Friday, July 3, 2015

Taoism and Surfing: Go with the flow. By Len Kelemoana Barrow

Zen, The Tao and, The Ocean

Zen Buddhism has bean historically a fusion of early Indian Buddhism and Chinese cultures. As Buddhism migrated to China it naturally took on Chinese characteristics. This being the indigenous tradition of Taoism. Hence the character of Zen is both Indian and Chinese in manifestation. It later migrates to Japan and takes on a Japanese natural sensibility.

Well what has this got to do with us? The ideas of Zen and Taoism are a treasure trove of understanding and happiness in and out of the surf. How can we adapt these ideas in the surf we may ask? How may we adapt these on land?

Taoism is partially based on flowing peacefully with the energies of the universe. This is called Wu-Wei. What this simply states that if you force things arrogantly, and depend on your ego you will ultimately fail miserably.

It quite simply can be observed in reality. Go with the way of Wu Wei. In this light please let me give you an example: I used to have a 78 year old Aikido teacher who could throw 10 competent attacking male students with the minimum of movement. It blew my mind! I mean he launched them! As I learned Aikido we were taught to meditate (my first experiences with meditation). We were also taught that sometimes four fingers carefully positioned with the proper utilization of your opponents movement and energy can make him fly upside down for six feet. This seems impossible yet I have seen it and honestly done it (not as well as the 78 year old). You see, If I fought a large man arrogantly as I am a small man...but 5'9, I would be beaten to a pulp. If I utilize his attacking energy to good effect I weave around his blows and catch him. Amazingly to throw him using not my weakling force but his tremendous strength. This is an example of using energy with the best defensive effect on land and in the martial arts. This has its parallel in the water!

Arrogance and ignorance in the water, in other words, not going with the energy of the ocean can be conducted by surfers and suppers on a daily basis. I have made these mistakes before. Firstly the worst mistake you can do is to show up at the beach and paddle out. This is the normal approach in a hurried modern world. Go, go, go. Time is money supposedly money in Western Culture.

When you do this you may often run afoul in to all types of energy that nature represents. I have seen surfers paddle out directly into coral heads and reef shelves that the water had “hidden”. This could have been avoided if if the individual just took some time to pay attention before surfing to the tide and how the ocean was flowing.

I sometimes surprise other surfers and suppers at the speed to which I get up in the line up. This is not because I am a strong paddler. It is because I utilize energy of the ocean in an observant way in the same way my Akido teacher used the minimum amount of energy to throw his opponents. We use a type of Wu Wei. All of the energy of a breaking wave moves toward the beach and has the tendency to find it way back to the ocean and its deeper water. If you are fighting this concept you are fighting the energy of the universe. Again watch the water. Which way is the water moving. Time and time again, I see surfers that try to paddle through the middle of the break. This is like fighting a 300 pound boxer. You will usually loose. Side step this energy like an Akido teacher. Find the channel. As the energy of the wave is moving back out to see, jump in it, side step the energy coming in and catch the current the energy current coming out. The channel. Sometimes the channel looks like the long-way out, but again, go with energy of the universe in a Taoistic manner.

When you get drilled the worst thing to do is fight it. After all you cannot defeat the ocean. I was once taught by Mel Kinney how to flow with a pounding. I thought that he was kidding when he told me what to do as it was completely opposite to how I would try to escape a drilling. As 20 foot wave would break in front of me I used to dive for the bottom. My thinking was that this was the safest thing to do. I used to fight the wave. Unfortunately the opposite happened. Instead of flowing with nature in a Taoist manner the inevitable would happened. I would be beaten violently underwater as I did multiple cartwheels.

This was unfortunate in that I would often break my board in half. Mel Kinney taught me something that was very Taoistic in manner. These were his instructions. He told me to just lay the board to my side and go 1 foot underwater with my hand pointed above my head. Imagine superman going strait up! Well that was what he told me to do. I call this a reverse superman. How this works is that when the wave grabs your board you get pulled back towards the shore at high velocity in
that you are shaped like a streamlined pencil. This has two functions. Firstly you are pulled rapidly out of the impact Zone using the waves force. I mean this is very Taoistic in practice. When you pop out of the water you literally can end up 30 yards in. The second function is a little less subtle. If you become an anchor by diving for the bottomYour board will often break as it has nowhere to move one the leash is taught. By doing the reverse superman you and the board become a single flowing unit thus preventing board breakage.

