Top Tips from the Pros: Anthony Vela
Ask anyone in the SUP scene about Anthony Vela and the words “nice guy” invariably come up. But behind his genial, friendly demeanor is a lion’s heart. As well as being a world-renowned lifesaver, prone paddleboarder and surfer, Vela has won premier SUP events worldwide, including the San Clemente Ocean Festival and the 2014 Hobie Hennessey’s Waterman’s Challenge, where his girlfriend, fellow pro Candice Appleby, also took top honors. If you haven’t been living in a barrel for the past few years, you’ll know that Vela and Appleby make the most successful ‘power couple’ in the sport.
In addition to their intensive racing calendar and a vigorous year-round training regime, Vela and Appleby run SUP racing clinics, personal coaching and water-based corporate events programs through their company, Performance Paddling.
1. Practice with a Hydration Pack
Vela is often asked how he makes the most of his hydration pack during a race. The answer? He tested various options before settling on the one that works for him: an over-the-shoulder Hydrapack. Then, he practiced using it while training in a variety of conditions so that he wouldn’t be fiddling with it come race day. “I found that having a hydration pack around my waist didn’t work, because that’s where my life preserver is. I also found that I felt the weight of the fluid more when it was on my waist. The over-the-shoulder pack makes it easier for me to get the fluids I need without impeding my stroke.” The takeaway? Find out whether you prefer an over the shoulder pack like Vela, or a waist-mounted system. Then, use the heck out of it before your next race.
2. Include Skill Drills in Your Training Program
How does Vela gain a competitive advantage before getting to the start line of each event? “I don’t just paddle in training, but also work on perfecting elements of my stroke and practicing drills that help with starts, finishes, buoys, surf, and other things that will improve my race day performance,” he says. In the video above, you’ll see one of Vela’s favorite training day drills: switching from a parallel stance to a staggered surfing stance. How do you do it? “Take two or three strokes in your parallel stance, then get into your surf stance and take another few strokes. Brace, then go back to the parallel stance,” Vela says. The pro also told us that this helps him in sprints, downwinders, and transitioning from flat water to surf. If you work on such skills in training, Vela says, “they’ll become automatic” during competition.
3. Focus on Your Weak Side
Do you know what your weak side is? And what are you doing to improve your stroke on that side? “Goofy footers, like me, typically prefer paddling on their left, while regular footers favor their right side,” Vela said. By recognizing that in a race he prefers to generate power on his left, Vela knows that he needs to work hard to improve on his right side during training. “To develop a fluid and powerful stroke on both sides, you’ve got to identify your weak side and then focus on it during paddles and drills,” Vela says. “Then, you’ll be that much better during competition.” —Phil White