Book Review: How to Increase your Standup Paddle Performance: From Beginner to Elite by Suzie Cooney
I decided I wanted to increase my paddleboard performance. When I first started standup paddling some five years ago, there was virtually nothing available, either online or in bookstores that were especially helpful. One or two books were out there, but the sport was new. I quickly moved beyond how to’s described in most of the publications and started to race. Not seriously — but just for fun and the fantastic camaraderie and stoke that comes with the paddle ohana or family.
I needed more. I couldn’t afford a lot of clinics or lessons. That’s when I found Suzie Cooney’s website – www.suzietrainsmaui.com, On her page, she had lots of fantastic training tips, advice, and videos. Bonus that the background for all of that was the gorgeous island of Maui. I quickly moved through her content and longed for more. I don’t know how many times I wished for a hard copy collection of all that knowledge, wrapped up in one easy to use, easy to hunt through compendium that I could carry with me to peruse and pour over in one place.
BOOM. THIS SUMMER MY WISH WAS GRANTED
Enter How to Increase your Standup Paddle Performance: From Beginner to Elite, Suzie’s fantastic book that puts together massive amounts of information on her website, and then some, all in a large format that is a pleasure to read, and in a voice that is down to earth, encouraging, supportive and motivating, just like she is.
We’ve all read our share of fitness books or nutrition how-tos. If you’re anything like me, you rarely finish or don’t often get good information to take away and repeatedly come back to – because either the language is too high and mighty or scientific, goes above or below your interest or skill level, or stops just short of giving you what you are really looking for. Whether you are a beginner who wants to get in better shape or an advanced racer who wants to kick it up a notch, Suzie’s book is spot on. It’s well-organized, it gives tips and advice for each level of paddle skill, and most importantly it’s written in a conversational tone that keeps it light, simple, and to the point, but without dumbing things down.
The book is not all about Suzie, either. She draws upon the knowledge of local Maui legends and experts to illustrate and underscore her points – experts like Dave Kalama and Jeremy Riggs. That definitely adds a level of credibility to the content in the book, even though it doesn’t really need it.
A GOOD START FOR BEGINNERS
You’ve decided you want to increase your paddleboard performance. The book starts out with a good overview of gear that includes information that will be especially helpful for newbies who want and need to learn the lingo as well as some of the mechanics behind boards and paddles. Things I wish I’d had a better handle on when I bought my first board. For instance, she explains why boards have different shaped tails and what those shapes do for the board in the water.
She explains key terms that can often stymie folks who are new to the sport and then offers solid tips for making that first purchase.
TECHNIQUE TECHNIQUE TECHNIQUE
But the nuts and bolts of How to Increase your Standup Paddle Performance: From Beginner to Elite are the chapters on technique.
She explains how NOT to paddle, how to improve balance, and offers plenty of land-based exercises to that end, as well as training advice for protecting shoulders and improving leg strength and power.
Toward the end of the book, she helps you string it all together to craft a training plan that will help you meet your own goals. There’s even a special section on training for downwind paddling – which is what the good folks on Maui excel in.
The chapters are punctuated by good, easy to follow instructions on each exercise with great photographs that really show you how to do it. The training plan suggestions are complete, several alternatives are offered, and at the end of the day, the reader should have a really good idea of how to customize the plans to meet their own needs going forward.
Most books like this might stop there – or even significantly short of the detailed info Suzie includes in her book. But this is what makes this SUP manual stand out. Suzie includes important information on how nutrition also fits into the picture, and that could easily be a book in and of its own. Like the rest of the chapters, the nutrition information is clear, written in a way that anyone can grasp, but doesn’t slouch on the science.
THE MENTAL GAME
Perhaps the chapter that truly sets this book apart from others in its genre is the chapter on mental toughness. Suzie writes about her own experiences as well as that of other elite sup athletes. Pre-race jitters, low self-esteem, fear, lack of self-confidence – some of the best advice ever is in this chapter when it comes to calming down and dealing with the negative self-talk that all of us have encountered at one point or another in our sports lives…or elsewhere for that matter.
This chapter stresses positive thinking. And if anyone knows anything about the power of that, I’m guessing it’s Suzie. Suzie deals daily with the painful effects of ciguatera poisoning. Ciguatera comes from eating seafood containing certain microscopic organisms that produce toxins harmful to humans. The toxins cannot be removed by cooking, and they are colorless and odorless. Symptoms can include neurological ones that often cause misdiagnosis – people infected with ciguatera are often diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And the effects are different for individuals. In Suzie’s case, she experiences extreme burning sensations and she sometimes cannot differentiate between hot and cold, among other things. And the kicker, it’s exacerbated by exercise and exposure to sunlight. And yet, she is out there shredding on the intense Maliko downwind run whenever it’s firing, or on the beach training, or in the gym working like it’s nothing.
In the interest of full disclosure – I had the great fortune to spend time with Suzie in November. The day we went surfing, it was overcast, but by the time we headed home, she was feeling the effects of being outside. Yet, you would never, ever, ever know that anything was wrong. Suzie’s toughness, both physical and mental, in the face of something that would leave most people deflated, is truly remarkable.
You won’t find a more positive, encouraging, and mentally strong person than Suzie Cooney. And she passes that on in her book.
The book is available in a large format hard copy or in digital format – get it through her website – http://www.suzietrainsmaui.com/new-book/
The digital version pops with color and is handy to have, though if I had one bone to pick, I wish it was just a bit more interactive. But that’s just a minor point.
This IS the SUP training bible, as it is the most comprehensive offering out there that crossing all levels of paddle skill. Even if you think you know all you need to know about how to train for paddling, you’ll still get something out of this book. And if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself carrying it around with you for reference, since it’s easy to skim. Every paddler should have it on their shelf.