Three years ago, a friend from Florida told me about it and I was fascinated. So I made my own 7-foot paddle from cedar and oak and used it to propel myself, standing in my canoe, for a 30-mile trip in Missouri's Ozarks with a cooler of beer and a tent. All the boaters looked at me like I was crazy. I did that for a whole summer and it wasn't until I got my hands on a real SUP paddle that I realized how heavy mine was—it's about 9 pounds. I call it 'The Hammer'!
Hopefully you're not still using the canoe?
No. The next year, I made my own board using a design from legendary prone paddleboarder Tom Blake, which was featured in a 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics. It was 10 feet by 22 inches and way too tippy, so I built a 12-foot-by-22-inch model. When St. Louis Sail and Paddle shop found out I was going to be the first standup paddler to take on the MR340, a 340-mile non-stop race on the Missouri River, they offered me a Hobie ATX, and then a 14-foot Hobie, which was even faster with better glide.
What's the St. Louis SUP scene like?
It's definitely small, but now that I've put up a Facebook page and am getting paddlers together, it's starting to grow. I'm going to put on events with St. Louis Sail and Paddle and with Piddle Paddle in Kansas City to raise awareness. We'll also do something in the Ozarks. Finishing the MR340 certainly helped raise the profile of the sport. That's my goal: I'm not going to going to get rich doing this, but I want to get people out on the water.
Now that you successfully completed the MR340 course, what's next?
I'm going to do the MR340 again. Last year's event was postponed because of flooding, which really messed up my preparation. With the right weather and a custom-made racing board, I know I can go a lot faster in 2012. I'm also going to take on the Texas Water Safari, which is a non-stop, 260-mile river race. I will be the only standup paddler to have tried it. It's the 50th anniversary for the Water Safari, so I think it's about time we got SUP into it. One of the reasons Pau Hana is making the new board's bottom out of carbon fiber is because of all the obstacles in the first 40 miles of that race—it's meant to be brutal.
How's your off-season training going?
Very well. It's too cold to be on the water, so I'm combining intervals on the rowing machine, elliptical and treadmill with weights and plyometrics. The goal is to have everything covered—power, endurance, strength—so I can handle both of those long races. — as told to Phil White
This originally ran in our Spring 2012 issue.
Read more about Perrin at SUPthemag.com.