Stand-up paddle Canada with Blackfish SUP powerhouse Adam & Evan Gerbrecht

Blackfish Paddles Team Riders Adam and Evan Gebrecht have been scoring podiums in SUP races across the West Coast, British Columbia for a while now but stand-up paddling is far more than just competing for these talented, elite SUP athletes. Deeply rooted in one of the most stunning locations for watersports and outdoors activities, and a unique ecosystem, SUP, as they emphasise it, is about the “connection with the environment, being IN the environment, on the water”. Timed with the release of the new Blackfish video, “Finding Stand-Up Paddling”, TotalSUP caught up with Adam and Evan on their home turf in Deep Cove, as they juggle race training, SUP coaching and academic pursuits.

Photo by Viv Nishikiori

Hi there! How have you been holding up through the global COVID-19 crisis and coping with the New Normal?

Adam Gerbrecht: For me at first the adjustment was difficult. Not having access to gyms or training facilities, and not being able to go to school was a harsh change. But throughout it all, I’ve really been leaning on and realizing how constant and reliable paddling is. From training to instruction, I’ve found every excuse to be on the water.

Evan Gerbrecht: This new normal has been very interesting for me, while things are slowly returning to some sort of normal here in BC we are still primarily racing online through virtual time trials. This has allowed me to keep paddling, while also trying out other crafts for racing such as prone boarding. I also have been getting back to running which I haven’t done seriously since I raced both track and cross country in high school.

Back to training… Any tips for getting back on the water and staying healthy and injury-free?

Adam: Always warm up and stretch on land before getting on the water, as well as go for a light paddle before starting a workout. I also personally like to do a few kick turns to get my feet comfortable moving on the board. No such thing as too much warm-up.

Photo by Viv Nishikiori

Evan: For me, the main key to keeping healthy this season is not pushing my body or mind to where I would normally be during a race season. Allowing time to recover and enjoy just going out for a paddle has been super enjoyable and will allow me to come back stronger than ever once racing is back.

Photo by Viv Nishikiori

Your Blackfish paddle of choice?

Adam: I am in awe of and in love with the Viento 520. I use it for everything. Long races, sprinting, down-winding, instructing, it can do it all. Recently, I have started using the Viento Black. The added stiffness and rigidity allow me to put in a ton of extra “grunt” to each stroke, making my acceleration lightning quick because no force is lost to excess flex. I also am a fan of the Andaman’s slightly more rounded blade for SUP surfing. It is such a reliable shape that I am comfortable with in any and all circumstances.

Photo by Viv Nishikiori

Evan: My current Blackfish paddle of choice is the Viento 520, I use it for almost every type of paddle or race. I love how the power pockets allow for a perfect catch, especially at higher stroke rates such as during a start of a race.

You live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Could you tell us more about your home SUP turf and favourite spots to paddle?

Lake Kalamalka, Vernon BC

Adam: For me Kalamalka Lake and the events held on it have always been a highlight of the season, no matter what. The lake has amazing 360° views of British Columbia’s Interior, and the water has a signature vibrant green-blue colour that surprises me every time I visit. The sand beaches, warm water, and shallow depth allow for amazing short course racing and provide a great place to play around on the board. And the long, thin shape of the lake makes for excellent long-distance paddling and racing. Lastly, the wind can pick up and cause some interesting conditions and a change from the usual glass, so it does show versatility too.

 

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Tofino, BC

Adam: What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Tofino is a small surf town on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It has a variety of sand beaches with year-round surfing and paddling conditions. Also, it’s notorious cold, wet weather means that it isn’t quite a huge tourist jam so as long as you are willing to get wet you will see how awesome it is. I love surfing most and Cox Bay, and there are also races at McKenzie beach and South Chesterman that are buckets of fun on a 14′ race board.

 

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Deep Cove, Vancouver BC

Adam: I am a little biased to my home waters I guess… This is where I started paddling and I will continue to paddle here my whole life. Deep Cove sits on the Indian Arm Inlet, a glassy flat body of cold water with towering green mountains all around. If you head north those mountains close in as you head north, and the surrounding nature becomes more untouched. You can also head south in the more swirling current and boat wake section of the Arm. Never a dull moment, no matter who you are.

 

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Evan: Yeah, my number one spot by far still has to be Deep Cove. Living there my entire life and paddling all the time has created such a special bond to the place for me. There are so many options of where to paddle to with amazing views and a fun time no matter where you decide.

Howe Sound

Evan: My second favourite spot is in the Howe Sound, on the downwind run from Porteau Cove to Squamish. Having raced the Candian Ocean Racing Championships there a couple times really has grown an attraction to the area for me, from the amazing views of the surrounding mountains to the amazing downwind runs you can get make paddling here truly special.

Jericho Beach

Evan: A great spot to paddle in our area is Jericho Beach, there’s great beach racing with the Vancouver SUP Challenge every August with unbeatable views of Downtown Vancouver. Having a sandy beach like this is very rare in the area so it really makes it special to paddle, plus the crazy winds and tides that can whip up really keep you on your toes.

 

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What is the SUP racing scene like in Canada?

Adam: I am most familiar with the scene in British Columbia, the province of Canada I live in, but I know there are growing scenes across the country. BC has the BC SUP Cup, a series of races that range different disciplines and locations taking you all around the province throughout the summer. In BC we are also starting to get some international recognition and a high-level athlete participation at some of our biggest events like the Vancouver SUP Challenge and the Canadian Downwind Championships. The scene is growing in size and skill, while still keeping the laid back local vibe.

 

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Evan: The Canadian SUP Racing season will usually revolve around the 5 BC SUP Cup races for us racers here around the West Coast, with the first race starting in May at Board the Fjord. From there big highlights for me are the Kalamalka Classic during late August in Vernon and the Tofino SUP Championships during Mid-June. Apart from the SUP Cup the main recurring races are the Tuesday Night Races in Deep Cove that keep everyone in race shape throughout the year and create a very tight knit community. Apart from that we also will compete in both the Canadian Nationals and the Canadian Ocean Racing Championships, so when it’s all said and done we cover a lot of ocean. Because of this, the racing scene in the Lower Mainland and BC is a very high level and really allows everyone to build off each other.

Photo by Viv Nishikiori

What would you say to paddlers just starting their SUP racing adventure?

Adam: Just because it is labeled as a “race,” there is no reason to feel overly competitive or intimidated. These events are simply ways for people wanting to get on the water in a safe and fun setting to get a good workout and some competition with other paddlers. My advice would be race anywhere and everywhere you can, truly immerse yourself in the community. And most importantly, find what disciplines and styles you have the most fun doing and have a blast!

Evan: My main recommendation to new racers is just go to as many races as you can, experience every event you can and before you know you won’t want to do anything else. That’s what worked for me and I can bet it will work for anyone. The paddling community is so welcoming and kind that it doesn’t matter how or where you start, we’ll just be excited to have someone else to paddle with.

Any predictions on how the sport will develop in the light of current circumstances?

Adam: I think that people have been finding their own ways to train and staying fit. But more importantly myself and everyone else are realizing how much we miss the community that SUP brings to our lives. When races and organized events start happening again, I can’t wait to see heightened enthusiasm and attendance!

Evan: I think we will see smaller grassroots races make a big resurgence as people travel internationally much less, which hopefully will in turn start more community engagement. I believe that having the local community more involved allows the sport to then grow internationally at a more rapid pace. Whatever happens racing will still be racing, and I can’t wait until we get the opportunity to compete again.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your next SUP racing gig!

To find out more about Blackfish Paddles and their progressive, refined, handcrafted designs, visit www.blackfishpaddles.com

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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