Pro Activity: A Day With Teenage Race Prodigy Travis Baptiste
A typical day for a 17-year-old race phenom is not your typical day.
by Phil White
For most high schoolers, senior year is a time to hang out with friends, raise the GPA and finalize college plans. Travis Baptiste is not most high schoolers. The 17-year-old Kihei native won the 14-foot class in the past two Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard Championships, and finished fifth overall in last year's race despite preferring a stock board and being hospitalized twice just before crossing the Channel of Bones.
For Baptiste, senior year of high school involved a seven- to ten-mile downwinder each day, a grueling five- to six-day weekly training regimen at Aloha CrossFit and surfing whenever swell swept onto Maui. Amid schooling, he competed with the world's best SUP athletes and, for good measure, participated in several six-man outrigger canoe contests.
A Day in the Life
A typical day for Baptiste begins early. Really early. After waking up at 4:30 am, he drives 25 minutes north to Aloha CrossFit in Kahului, where head coach Jimmy Tanaka already has the music blaring and is putting his athletes through a series of warm up and mobility drills. Once he's done rowing intervals, performing Olympic lifts, climbing ropes and whatever else the WOD (workout of the day) requires, Baptiste often goes the extra mile, literally. Several days a week he tags a run onto the end of his CrossFit session to boost his aerobic conditioning.
After training, Travis goes to class at Baldwin High School, where many of his compatriots arrive just having rolled out of bed. After a full day of classes, Baptiste loads up his SUP board and drives to the boardwalk in Kihei for a downwinder. While he's on the water, his mom, Judie, drives to the start spot, switches to Travis's car and picks him up – usually at Sarento's or Makena Landing. They then go back to her vehicle and head home. While Judie cooks dinner, Baptiste takes another shower and then dives into his homework for a couple of hours.
After dinner, Baptiste takes a few minutes to relax with his parents or hang out with friends. While his buddies' nights get getting going, Baptiste is done for the day. He hits the rack before 9 pm so he's ready for yet another 4:30 am wake up.
And just when you thought one kid can only handle so much, race season begins.
"The week of Olukai I only did CrossFit a couple of times and even then felt some muscle fatigue when it got bumpy," he says.
In the run up to less competitive events, Baptiste has kept up his regular regimen of hitting CrossFit at least five or six days a week. On stormy days when paddling isn't an option, he adds in an evening CrossFit session.
"I try to do really well in any rowing workout as it directly translates to my paddling," he says. "Box jumps have also really helped me build leg strength, which is crucial for standup."
A Champion’s Diet
Increasing training volume has forced Baptiste to change his diet. Though he admits that he still "eats a lot of pizza," he has completely cut out soda. When he's out with friends, he'll try to go with a healthier option such as a rice and fish bowl. Baptiste also packed on six pounds of muscle in the first few months of CrossFit after adding more protein powder and has amped up his fruit and vegetable intake. In the weeks leading up to last year's M2O, he suffered from a throat abscess and respiratory sickness that he believes was caused by a compromised immune system. The fix? Blueberries, acai, strawberries and green leafy vegetables in his smoothies, plus adding salads to meals.
What To Expect
With a nutrient dense diet and a year of solid gym and water work behind him, Baptiste is more confident than ever heading into this year's Molokai channel crossing. After talking with mentor Danny Ching, he decided to resist the temptation to switch to the unlimited class.
"I like being the underdog and want to show people what can be done on a 14-foot board," he says. "Connor [Baxter] is a great friend but I want to push him hard this time and am hoping for a top three finish."
Whatever happens during race season, Baptiste has a solid plan for next year. Citing the impact of his parents and Baldwin High teacher Travis Toda, he will combine paddling with pursuing a marketing degree at a Maui college.
"A lot of my friends are moving to the mainland, but I'm going to stay on Maui for college and my career," he says. "I also want to help push the boundaries of our sport. We don't know what people are capable of on in SUP."