Tales from the Battle: Zane Schweitzer

The future of standup paddling is in the budding crop of well-rounded watermen-racers. One of the torchbearers of the sport’s next elite generation is 17-year-old race phenom, Zane Schweitzer, who had a proud showing at 2010 Rainbow Sandals-Gerry Lopez Battle of the Paddle Hawaii, June 12-13 in Honolulu (31st in the nearly 100-racer-strong field, 25th in the Unlimited Class of the Hawaii Kai Run and sixth in the surf relay with the Starboard Hawaii team). SUPthemag.com caught up recently with Schweitzer on his on-water experience at the grueling contest.

— Follow Zane at zaneschweitzer.com

SUP: What was your preparation for this race?

ZS: This year my competition travel schedule did not allow me to prepare as much as I needed to for such an elite event …  I had just come back from a SUP surf event in Italy which I had won, and then I flew to Morocco for a windsurfing event.  I had just a few days back on Maui to pick up my new race board and do a few training runs with Mark Raaphorst before shipping my board in the morning to Oahu.  I did a few downwind runs including Maliko, Napili and Ka’anapali but I am in the water every day whether it be surfing, windsurfing or SUP. In front of my house at Lauiniupoko I did a lot of flatwater paddling on my Starboard 12’6 Surf Race. Eating healthy and working out with weights, stretching and working on my balance on my SURF Ball is also a good preparation for me.

But after this year’s BOP race and seeing the level of athletisism and how competitive the sport has become has really inspired me to push myself much more with my racing skills and paddling techniques.

SUP: When we talked last at the 2009 BOP California, you’d just gotten your fingernail ripped off in the board-smashing buoy-turn carnage. What happened there and how did that race experience get you ready for the Hawaii event?

ZS: The Danna Point BOP was exactly what the event is called; the race was a battle! There were so many entries and a lot of waves, some of which were 6- to 7- foot faces, so this also contributed the epic battle around the course. This year in Waikiki the water was a lot smoother and the waves were way smaller than the ‘09 BOP. Last year got me prepared mentally and physically on what can happen when there are waves through the buoys and many people acting as obstacles! That race is still the most fun race I have ever done on a SUP board!  Gerry Lopez even commented after the Hawaii event that they had hoped that there would have been more waves for the event.  The surf really made it that more challenging.

SUP: What kind of board and paddle did you use?

ZS: I feel so fortunate that I am sponsored by Starboard. They really have the fastest boards and they have supported me for the last five years windsurfing and SUP. My favorite board is the 12’6 by 26 Surf Race, it works great in the flats and also catches the smallest of bumps—Connor Baxter and I call them our rocket ships. For the downwind race I used the fastest 16-foot prototype board that Mark Raaphorst from Sandwich Island Composites designed for me and Starboard. As for paddles, I use the Starboard Enduro paddle, which is lightweight carbon fiber with great flex and a small blade for race strokes.

SUP: How did your race start go?

ZS: The Elite class start was a little, well very, hectic as expected with over 102 of the best paddlers in the world jockeying for positions. I got pinned between two people right when we jumped off the sand into the water and started fairly behind the pack, and then had to paddle my way up passing more than two-thirds of the pack before finishing.

For the Relay race I learned my lesson.  We had Kalani (Kristal) Brown, Kolaiah “Fuzzy” Jardine, Connor and I. We decided as a team for me to start, then Fuzzy, then Kalani and last Connor. My start was great and I was out in front in first place the first half of the race and finished in third after the last half, and in the run, seconds behind Danny Ching and Slater Trout. Our team ended up finishing sixth overall!

SUP: Who were you pacing yourself with? Or who were you gunning for?

ZS: In the Elite division I happened to be next to Candice Appleby, but I always had my eyes on the leaders so I knew how much distance I had to make up. The race has so many great paddlers all over the course that it was scattered differently with people each lap.  We even had to paddle around a few beginners that had made their way into the course and at one point a recreational kayaker came right into the course.

SUP: How was your finish?

ZS: I paddled hard and had a memorable race finishing in 31st overall in the Elite eight-mile course, sixth in the Relay, 25th in the Hawaii Kai distance 12-mile run and second in my age group! For my second BOP and only sixth race ever I feel I learned so much from this event. Now I am hungry and have more experience under my belt, have spent more time on my new equipment, and will be much more competitive at the next race.

SUP: How was this different than the 2009 BOP California?

ZS: Nothing compares with Hawaii.  It was beautiful weather, but extremely hot.  There was so much aloha at the event too. Everyone just seemed excited to be a part of the event. But the big difference with this year’s event in Hawaii was that the conditions were much more mellow. Without the waves taking out competitor after competitor. It is still one of the most difficult and fatiguing races, but the waves did not come into play. The Hawai’i Kai distance run was epic with some light winds and good swells for gliding and surfing.  And in true Hawaiian tradition we were all greeted by a fresh flower lei at the end of a fun day of racing!