Photo: Ryan Foley

Photo: Ryan Foley

SUP Instructors Near You

From flatwater socialites to downwind warriors, SUP instructors are key to learning how to standup paddle. In honor of our upcoming Beginner's Guide, hitting newsstands March 28, here's a look at some of standup paddling's top instructors in your region.

Wind-Whipped Waterman: Robert Stehlik

Rob Stehlik dreamt of coming to Hawaii. It was a long trip. Stehlik grew up in Berlin, Germany and learned to windsurf in Holland. Like most windsurfers, Stehlik wanted to harness the infamous winds of Maui. That dream came true but his business studies took him to Honolulu on Oahu.

Stehlik started his surf company, Blue Planet Surf, as a college project in 1993 to create distinctive surfwear.

"It started really slowly," Stehlik, now 45, says. "At first I made business cards, t-shirts and was giving them away to my friends who liked the design. Our first real customer was a shop in Japan."

Eventually, things took off. Wholesale orders were shipped to surf shops and he started peddling his wares at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet in Honolulu in 1994. When things got busy enough a year later, Blue Planet Surf Shop was opened in Paia, Maui.

The shop (since relocated to Honolulu) now focuses on SUP, which Stehlik says has been hugely successful. Blue Planet was a C4 Waterman distributor and when he saw the first SUP boards come in he, "was like 'I gotta learn this.'"

The C4 crew, including Todd Bradley, Dave Parmenter and Brian Keaulana, kicked in their knowledge to jump-start the process. Stehlik got deep into racing, eventually completing the Molokai crossing three times solo and once on a team. He now works on getting people involved in the sport, doing a free clinic once a month in Honolulu through Blue Planet to teach beginners and let more experienced riders demo new boards.

"I really like getting people into the sport," Stehlik says. "Seeing that stoke for the first time is rewarding."

Stehlik also teaches more advanced lessons to students who want to perfect their stroke or learn the ins and outs of downwinding.

"Rob doesn't belittle or patronize. He manages to make you feel great about even the smallest step forward," says ex-NBA center Luc Longley, 43. "His biggest contribution was sharing the love of paddling."

For Stehlik, it's all about getting people outside. "The reason people like the water is they're connected to nature," he says. "Your mind's empty, you're in the moment." —WT

Other Options Nearby:
Rainbow Watersports
Hawaiian Surf Adventures
Island Water Sports Hawaii

This article originally ran in our 2013 Beginner's Guide. Look for more profiles in our upcoming Beginner's Guide on newsstands, March 28.

For more information:, 808.596.7755
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