February 17, 2011

Karen Wrenn Q&A

Karen Wrenn, one of the top female SUP racers just completed crossing the entire Channel Islands in Northern California this last week that is roughly 160 miles depending on conditions.  This is not small feat and Karen is believed to be the first person male or female to accomplish this feat.

Q:  Congratulations with successfully crossing the Channel Islands.  Why the Channel Islands and were you the first SUP to do so and female?

A: We chose the Channel Islands for a couple of reasons. Chris Wyman, the Sports Marketing Director for Kaenon was my boat Captain for the Catalina Challenge last year.  We were talking about if I wanted to do it again this year.  Chris tossed out the idea about attempting to cross all the channels in the Channel Islands and I immediately said yes. The Channel Islands are so close to the coast of California but not many people have been there.  It sounded like a great adventure. I am the first person to do all the crossings on a SUP board.

Q:  The weather and winds can be very intense out at the Channel Islands, how were the conditions and how many days/hours did it take you?

A: The whole trip was dependent on the weather.  Chris followed the weather  really closely and we decided to go for it sometime in February when it looked like we would have at least an 8 day stretch of good weather. People thought we were a little crazy for going in the winter.  I had to be ready to hop on a plane and go when we saw an opening.  We hit it perfectly and although the wind wasn’t always in my favor, we really lucked out. It took me 5 days of paddling and I lost track of the hours but the longest crossing took me 11 hours 22 minutes, finishing in the dark.

Q:  We assume you paddled only during the day?

A: Yes.  We would start at sunrise on the longest crossings and hope to finish before it was dark for anchoring.

Q:  Tell us a little about your support Crew as we hear Chris Wyman from Kaenon Sunglasses donated his time and boat for your crossing?

A: My support crew was amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them. Chris was the Captain and we were on his boat the Metaphor.  My husband John was first mate.  Shelly Strazis was the photographer and Ryan Moss was the videographer. It couldn’t have been a better crew.

Q:  Did participating in the 2010 11 City Tour of Holland (138 mile race that Karen won) help with your endurance and confidence?

A: Definitely.  I knew that I had paddled 5 days consecutively doing long paddles before and I could do it again.  The difference this time would be that I would be paddling big Ocean Channels where the conditions can get pretty gnarly.

Q:  We know everyone that is reading this is wondering, did you encounter any sharks and if so, how many and their size?

A: Yes. The boat saw a shark on my third crossing near San Nicolas.  I was almost done with the crossing and the boat saw a shark surface twice and thrash around  heading towards me.  They didn’t want to tell me because I was almost done with the crossing but they were watching to see what the shark was doing.  They tried to put the boat between me and the shark.  I noticed the boat head towards me off it path. I thought it was odd but didn’t think too much about it. They are pretty sure it was a Great White and pretty big because of how big the fin was. They didn’t tell me until I had completed all 7 crossings.

Q:  What was the strangest thing that happened during your crossing that you did not expect?

A: On my final crossing the weather was changing.  You could see a fog bank off in the distance.  It was really strange how it crept in.  It moved in from behind and the right and all of a sudden it enveloped us.  It was eerie. We eventually broke through it again.

Q:  What size and brand of board did you use and was there anything special that you had designed into the board to help with you crossing?

A: I used a Naish 17’ glide with a steering rudder. I also used a Naish 14’ Javelin on a couple of shorter crossings in the Northern Islands where it was less choppy. There was nothing specially designed for me. They were Naish production boards.

Q: Was it anything like you expected?

A: It was a lot like I expected but more beautiful.  The wildlife out there is insane. Seals, Elephant seals, Whales, Dolphins, Sharks and Birds everywhere.

Q:  Would you do it again?

A: I would like to spend more time in the Channel Islands exploring and paddling but not crossing all the Channels again.  I am always up for something new!

Q:  Did you do anything special training wise for the crossing?

A: I bumped up my distances and practiced my hydration and nutrition.

Q:  Any hints as to your next challenge?

A: Not yet, but hopefully something new and exciting.

Q: What goals do you have for yourself in 2011 and in the sport of SUP?

A: To keep having fun and help the sport continue to grow

Q: What one tip would you give to someone aspiring to become a better paddler?

A: Believe in yourself and make sure you are having fun.

Q: What do enjoy most about the sport of SUP?

A: All of the amazing people that I have met because of it.

Q:  What makes your motor run and what turns it off?

A: A challenge makes it run and bad energy turns it off.

Q:  Who is your favorite athlete?

A: The runner, Steve Prefontaine from Oregon

Q:  What would you most like to be remembered for?

A: A good attitude and making people smile

Q:  If you could lobby for one thing in the sport of SUP, what would it be?

A: To keep the growth positive and symbiotic

Q:  What is your biggest pet peeve?

A: Whiners

Q:  What is your favorite tunes while training?

A: I don’t usually listen to music when training.

Q:  What is your favorite after race drink and or food?

A: Coconut water, a beer and sushi.