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Stand-up paddle boarding in Hawaii

July 29, 2011

I had the good fortune early this week to interview top stand-up paddle boarder Jenny Kalmbach, who lives in Kona. Since she took up the sport 5 years ago, after moving to Hawaii, she has won a bunch of competitions including  the renowned 32-mile Molokai to Oahu race and is considered one of the rising stars of this emerging (although revived from early Hawaiin times) sport.

I spoke with her about a remarkable adventure she did last year with fellow paddle-boarder Morgan Hoesterey. They paddled across the 9 major channels in Hawaii over a month including the toughest crossing from Oahu to Kauai (82 miles). Their aim was also to raise money and awareness for plastic contamination in the ocean and a film was subsequently made about their adventure.  Earlier this year they also paddle-boarded in Costa Rica, where Jenny grew up. She was an inspiring athlete to interview and I was curious to try stand-up paddle boarding for myself.

Me trying out paddle-boarding at Kona

So I rented a board at the beach in Kona. I was a bit apprehensive that my back couldn’t handle it though was reassured by the rental woman that it had improved her back problems and she now had the toughest abs ever (my back was sore the next day). I started off in a calm little inlet and it was easy to stand up, though it felt a bit more wobbly than I thought it would be (probably having watched people do it who are experienced and make it look easy).

When I headed out into the harbour there was a slight swell and the next thing I know I’ve fallen off in the water. Totally unexpected. I clamber back up and keep going, aiming to keep my knees bent, tummy tucked in and straight back. I lose my balance and fall off at least three or four more times but by the end I feel a lot more stable than I did to start with. I also got the slight rush feeling of the swell picking the board up and riding it – though obviously nothing compared to what Jenny was saying about gliding along on large ocean swells.

You can get a heap of speed up on a paddle-board once you get into it and I realise why it is such a great mode of transport, a good way to keep fit, and has also become popular for surfing waves, where you can pick up waves far easier than shorter boards. In New Zealand I’ve started to see a few stand-up paddle boarders, or SUP boarders, in the last few years but nothing compared to Hawaii and other parts of the States where it is super popular. Jenny told me the sport has really taken off in the last few years and hundreds of people now enter competitions – there are even hopes it may one day be an Olympic sport.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 10:00 am

    love paddle boarding, and i have always wanted to go to hawaii!

    • July 30, 2011 7:17 am

      Hey, thanks for your comment – I thoroughly recommend doing it here. Maybe you should do your swimming with dolphins on your bucket list in Hawaii (we didn’t manage to fit it in), or New Zealand!

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