Q & A June 2015- Sean Rice and Emily McGrath from PaddleLife- Part 2

Sit back and enjoy the second part of our interview with Sean and Emily where we hear about the racing Sean has been up to, Surfski Paddling in North America as well as PaddleLife's plans for the second half of 2015. 

Sean in Norway- Surfskipaddling.com 

Vaikobi: Can you tell us about some of your most enjoyable locations you have coached at?

Sean: I would say Israel. The conditions are just out of this world. Warm water, downwind, amazing sea life, cooking waves. I find the country a VERY interesting place. I am passionate about history and I always learn alot when I am there. 

I have just finished coaching in Norway and it was excellent. Ut I Naturen from Stavanger put on an impressive show. It makes so much sense for paddling shops to make the most of our PaddleLife workshops - there were demo’s for all the surfski and sea kayaking brands, a fun 3km race in between the two workshops, an opportunity for paddlers to spend time asking me questions about different boats afterwards and just a great atmosphere for everyone.

I love coaching in general. Some of my buddies just can’t understand it - because I am a competitor and I am still passionate about racing. But the feeling I get after a PaddleLife workshop is just out of this world. I love teaching others and introducing people to the sport I love so much. I take a lot of pride in getting to know each and every person I coach. I am a passionate teacher and I don’t think it will ever go away. It would be a waste for me to just be focusing on racing when I have a lot to offer to the sport.

Emily: I have a soft spot for Spain, but I think that’s because of the weather, the keen people and the red wine. I would say it’s mainly due to the people. The places with the friendliest and most welcoming people are always the most enjoyable. The friends we have made throughout the year are very special to us. I do struggle in the cold places though haha.

Sean conducting a PaddleLife session in Dubai

Vaikobi: What is the most common question you get during your coaching clinics from paddlers looking to improve their technique and performance?

Sean: How often should I practice stroke technique?  - the answer is “should be every session or at least during your warm up”. Good technique is crucial to getting the most out of surfski paddling. Everyone has their own style of stroke - so it’s about maximising your efficiency. 

Bridge to Beach, Sydney 2015- L-R Mark (Manderson/ Ando) Anderson,  Jeremy "Jezza" Cotter, Cory "Chill" Hill, Michael "Boothy" Booth and Sean "Prawn" Rice...it seems like you needed a nickname to get in the top 5 in this race..

Vaikobi: It has not been all coaching, you have been racking up some strong race wins along the way- King of the Harbour NZ, Bridge to Beach, Sydney, South African Worlds Selections, Euro Challenge, German Seamasters, Allwave and 4th in the Molokai…pretty impressive- How do you keep your own training program running in spite of the travel and coaching program?

Sean: As I mentioned earlier - it’s a challenge to say the least. I have a very strict training programme I follow but I no longer have a coach. It takes a lot of preparation to make sure I have a boat, some water, a car with roof racks etc.. I couldn’t do it without Think Kayaks - they make sure there is an Uno Max waiting for me pretty much wherever I go. Emily helps a lot with motivation too. I take one rest day a week - which is usually our travel day. I also paddle a lot during the workshops. Especially when we were based in Sydney. I was very focused on training for the SA trial while I was there. So I was following my usual program, but I was living in Manly and coaching at Rose Bay. So every day, after my morning session at Narabeen, I would paddle through the heads (10km), paddle during the coaching session (maybe (8-10km)), paddle back to Manly (10km) and then do my afternoon session. I did that most days. 

One day I wore my Garmin for a whole day of coaching in Hong Kong and it clocked 55km. I did this every day for 10 days. It’s crazy to think about it now!!!!! Haha. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I hope! I’m 25 years old and I still feel 19 - I think your body can take alot when you are young. I love pushing myself - I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t find it fun.

I also take a month (usually Jan) where I don’t touch my paddle - I usually do quite a bit of surfing and free diving instead - this is crucial for my mind and my body.

Sean duelling with Cory Hill during 2015 Molokai World Champs - Pic Pacific Paddler

Vaikobi: You have already told us about your Molokai campaign this year on your blog. 4th place in such an awesome field was a great result over 53km's and it seems to be one of those amazing races where you need everything going right for you to be in a position to be able to win. Knowing how much you love to win, are we safe to assume that you will be back to challenge again?

Sean: YES! I will be back. There is unfinished business haha.

