Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Interview with Inspirational Stand Up Paddle Athlete Karen Wrenn

Well-known stand up paddle athlete Karen Wrenn is teaching two SUP clinics in Bend, Oregon on Friday, June 17th - the day before the Northwest Community Credit Union Bend Paddleboard Challenge. Fellow KIALOA team rider Chuck Patterson is co-teaching the clinics.
Top SUP athlete Karen Wrenn leads the pack

Here, Karen, who has finished impressively in SUP events all around the world and recently became the first person to paddle consecutively between all eight Channel Islands, shares how she balances SUP with her family life, how she sees the future of the sport, the most memorable sight from her history-making Channel Islands expedition, and more... 

What got you hooked on SUP?    
I was hooked immediately on SUP because of the fitness aspect. It was a perfect cross over sport for me from kiteboarding and windsurfing. No matter what the conditions are, I know I can always be on the water enjoying myself or getting a work out in.  

How big of a role does SUP play in your life?  
Stand up paddling has become a part of my every day life. It's my passion and my job.  

What's your favorite aspect of the sport?  
My favorite aspect of the sport is down-winding in the Gorge and Maui.  

How involved is your family in your SUP adventures?   
My family plays a role in everything I do for SUP. My kids are 5, 8 and 17 years old.  It's a balancing act. They come along on some of my races and my husband and parents help take care of the kids when they can't come with me. They're supportive and patient when I need to train, race or teach a clinic. It doesn't mean it's always easy for them or for me, but we make it work. They know how important standup paddling is to me and so it's important to them for that reason. 
Fellow KIALOA team rider Chuck Patterson will join
Karen Wrenn to teach two Paddle with Pros clinics in
Bend, Oregon on Friday, June 17th.

How do you see the future of SUP and your role within it?  
The future of SUP is exciting. It's growing fast and it has been amazing to grow along with it. I love racing, teaching clinics and going to events. The Paddle With Pros clinics that Chuck Patterson and I teach are growing and the next year looks to be a busy one. 

We heard that you were one of the test pilots for KIALOA's hotly anticipated new racing paddle.  What do you think of the Toro?   
I have been training with the Toro and used it to win the Carolina Cup. It's light and powerful. I'm stoked on it.

What other paddles do you use regularly and how do you select which paddle to use for different conditions?
The other KIALOA paddles that I use are the Pipes, the Methane and the Shaka. I used the Methane in most races last year but I'll probably now use the Toro in most. I'll still use the Methane in down-winding. In my long distance paddles, like my Channel Islands Crossings, I use the Methane most of the day and switch to the Pipes after my body needs a little break. I sometimes train with the Shaka on short training days.  

Congratulations on your huge achievement in becoming the first paddler to connect all eight of California's Channel Islands on a stand up board! What prompted you to undertake such a challenge?   
The idea was presented to me by Chris Wyman, the sports marketing director from Kaenon sunglasses. Chris had been my boat Captain when I did my solo crossing from Catalina to Dana Point in 2010. Chris had the confidence in me that I could do it and I knew with him as the Captain he would keep me safe. I immediately said yes. I was drawn to the challenge, mystery and adventure of it.  

What was the most challenging part?  
The most challenging part was the mental aspect. I trained to be physically ready for it, but it's extremely mental too. You're all alone on the water and your mind goes wild. There was the fear of sharks, dehydration, physical exhaustion and boredom. All of these things are not only possible, they are part of your day. How you deal with all these things in your head is the key.  

What was the most rewarding part?  
The most rewarding part was learning what my body could do when I pushed it physically and mentally to places it had never been before. I learned so much about myself by doing that... things I'll be able to use the rest of my life.  

What sight stands out most in your memory when you look back on the adventure?   
On the last day of my paddle the sun was setting and it was a brilliant orange pink. It lit up "the Metaphor," my escort boat. The light was reflecting off the boat and all around it.  Even though we didn't want to finish in the dark it was the perfect way to be nearing the end of 150 miles of paddling. As I watched the boat all lit up by the setting sun... I felt the greatest sense of calm. I was almost done and in that moment it was so real but unreal at the same time. The "Metaphor" was my light house on the water leading me to the end of my journey.  

Do you plan to embark on similar quests in the future?  

What do you enjoy about SUP racing?  
SUP racing helps to calm the crave to compete in me. I've always enjoyed competition and I like to have something to train for. The people I've met and continue to meet at races is a huge part of why racing is fun.  

What do you think of Bend?  
Bend is awesome! My whole family always looks forward to our trips there. There's so much to do and it feels healthy and relaxing when I'm there.  

What advice do you have for newcomers to the sport? 
Do it because it's fun! It's smart to take a lesson or a clinic when you're just starting so you learn how to paddle correctly and efficiently and don't have to break bad habits later.   

What can people expect from your clinic?     
For the race clinic; If you like to race and you want to take on the elite paddlers or just consider yourself an open-classer, this clinic is for you. Learn how to fine tune your gear, such as fin placement and paddle length. Learn ideas for race training on and off the water. We'll be talking race strategy and paddle stroke technique. The fun will start on the beach, talking about these things, and then we'll hit the water for some action.

For the beginners clinic; whether this is your first time or you've been paddling for a while and feel like you want to learn proper paddling technique, this clinic is for you. It's about getting started, learning about the gear for what you want to do with stand up paddling and learning technique and tips for proper form, and most importantly having fun. We'll start on the beach and then head out for a paddle.

Karen, along with fellow KIALOA team rider Chuck Patterson, will teach two Paddle with Pros clinics in Bend on Friday, June 17th so that competitors can learn new skills to utilize the next day in the Northwest Community Credit Union Bend Paddleboard Challenge. To sign up or learn more, visit

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