World-class stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and outrigger coach Peter Dorries is coming to Townsville next month thanks to the support of the Townsville SUP Club. As the guy who was Australian masters SUP racing champion until he retired last year and has a cabinet full of elite-level outrigging medals; there’s a good chance he’s going to improve your technique. We chatted to Pete about his paddling past, his love of water sports, and some of the stars he’s currently coaching.
What do you personally love about SUP? The freedom to just get out there and get away from the rigours of normal life. It really relaxes me and de-stresses my mind and body.
How many years have you been doing it and how did you discover it? Eight years now. I was competing in Hawaii doing the Moloka‘i Hoe [men’s World Championship in outrigger canoe racing] on an OC1 [a one-person single-hull outrigger canoe] and ocean ski. I noticed that the others were doing stand up paddleboarding, so started to watch them. My friends from Hawaii told me that I needed to get into it and teach people back in Australia. I struggled with my balance initially, so I put my coaching cap on and came up with techniques and teaching drills to speed-up the learning process.
What’s your proudest SUP achievement to-date? The over 40s Australian champion in SUP racing. I was up until 2014, but I’ve retired from racing now. There are many facets to SUP racing from surf to marathons to flat water and sprints. The great thing about it is elite paddlers and beginners can race together – it’s a lot like running – and it’s a fantastic atmosphere.
Can you tell us about your outrigging history? I’ve been paddling since 1990 and have got numerous Australian titles for OC1 and OC6. I got into outriggers as a cross-training sport for surf lifesaving competitions [Peter was a QLD State Uncle Toby’s Iron Man Champion]. I enjoy the many differences from paddling OC1 to OC6: In OC6 you are part of a team and need to work together, while OC1 is you and your skills and abilities up against everyone else.
Is SUP’s popularity growing? Do you think Townsville will follow in the steps of southern Queensland? Yes, it’s still growing as everyone wants to have a go. Up north in Townsville there’s definitely the potential to follow, but summer slows you guys down while we heat up.
What’s a common mistake people make when they’re starting out? Technique. Learning correct technique helps with balance and ease of movement. My top three tips are always ‘technique, technique, technique’. Why? Because when there’s rapid improvement, it equals lots of enjoyment… rather then getting frustrated and quitting.
You’re known as one of the top SUP coaches in the world: What’s been your most rewarding coaching experience? Having two of my female SUP paddlers make it to the World Championships in the Women’s Division – Angie Jackson in 2013 and Shakira Westropp in 2014. Also Karla Gilbert, Australia’s top female paddler, is part of my Gold Coast training group. It’s really rewarding to be able to coach some of the top paddling athletes right here in Queensland.
What can people expect to get out of your Townsville sessions? The clinics will give paddlers the tools to improve their ability on the board so they can paddle in any conditions. They’ll learn to paddle for fitness, racing and enjoyment. And to catch waves – even in Townsville. You’ll also gain the ability to ride boards you didn’t think were possible and your knowledge of technique will expand by about 1000%. Plus it’s fun and informative.
Anything else to add? I like to take my dog paddling. He really enjoys it and can still get off and run around. SUP is something that caters to everyone – whether you’re out with a group socialising, or you’re taking it to the next level racing.
Peter is making a rare trip to Townsville to offer coaching clinics and one-on-one sessions to local SUP-ers. The first clinic is on Ross River on Saturday, May 2 from 3.30pm, and the second is on The Strand at 8am on Sunday, May 3. There’s a limit of 10 per session so be quick if you’re keen. Peter is also running an outrigger session on Friday, May 1 from 5.30pm at the Arcadian Surf Life Saving Club. Bookings are essential for all clinics. All participants must have their own boards and paddles. If you don’t have one, but still want to get involved, you can hire yours from In the Loop and Outer Limits Adventure Fitness. Peter is also offering one-on-one sessions.
If you can’t make it along to the clinics, Townsville SUP Club has a social paddle every Wednesday and Sunday. Times and locations change, so check the Facebook page. Beginners are welcome.