Vaikobi: In terms of your racing goals for the rest of the year, is the focus now on getting ready for the ICF World Champs in Taihiti?

Sean: Yes - this is pretty much my focus for the whole year. As I write this - there are 105 days to race day. This is the biggest race of the year for all top paddlers and I want to give it my best shot. I can’t wait! I won’t be doing any PaddleLife workshops for the whole of September.

Vaikobi: Back to Coaching- Moving on to the next half of the year, we will see you spending a considerable amount of time in North America. Can you tell us a bit about how the sport of Surfski is growing in the US and Canada and how important it is for the sport to see these countries grow?

Sean: It is hugely important for the sport! Canada and the US is huge. Just the number of people living near water with money to spend - it’s mind boggling. Over the last couple of years there has been huge drive in these two countries (and of course other parts of the world) to improve health and fitness. I think this is the perfect opportunity for surfski as a sport. People need to get more active and they want to have fun doing so. During the PaddleLife workshops I talk quite a bit about fitness and lifestyle - it’s really why I do the sport and very important to me. I see surfski really taking off in the states in a big way. 

Emily: Well the numbers are there and from what we have seen so far, people are keen!! Hopefully there is a good turnout on the East Coast -as there hasn’t really been much coaching done there before. Most of our workshops are about half full now - so time will tell.

Sean conducting a PaddleLife session in Bellingham, WA in the Pacific North West, USA

Vaikobi: We are starting to see pockets of growth in parts of Asia. Where will you be touring in Asia later in the year?

Emily: Yes - well we hope so! Sean has been going to Hong Kong for the last couple of years (mainly for the Hong Kong Dragon Run and to coach) but we both haven’t spent any other time anywhere else. We are heading to - Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. We are still finalising the last of the logistics and then we will announce our official dates - hopefully by next week. We don’t really know what to expect here. But the dragon boat racing is huge all over and the numbers are big - so we are hoping to introduce surfski to these paddlers. We will see how it goes!!

Vaikobi: Both of you play an equal part in the success of the Paddle Life program. Sean, tell us the importance of having someone like Emily working with you and pulling the whole program together?

Sean: We need someone in the looks department haha!! Well, there wouldn’t be a PaddleLife if it wasn’t for Emily. Em seriously puts her heart into it and she isn’t even a paddler! I don’t do admin well and there is a lot of it! Organising a workshop takes a lot of prep - finding a venue, a contact, advertising, taking bookings months beforehand, making sure everyone has equipment etc. We are doing about 45 workshops this year!!! You can imagine how much there is to do and how much time on a laptop that is. I need the time to train and do the actual coaching. Emily also navigates us around the world and books all the flights and accommodation. 

Emily: Well I would say it’s team work. I do spend a lot of time on a computer but we do a lot of it together. It’s quite funny actually - we have a meeting every week with just the two of us haha. We sit down and discuss what we need to get done and decisions we need to make (conclusion is usually that Sean is about 3 weeks behind in writing a blog post!!! haha) . It get’s a bit much sometimes and we realise that days have gone by and we have only spoken about PaddleLife haha. I guess it shows how passionate we are to make it work out. I have learnt alot about the industry, about spreadsheets, about finance, about dealing with sponsors etc - coming from a Science background -it’s all new to me. Sean also runs PaddleFit - the online training - that’s his baby and it’s going very well.

Vaikobi:  Finally, both Emily and Sean, can you tell us your most favourite Vaikobi item that you use and why?

Sean: Right now - Anything that is V-COLD!!!!!!! haha. It has saved my nuts so many times!! No but seriously - this range is a lifesaver. Best on the market - no question about that.

Emily: Sean you can’t say “nuts" in public!!! I love the Womens Aztec paddle tights - I also use them for yoga!

Vaikobi: Well it all sounds like a fantastic year so far and we are stoked to be part of the PaddleLife Team along with Think Kayaks. We look forward to following your adventures over the second part of 2015!

Sean & Emily: Thanks Vaikobi. We are super stoked to have the support from you, along with Think Kayaks and our brand new partner, Motionize. It’s been an amazing year so far. We can’t thank our supporters enough - sponsors, friends, family, paddlers and everyone else who has played a part.

Vaikobi: Thanks Sean & Emily and best of luck for the rest of the year!

For more information on Paddle Life please visit www.yourpaddlelife.com 

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