Mmm, mmmm. Here he is, embodying everything a girl could dream of. Will my crush on Laird last forever? Yes. Yes, it will indeed.
Considerately remembering my Laird fixation, yesterday my friend Dorian sent me the results of the Catalina Challenge, an annual paddling competition from southern California's Catalina Island (one of the most gorgeous places in the world where no cars are allowed, only golf carts!) to Dana Point. Most competitors paddle in OC-1s or OC-2s and a few in three-man canoes or surfskis. The race's official website says, "There were a few firsts this year. We had entries in two new divisions this year. Surfski and Stand up paddle. But the talk around around Avalon [the town on Catalina] was the Stand up teams. Who would be crazy enough to cross the Catalina Channel on a Stand up Board. Three teams started the race. Most notibly was Laird Hamilton who made the trip Solo in just over seven hours. 39 miles of open ocean from Avalon to Dana point."
For those who haven't heard of stand-up paddling, it was popular on Oahu way way back but then it went out of fashion. Now it's been resurrected once again on Maui's North Shore, pioneered in 2003 by Laird Hamilton, his tow in partner Dave Kalama, and Paia waterman Loch Eggers.
You can do it in mushy waves . . .
Or really big surf.
Surfline.com says, "Stand-up paddle surfing seems to be the new rage in Hawaii these days. The surfer can conceivably go an entire session upright, without ever lying or sitting on his board. Laird Hamilton (surprise) was an early practitioner of this intriguing wave riding style, which is distinctly Polynesian in look and feel."
A Santa Cruz paper had an article this past January about stand-up paddling, too. It says, "You use a massive longboard — generally 12 feet long, 30 inches wide and 4-5 inches thick — with a canoe-style paddle that should be about six inches taller than you. You throw the tank in the water, knee- or prone-paddle out past the shorebreak with the paddle tucked under you, then pop to your feet with the paddle in your hand. With your feet parallel, you can then balance on the board and paddle around. Once you get the feel of it, the next goal is to propel yourself into waves."
The trend is catching on so quickly on the mainland that Santa Cruz epoxy surboard manufacturer Surftech plans to introduce a Laird Hamilton stand-up paddle surfboard model this summer, said local pro Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, who does marketing for Surftech and started surfing beach-boy style last summer with Surftech General Manager John Griffith.
As of last summer, Eggers estimated that about a hundred people on Maui were into stand-up paddle surfing.
Getting into stand-up isn't cheap, though. A board will run you $1,000-$1,500, and a carbon fiber paddle from a maker such as Kialoa Canoe Paddles costs almost $300. Too bad it's so damn pricey. But the price will eventually come down as stand up paddling increases in popularity. Eggers said in a MauiTime cover story about the sport, "“Right now the sport is in a little funk due to the high price for equipment,” he said. “A very small group of us are trying to get the price down. What I would like to see is, that you can get a board and a paddle for $700 like a package deal. Unfortunately it takes more people who do it fork down the big bucks in the beginning, then the big companies will see the popularity and react, they are looking at it already. I thought it’s a novelty but it’s turning into a sport.”