We had the chance to catch up with stand up paddle athlete and community leader, Art Aquino. For those that may not know, when it comes to going downwind in the Puget Sound, Art is the man. You know those days when its nuking and the Sound is going off? You might see some paddlers on boards flying by, chances are one of them is Art. We asked him a few questions:
What got you into paddling?
Art:My neighbor a few houses down from me picked up a Costco foam top and invited me to try it out. I’ve had chronic back pain for over 20years from snowboarding so at first I was very skeptical to not re-injure it. I rolled the dice and tried it and realized it didn’t hurt, it actually felt good
It was a whole body workout especially for my core muscles which was exactly what my back needed to stay strong. The rest is history.
What is your favorite thing about it?
A:The many different disciplines. Downwinding racing, SUP surfing, flat water racing in that order are my favorites however I would have to say I really enjoy a great family paddle with my wife Heather and kids Luciana (10) and Linae (7) who also flat water race.
Also with SUP it doesn’t really matter what the water conditions are like… flat water? cardio train… windy? go downwinding… at the coast? SUP surf, its non-stop fun.
I must say that I have also met some great friends though the sport as well, it just keeps getting better!
Your favorite place to paddle(Locally and Non)? Why?
A:Local would be the Puget Sound, it has multiple spots for great downwinders for both north and south runs. Then theres Hood River which can be 4+ hours away but still consider it local because of what it has to offer, sometimes if its windy I’ll round-trip it in a day to catch some world class downwind action.
My favorite non-local place so far would have to be on Maui. The north shore has the famous Maliko run that starts at Maliko Gulch just east of Hookipa and ends at either the Kanaha beach park or the Kahului harbor, its amazing for downwinding, it has an awesome blend of ground and wind swell which makes for a more technical run. The south shore has an amazing run as well. Starts from the Kealia Pond in west Kehei and goes down to Sorrento’s restaurant or Wailea. It generally starts out small and builds after about the first mile then can form into these wide deep swells that seem to carry you for ever.
What have you learned from paddling?
A:It’s a highly infectious sport and that you can have a great time in almost any condition if you approach it with an open frame of mind. Even rainy days can be a blast if you dress right, it helps keep your body temperature cool and if you end up on the right side of a downwinder you can have an epic time. I have also learned to be patient and have realized that your paddle stroke doesn’t really start resonate until 400 miles or so which is when the efficiencies really start to shine.
You’re known as the Downwind go to guy here. What makes downwinding so much fun?
A:Because of the shuttling component it harbors community and the ability to make new friends. From an on the wave perspective its allows you to live in the moment, you’re constantly multitasking, balancing, paddling or not paddling at the right times, walking on the board, making split decisions to surf left, surf right or jump the swell in front of you all in effort to connect swells and move faster from point A to point B, its pretty dynamic.
I also like the fact that it isn’t always the strongest paddler that wins races it is much more technique based and race training means less time in the gym and more time on the water. For beginners it can be very humbling regardless if you are a strong flat water paddler or not, it looks a lot easier than it is but once you catch that first glide it all its over you just seem to want to do it again and again. For some reason vacation plans always seem to end up being in windy destinations
If someone is looking to get into downwinding, what advice do you have?
A:Make sure you have some flat water paddling experience before trying it and practice jumping off and getting back onto the board. Grab a partner for safety and dress appropriately, a thicker wetsuit is always better at first because you may spend a fair amount of time in the water and if you get hot you can always jump in and flush your suit to cool down.
What boards are you currently using right now?
A:For downwinding in Seattle I use a custom SIC Bullet 14′ V2 and the Bullet 12′. The 14′ Bullet V2 is great for speed and the 12′ Bullet rides super loose on swells; it’s great for making quick turns an carving it up on small to large DW swells.
On Maui I use a SIC Bullet 17’4″ or the SIC F-16, both great for larger swells. The Bullet 17′ is definitely faster but the F-16 is great for carving on larger swells and surfs really well once you’re on the tail.
As for flat water Im currently paddling a 2013 Starboard Sprint but will soon be trading it in for the SIC X-14 Pro.
For SUP surfing I use an Imagine 8’6 x 28″ or my Starboard Airborn 7’10 x 30″.
As for paddles I use the Werner Grand Prix for flat water and down-winding and Werner Nitro F 3-piece for SUP surfing.
Favorite thing about paddling?
A:It’s something my entire family can enjoy together. We all talk about the great times we have had together and future journeys we plan on taking in, great healthy way to bond as a family.
Secondly, I love the wide open space SUP brings while on the water, that and living in the moment especially when down winding and SUP surfing where you gotta be on your toes and when on glide for a split second nothing else really matters.
Awesome, thanks Art for taking the time to share some knowledge. See you on the water!