Downwind Paddling with Jeremy Riggs
What brought you to Maui from North Carolina?
Some friends moved out to Hawaii. I bought a one-way ticket to try to find a job figuring I'd just go home if it failed. I got into longboarding, shortboarding, towing, then SUP.
How'd you get into SUP?
I was neighbors with Dave Kalama. I got to see all his new toys. I borrowed one and fell in love with it. Whenever he was gone I took out his tandem boards that were 26 inches wide and really thick and like 45 pounds. It was fun because you could do anything on it. I was doing some prone on the Maliko Run. Whenever I was prone and caught a glide I was like, "I wish I could stand up." It finally clicked when I saw Dave, Laird, and Loch (Eggers) doing downwinders. I did granite counters for Laird in a trade for a 12-foot Ron House.
What events are you competing in this season?
The local races on Maui and other downwind races I can get to. The channel races are my biggest races of the year. Maui to Molokai is probably the best straight downwind I've ever done and Molokai to Oahu is the most challenging race I've ever done.
You've used a 14-foot rudderless for ages. Any changes coming to your equipment?
I've been chasing unlimited guys for so many years now I've decided it's time to get an unlimited board (over 14 feet). I'm looking at using the unlimited more for races. I would like to stay on 14' and race those same guys on the 14'; I like the basics of a clean deck, being able to walk anywhere you want to and having a more surfing feel to downwind racing. Being able to move and trim and rely on your surfing skills is where I've been the past four or five years. But with an unlimited and a rudder, I work a lot less. You can run longer and kick the rudder to change direction and it really opens up the glides you can get.
What do you do for training?
I'm taking people out and it's just time on the water myself. I find bumps for other people and tell them when to paddle and which way to go. Learning to help others has helped me understand the water a little bit more. When I'm not with anyone else I'm just reading the water. I also do spin and yoga in addition to chasing my two and four-year-old around.
Tell us about your perfect day on the ocean.
If the wind is down I'm pretty much surfing and when it's up I'm downwinding. I got into this coaching thing, helping kids with their first downwind experiences. Their parents wanted someone they trusted to show their kids the Maliko runs. Now some of those kids are on the covers of your magazine. --As told to Will Taylor
This article originally ran in our 2013 Gear Guide.
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