Sunday, May 15, 2011

A level of clarity.

I get a lot of  "Dude SUPing sucks" and "your blog's stupid and you're an idiot" screeds in the email inbox. Fortunately, every so often, mixed in among the knee jerk yappings- I receive a jewel. One of those comments that mean something. Or maybe it's an observation that contributes to the conversation or brings a level of clarity to what's going on here or in my life. Got this one today- check it out: 

Heh. It's so weird how I was *all* pumped up about kiting five years ago, then discovered SUP, and, um, well, all my kite gear has become dusty and obsolete, while my stand-o equipment becomes newer, lighter, and smaller. Not to diss kiting at all, just to underline the incredible, it-takes-over-your-life power of standup paddle. Now I'm tooling up to race. WTH? If you'd told me ten years ago I'd be putting my effort into anything that'd take me out of the impact zone, I'd have said you were nuts. Reality, as always, is broader than our imagination...

Wow. I told this guy or gal (and you can go back and read it all in the comments section of the last post) that he/she pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. In fact, it's inspired me. I need to tell you,  my reality has been so much broader than imagination that, a few years ago, I would've called the life I'm currently living fantasy.  Except it's not and it's blowing my mind. Here's a couple examples:

1. Racing: I have never raced anything in my life. No track teams, BMX bikes or bullfrogs. My heart rate was like a Muddy Waters', blues progression- cool, steady- languid. Pulse spikes were limited to super model sightings and close out Puerto sets (um... that one actually is fantasy because I don't have the balls to paddle out at Puerto but I can imagine that the old ticker would be redlining).

Fast forward to the Present: Let's just say that racing and I are heavily involved. I train for it (weekly, timed paddles, interval work, a weight lifting program, built in recovery and carb loading days). I plan for it (thank you Google Calenders and the Eaton race website). I've even got a racing work ethic: Get there early- gotta nab the best parking. Leave late- gotta quaff the after race victory beers. And celebrate my small victories (and I do mean small... if you saw the 4th place trophy for the Seaside Slide you know what I mean).

Perhaps most telling is this: My good buddy, Captain Ron, told me that I'd knock a couple seconds off my mile if I wore one of those skin tight, East German, Olympic iceskate racer suits. I said that was ridiculous... that's where I draw the line. At least until the Battle of the Paddle.

2. My waist line: Dude, I was fat. I was at least 235lbs and probably more like 240. The low point? I asked a fellow racer what I needed to buy to be faster, his answer: "You can be fat or you can be fast- you can't be both". That was a gut punch- and, believe me, there was plenty to hit.

Fast forward to the Present: Ever heard of a "fitted shirt"? I do fitted shirts now. Look at the masthead of this blog- that was me at 235. See those blue/gray trunks? Can't wear 'em anymore, they fall around my feet. My shopping cart looks like the inside of Pacquiao's refrigerator (I know because I saw it on "Cribs") all good, healthy red meats, bright colored vegetables and acres of spinach. Who would've known me and Pac-man, eating like brothers.

And guess what?  I AM faster. Unbelievably, I've staked a spot on the forward part of the finisher's  bell curve. I'm on the positive side of average and on the good days (identified as the races where two or three fast guys decide not to show up) I can even end up in the top ten. What kind of fantasy world put's me in Ricky Martin's old rayon v-necks and occasionally in sight of open water? Not one that I would have predicted just a couple of years ago.  

The point is this, the crystal ball is never set for any of us. Best of all, the power to determine what's in the future lies in your hands. All you've got to do is reach out and grab a hold of something good. In my case, I lucked out and wrapped my fingers around a carbon fiber paddle- little did I know that decision would put me on a path to some great changes in my life. I hope the same has been true for you.


Mandy said...

WOW!Great post! Couldn't have said it better myself! Im truly inspired.

John Ashley said...

Thanks Mandy- glad you liked it and thanks for visiting the site. If you're racing or surfing stand up boards, I'd love to hear about it. Go get 'em!


Bob said...

