Over the past few years, Ryan Helm has come on strong in the ever-crowded elite men’s SUP racing scene, winning titles such as the Jupiter Fall Classic, Punta Sayulita Classic and making the podium at many more events, including the Hennessy’s-WPA SUP Championships. He has also competed in the ESPN X Games and was a featured athlete in BP Invigorate’s “Younger for Longer” campaign that promoted healthy living to a global audience. We sat down with the 38-year-old paddler to find out about his 2013 racing schedule, how living and training in Mexico helps his career, and his unique ‘finless’ paddling approach. —Phil White
SUP mag: You started the 2013 season strong with second place in the Orange Bowl Championships. How are you going to use that momentum going into your next races?
Helm: Miami felt was good because I have changed my training and it seemed to have helped me a bit. It is an evolving process for me to try new things and see how my body responds, still kind of trying to figure out what type of training works best for me. I feel like I’ve come a long way in the last year but I still have a lot to learn. So races are a good way for me to see how my training is progressing.
SUP mag: Last year you won the overall title at the Punta Sayulita Surf Classic on your home turf. Is one of your main goals this year defending that title?
Helm: Last year I got 3rd in the surf race, 2nd in the 10k, and 3rd in SUP surf. I love the event in Sayulita, the local support is great and getting to share in such a fun event with friends from around the world is what brought me to the sport. There are so many fast paddlers it seems harder to hope for a win, but I do feel more prepared then ever. Also MHL just got me the fastest board I’ve ever had, so no excuses there.
SUP mag: What’s the Mexican SUP scene like at the moment?
Helm: I am really lucky to have had the chance to help train the Mexican national SUP team, who are working hard and inspiring me all the time. Having Punta Sayulita support the event and the team it’s been amazing to watch the progression of the sport in this country. I think people will be impressed with how many great paddlers and how much standup has grown here in Mexico.
SUP mag: Tell us about your finless paddling.
Helm: I started doing finless thing a few years ago. Now I’m just using a small nubster center fin. I can’t wait to share with the world what can be done with that setup the possibilities are pretty amazing. I will have some new video coming out soon.
SUP mag: What’s new with your training this year?
Helm: This is the first year I am training specifically for racing, so 80% of my training is done on the water. The only other training I’m doing right now includes things that help me balance out and recover from the time on the board. I think SUP can be a great whole body workout as long as you use a few different strokes to activate different muscles and change up time and intensity to challenge the energy systems. My only real training secret is that I always fish with a hand line during my paddles – it helps me stay motivated and catch my favorite post workout meal!