Paolo has been punking me since the very first race we paddled out together and I couldn’t appreciate him more. From alerting me to the fact that I was paddling with a recalled paddle to commenting on how nice my new paddle… just not a good fit for me. Stuff my brothers would do to me before a race, and exactly what I would do to them. Things I miss.
Then there’s Paolo the teacher. There was a section into the wind during the Chucktown Showdown where Paolo noticed something about my cadence and paddle stroke. After the race, Paolo took the time to talk to me about the race and in true coach fashion, broke down how I might approach that same upwind section in the future. He noticed I was powering up into the waves as they came at me—basically timing my stroke so I was always paddling uphill, up the face of the incoming wave. Paddle downhill, he told me. Focus on keeping the nose down and timing the bumps so when that nose goes down, you’re accelerating. The timing helped me in my next downwind training session and in pretty much every single occasion where I went into the wind and bumps. I also found when I had momentum into the wind, I could see those mysterious bumps that sometimes refract and rebound into the direction of the wind. Mind blowing. Small things that make huge differences.
On short, Paolo loves teaching, coaching, seeing people improve and while I joke about the ribbing he gives me, you can tell he’s passionate about paddling and how he approaches the sport, the community and the people of paddling. Even when you hear him talk about bigger races, the bigger community at large, there’s this sense of gratitude that just oozes from every word. Meet Paolo. Paddle with Paolo. Go to Miami. We’re inspired by him.
What are you paddling?
What other watercrafts do you paddle/enjoy?
Where is your favorite place to paddle?
That’s a tough question. This last summer, the Gorge was awesome, but there isn’t anything quite like paddling in Hawaiian waters. Going out to the Diamond Head buoy and working your way downwind on a few bumps, then catching a wave to get back to Outrigger is pretty spectacular. Hawaii Kai run in Oahu and Maliko Run in Maui are also pretty special. My home waters of Miami are pretty amazing, too. The 12-mile downwind run off of Miami Beach to the rowing club in Key Biscayne is pretty surreal when the wind is blowing NNE 25 knots. Just get me some good water, some downwind bumps, my OC and my imaginary turtle, Honu, and I’ll be cheeeeee-hooing anywhere!
What is your favorite event and why?
The Gorge! Yes there is a race, but does it matter? The truth is, except for the top 10%, the results of the race shouldn’t matter. The day before the race, if the wind was good, you probably did three Viento runs. Same for the day before that and so on. It’s the closest thing you will get to a ski resort for downwinding. Give me a ticket and a spot on the next bus. Viento is waiting for me!
What is your favorite paddling moment and why?
There have been so many. I love sharing the water with a newbie for the first time, seeing them get on a bump for the first time. I love learning from the masters, sitting on a chase boat listening to some of the top coaches around teach their crews and then being able to take that home to my crews. Finishing M20 is up there — that is a tough race. My most recent favorite memory is this past summer, taking my girl, Jaime, to the Gorge. She had no downwind experience, and it was amazing to watch firsthand her evolution, seeing her go from a flat-water paddler to totally hooked on the art of downwind paddling, Yes, I said the ART of downwind paddling because that is what it’s about!
Do you have a bucket list event?
Tahiti Hawaiki Nui! I don’t even need to paddle it. To me it would be like the paddling Super Bowl, where the crowd follows the teams around in motorboats. I have been blessed to have been able to do M2M, M20, the Gorge and all of the best Florida races. Carolina Cup is on my list for sure, but the bucket is deep and there is always something new to add to it,. For now, Hawiki Nui is at the top of the list.
What are you grateful for?
‘The vibe. The paddling world has a vibe that if you pay attention to it and don’t get overly caught up in the results of races , it is just out of this world. Call it living Aloha, call it positive vibration, call it respect for the ocean that gives us so much. Once you are a part of it and you feel it in your soul, it’s forever part of you and those you love the most, That’s what I’m grateful for.
Advice or tips for paddlers?
Sometimes you need to just go out and paddle. Too many paddlers make paddling overly technical, but sometimes you just need to feel the water and work with it instead of imposing yourself on it. If you can truly feel the water on your blade, you will be fast no matter what you’re paddling. That’s the easy and the hard part about it.
Do you have a favorite charity?
I am always up to have a paddle, talk story and drink a beer. I am doing paddling clinics in Miami and one on one instruction for any who want to come down, I even have loner boats. You can follow me a @watermanpaolo, and find my information under the coaching link at Puakea Designs web site. Miami is a great place to paddle come down and join us!