Inside The Ride
With Bill Babcock
Hometown: Hood River, OR
Bill Babcock is a man of many hobbies. At 67, he’s been living the dream for five years and, as he claims, “I’m really good at retirement.” He restores classic motorcycles, windsurfs, writes books, bicycles, paddles outrigger canoes, races a vintage race car and of course, standup paddles. A lot. He spends half the year on Maui and half the year in Hood River, which means he’s in the water year-round. We caught up with “Pono Bill” and all his gear on his way to the 2014 Battle of the Paddle.
1. L41 SIMSUP
This is an 8’ X 31” L41. It’s a great little board, really quick. It handles my weight, and is super fast down the line. It makes sections that I normally wouldn’t make.
I do a lot of downwinding here in Hood River and on Maui. When I’m in the water, I like to stay hydrated. I carry a CamelBak and put a cell phone in a Lifeproof case in a Sea To Summit waterproof bag. I like to have it handy for emergencies and use it for GPS tracking and maximum speed recording.
The Columbia River is cold, especially in the springtime when the water is all snowmelt. When I come back from Maui at that time of year I wear heavy booties. You can handle the air temperature in board shorts and a t-shirt but the water is 55 degrees.
4. Heat Gun
I use Ke Nalu paddles (at right) and they’re put together with heat glue so I can change paddle shafts or the blade. I switch it up all the time. I’m always playing with my stroke and working on it. As your stroke changes, you need to get the paddle in different places.
5. SIC Bullet 17.5’
I keep this one in Hood River and in Maui I have the hollow carbon version. They’re the best.
6. Starboard 12’2”
It’s the first Starboard ever made. I like doing downwinders on surfboards, particularly on this one. It’s fun but it’s slow. You have to have patient friends or have your truck on the other side.
7. Ke Nalu Canoe Paddles
We have an island paddle club here in Hood River and I paddle six-man (outrigger canoe) about three times a week. I think paddling six-man, you really learn how to paddle. Having to pay so much attention to another person, getting your paddle in at the right time, it makes you a much, much better paddler.
If you’re going to surf the Oregon coast, you need a wetsuit. It’s very fickle and tricky to find out where the best surf is going to be here. And it’s cold and sharky. Other than that it’s great (laughs).
9. 9’ X 32” Bill Foote
That’s my super go-to board. It’s more of a conventional surfboard set up as a quad or thruster. I dragged it back from Maui this year just because it’s so much fun. It’s not as quick as the Simmons but while you have to surf the Simmons from the tail, you can turn the Foote from anywhere.
10. Truck: 2006 Ford F350 King Ranch Edition
It has leather seats, which is ideal for a guy who’s in the water a lot and gets into his truck wet. I have the big-ass truck because I race vintage cars. I have a customized Airstream trailer that is half living space and half trailer, for hauling the car and going to racetracks across North America.
This “Inside The Ride” originally ran in our Winter 2014 issue.
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