Joe Paddler Grant Begley

Where you were born and where you live now?

I was born in Monterey, California. I have lived all over the US and I now live in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

What is your occupation?

I am a Saint Lawrence Seaway Pilot, docking, undocking and navigating foreign ships in Lake Ontario. It’s a great job that keeps me on the water and gives me time off to go home and paddle.

Where do you SUP the most?

I paddle mostly in Florida. But, when I travel I am always looking for a reason to bring a SUP with me or find a local shop in the area. No better way to explore than on the water. When I am home, I typically surf in Cocoa Beach, paddle the backwaters for fishing and race all over Florida.

Joe Paddler Grant Begley

Do you have a favorite local paddle shop?

My favorite local shop is Paddleboard House in Indialantic, FL and WindanSea in Cocoa Beach.  They always take care of me when I need a last minute fix.

What paddleboard, surfski or OC do you ride most?

I paddle a few different boards, its hard to say which is the most. For racing I use my 14’ Boardworks Eradicator, for surfing I am on my Boardworks 9’4” Special or 9’9” Kraken and when I am fishing I always use the 11’ Tracker. I need more garage space……

Do you own any other paddleboards, surfskis or OCs and what kind?

As far as my full collection of SUP, surf and prone boards; there isn’t enough room to write it all. But I love my 11’6” inflatable Rocket. When I travel its perfect, I take it to tour around or I’ll even race it when I don’t want to travel with the 14’ board.

What paddle do you use?

Currently I am paddling with a Boardworks Carbon Performance Paddle with a medium size blade. I have just cut all my paddles shorter too.

Have you changed boards/paddles/equipment since you started? If so, why?

When I started I was using the largest blade I could find and paddling the widest boards I could find. If you would have told me that I would be surfing on boards under 9’ and racing on boards under 28” wide I would have laughed at you. But now, with the sport evolving both for the athlete and the gear, I am paddling smaller and narrower boards. I dropped my paddle blade size to medium or even small blade, depending on the race distance. I am a big guy and never would have thought using a smaller blade would make for a better longer race. But trial and error has shown me otherwise.

If you could travel to anywhere in the world to paddle, where would you go?

That is a tough question. So many places I want to go and races I want to compete in. I want to go to La Paz and paddle with the whale sharks. I really want to paddle in the Ascension Islands too, that is one place I know I could catch some serious fish close to shore. As far as races, I want to make the *Coconut Clasic* and *Painkiller classic* and *La Paz race*

Best piece of SUP advice you’ve ever received?

The best technical advice I have received is about paddle height and blade size. I have always thought I needed a big blade and tall paddle. After long races my shoulders and elbows would be bothering me. Then I was told to cut my paddle shorter and try a smaller blade size. Now I typicaly race with a small blade for long races. I get the same speed as a larger blade but I don’t trash my joints as bad. That and always have fun, no matter what. If you aren’t having fun you are doing it wrong.

Weirdest thing that’s happened to you while paddling?

I think the most bizarre and amazing thing I have ever seen on a SUP is the bioluminescence in Florida over the summer. I went out with a group lead by Wave of Wellness last summer and it was INSANE. So bright, the board is just glowing as you paddle through the water. You see fish, dolphins and manatee swimming as you paddle near them. It is really one of my all time favorite things to do when the conditions are right. Its out of this world.

Favorite SUP nutrition? (During races/ during a long haul)

I have gone through a few hydration packs over the years. Finding the one that holds enough water, can stow my other gear and is comfortable over a long haul. I really like my Vestpak. Holds plenty of water and is comfy. For races under 8 miles I just use water to keep me going, but if it’s a longer race I use GU and Shotbloks, they are what kept me going in Key West, Tahoe and during Chattajack. Plus the Shotbloks are like eating gummy bears, so any excuse to use them works.

Goals for this year?

This year, with my new job bringing me up north, my goals are to try whitewater SUP and get involved with the Lake Ontario race circuit. There are a ton of great races up north that I am looking forward to racing in. The hardest part is deciding which ones to go to.

Favorite post-paddle nosh (snack/beer/recovery drink)

Beer. One of the best things about traveling for races is that a lot of local races will have local beer waiting for you at the end. I can’t think of a better way to finish a race in a new place than with a cold local brew. After that, I always have coconut water and fruit for recovery. Food wise, its wide open….. depends on what’s around.

Your favorite non-paddle thing to do.

When I am not paddling, I am typically freediving and/or spearfishing. I have been mixing SUP and diving more and more. It has been a blast to figure out where you can launch from and still have good productive dives. Plus there is something really fulfilling paddling out and catching your own dinner. The beauties of SUP over kayaks or canoes are you have a much better line of sight. It makes it easier to find coral heads, ledges or spot fish from the surface.

What piece of SUP gear do you wish someone would invent?

I wish there was a bottomless hydration pack. It never fails that in the last miles of a race I have emptied my pack wishing I had just a little more water.

What’s your biggest challenge with SUP?

I have a really hard time finding my limits or pace. I know that all comes with training and time, but I can never seem to get it dialed in just right. There is nothing more frustrating than finishing a race and having plenty of juice left in the tank or, even worse, going hard and bonking half way through a race. I now understand the importance of racing with a good paddle community; it has given me the opportunity to work towards finding my sweet spot. With a good group, they will push you and you will push them. It makes the hardest part about this sport enjoyable.

Tell us about. Your proudest moment paddling?

A little over a year ago I tore a tendon in my right ankle. I was bummed, figuring my season was over. But with the amazing community I paddle with, they suggested I try prone until I recovered from my surgery and my recovery time. Within 2 weeks I was racing on a prone board (with a bag taped around my cast). I raced at Carolina Cup, then did the distance race at Key West and finished up my season placing in Tahoe at Race the Lake of the Sky in both the Distance and main race. It was such a great feeling having your friends and competitors push you as you figure out a new sport. I know use prone as cross training for SUP, it’s a great sport and I can’t wait for my next race.

Joe Paddler Grant Begley

Tell us about the best friend(s) you made through SUP.

The best thing about paddling is the people. It is hard to go to a race and not find a good group of people to be around and race with. Local meet ups are the exact same thing. This sport just attracts good people. I met my girlfriend through SUP and that was a little over 3 years ago, so I got that going for me. With meeting her I got involved with her local race series, Paddle Race Tuesdays, in Orlando. They are all amazing people and when we all end up at a race together its like having your family there cheering you on. It’s a great feeling. I love this sport.

Joe Paddler Grant Begley

What was your best SUP travel trip?

My greatest SUP adventure was probably last February when I went to Mexico with Wave of Wellness. It was a rad place to surf, there were both small longboard waves and overhead waves too. We also got to paddle with humpback whales, paddled through caves around an island and went diving/fishing from my SUP every day to catch dinner. Hands down my best SUP adventure so far……….

Joe Paddler Grant Begley

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