I hope this little article can help you flow with the ocean. After all the ocean is a manifestation of the Tao itself. Why fight it. Move with it. Until next time! Aloha from Hawaii

Dr. Len Kelemoana Barrow

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

SUP in Venice: Stand Up and Gondola paddling through this amazing City

Being able to go Stand Up Paddling in Venice was a dream come true.  I had it on my bucket list for a while so when we took a family vacation to Florence this January I planned a day trip to Venice despite the cold weather.  I contacted Eliana from SUP in Venice and even though her SUP business is usually closed for the winter she agreed to not only take me on a tour but also arranged a Gondola ride and Gondolier's lesson for the rest of the group as well as a Venetian style lunch and walking tour of the city.  It was an awesome way to see Venice, here is the video:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dealing with a Stand Up Paddle related shoulder injury

Stand Up Paddling can be hard on the shoulders, here is a video with some tips for dealing with an injury:

In these two videos I talk about a shoulder injury I have been dealing with for over a year and what worked for me.  I hope this helps others. 
I will not repeat everything in the videos but some things not mentioned are the many things I tried to treat the injury, including: rest, icing, heat, stretching, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, massage, taping the shoulder, pain relieving gels (Arnica gel) and rubs, not sleeping on the affected shoulder, and more.
While all these helped, I feel like the main key to recovery are the PT rotator cuff exercises shown in the video.  I'm not saying not to try everything else, especially to relieve pain and discomfort but in my experience, the exercises were the most helpful to recover.  
My doctor thinks the pain is caused by Bursitis, as well as possible damage to the rotator cuff muscles and tendonitis.  This link has good information on Bursitis and how to treat it, if you are interested in reading more about it:
My doctor recommended trying a Cortisone injection if the PT did not help but since my injury has improved greatly since starting the exercises I have been able to avoid and injection.  So, if you think you may have a similar injury caused by paddling, or if you want to prevent this type of injury, I highly recommend making these rotator cuff muscle strengthening exercises part of your training regimen.
Please note that I am not a doctor or expert on this subject.  Since your injury may be different than mine, I recommend seeing a doctor and/or physical therapist.  Don't do any of these exercises if they are painful and make sure to keep good posture and form when doing the exercises.  When I was doing research on this subject I found that these physical therapy exercises were not posted online, it is how the PT's make a living after all, which is why I decided to make this video, I hope it helps others treat and prevent injury sooner. 
I'm happy to answer any questions, feel free to post a comment.
Robert Stehlik

Here is another video that explains the importance of strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and I totally agree:

Stand Up Paddle board volume explained- ways to determine the proper board volume

We are often asked: "What SUP board volume is best for me?"
The short answer is: "It depends.  For beginners we recommend a volume of about twice your body weight."
Here is a longer explanation of our board volume recommendations:
First of all, you need to know your body weight into kg.
To convert from pounds to kg divide your weight by 2.2 (1 kg = 2.2 lbs)
Using myself as an example:  my weight is 195 lb. divided by 2.2= approx. 88 kg.
The metric system makes it easy to calculate lift created by volume as one kg is equals to the weight of one liter of water by definition (note that salt water is slightly denser so the same board will float slightly better in the ocean than in freshwater).   Interestingly most board dimensions are quoted in feet and inches but volume is always quoted in metric liters for this reason.
Basically: one liter of volume displaces one liter of water and therefore creates one kg of lift, so one liter of board volume will float one kg of weight.
For beginners, we recommend body weight in kg= liters x 2 (approximately) or about 176 liters volume for my weight of 88 kg.  This means that when I stand on the board, it will be pushed about half way under water to displace enough water to float my body weight plus equipment weight.   Please note that more volume will not necessarily make the board more stable.  Side to side stability is a result of the width of the board and the thickness of the rails and to a lesser degree the length of the board.  A thicker board can actually be less stable as the feet are higher off the water, raising the center of gravity.
For racing and touring you can go with a higher volume as thicker, high volume rails can add secondary stability to a narrower hull that has less resistance than a wider board.  In downwinders especially, high volume in the front of the board works well to keep the nose from plowing deep into the trough.
If high performance SUP surfing is your goal, as you improve you can gradually lower the volume of the boards you use since a lower volume board will generally surf better but will also be much harder to balance on and control, making low volume,high performance boards very difficult to learn on.  
Expert SUP surfers can use a board volume as low as their body weight plus board, paddle, clothing and gear weight plus a few liters extra, or about 100 Liters volume for my body weight.  At this volume the board will barely float when not moving.  Some pros even use boards that don't float them when standing still, they need the dynamic lift created from moving through the water to keep them afloat, the board will sink if they stop paddling, with the board volume in liters slightly less than their body weight plus board and equipment weight in kg.  
Once again:  The body weight times two is only a rough guide to recommended volume as the width and volume distribution of the board has a bigger impact on how stable the board will be.  Although we recommend buying a board that is challenging to balance on at first since your balance will quickly improve with practice, don't make the mistake of buying  a board that is too small for your skill level as that can be very frustrating.  The point is to have FUN!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Surfing on SUP raceboards is FUN!

