It’s part history lesson, part forward thinking, part guide book, part “how to”, part reference manual… From start to finish, the whole thing is quality. Even before you open up the book (and start reading the foreword by world champ Travis Grant) you straight away get the sense that this is a quality piece of work.
That’s a pretty hefty claim, so why is it so good? There’s a lot of reasons why I loved this book, and why once you buy it, it’ll go with you everywhere your paddle does. But first, who is this Steve West guy?
The guy has been writing paddling books for almost two decades. If you’re into outrigger canoeing, you definitely would have heard about Steve’s earlier works (such as Outrigger Canoeing: The Ancient Sport of Kings).
Steve West’s background is pretty unique; He was born in Africa and grew up in more countries than you could count. Was a pro windsurfer in the 80′s and helped popularise the sport in the UK. Spent years in Hawaii and Australia getting deep into the outrigger canoe culture, winning championship races in 6-man teams that included many of the stars of the OC world. Spent time as Australia’s National Outrigger Coaching Director. Has countless coaching and writing accreditations. And finally: Steve’s been a mad keen Stand Up Paddler since 2005, before most people even realised it was a sport.
As Travis Grant says in the foreword to Stand Up Paddle – A Paddler’s Guide:
“Steve West is synonymous with the Pacific-wide sport of outrigger canoeing, not just as a writer, but as a competitor, trainer and mentor.”
You get the idea that if there’s one guy capable of writing about Stand Up Paddling, including everything from its historical roots through to technique and training, it’s Steve West. So why’s the book itself so good?
Steve doesn’t just look back at the history, traditions and evolution of SUP, he also raises some very interesting points about the future of our sport; where it’s heading, how it might get there, and the possible pitfalls/lessons we can learn from other sports. For example chapter 3 “Devolution of a sport and a cautionary tale of woe” discusses the massive spike and subsequent decline seen by windsurfing in the 80′s.
Board design issues is another part of this book I loved reading. There’s a lot of insight into the potential problems that could happen if we placed further restrictions on board classes. But there’s also some really interesting points about the differences in board designs (and the desire to change them) based on both geographical influences and cultural divides, which most people probably never think of.
There’s way too many interesting topics in Steve West’s “Stand Up Paddle” to mention, but I guess that’s what you get when a book is close to 500 pages long and has been five years in the making. Just quickly, some of my other favourite topics were:
The rapid evolution of Stand Up Paddling, the first SUP races, board design, rails, fins, stability, race preparation, race strategy, “interaction” (this is very cool), psychological issues, the training year and training phases, paddling upwind, the relationship between endurance, strength, flexiblity, speed and power, and plenty more.
You can see why I compared it to a Lonely Planet Guide Book. It covers everything and it’s the kind of book you simply enjoy carrying around with you. It really is like a “Bible of SUP”.
Like I said earlier, Steve West’s Stand Up Paddle: A Paddler’s Guide, is part history lesson, part forward thinking, part guide book, part reference manual and part “how to”.
So if you’re a ”how to” buff and love reading about paddling technique, tips and strategy, you’re going to have a field day with this book. Everything from beginner’s guides to getting started, to the intricate differences between the Hawaiian stroke, the traditional Tahitian stroke, the modern Tahitian stroke and every other stroke variant you can think of, to tips on stability, turning, racing, pacing, downwinding, steering, and a lot more. In fact this last part is where Steve really come into his own; he’s written an entire book about the art of outrigger canoe steering and translates this ocean knowledge into some interesting pointers on becoming a better downwind paddler.
But I won’t waffle on. You get my point: This book rocks, and I think you should go get a copy right now. As Travis Grant says:
“For as long as I can remember, Steve’s books have been a part of my paddling life.”