stand up paddleboarding / paddlesurfing
biking, bodysurfing, hiking, surfing, skiing / snowboarding, surfski, oc-2
north shore of maui
my custom sic downwind board and my quickblade v drive are my favorite. the speed from that board and the power from that paddle is an awesome combination. i’m also having a lot of fun with my tempest two-man outrigger sharing time on the water with my family and friends.
in 1997, jeremy riggs found himself in maui, humbled by the size and power of the waves, calculating how he would boost his confidence in the water while improving his overall fitness. and that’s just how his passion was born. he began paddling to get stronger and stay in shape between swells and when he saw first landed his eyes on sup in 2003, a new interest was born.
the fact that no one was making sup boards or paddles at that time wasn’t something to stop this man on the water. putting his head and handy man skills to work, he grabbed a broken paddle from the canoe club, a wind surf mast and tandem board from a good friend and crafted his own sup paddleboarding set up that for the moment, worked to get his out there.
persistence and the ability to make solutions when there were no options available is what has lead jeremy from being just a man on the water looking to get fitter while catching some waves to being the 2012 naish paddle championship first place title holder and a go to coach for those who want to get out on the water and improve their strength, skills and speed.
take a few and get to know how jeremy has turned his obsession with getting better at paddling downwind, catching swells and picking up speed into something to be shared with friends and one of his favorite ways to bond with his family.
how did you get into stand up paddling?
paddling seemed like a great way to get stronger and stay in shape in between swells so i bought a prone paddle board and started doing downwind runs. i saw sup for the first time in 2003 and thought that it would be fun to try. no one was making sup boards or paddles at that time so i went down to the canoe club and asked if they had any broken canoe paddles. they gave me a broken paddle and i took it home. i got a wind surf mast from my friend, dave kalama and cut it to length. glued the handle in the top and glued the blade to the bottom. all i needed was a board, but no one was making sup boards yet so fortunately dave let me borrow his tandem board and i went out for a few sessions till i was able to find a 11’4 long board that worked for me.
how did you go from crafting your own paddle setup to being a go to guy for downwind runs in hawaii?
when i first started paddling downwind i couldn’t find much information about how to catch swells and improve. the only guy that helped me and gave me tips when i first started was dave kalama, he has always inspired me. i couldn’t keep up with the guys that had experience and they didn’t want to slow down for the new guy and i didn’t want to slow down dave, so i convinced a friend to start paddling so that we could go and learn together. once i was up to speed, i knew that more of my friends would like this sport so i begged them to give it a try. i didn’t mind hanging back and helping them learn. i’ve made a lot of good friends though paddling and i’ve always enjoyed introducing people to paddling downwind.
what is your favorite part of helping people improve on the water?
i like helping people and love seeing the look on their faces when they feel what it’s like to catch swells out in the middle of the ocean. i enjoy watching them build their confidence and succeed.
when did you discover that this was more than just a weekend hobby?
the first race i competed in was a canoe race put on by the maui canoe and kayaking club in 2005. all i had at that time was my stand up paddle board and when asked the organizers if i could join them, they said yes. the paddle was 10 miles from maliko gulch to the harbor in kahului and i hadn’t paddled that far yet so i knew it was going to be hard. they sent me out on my own and gave me a head start but shortly after i was getting passed by a lot of canoes.
i was close to the last few paddlers coming into the harbor and by the time i made it to shore most of the paddlers had already loaded up their canoes and were sitting around eating lunch and talking about their race. i received a nice warm welcome to this group of paddlers and they even had an award for me at the trophy presentation.
it was so cool to see so many people on the water racing, having fun and to feel like a part of the paddling community. i knew right then that this sport was for me.
stay humble though your success and treat other people with the same respect they have for you. the friendships you’ll make over the years outweigh the results of any race.
you’ve spent time with and picked up tips from a lot of paddlers, what’s that one moment that really stands out to you?
in 2007, nabil vogele asked me to partner with him in the molokai to oahu paddleboard race. at the time, i thought this was out of my reach, being the pinnacle of paddleboarding, whether prone or sup. we trained together and ended up 3rd overall for 2-man relay. if it wouldn’t have been for him, i would have never done this so early in my race career.
what is something that has helped you become a stronger paddler?
i’ve taken lessons from several paddlers over the years and picked up as many tips as i could along the way. when i see a paddler that has done well in the big races i introduce myself, congratulate him/her on their success and try to learn from them. they could be paddling a canoe, prone board, surf ski or sup. i’m looking to gain as much information i can from them. i’ve been inspired by them though their actions on the water so i’m thrilled when i finally get to meet them in person.
what are you doing when you’re not paddling?
when i’m not paddling with my friends or family i’m usually taking my kids out to ride their bikes, skateboards or scooters. we enjoy hiking, fishing, camping and swimming. our favorite places to camp are in the cabins at waianapanapa park in hana and the cabins in the haleakala national park. when i was growing up, my parents were always supportive and they did their best to provide me with the things i thought i needed.
now that i am a dad, i want to do the same for my kids. i know they will cherish these moments.
keep seeking and sharing your curiosities, jeremy. until next time…
Stranded on Land