Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Stand Up Paddle with Verena Mei

Learn how to SUP with Verena Mei and Blue Planet Surf.  
Verena is a professional race car driver. She grew up in Hawaii and recently moved back to Oahu.  She got into Stand Up Paddleboarding and has been a great customer and supporter of Blue Planet Surf Shop. In this series she is getting tips on safety, technique, board handling and more from Blue Planet Surf founder Robert Stehlik.  We will post regularly new videos on our blueplanetsurf youtube channel and plan to release the parts of this series in the Spring of 2016. For new videos please check back here and subscribe to our youtube channel.  
Watch the first video in the series:
How to Stand Up Paddle Board with Verena Mei, Part 1: Safety

SUP is a great, fun, health and safe sport if practiced with some common sense.
Basic points covered in this video are:
1) Be aware of conditions. Light wind and protected water are the best conditions for beginner and learning quickly.  Light winds are fine but the chop created by the wind will make balancing more difficult and you should always make sure to paddle into the wind first to make sure you can get back to where you started.  Don't go out if the wind is strong, offshore winds (blowing you away from the shore) can be very dangerous as they can carry you out to sea and usually get stronger the farther out you get.
2) Always wear a leash.  In Hawaii we are not required to wear a personal floatation device when Stand Up Paddle boarding but you should always wear a good leash and make sure it is attached securely, that way your boards is always attached to you and acts as your floatation device.
3) Know how to swim.  This should be self explanatory, but before you learn how to SUP, you should learn how to swim first.  The rule of thumb is: don't go out further from shore than you could swim back on your own power.
This is the second video in this series: board handling and gear
In this video you learn how to protect your board from heat and fin damage, how to safely lift up and carry your board and some things to consider when choosing your first board.  At Blue Planet we always recommend trying several SUP's before choosing one as nothing beats trying a board to get an idea of whether it will work for you or not.  Balancing should be challenging at first, as your balance quickly improves.  We often talk to customers that bought their first board without trying it first and then finding out that it is just not a good board for their needs.  Let's face it, it does not matter how cheap a board is or how great the deal seems to be, if you don't enjoy using the board and it sits around collecting dust, it's a waste of money.  We want you to get out on the water and enjoy your board, so we want to make sure you get one that is right for you.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Stand Up Paddle Technique Drill: Catching Bumps and Waves on a SUP

Re-posted from this Blue Planet Blog posting:

If you are new to downwind stand up paddle boarding, and want to get ready to do some open ocean downwinders, these are some tips and drills you can practice in flat water to help you get ready for riding bumps on a SUP.   Check the bottom of this page for information on coached downwinders. 
This post is focused on downwinders and catching/ gliding on bumps, but this drill is also helpful for catching breaking waves if you want to learn to stand up paddle surf.
In this first video I'm showing how to take a few quick accelerating strokes and then pause, glide and skim/ brace the paddle to keep you stable and balanced while gliding.  If you are doing a downwinder in light winds, this is what you will end up doing:  a few quick accelerating strokes, then pause and glide while you are getting pulled along by the bump in front of you.  In light wind you usually won't have to move the feet back, you can keep the parallel stance close to the center of the board.  It's good to practice this drill in flat water to break the habit of paddling with long, powerful strokes at a steady pace.  Downwinders are about quick sprints and glides, so you have to learn to break up your pace.   The first step is to practice taking 3,4, or 5 quick strokes and then let the board glide for about the same amount of time, so you are only paddling for about half the time.  Don't worry about moving your feet at first and just get into a good rhythm of accelerating and then gliding and skimming your paddle for balance.  Try to skim it as far out to the side as possible with the paddle at a low angle to the water for side to side stability and behind you for front to back stability.  Just skim the paddle lightly over the surface, you don't want to break, just keep the paddle very close to the water or skim very lightly over the surface.  While skimming the paddle acts as a third leg which will give you more control and will allow you to feel more comfortable in rougher conditions.  If you do loose your balance you can lean on the paddle and push your center of gravity back over the center of the board.

