Elite SUP athlete - Ryan James
How did you get involved in becoming a SUP athlete?
How did you get involved in becoming a SUP athlete? I ruptured my AC joint snowboarding and in the 8 weeks post op recovery a friend bought me Laird Hamilton’s book “force of nature”. The book had a big section on SUP. I love the water in any form, I have a back ground in rehab and I live by the coast, what a great way to rehab my shoulder, so I bought a board! It then went from paddling round the islands in the harbour seeing and paddling with seals and dolphins, which was epic. To turning up for my first race within 8 months and getting my ass handed to me. I wanted to start winning these races, I trained, got some sponsorship from Starboard UK and the SUP store really early in my career which helped, and that was 10 years ago.
Who is your all-time inspirational athlete and why?
Within ocean sports it’s always hard to pick an athlete from one sport out. With the ocean throwing up so many different conditions you have to be able to have a skill set and equipment to enjoy it whenever your time allows. For me the newest waterman on the block with great ideals for ocean sports, big wave surfing and downwind foiling is Kai Lenny, he has had the advantage of being trained by and spending time with the crew that first mastered Peahi (Jaws) like Dave Kalama and laird Hamilton. These guys have the same waterman mentality, and value the ocean environment. However, you have to throw a rope back to the culture that did this first, the Polynesian’s who used celestial navigation to cross 6,000 nautical miles to the Hawaiian Islands in canoes! They are my true inspiration for the ocean life which I enjoy.
What has been your greatest achievement in SUP?
Greatest achievement so far is 2nd in the famous 11 city tour in Holland racing 220 km in 5 days, 6 (SUP) national titles, I want 10 and 1 national Outrigger canoe title!
Where in the world is your favorite place to compete in SUP and why?
Bucket list is to compete at either Molokai to Oahu (M2O) and race across the Ka'iwi (kah-EE-vee) channel, also known as the channel of bones. This is a rite of passage for all ocean athletes and waterman. The channel crossed is up to 2,300 meters deep and produces some of the biggest ocean swells paddled in the world.
Can you explain the type of training involved to compete at the highest level in SUP?
It’s all about your exposure to different ocean sports and conditions. The best SUP paddlers in the world would be considered watermen. The sports that defines most of them are SUP, Outrigger canoe, Va’a, surfing, big wave surfing, prone paddle board, swimming, free diving and spearfishing. For me to compete nationally and on the international stage I have to commit to at least 12-20 hours training in all these sports per week. There’s is a lot of technique and stroke maintenance, a lot of interval training to enable different gears or speeds at different intensities. I spend a small amount of time in the gym (2 x 15-20 min sessions per week to train basic movement patterns with rotation to give gains in strength and power aspects of the stroke, some paddle specific yoga and other physiotherapy treatments, the rest is in and around water. I also have sports psychology support which is new for 2019, so I’m hoping this will also give me a distinct advantage.
Can you tell us what challenges you face when competing in Ocean conditions?
The ocean presents many challenges with its conditions; however, this is what makes working with her so important. The more skills you have the more conditions you can take advantage of, there is so much free energy in the ocean the skill is to harness this and out position or out surf your competition. If I can’t get out on my SUP then I’ll go out on my outrigger canoe. If it’s blowing 30-40 knots, then I’ll paddle downwind for a couple hours surfing the ocean wind swell. If the surf is pumping then I’ll grab my board and go surf, if its calm I may go practice breath holds with free diving off my local beach. The more you go out the more you learn, which means I feel comfortable in any conditions the ocean presents. More importantly I have the skills to take advantage of what conditions are in the ocean at that time.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering taking up SUP seriously?
Go spend time getting a lesson first. Learn how to self-rescue, learn about the weather conditions, tides currents etc. So many people don’t respect the water enough and put themselves in danger due to lack of knowledge. The biggie is learning to swim to give yourself confidence in the water.
What are your aspirations in SUP in 2019?
There are 3 national titles up for grabs in 2019 (flat water, sprint and open ocean titles) I’d love to sweep the whole lot.
How has Beet It Sport helped your performance in SUP?
As an athlete with 35+ training years under my belt I am looking for any efficiency to increase my performance, even now I am older I am still hungry for performance advantage and national and international success. Using the shots, I have specifically noticed a reduction in post session fatigue when comparing performance data against previous sessions where I didn’t use nitrates. The second is my ability recovery or more importantly my ability to reproduce intensity associated speed in the water has been enhanced significantly. Even with a sport science background I was skeptical, but now can’t find a reason not to take a shot of beet root juice before an event or session.
Anything additional you would like to say about Beet It Sport?
I wish I found this a lot early in my athletic career! This is now a pre-routine essential for ocean sports life, I just hope none of rivals see this!