Jeff Chang surfing his 14' Wet Feet Raceboard

Surfing on raceboards is a lot of fun and a great skill to practice if you want to get faster on downwind runs, since it's all about surfing the bumps. Surfing these big, long boards also allows you to catch and surf waves that others can't, which opens up all kinds of uncrowded spots and smaller waves that are barely breaking that you can catch from way outside,surf and ENJOY without a crowd.

These two videos are from our weekly SUP training group, in the first one we go over some tips on how to surf waves on long raceboards (sorry, the sound is not the best as the microphone was picking up the wind noise). The second video has action on the water with a voiceover going over some of the tips. We hope you enjoy the footage. If you like our videos, please subscribe to the blueplanetsurf youtube channel!

Part 1: On land coaching:

Part 2: On the Water- Surfing SUP race boards:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

SUP tips for beginners: Videos that will help you avoid the most common mistakes

Between our Blue Planet SUP clinics and private and group lessons, we have helped hundreds of beginners learn how to SUP (stand up paddle).  The best way to learn the basics and start having fun on the water with minimum frustration is by taking a lesson with a well qualified instructor that can help you learn proper technique from the start.  If you don't have the opportunity to do that, the next best thing is to read up and watch instructional videos that will help you avoid common mistakes and don't let bad habits become engrained.  Remember to make sure to learn the basics in calm, protected water before attempting to SUP in the surf, even if you are an experienced surfer, you are learning a new sport and have to learn the basics of using the paddle and balancing first.

One of our most popular videos on the blueplanetsurf youtube channel (please subscribe to our youtube channel to see our latest videos) is titled Introduction to Stand Up Paddling.  
We recently added three more videos to our channel to help beginners get started in this great sport.

The first video is titled: SUP tips: Common beginner mistakes
This video goes over some of the common mistakes we often see when people paddle for the first time, including: getting on the board before it is in deep enough water, trying to stand on the board before kneeling first, going with the wind instead of into the wind, holding the paddle straight to go forward, holding the paddle backwards, hands too close together on shaft, not standing in the middle of the board. 

The second video is titled: SUP Balance Tips for Beginners
This video gives some pointers to beginners that are struggling to stand up and balance on the board (it's not as easy as it looks!).  Some of the points covered in this video: getting on the right equipment, centering weight over middle of board, getting the board moving before standing up, different ways of getting from kneeling to standing, using the paddle to brace and lowering center of gravity to help balance, balancing on smaller boards, moving around on the board, getting upright and looking forward, not down.

The third video is titled: SUP tips for beginners: Stoke Technique Drills
This video shows how to practice your stroke while standing in knee deep water and goes over getting good catch with the blade, getting good reach and ending stroke by the feet, feathering the blade at the release and during the recovery as well as using torso rotation to make your stroke more powerful.

This fourth video shows how to fall in safely, flip the board over and get back on easily:

Playlist:  Watch our Introduction to SUP- tips for beginner Stand Up Paddlers playlist to watch all the videos we have put together to help you get started.  

For more videos, including more advanced technique tips for intermediate and advanced paddlers, please also check to our playlist titled SUP technique videos (some of the videos are in both playlists).

Thanks for watching and remember to have FUN!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Short Note on the Recent SUP Surfing Controversy

Everyone both stand up surfer and surfers on longboards and shortboards have been up in arms over the recent proposal to ban stand up surfing in traditional surfing areas. Here are a few things we should take into account. In a quick note, I do not SUP surf yet I believe SUP surfers can go where-ever they want (within reason). Why?

