Friday, February 22, 2008

Jack Gillen Shares His Stoke - Open Ocean SUP

I searched the beaches and surf shops for several days in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii for a standup paddling experience. Finally, I had a chance meeting with Jack Gillen at Honokahou, HI and my dream came true. I introduced myself and said I'd been searching for a way to try SUP. "Do you mind if I try it." "Sure" Jack said, "take it out for awhile in the bay." Thanks Jack for my first SUP experience!

Little did I know that a year later Jack would be at my home and telling stories to our local SUP group. We had a potluck dinner and get-together to honor Jack's visit.

Jack is an excellent story teller and has an explosive enthusiasm for SUP. He personally owns 32 SUP boards, scattered throughout the Islands, and a whole quiver of paddles. His SUP crusade has taken him on some amazing voyages where he's met many interesting people in the SUP world. We also discovered that Jack has many interesting and creative ideas, most of which involve getting other people out to experience the super-fun aspects of the sport and reap the benefits of physical conditioning. He uses himself as an example, "if a normal guy like me can do this so can you" says Jack, "you don't have to be a waterman like Laird Hamilton."

For many standup paddlers, the most fun is the open water down-winder with swells. Sure, the breaking waves are a climax of fun but limited. Limited because accessible surf breaks are rare, dependent on conditions, crowded and (in Kona) breaking on dangerous rocky shores. "The open ocean has no crowds and no rocks"says Jack. He likes catching swell after swell and the meditative part of getting in the zone on a long paddle. Other rewards Jack mentions are physical conditioning and the occasional religious experience!

To prove his "average person can do this" point, Jack decided to SUP every major channel crossing in the Hawaiian Islands. The story of each crossing kept us glued to our seats and gave me one conclusion. Jack is no average person! Can you imagine a 24 hour paddle trip, meaning you paddle all night? Sure, it was a full moon, but the moon set and he was dropping-in on huge swells in pitch dark for hours. On another crossing the wind shifted and blew him to leeward of the island destination. Luckily, once in the lee, the wind was sheltered enough to make up-wind headway to an exhausted landing. Jack has also competed in the Maui to Molokai and Molokai to Oahu races, encouraging us to race in our local events. He always ends a story with a safety precaution, don't try this on your own. Use caution with physical preparation, an experienced guide and a rescue boat. For training Jack advocates a blend of Tai chi, calisthenics and his own concoction of health/nutrition regimes. Not to mention, paddle, paddle, paddle.

So, Jack, we're all coming over to the Islands to do this with you! What could be better than to indulge in paddling, physical conditioning and open ocean adventure! Contact Jack: 808-756-7073

PHOTO 1: Jack took this photo of me paddling in front of the Honokahou State Park, Kona.
PHOTO 2: Jack sharing the stoke with the Bend, OR paddle group. Thanks Jack!

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