You got to come east one of these summers John. Join us for some of the CCBC events and have some fun. You can crash at my place and we'll quaff some brews with the CCBC crew. We even have a great beer sponsor...:)

David said...

Nice post John, and a heck of a personal transformation story.
I've been slipping on my Atkins friendly diet (especially here with all the carbs in Panama). Gotta get back with the program!
Take good care, my friend.

John Ashley said...

Hey Bob,

I'd love to get over there someday! I knew the Babcocks were bright... but beer sponsorship? GENIUS.

One of these summers I may show up on your doorstep- those races look so fun.


John Ashley said...

Hey David-

Thanks and always great to hear from you.... looking forward to paddling with you and all the Mojave Paddlers sometime... and am totally jealous of the surf I'm sure you're scoring in Panama... would love to hear about it.


John Ashley said...

Took care of it Mark- thanks for the kind words!


Eric said...

HI John, I really enjoy your blog, your enthusiasm, and your perspective. Keep it coming ! Thanks

srfnff said...

Mega kudos! Your life has become a lifestyle. Or is that the other way around? No worries, it's ALL good.

John Ashley said...

Thanks Gary! Keep us posted on how your racing goes... what are you looking at for a race board?

John Ashley said...

Thanks Eric! Funny looking over the last couple of posts I realized that I haven't written about my favorite part of the stando game- surfing- in a long time. Heading down to mainland mex in a few weeks hoping to shoot some vid and stills to fix that!

srfnff said...

I just ordered a Surftech 12-6 Bark Competitor from Freeline. Mucho dinero but I'll use it. Next is another paddle (my 6.5" otter tail won't cut it for distance). I'm looking at the QB Kanaha, probably a small or a medium for a little old man like me. A shop in town sells them and has offered to let me borrow a loaner. I'm real interested in the whole dihedral concept. Any thoughts you have on paddles would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. Re surfing...the south swell finally made it in here today...goin' off.

John Ashley said...

That's a great board! I see lots of those at the races and they all seem to go really well. And the guys/gals who race 'em love them- nice and stable at 29" wide. Great choice.

Advice for paddles: Cut it LONG!!! Seriously. Reach your arm up as high as you can and cut the paddle so the top of the handle is at your fingertips. Talk to the guys who race and see what they're race paddles are.

I'm using the medium sized Kanaha 100sq inches I think... I went with the paddle that I saw most of the winners using.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I had a look at that comment and I was all, "oh, yeah, totally -- somebody else who feels the way i do." Then I realized .. "oh. I wrote that comment. i forgot. nevermind..." Still, I'm happy it rang a bell.

Still love your blog. Keep at it.

Better Yeti (AKA Anonymous...)

PS I also wrote that deconstruction of Malibu Hamish you liked so well...

John Ashley said...

Yeti... out of the shadows! Man, love your stuff- you crack me up. Let me know when you're ready to pen something for the site and we'll give you full, center stage.

Stoked to meet you!


Anthony said...

Nice! Love this blog, John. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and adventures.

Renick said...


Been reading your posts here for awhile. It's nice to read others adventures on paddle boards and get fired up to hit the water again! I really don't know why people put in the effort to be negative, or even leave such rude comments on such a great blog. I would guess it has to do with jealously. I grew up surfing, and started stand up about two or three years ago(now I'm racing). I think it's a great sport and it gives me more time to enjoy the water(isn't that what it's all about?). I think people who get hung up on what or how people ride what they want have lost sight of why they started surfing from the get go. Fun.

Anyways just wanted to say sorry to hear people are a#$%oles, but I wouldn't even pay them any mind. While they're busy complaining we're out enjoying life! Kinda makes you feel sad for em.

Keep up the great posts! Can't wait to see more!

John Ashley said...

Hey Anthony-
Thanks for the nice words- and happy to hear you're enjoying the blog- get ready for some surf stuff because I'm off to mainland Mex (again) in a week... and there's supposed to be some swell in the water... yeeehaw!

John Ashley said...


You are right on the money- it's all about goofing around in the water. When you let it define you as a person- well then things start to get weird. Thanks for the nice words and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog- writing it is therapy for me!