Alison Riddle has always felt at home in the water, whether playing water polo and swimming at USC, pulling people to safety as a lifeguard at Manhattan Beach, or chalking up wins as a prone paddleboarder. So, it was only natural that the 26-year-old would get into SUP. And she has done more than just compete, notching 2012 wins at the San Clemente Ocean Festival, Lanakila Classic and Cold Hand Paddle and finishing 2nd in the Molokai-to-Oahu race. We caught up with Alison as she prepped for another busy race season. —Phil White
What are your racing plans for 2013?
First on my list is a paddle-run-paddle – 22 miles to Catalina Island one day, run the Catalina Marathon the next, paddle 22 miles home the next. Two weeks later I've got the Surf and Sand Duathlon, which is always fun and usually throws some weird weather at us – hail or shore pound or something. I'll potentially do Molokai again, and compete in the Catalina Classic in the prone paddling division.
Increased female participation seems to be fueling the continued growth of SUP. What's so appealing about standup?
For lots of women, surfing can be intimidating because they're not sure if they can handle being out there in waves. There are so many different elements to SUP— as well as surfing, you can do yoga on your board, or paddle around in a harbor or on a lake with a PFD so you'll build confidence. Or, you can go to the other extreme and get into whitewater. It's a great time with friends and it's a family scene. Candice Appleby took me and a couple of my friends out one day and taught us the basics.
How are your winter workouts going?
Great, although as I have a full time job and it's still getting dark early I don't get as much time on the water as I'd like. Because I've got paddle-run-paddles and duathlons coming up I've been spending quite a bit of time on the track. I'm also doing a lot of TRX and Pilates workouts during the week to work on strength, which I don't get as much time to do during the summer race season. On the weekends I'll get at least one long paddle in.
There seem to be more SUP paddles focused on women's needs. What impact is that having?
It's a lot more welcoming for us girls when we see that manufacturers are looking at our specific body types, instead of just having pink paddles. It's not just a boy's club any more. Now we're getting top of the line performance gear – lighter and shorter paddles, and lighter boards, too. If you struggle to get your board off your car and to the water you're already defeated, so it's nice that there are boards that actually fit us now.
How did prone paddling help prepare you for SUP?
Mostly in being able to read the ocean— knowing which waves to take and which to leave; where to be on those waves. But even with that understanding, the ocean can still be a humbling place. You can think it's going to be one way, and then it's choppy or dumpy. It's always changing, but at least when you're standing you've got better visibility above and below you.
For more SUP women, click here.