Back in November 2012 Travis Grant signed on to paddle for NSP. Travis, a true waterman, is one of the world’s best SUP paddlers: Battle of the Paddle (BOP) winner, Waikiki Paddle Festival champion and current ISA World Title holder, there is no doubt that Travis’ star is on the rise.
At the same time NSP also signed up with SUP designer Dale Chapman of DC Stand Up Paddleboards. What a team! Travis and Dale are working together to create some kick arse, race and pro race, SUP boards for the NSP range.
The new boards should be in the market place around July 2013. We recently caught up with Travis to find out a bit more about him and to get a sneak peak at the new NSP Race SUP designs…
GSI: Tell us about the first time you were on a SUP? How long did it take to get hooked?
TG: First time on a SUP was 2009 I think. I started seeing it around a bit more and thought, you know I might be good at this. I mean, I have been paddling outriggers since I was 15 years old (so 15 years now) and love to surf, so I grabbed my brother’s super old heavy wind surfer, got an old outrigger paddle I had and put a long shaft on it and went for it, straight out into the surf. Honestly I was hooked instantly. The feeling of standing or walking on water the entire time was mesmerising. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. It is such a different perspective and view of the water when you’re standing on a surfboard as opposed to sitting or lying down. It takes everyone a while to adjust, but once you get the feel for it you’re hooked for sure.
GSI: What is your connection with the water? Were you a surfer before hand?
TG: Being born and raised on the Gold Coast (Queensland, Australia) it’s kind of hard or silly to ignore the giant blue playground we have on our door step. I started surf club (nippers) and swimming as soon as I could walk. Apparently I used to spend as much time in the water as out of it when I was a kid. Like most kids after swimming came body boarding then the urge or desire to start standing up on the wave takes over and surfing becomes the norm. Standup has now taken that step, say one step further! Haha, now I find myself reaching for my SUP more than my surfboard.
I’ve tried my hand at nearly all water sport, loving them all, but for some reason paddling/outrigging and SUP have become my chosen water sports. I’m pretty happy with my decision.
GSI: What would be your advice for someone getting into paddling race boards for the first time?
TG: The reason I got into the paddling or the racing scene was I, along with alot of people, got sick of the massive crowds you get every time the surf was good and also the day to day inconsistency of the waves so I started paddling the surf ski and outriggers to fill in the small or windy surf days. I had so much fun paddling I started to focus more on paddling than surfing. Then after a while the two started to combine themselves and SUP was reborn. Now I paddle everyday and at the same time I feel like I’m surfing, if that makes sense.
GSI: 12’6″ or 14ft? How would you decide which board is better for basic downwind paddling and flat water use? Is it based on body weight?
TG: 12’6″ and 14ft are similar in many ways, a bit like a longboard and shortboard, they both behave slightly differently on the water. 12’6″ has become what you would call the “stock class” of race boards, the all rounder. It’s long enough at 12’6″ to get some speed on the flat and have a race, yet still manageable and surfable in most surf conditions. It’s the clubby board version for SUPs!!
The 14ft board is longer obviously, so what does that mean? Well in brief it gives the board more straight line speed/glide as you essentially have a longer water line. So if you’re one for speed and downwind paddling then a 14ft board is the way to go. But if you want an all rounder that is good fun in the waves still, 12’6″ is that perfect balance of speed and manoeuvrability.
Another point to look at is your weight. Heavier people do go better on the 14ft boards as well. Weight, or power to weight we call it, is a big factor with most paddle sports actually. The bigger the body, the bigger the board! At our training squad we have half the guys and girls on 12’6″ and the other half on 14ft. So if you find yourself a bit behind or you can’t get your 12’6″ running, try a 14ft board, it might be just enough for you to keep up with the pack.
GSI: What is your training regime leading up to an event?
TG: Training. I like to call it Practice, as that’s what I’m doing out there. Practice makes perfect, it really does. If you don’t put the time in you can’t expect to get any better. There is no real secrets to training or practice.
Nothing in my opinion beats time on the water! You need to choose a program, and you want to try and stick with it and see how you go. It’s all about improving your speed and skills right? So you want to try and balance your practice time into some skill/technique sessions and the very important speed sessions. I didn’t say more importantly there, as I am a true believer in good technique. Once you get the technique right then you can work on speed. Most people go right into trying to go fast without learning how to paddle! You don’t want to get into any bad habits early.
