Today’s interview is with professional Stand Up Paddleboarder and all around kick-ass gal Jenny Kalmbach. If you’re looking for a professional athlete in the paddling world to look up to for inspiration and motivation she should be at the top of your list. She began SUPing back in 2006, and since then has been unstoppable: from being voted the 2011 Female Paddler of the Year, to competing in competitions all around the world from lake Tahoe to Costa Rica swells, to embarking on an adventure SUPing the Hawaiin Islands to raise awareness about the affects of plastics.
But let me not spoil the stories and insights she shares in this interview with my introduction. See for yourself! Without further ado, meet the fantastic Jenny Kalmbach.
Lauren: What do you love about Stand Up Paddleboarding?
Jenny: I love the diversity – whether you live near a river, lake or the ocean, you can paddle. You can go for a coastal cruise, surf, race, paddle whitewater or go for a downwind run; the possibilities are endless. I also love that no two days on the water are the same; it’s always changing so you never get bored.
Lauren: What was your childhood like growing up? Were you always in the water?
Jenny: I grew up in Costa Rica, which was amazing. It’s a beautiful country and we were very fortunate to spend our childhood surrounded by natural beauty – rainforests, beaches – I credit that lifestyle to making me who I am today. I have an appreciation for nature and wanting to protect it for future generations. As for the water, I swam from a young age and we went to the beach often but it wasn’t until later in life when I moved to Hawaii that I became so attached to the water, more specifically, the ocean.
Lauren: What meaning does SUP hold for you and how has it changed your life? ]
Jenny: Standup paddling has given me so much. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today, if it weren’t for paddling. It’s given me the opportunity to travel and meet new people, see new places and experience life in a whole new light. I am so grateful to be able to what I do and I love it.
Lauren: When and how did you first get into competitive SUP?
Jenny: I first started paddling in 2006 and I was hooked immediately. In the beginning, I focused mostly on the surfing but in 2007 I entered a local SUP race and I really enjoyed it. I loved being competitive again. A few years ago you were part of a team that set out to cross the channels that link the Hawaiian Islands.
Lauren: Tell us about that – why were you doing it, what was the most challenging part, what was it like?
Jenny: In 2010, Morgan Hoesterey and I were part of Destination 3 Degrees, a paddling adventure across the channels in Hawaii. Our goal was to cross all the channels that link the Hawaiian islands, roughly 300 miles and raise awareness for the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. We left from the Big Island and finished off the coast of Niihau. We spent 3 weeks traveling, paddling from island to island and stopping for rest and play days in between. The longest crossing was 82 miles and took just over 16 hours, 10 of which we spent paddling through the night. I will never forget what it was like to finish that crossing. It was an unbelievable experience and it taught me a lot about who I am and what I want to do with my life.
Jenny: Having grown up there, I have seen most of the country and it really is amazing. It has so much to offer but what has been really cool is going back with my standup paddleboards and experiencing it in a whole new way. I was able to surf new breaks, paddle on rivers in the rainforest and go for costal cruises, which allowed me to see the country in a new light. I’m looking forward to going back again!
Lauren: Of all the hours you’ve spent on your board, what’s the story of one of your most memorable hours?
Jenny: I always go back to the night we paddled from Oahu to Kauai. We left in the afternoon, paddled through a sunset, all night and a sunrise. At one point during the night, we took a break and laid on our boards. There were stars everywhere, they seemed to be engulfing us and it suddenly dawned on me just how small I was… floating on a 17’ board, in the middle of a channel, in the middle of the Pacific ocean. I can still close my eyes and see all those stars. It was breathtaking.
Lauren: What causes, such as fighting the use of plastics, are you passionate about, why, and how are you involved? How can others help?
Jenny: I first learned about the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean during the Destination 3 Degrees adventure and since then I have been very passionate about spreading awareness and getting involved with charities and organizations that are fighting the issue. Very few people realize how much of an impact plastic pollution has on our marine environment and the toll it is taking on marine life and human health. We need to be more aware of our habits and lifestyle choices. To learn more check out Plastic Pollution Coalition. www.plasticpollutioncoalition.com
Lauren: What have been the most important training tactics and resources for becoming a better SUPer and taking your skill to the next level?
Jenny: Having a good training schedule, proper nutrition and hydration and more recently, working on biomechanical issues that have been holding me back. I’ve worked with Mick DiBetta, from Dibetta training, who puts together my paddling workouts and they have really helped me become faster and more efficient. As for resources, the best tool on the market is a Garmin GPS watch. I use the Forerunner 910xt, which does everything from track speed, distance and allows me to create customized workouts. Training and racing wouldn’t be nearly as fun without it!
Lauren: SUP is gaining more and more popularity with the passing of every year. Who and what do you think is shaping the future of the sport?
Jenny: I think the young kids coming into the sport are really pushing the limits and are taking the sport to the next level. Kai Lenny, Connor Baxter, guys like that who are years away from being of legal drinking age, are surfing and racing on a whole new level. It’s incredible to watch and exciting to think of what the future holds.
Lauren: Who / what inspires you?
Jenny: Anyone who stands up for what they believe in and people who are really good at what they do. Very few people have the courage to do what they love to do, so it’s inspiring to meet people who have followed their dreams and found their calling in life.
What’s your favorite board for sport and your favorite board for leisure?
Lauren: What goes through your mind while you’re out on your board?
Jenny: Anything and everything. I think about training, racing, what I have to do that day etc. Being on the water is so relaxing and when I’m out there it’s my meditation. If I’m having a bad day, the water washes it all away. It’s nearly impossible to leave the ocean without a smile on your face.
Lauren: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Jenny: Winning and losing don’t define who you are. There will always be another race and at the end of the day, people will remember you for who you are, not what you’ve won. So, always remember to smile and be kind.
Lauren: What’s next for Jenny Kalmbach in the near and distant future?
Jenny: Right now, I’m focusing on the SUP race season, which is just starting out. I’m heading to Colorado and Australia in the next few weeks and then I’ll have a couple big races in Hawaii. Once the season is over, I’d love to go on a paddle & surf trip and compete in a few triathlons, which I’m really getting in to.