And It’s Time To Take Notice
If you’re reading this you probably already realize that SUP rules. Anybody can do it and there’s absolutely no gender line. In fact, women rip as hard as the men, from big-wave surfing to open-ocean crossings to flat out making a difference. But if you’re still a doubter, here’s exhibit A, B and C.
– Zach Weisberg
A surfer could go a lifetime without picking off a perfect wave at Banzai Pipeline. In fact, most do. There’s a reason why the tiny stretch of reef west of Ehukai Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore is arguably the most heavily guarded and dangerous surf real estate on the planet: If the wave doesn’t kill you, there’s a good chance the locals will. That’s why when 23-year-old Tiffany Paglinawan became the first woman to snag a wave at surfing’s Holy Grail on a SUP (during her first session on the North Shore, no less) people took notice.
“I got a few dirty looks, but you get that anywhere you go,” said Paglinawan of her first go-round at Pipeline. “I think most of the guys were shocked to see a girl on a standup out there. They were probably thinking, ‘Who is this chick? Does she know where she’s at?’”
The Kapolei native had to set her nerves aside to avoid becoming part of the reef that forms this fierce wave. “I remember paddling out and my knees were shaking,” recalled Paglinawan. “I was thinking, ‘Well, it’s too late to turn back now, because I have to catch at least one wave to get in.’ There was no way I was going to do the ‘paddle of shame.’ I remember paddling for the wave and dropping into it. I sank the rail and rode it to the end. When I kicked off it was the greatest feeling I ever had. Not only did I just surf a wave at Pipeline, but I didn’t even eat it. The feeling was pure stoke. Being the first girl to standup paddle Pipeline is a great achievement.”
On March 28, 2010, former professional surfer and all-around waterwoman Jodie Nelson achieved a grueling first for female standup paddlers when she completed a 39.8-mile solo crossing between Catalina Island and Dana Point, Calif. In the process, she managed to raise more than $120,000 for the Keep a Breast Foundation and Boarding for Breast Cancer. Inspired by a friend who has been battling breast cancer for 11 years, Nelson decided to contribute with the project she called Paddle With Purpose. “I wanted to show that if you set your mind to do something, there’s a way to make a difference,” says Nelson. “I don’t think people should ever underestimate what they can accomplish.”
Nelson’s historic feat and bold philanthropic effort attracted worldwide media attention, as she landed spots on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Today, and The Early Show. A story about the crossing spent a day in the top spot of the Yahoo.com home page, garnering millions of hits. Most of these media outlets wanted to hear about the 30-foot minke whale that escorted her for nearly three hours between Catalina and Dana Point Harbor.
“I knew it wasn’t normal behavior,” Nelson says. “It was coming up in front of me and next to me, blowing bubbles. It put me on edge for sure, but I just reminded myself to enjoy it.”
DESTINATION 3 DEGREES
In a vast expanse of ocean that measures over several million square miles, there lies a stretch of sea known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, aka the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic trash flushed into the ocean from Asia and the Americas swirls here for decades, turning this area of open ocean the size of Texas into an open dump for an estimated 300 million tons of garbage.
“In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments,” says Capt. Charles Moore, who sailed through the patch in 1997. The problem is that almost no one goes there to see it.
Enter Morgan Hoesterey and Jenny Kalmbach (below), a pair of world-class waterwomen who paddled their SUPs across Hawaii’s seven inter-island channels. Their goal: raise awareness and money for Moore’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which is dedicated to cleaning up the patch. The duo hopes their mission hits home with people everywhere. “The plastics problem isn’t just something that is made up, or is being blown out of proportion,” says Kalmbach. “If you are at the store and are debating about whether or not you need a plastic bag, don’t.”
This piece originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of SUP magazine.