Kieran Grant: Reading Waves and Lips
Kieran Grant is a Floridian who loves the water. He’s been surfing from a young age and like many water lovers, Grant couldn’t help but make the transition into SUP, jumping into the scene full force to compete in SUP surfing and racing. And, Grant does it all without being able to hear. The ocean athlete is deaf, but his lack of hearing doesn’t hold him back the least bit.
￼SUP Mag: You started out as a traditional surfer. Tell us about your transition ￼into SUP.
Grant: I started to learn how to SUP surf just over two years ago. My first time seeing SUP at a contest I thought it was slow, but that's because everyone surfed huge SUP's. My brother Fisher was getting good at it fast and when we went to the 2012 USA Surfing Championships in California, he entered a couple of SUP divisions and I got to see some sick SUP surfing that I didn't even know anyone was capable of. And, since I couldn't let my brother get all the glory, I decided to give it a go.
Our SUP guy, Tim Baker at East Coast Paddle, watched us surf and we gave him feedback on what was working and what wasn't. It's been evolving ever since. I'd have to say though, if we hadn't witnessed the SUP surf scene out west, we wouldn't have known how rad SUP surfing could be.
Having shortboard skills from my earlier surfing days definitely helped the transition to be easier. I like it because it's a really fun experience and great training. In addition to SUP surfing, I enjoy competing in races now too. I have to say that BOP-style and downwinders are my favorite because they allow me to kind of separate myself from the guys who are stronger than me. I feel more comfortable when I'm able to use the strength of my ocean skills.
SUP Mag: What was it like rising through the ranks of paddle surfing to compete in
your first World Tour event earlier this year?
Grant: Well, since I’d only competed with an upper level of SUP surfers once before (at the 2013 US SUP Tour stop at San Onofre, Calif.) I was a little apprehensive. It was also my first time in Hawaii and, the biggest surf I had ever SUP surfed in. Other than hurricanes, we don't get much practice on anything with any size to it.
My first day out, while paddling to the line-up, a set broke way outside. Anyone who SUP's knows that there's no "duck diving" and when you have to bail in front of a two-story wall of whitewater, it can get ugly. In my case, my new leash snapped and it was a long swim, especially when one hand was holding a paddle. But, I was pretty happy with my results at the Sunset Beach Pro. I made it through the trials and on to Round 3, which actually ranked me #1 for the East Coast guys after the event.
￼SUP Mag: Can you tell us how being hearing impaired affects you ￼out in the water and during competition?
Grant: First of all, I am profoundly deaf, which means I pretty much do not hear anything. However, I wear a Cochlear implant, which allows me to hear almost better than "normal" people. But this is only on dry land. In the water it's off, since I can't afford to lose it in the surf, so every time I go out in the water or during competitions, I just keep eye on the beach and set my watch before my heat. From my perspective, there's nothing really that affects me in the water. I can read lips really well, so watch it—I can see what you're saying!
SUP Mag: You and your younger brother Fisher have a special bond, but still ￼compete with each other. Tell us about the competition and camaraderie between you two.
Grant: Definitely! We travel, surf, and train together. We're buds but our styles are a lot different. I prefer shortboard and Fisher is really a longboarder at heart, although we love any excuse to get wet. My dad really emphasized that we become capable on any vehicle in the water and that we have waterman skills.
I think a good tip is to always remember, there's a tool for every job. Are the waves small or big? What's going to give you the best connection with the ocean? The cool thing about SUP now is, you can cover all your bases with a paddle in your hand. So I can rip, my brother can glide, and ￼my folks can flat water paddle. Pretty sick, huh?
￼SUP Mag: Tell us about your favorite place to find waves when you're home in
Grant: My favorite spot is my backyard because that's where I learned to surf and still surf with my friends. It's one of my secret spots and it's never crowded there. It tends to break over an outside sandbar and can be pretty punchy if the conditions are right.
￼SUP Mag: Let's talk about long-term goals. Where do you want the sport to take you ￼and what do you want to achieve as a competitive paddle surfer?
Grant: Well actually, I want to travel all over the world to compete on the World Tour and tap into more racing. The challenge I'm facing is mostly finances. The prestigious events are pretty scattered still and require athletes to commit to some pretty decent expenses.
I was lucky to travel to St. Croix, USVI with my friend Girard Middleton earlier this year to compete in a race with Ryan Helm and Zane Schweitzer. Those guys are amazing athletes and they were so positive with me—[they] totally stoked me out! That one experience alone convinced me that if I could show up, I could blow up. It just gave me a lot of confidence, which was pretty cool.
In the meantime, I'm keeping the "big look" and feeling super blessed to have support from my famiy, friends, and people like my PRT crew, who I race with. The SUP world is really full of awesome people! I would love to continue to work in the industry and think that between the people I've me and the experience I'm getting from a competitor side, I may be able to do good things. If you ever see me at the beach, say 'hey' and let's paddle!
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