customer service, always a good success strategy.

The company is thriving this year; Archer told Entrepreneur that sales during the first quarter of 2011 were double the same period in 2010. We’re a little bummed that YOLO canceled its wonderful Seaside Celebration paddle board race weekend in September to focus on its core business. But given the demand for YOLO boards, that’s more than understandable.

YOLO will be prominently featured in the video of an upcoming “vook” I’ve written with SUP guru Brody Welte that will be out later this summer.

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The Last Shall be First

By Pete Williams

SUP hardware

I entered my first six-mile “elite” stand-up paddleboard race on Saturday as part of the SUP Splash Race Series at St. Pete Beach.

As about 30 or us waded out into the surf for the start – race organizers opted to forgo the carnage of the always fun but chaotic beach start – I noticed that I was the only competitor that did not have a sleek race board.

Of course, my Yoloboard Eco Trainer is  narrower than many so-called “stock boards,” a phenomenal board made of quality materials and a terrific value.

But the Eco Trainer is not a race board, which is what everyone else in the field had. That didn’t bother me. After all, I routinely ride my entry-level road bike in triathlons past posers atop $5,000 rigs with wheels that cost more than my entire ride. Surely SUP wouldn’t be any different.

It was. When the horn went off, I quickly fell to the back of the pack. Oh well, I figured. I’m still a relative newcomer to this sport and I had never raced further than four miles.

But as I watched a pack of paddlers 15 yards ahead of me, I noticed that some of them didn’t possess forms any better than mine. And even though SUP attracts some pretty jacked people – I thought triathlon was an impressive collection of lean mass until I started hanging around SUP enthusiasts – I was pretty sure I was in better shape than at least a few of the competitors in the race.

One guy with a brand new race board fell behind me. He looked like he had not been paddling long. Either that or it was his first time on the less stable race board, which is not an adjustment to make race day. A woman in front of me fell several times and I’m pretty sure she bowed out of the race after just one 3-mile lap.

The SUP Splash was an incredible value for $40 with lunch, sharp T-shirts, cool awards, a well-organized race, and a tough endurance test. Paddling hard for an hour or more late morning is a challenge. I finished in one hour, 35 minutes, which I figured wasn’t bad given the choppy Gulf water. I hung around for the awards ceremony just out of curiosity.

I thought it was a mistake when my name was called, but it turns out they give awards for the first “stock board” to finish. There were many such boards in the three-mile race, but I was the only stockboarder to enter the 6-mile division. So I got a 15-inch, wooden mini-paddleboard trophy like the people who really know what they’re doing.

Afterward my SUP mentor Brody Welte explained that you’ll typically go 20 percent faster on a race board than a stock board. That’s sort of like when a triathlon has a “fat tire” division for those who enter in mountain bikes.

So perhaps I would have finished around 1:20 on a race board, 15 minutes faster than on the Eco Trainer. That wouldn’t have been very competitive in the race board division, but I would have been far from last.

So do I upgrade to a race board and hope to one day become a middle-of-the-packer in that category or stick with the Eco Trainer? I’ve been in triathlon for four years and never have felt compelled to upgrade my bike, even when some guy in my age group passes me on the bike in his $8,000 sled. (If you’re in my age group passing me on the bike, you’re one sorry swimmer.)

Bottom line: As stock boards go, the Eco Trainer is one of the best. I think I’ll stick with it and remain a contender as a stock racer.

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SUP Lessons from Kalama Kamp

By Pete Williams

Dave Kalama demonstrating SUP form

I was fortunate in May to participate in “Kalama Kamp,” a week-long session of stand-up paddleboard instruction, discussion and all-around fun with SUP gurus Dave Kalama, Brody Welte and John Denney.

This particular Kalama Kamp was in Clearwater but the guys are staging Kalama Kamps all over the world. Check out Brody’s site for more details.

In the meantime, here are some lessons from Dave on how to improve your paddle stroke that I wrote for CorePerformance.com.


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SUP Hot Spot: Sandbridge Beach, Va.

By Pete Williams

Sandbridge SUP guru Anne Gassett

I was having a conversation recently with a couple of Florida-based stand-up paddle board gurus who were extolling the virtues of the greater Destin area, often referred to as the Beaches of South Walton, as perhaps the best location in the nation for SUP.

It’s tough to argue with them. The 30-A communities around Santa Rosa Beach have plenty of flat water and mostly year-round warm weather. But 30-A also has an ideal demographic. It attracts mostly vacationing families looking for laid-back family fun. There’s nothing better for that than stand-up paddleboarding. The terrific folks at YOLO Board picked an ideal place to launch their business. The company’s annual YOLO Seaside Celebration (Sept. 6-10) is an awesome week-long celebration of the sport.

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, is similar but not quite as ideal a demographic. Tampa Bay has plenty of flat water, a warmer climate than 30-A and a much larger population. But it’s more of a Budweiser and jet ski crowd.

What other place, we wondered, is comparable to 30-A?

One came to my mind immediately: Sandbridge. As the name suggests, it’s basically a giant sandbar between the Atlantic Ocean and the Back Bay just south of the Oceana Naval Air Base and the Virginia Beach strip. There’s no commercial development, just single-family homes rented only to families.

I spent a good chunk of my childhood at Sandbridge, which in recent years has been put on the map by native son Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals. Surely, I thought, there must be someone in Sandbridge taking advantage of the growing interest in stand-up paddle boarding.

As it turns out, there is. Anne Gassett is an ACE-certified trainer, Sandbridge resident, long-time OC6 competitor, SUP enthusiast, and bootcamp instructor. In January, she ventured to Fl0rida and completed Brody Welte’s Paddle Fit certification class and has expanded her SUP business, giving lessons and renting/selling YOLO boards in Sandbridge.

I’m guessing there aren’t too many places where you can walk 100 yards in one direction and launch your board in the ocean and 100 yards in another direction and launch in a massive body of water like the Back Bay. But you can do that in Sandbridge, where surfers have enjoyed the ocean side for decades.

Just when I didn’t think I could enjoy Sandbridge anymore than I do, I got the thrill of seeing it by paddleboard today courtesy of Anne Gassett, who along with her husband Bill will be hosting the Back Bay Hei Hei Race in Sandbridge on Oct. 8-9.

Sandbridge is only about six miles long, not including the wonderful Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. That’s only a fraction of the Beaches of South Walton. But I’m guessing it won’t be long before Sandbridge becomes part of the discussion whenever people talk about premier locations for stand-up paddle boarding.

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