RM Paddle: Steve Shlens

Showing the Young Bucks How It's Done

Just when you thought you had all the excuses to why you can’t hang with the young bucks, we find a guy to make you feel a little bit of shame.  Not only does he have a demanding work schedule and family life, but he manages to find enough time to grind out the miles on the paddleboard.  And grind it out he does - enough to be the oldest paddler to win the grueling 32 mile Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race on a stock board at 42, and the only paddler to finish on a stock board in less than 6 hours, twice - that’s saying a lot for a race celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this August.  And if that was not enough to make you stand up from your computer and shout “no more excuses, I can do it!” Steve just returned from racing against the World’s best at the ISA World Games in Mexico.  Here’s Steve . . . .

Steve Shlens
Age: 44
Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA

RM: Is there a particular athlete that inspires you?
SS: I admire a pretty eclectic group of athletes.  Topping the list a legend whose birthday I share:  Duke Kahanamoku  then there's the original Gene Smith, Greg Noll, Tom Zahn, Laird Hamilton, Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond, Eddy Merckx, Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Tom Curren, Martin Potter, Roger Erikson, Derek Doerner, Kelly Slater, Mitch Kahn, Jamie Mitchell, Trevor Hendy, Terry Schroeder.

RM: How many years have you been competing?
SS: I've been competing a total of 13 years, but with a 20 year break in the action:  From 1982-1989 and then 2009 to the present.

RM: What fuels your competitiveness?
SS: The desire to push myself and see how well I can do.  As I get older, it's really more about seeing all my friends from around the world.

RM: Lone wolf or training companion? why?
SS: I prefer paddling with a training companion, although for my last major endeavor it was all solo.  It  can get pretty stale out there alone.  With someone to push me, it's easier to stay motivated, give it my all and to progress.  It's easy to slack off or just not go as hard as I'm capable of when I'm doing it solo.  As I said, my last major training cycle was completely alone, so I resorted to writing the workouts on my board to keep me pushing and focused.  It worked.

RM: What is your pinnacle racing moment so far?
SS: My pinnacle racing moment was winning the Catalina Classic in 2012.  I'd put a lot into that race and strategically planned for 12 months towards it, with my plan and training ultimately paying off in the best possible way.  I owe a lot to Joel Pepper for fueling that strategy and getting me there.

Recently, I had a bit of a different highlight, however.  At the ISA World Games in Sayulita, in a qualifier heat that was honestly inconsequential, I caught a wave during the second of four laps with four other guys on it.  We were the lead pack.  On that wave, we all laughed and smiled and a couple of high-fives were shared.  That memory - five guys on one wave - was the peak of my recent experiences, despite it being an irrelevant wave in a largely irrelevant heat.

RM: What are you training for now?
SS: Molokai solo.  I'm not looking to win, but I'd like to do well.  I'm hoping for a fun day on the water with friends.

RM: Training secrets? Care to share?
SS: I've got two training secrets I'm wiling to share:
1. Training is like fighting with a gorilla.  You don't stop when you get tired; you stop when the gorilla gets tired.
2. It never gets easier.  You just get faster.

RM: Weekend trip... where to? what do you bring? Your car, pet and gear. Itemize it! Tell us why it is in the list.
SS: Well this is a perfect question because this weekend I'm planning a road trip to a surf, paddle and dive spot.  I'll bring my long board, sprint paddleboard, shortboard, fish, swim/bodysurf fins, handplane, mask & goggles, as well as wetsuits, wax, sunscreens, whatever.  There will be some other junk -- since I'm camping out of my car, I'm not worried about limiting myself on this trip... except to say I'll bring minimal extra clothes.  If I were to take an airplane trip somewhere, I'd definitely minimize whatever I bring.  With age I've learned that less is better, to be honest.

RM: Sponsors?
SS: Joe Bark helps me out with paddleboard, Futures Fins helps me out with fins, A-Frame Surf Shop in Carpinteria helps me out with gear, and Patagonia sets me up with some nice clothes.  I love them all.  I'm not a paid athlete for anyone - I still pay for my gear.  I'm just some schmo out there doing what I love to do.

RM: Do you have a dream race you want to create?
SS: Yep, I have two dream races I'd like to somehow get into existence.
1. The first involves seeding every paddler in a distance event (male & female) and staggering each starter by one minute in reverse order.  As a result, it's all about the first to finish.  Speed, body type, and sex would mean nothing.
2. The second is a distance team event where every time counts and it's the combined total that determines the winner.
RM: We love it, count us in.

RM: Training Tracks - what are your favorite songs to train/race to? 
SS: Training tracks?  I used to listen to music while training and racing, but I haven't since about 2011.  Nothing.  I'm all about the silence and listening.  

RM: Thanks Steve, and may the wind be at your back.
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