1) The surfing areas are regarded by law as a public commons. Thus technically all citizens have access to these public commons no matter what surf craft they ride.

2) Surfers already have and informal code on how to deal with stand up surfers who take too many waves.

3) Certain breaks allow SUP surfers culturally, and some breaks are hyper specific in relationship to who can surf SUP boards. NOTE! I don't make the rules, nor am I am saying if they are right or wrong.

Example: Tommy Chun Ming Is a Sup surfer at Kewalo that everyone loves.

A Note to Newcomers on SUPS

1) Before going out find an old time SUP surfer and ask them the specific cultural code in regards to etiquette on an SUP in relation to the specific surfing break.

2) Share the waves.

3) Wait in line for waves (refer to Social Surf Intelligence 2 in this blog)

4) Know your limits. If it's Hawaiian 6 feet and you don't know if you can handle, DONT GO OUT. I was run over by a QUAD SUP on a large day. It hurt. 4x the pain. The guy was a novice and should not have been out on a large day.

In the end we all have rights to the waves. Let us all pay attention in a Zen manner.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Social Surf Intelligence 2

Social Surf Intelligence 2

There has been a lot of buzz about what is proper etiquette in the water. As an Anthropologist, I have noticed that surfers have their own set of un-said rules. These rules are set far apart from common law and are overlaid on public surf areas. I am not saying they are correct or incorrect. I just wish to indicate to a beginner what they are as they are customary.

1. When you paddle out at a semi uncrowded spot don't bring a “crew”. A crew is a bunch of people. Their is nothing worse to some surfers than seeing five people, Stand Ups or Regular Surfers paddling out at once if you are in the break. The usual rule is two people max. Three is pushing it but is possible. A trick to avoiding this unsaid rule is that if you come with a crew of 3+ people, paddle out in a staggered manner. Everyone trickles out, one or two people at a time with around 10 minute intervals. When it comes to myself, I usually surf by myself. This makes me popular.

2. If you are new to a break, start your surf off from the inside of the break. Many people don't realize that there is a line of people waiting for the waves. As we would not cut in line at the supermarket, we should not cut in line while waiting for the waves at the surf break. One off the most offensive infractions to some surfers is to observe another surfer paddle out and not wait in line and by sitting in front of everyone.

3. If you are on a Longboard or SUP you need to realize that you have an exponentially easy time catching waves. Because of this, make sure to observe who is getting waves and who is not getting waves. When a nice wave comes in, let the guy or girl not getting waves have it, even if you are in line to get the next set. People notice little “cool” acts like this and you will develop a good reputation.

4. Think in the long term. As I am on a longboard, I get waves easier than others. I can literally snake every single set that comes in during a 2 hour session and have a wonderful time at the cost of others. Yet that two hour greed-pig-out will make everyone hate me forever. I can take that same 2 hour session and wait in line share waves and cheer people on and be welcomed every time I choose to surf for the rest of my life.

Which will you choose?

Len Barrow

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to install fins on a Stand Up board and which fins to use.

If you have a new SUP or surf board and are not sure how to properly install and set up the fins, watch this video for tips on how to properly install them, different set up options, and how to set up the fins for different conditions.

Click here for more information on some of the fins shown in this video.

If you have fins that don't fit well, also check this post:
"If the fin don't fit"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Group downwind run videos with voice over coaching tips

Downwind coaching runs are most effective with one on one instructions but doing downwinders as a group is fun as well and a great way for those newer to downwind paddling to get into the sport and learn the fundamentals in a safe environment.  When we have enough people interested in a group run, I offer coached runs for groups of up to 5 people.  Last week we did two group downwinders, the first with five participants, the second with two (plus myself).  Watch the videos for some tips for the fun downwind run from Portlock to Kahala.

Here are two videos of group downwinders from last week with coaching tips voiced over:

January 7th downwinder with Peter, Kyle, Allan, Linda, and Patricia: 

January 10th downwinder with Sean and Hopper:

January 29th downwind group with: 

Kyle, Jenn, Brett, Robert, Natalie, Sean 

for more information on coached downwinders, visit this post:

Robert Stehlik

Please let me know if you would like to be included in the coached group downwinder updates e-mail list:

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