Tag Archives: stand-up paddle boarding

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Races, SUP

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under SUP

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.

1 Comment

Filed under SUP

Paddling for a Cure


By Pete Williams

Arnie Goodman and friend

Five years ago, Arnie Goodman was at the top of his game. At 47, he had a thriving practice as an ear, nose, and throat physician. Married and a father of two, he threw himself into endurance sports, especially cycling, swimming, and kayaking.

But something didn’t seem quite right. He became out of breath quickly while working out with his Saturday morning training group. Colleagues he always outran now were blowing by.

Test revealed multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. Multiple myeloma accounts for just 1 percent of cancer cases but has claimed the lives of a number of prominent Americans, including Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers and, more recently, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

Goodman has written extensively about the disease online and in 2009 created the “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which began as a 5-mile kayak race and a 2-mile fun paddle through downtown Tampa. That year, just one stand-up paddle boarder entered. This year, the Tampa physician, now 52, expects SUP enthusiasts to outnumber kayakers. All proceeds go toward the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Goodman has undergone two stem cell transplants, including one at the end of 2010 following a relapse. He’s gradually getting back to a normal workout regimen. The longtime kayaker hopes to become proficient in stand-up paddle boarding this year.

Endurance Sports Florida talked with Goodman about his fight and the upcoming Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure, which begins from Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday, May 7 at 8:30 a.m.

Q: What went through your mind when you got the diagnosis of multiple myeloma?

A: It was a shock. I was always a fitness nut who ate very healthy. I kept myself in pretty good shape and was always a big believer in fitness and nutrition before I was diagnosed. The last thing you think is you’re going to get cancer and friends said I was the last person they would expect to get it. So I did all the right things and still go it, which shows that if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.

Q: What’s happening in your body when you have multiple myeloma?

A: Basically in your blood you have plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells that produce the antibodies that fight infection. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of those cells. One of those cells goes crazy and overproduces, initially in the bone marrow, creating these holes and lesions which create fractures, cause anemia and compromise the immune system. There’s no cure, unfortunately, but it is treatable and there have been huge advances in the last five or 10 years. People are living much longer than before, but unfortunately it’s not a curable cancer. All the money for our event goes to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and they’re laser-focused on new drug development for multiple myeloma and have been tremendously successful at bringing new drugs to market and prolonging life for people with the disease.

Q: You’ve undergone two stem cell transplants. What’s entailed with that procedure?

A: It’s actually more of a transfusion where your own cells are harvested. You’re given a medication to stimulate the stem cells, which are then harvested by an intravenous catheter. You’re given high doses of chemotherapy, which wipes out the bone marrow and immune system. The stem cells are given back to you and those are used to jumpstart your bone marrow again. The problem is that there’s a period of 10 days to two weeks after the chemotherapy where you’re waiting for the stem cells to take where you have no immune system at all. So you’re really prone to infection and have to be in the hospital pretty much all that time.

Goodman out on the water

Q: How much training have you been able to do?

A: I went through the most recent transplant over Christmas and by the end of January I got back to working out. I’ve been slowing building up from there, back to swimming and cycling, almost to where I was before. I’m doing really good and getting back to normal life and a normal activity level. I do have some pain in my ribs but I don’t seem to feel it when I’m cycling. I do make sure to stick with calmer water when I kayak.

Q: The race is for a great cause but it seems like it’s popular for other reasons. Why do you think that is?

A: People love the course. It’s a great way to see downtown Tampa from the water. The college and high school crew teams have known about it for years. The course takes you through downtown Tampa, the convention center, Marriott Waterside, and Harbor Island. It really highlights downtown Tampa. We also reach out to all kinds of paddlers from the serious kayak and paddle boarders to those who have never paddled and, of course, those who have a connection to multiple myeloma. The reason we have two races is so there’s something for the competitive people – a five-mile race – and a two-mile family fun paddle for those with little or no experience. We have rental boats and boards available so that’s no a barrier either.

Q: What’s the status of multiple myeloma research?

A: The pipeline of drugs for the disease is unbelievable. There are no less than a dozen drugs in the pipeline; a couple will get FDA approved this year. They just mapped the genome for multiple myeloma within the last month or two. The future looks great and I’m just hoping it comes soon enough.


Filed under Enduring Athlete of the Month, Races, SUP

Race of the Week: Shark Bite Challenge

By Pete Williams

It’s not often you find a race for $20 that offers an hour-long event, a dry-fit shirt, post-race food and entry to one of America’s finest beaches, which is waiving the usual $8 parking fee.

That’s all part of the package for the Shark Bite Challenge, formerly the Caladesi Kayak Challenge, which includes two days (April 16-17) of paddle races. If you can paddle it, you’re pretty much in. Not surprisingly, a large stand-up paddleboard (SUP) contingent is expected for Sunday. There’s even free beer involved during the pre-event welcome and early registration at the Dunedin Brewery from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, April 15.

The race is organized by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler who recently put us through a Pilates routine on The Fitness Buff Show (see video below).

Name of Race: Shark Bite Challenge

Location: Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin

History: The Shark Bite Challenge is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Island Parks, a non-profit, citizen support organization that supports the efforts of Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks.

Format: Two-day event kicks off Saturday, April 16 with a nine-mile, 6-man outrigger canoe race. The following day, there’s a 4-mile and an 8-mile kayak, canoe, surfski, OC1, SUP, and prone paddleboard race.

Schwag: The Shark Bite Challenge works in conjunction with the Island Earth Days festival. With registration, all racers receive a dry-fit t-shirt, lunch, and VIP seating at the festival – guaranteed to first 75 registrants. Mention the Shark Bite Challenge upon entering the park and your $8 parking fee will be waived.

Signature Feature: Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island are consistently rated among America’s most beautiful beaches.

Projected Turnout: 100-plus

Post-race: Lunch, VIP seating at the festival

Cost: A bargain at $20 per day or $30 for both days. (One shirt only)

Sign-Up: Via Active.com

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Leave a comment

Filed under Fitness Buff Show Videos, Race of the Week, Races, SUP