GSI: As an elite athlete what do you do to stay strong mentality during a race?
TG: Racing is a very mental game sometimes, or all the time. It’s one element not many people consider or think about, yet it can play a huge role in your performance. I know a lot of guys that kill it at practice, but when it comes to race day they fail to perform as well as they should have. The mental aspect is a hard one as every individual is different and views things in a different light. If your mentally stronger then your competition you have a huge advantage, and if they know that then you have already beaten them. After a big competition I am normally not only physically drained but I’m mental drained as well sometimes. It takes it out of you.
Before a big race I try to focus and think about how can I win this race. I look/study the conditions, the tides, the proposed course and the weather, to try and see where or how I can win this event. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best! I have found over the years the more races I do, the more confident and stronger I become mentally. Confidence is huge and it can’t really be taught, you have to figure it our for yourself and earn it! If you’re not confident how can you expect to win. Be careful with confidence though, no one likes a cocky or up themselves athlete. You have to be confident within yourself not with your mouth!
GSI: Say you are in the top 3 mid way through a 5km + race – what percentage of risk do you take on when taking a different line to competitors?
TG: Good question, and you can’t really answer it properly until presented with that situation. Again it comes back down to how well you have prepared and how well you know the course and your competition. It becomes a mental game when there are 3 guys duking it out. Basic rule, if you’re the fastest and you know it, you do the safest line/course. If you’re struggling to hang in there, then I would be rolling the dice for sure to try get a lucky break or an advantage over the other two guys.
When someone breaks off and takes a risky line it can sometimes mentally hurt the other guys as well, so no point in sitting behind and following the leader if you want to go for gold. That’s the exciting thing about SUP races, the elements can play a huge role sometimes and it’s the guy on the day who plays to the conditions best that wins. Sometimes a bit of luck might also play a role.
GSI: What format race type do you like best? (BOP, downwind, flat water course or other ) and why?
TG: I enjoy competing in general. I like the challenge of having to negotiate the ocean and work out the best line for whatever course has been set. If SUP was lane/sprint races I don’t think I would be paddling. As long as the race is in the ocean, I’m happy to race, weather it be downwind, in and out whatever, I’ll be competitive.
If a race is in the flat water, I don’t really enjoy flat water. That’s me personally. To me the word SUP means Stand Up SURFboard and should be in the surf/ocean. Ocean racing is about who can utilise and work the ocean to their advantage. Flat water races are one big wash ride and normally the fittest guy wins. I like to see paddlers with not only fitness but also ocean skills. Not a fan of drag races in flat water!
GSI: Tell us about your association with Dale Chapman? How did that come about?
TG: Actually I met Dale on the beach at Noosa when the Noosa Festival 09 had their first ever SUP race at the event. It was a 12’6″ class, starting in Noosa River paddling out to the bar around to first point then finished up the beach. It was a great little race, not many in it as it was a very new sport.
I was down there and keen to race but had no board. Dale kindly lent me one of his and I ended up winning the race, which was the first of many on a DC. Ever since then we have made a few boards together. The designs have changed a bit since then as our skill levels have improved. The DC boards I’m on now I’m very very happy with. They are the fastest 12’6″ and 14ft boards I have ever paddled!
GSI: How are the new NSP race boards different to what you’ve been riding in the past?
TG: I signed with NSP the same time Dale Chapman did. Kind of a package deal I guess. Normally I would use a custom made board and I still do, but now that we are backed by NSP, they will be producing my race boards for not only me to race, but others who feel they can manage an elite style race board. Also with the distribution power that GSI and NSP have I can soon turn up to a race anywhere in the world and have a top of the line NSP board there waiting for me to race!
The quality and construction NSP produce I’m extremely happy with. Apart from making my elite boards, they will also be manufacturing 12’6″ and 14ft DC boards very similar to my race boards but more user friendly, let’s say more stable. So no matter what your skill level they have a race board for you. From first board to first place they say. I think they nailed it on the head with that one!
GSI: At GSI our Mantra is “Life is better when you surf” – how does that statement resonate with you?
TG: Life is better when you can remove yourself from the busy noisy real world and go out into the surf and look quietly back at what you have left behind for a while. I couldn’t think of a better place to be sometimes than out surfing.
You can check out the whole range of NSP SUPs and surfboards on the NSP pages of our website.