This next video shows how to start in "first gear" by taking quick, short strokes for powerful acceleration.  You want to focus on keeping your stroke in front of your feet and using quick bursts of power to accelerate.  Practice this in flat water as well as you will not have time to focus on this when conditions get rough. 
When the wind is stronger and the bumps get steeper, you will also have to move your weight back on the board to keep the nose from piercing and to allow your board to release and accelerate by planing on top of the water surface and to reduce the amount of wetted surface.  So, once you are good at stroking quickly to accelerate and then gliding while skimming the paddle, the next step is to also practice moving your feet back as you stop paddling and glide.  As the board slows down and the tail starts to sink, you then have to move your weight back forward close to center quickly and take some more quick acceleration strokes.  The video below has some helpful tips for moving your feet around on the board without rocking the board and loosing your balance:
 If you do this for a while, you will notice that these quick sprints followed by pauses of gliding will actually be very hard work and your heart rate will go up to a higher rate than when paddling at a steady pace.  I find that my heart rate goes up significantly higher in downwinders than when flatwater paddling which is why it is so important to relax and rest while you get a free ride when gliding on and connecting bumps.  If you don't rest it is hard to catch the next bump.  There is a misconception that when the wind blows hard you hardly have to paddle anymore.  The reality is that you have to accelerate more quickly and paddle even harder to catch the faster moving bumps on the really windy days if you want to keep up with the really fast guys.  The goal is to move as close to the speed of the bumps as possible and the stronger the wind is and the longer the fetch (the distance the wind has to create bumps), the faster you have to move to catch them.
The next video covers the five most common mistakes made by first timers on downwind runs and will be helpful to watch as well if you want to improve your downwind stand up paddle technique.
Thank you for watching!
Robert Stehlik
Copyright Blue Planet Surf 2016,  you are welcome to re-post or share this content but please credit Blue Planet Surf and put a link to
Resources mentioned in the videos:
For more information on our weekly SUP training group, please visit:
For information on SUP lessons and downwind coaching by Robert Stehlik, please visit:
For information on downwind coaching with Jeff Chang/ Wet Feet, please visit:
For information on coached downwinders with Jeremy Riggs on Maui:
Safety first:  Downwinders can be dangerous.  Always go with a partner or group and if you are going for the first time, go with an experienced paddler or coach.  Have a plan and set up meeting places if you loose sight of each other, with can happen quickly in open ocean conditions.  Take a cellphone in a waterproof case and/ or a EPIRB.  Always wear a leash and make sure all your equipment is in good condition.
Equipment used in the videos:
Rasta downwind board: 14' x 28" 2016 Bump Rider:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Catching waves and bumps in First Gear: Quick Acceleration strokes

When I first started Stand Up Paddling, I was struggling to catch waves.  I was pulling on the paddle as hard as I could and figured the harder I pulled on the paddle and the more the shaft was bending, the more power I was applying and the faster the board would go.  Despite pulling as hard as I could I was missing a lot of waves, I also kept breaking paddles.  It seemed to make sense that the harder I pulled and the more the paddle shaft was bending, the faster I would go.
A big breakthrough for me came when Brian Keaulana gave me this tip after watching me try to catch a wave:  "You are starting in third gear!" 
He explained that first gear is short, quick strokes, way up in front, just tapping the water, not long, hard pulls.  That was a turning point for me, I learned how to use these quick accelerating strokes and it worked like a charm.  Not only was I no longer breaking paddles but my board would accelerate with just a few quick strokes and I started catching more waves.  This technique also works well in downwinders, whenever you need to accelerate to catch a bump.  Even in flatwater races you can use them at the start, after turns, or to catch up to a draft.  So I encourage you to watch the video, try this first gear acceleration stroke, and you will be a more well rounded paddler.  Not all strokes are the same, learn to use different gears when paddling and switch them up as needed.  
The gear analogy works: everyone knows that if you start in third gear, you will wear out your transmission and clutch and no matter ho hard you gas the engine, you will not accelerate quickly.  So take it easy on your body and gear and accelerate more quickly and easily by starting in first gear!
Continue watching after the video ends to see more SUP Tip videos in the playlist.
This video demonstrates how to accelerate quickly on a Stand Up Paddleboard by "starting in first gear". Quick, short, strokes create lift and smooth acceleration that will help you get the board on a plane to surf a wave or catch a bump in downwinders. 
We hope you enjoy our videos, please give us a thumbs up, check out the other SUP tip videos on our channel and subscribe for our latest videos posted weekly. For more information on our weekly training group mentioned in the video, please click on this link:…/weekly-time-trials-in-haw…
Also check out our private coaching offerings here:
Thank you for watching,
Aloha, Robert Stehlik
Quick, short bursts of power will help you get up to speed to catch a wave or bump
On downwinders the goal is to get the board to plane over the surface of the water and surf the open ocean wind swells.  
Gear used in this video: Kai Zen paddle with 88 blade, the blue board is the 2016 12'6 x 28 Blue Planet Bump Surfer, the rasta board is the 14' x 28" Bump Rider.  Drone video shot with the Hexo+ drone, land video by Evan Leong of

Robert Stehlik

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

Copy of post originally posted here on the blog:

Being able to go Stand Up Paddleboarding 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 narrated video of this fantastic experience:

Stand Up Paddling in Venice with gondola
While Eliana and I were on SUP's, the rest of our group was on this beautiful gondola

Stand Up Paddleboarding in Venice
Group picture at the Ponte dei Sospiri (bridge of sighs), connecting the courthouse and prison after the SUP paddle tour

SUP in venice hotel entrance by canal
This hotel, like most buildings in Venice, has the main entrance on the canal side where guests get dropped off by the water taxis.

Everyone got to row the gondola, learning from the gondoliers

After paddling we had a traditional Venetian lunch at the boat house.  The red flags on the walls are first place finishes at gondola regattas.

SUP and Gondola tour in Venice
Warning:  Please do not paddle in Venice without a guide, these are their roads and if don't know the rules, you are likely to be a safety hazard and will probably get completely lost.  So if you plan to paddle in Venice, please contact Eliana at SUP in Venice

Robert Stehlik

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!
SUP board volume
The 14' x 28" x 6" Bump Rider is a downwind board with 284 Liters of volume

Aloha, Robert Stehlik

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:

Aloha, Robert Stehlik

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!


Stand up paddle technique tips for beginners
Falling in is part of learning and part of the fun.  This is the right way to fall if you do fall in: hold paddle away from body, fall into water, not onto the board, fall flat on the water surface so you don't go deep in case it's shallow.  

Robert Stehlik

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.