Pics: Jason Sawyer
Father and sons SUP trio Jason, Joe and Todd Sawyer are a familiar team within the UK’s SUP scene. Continuing with SUP Mag UK’s theme of family paddling partnerships, we caught up with them for a natter and to delve into their paddling life to find out what gets them stoked on stand up.
Where’s home and your local SUP put in?
We live in West Cornwall so our local spots are endless for all types of paddling. Todd’s favourite is Gwithian for surfing and we all race train in Carbis bay with the St Ives Bay SUP club.
Tell us how you discovered stand up paddle boarding?
Jason: A few years ago I got a 12’ SUP from my brother (who was already a paddler for recreation) for some light wind wave sailing, started paddling it, flat and small waves and some local touring. That was It, I was hooked and the rest is history!
Todd and Joe: Dad and our Uncle Carl got us paddling as often as possible but it was in France in 2014 with the warm water that we both really started to love it!
Were you into any other watersports before? If so, do you still practice these?
Jason: I’ve always been into watersports from a very early age, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing etc., and have had my boys bodyboarding from a young age. I now have the perfect balance as I SUP surf, race and windsurf. All the sports complement each other perfectly.
Other than each other, who do you mainly paddle with?
All three of us are members of St Ives Bay SUP club and paddle as much as possible with all the guys and girls there. Club coaches Glenn Eldridge and Ollie Shilston are both fantastic paddlers with a great pedigree and passion for the sport.
Are your sessions a mix of surf and flat water or do you aim for a specific set of conditions?
Todd and Jason: If there are good waves we will always surf first, flat water second. However, given our unique location and the growing trend to race in waves, we often train on race boards in the rough stuff!
Where’s your favourite UK place to paddle – what makes it special?
Jason: For touring I love the eastern side of the Lizard to Falmouth Bay including the Helford and Fal rivers. However Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount takes some beating.
Todd: The goat track entry to the waves at Gwithian. It’s where I started SUP surfing and it’s now my favourite peak.
Joe: St Ives Bay when it’s sunny, flat and the seals are about. I’m more chilled than my dad and younger brother!
What about overseas – where’s that gem of location and why should other paddlers head there?
Can’t really tell you as it’s still kind of a hidden gem, unspoilt and most importantly uncrowded!
With travel in mind are you heading anywhere soon?
As a family we toured from Brittany to Basque Country this summer so it’s 5mm of neoprene and the Cornish coast!
Do you have any SUP spots to visit on your bucket lists?
Jason: I want to do the Molokai Race before I’m 50 (now 46) but in the short term we are planning a trip to Sri Lanka in the not too distant future.
Todd: I have every intention of one day of paddling into one of the world’s big waves, ideally Jaws. But after surfing double over-head already, I need to get a bit bigger!
There are many great paddlers coming through the ranks in the UK – who do you look up to and get inspiration from?
For all of us it has to be Ollie Shilston. He has a great attitude towards the sport, works a lot bringing on other people and is a cracking athlete!
What about globally – who lights your fire and makes you want to get out on the brine?
Simple that one; the only true SUP superstar and half my age as well, Kai Lenny.
Tell us about your SUP goals for 2016. What do you want to achieve?
Jason: As with this year, we will be surfing and racing as much as possible and enjoying our paddling. Todd wants to train hard all year ready for Watergate 2016 and I want to be one of the fastest old men on a 12’6! Joe is just happy paddling and chilling.
ln 2015 I paddled both the Caledonian canal and the Scillies crossing with my blind friend Dean Dunbar. These efforts have set the ball rolling for our next challenge in 2016. Dean (registered blind), Todd (15 years old) and I are planning to complete the 11 cities non-stop. Bring on September 2016!
Have you got a specific training plan in mind to achieve that?
The most important part of our challenge is to light my board up like a Christmas tree and practice night paddling with Dean to see if he can track my board.
Do you do any land based activities that help with SUP?
This year all three of us competed in the cracking SUPBIKERUN triathlons. I did all three, Todd did two and Joe one. I am an ex-triathlete so still cross train on my bike. Winter will see lots of time in the pool though. Joe works out a lot in the gym as well.
Talk to us about your gear – what kit are you currently rocking and why?
Jimmy Lewis UK very kindly support Todd and I with our race board and surf SUPs. The surf boards are fantastic. They are from the mind of an actual Hawaiian shaper and perform so well in British waves. The race boards are really exciting at the moment with the need for more stable, fast boards arising and the constant development by Jimmy in that area. Watch this space for 2016.
Todd: 12’6 U-Boat and a 80L super tech surf board.
Jason: 12’6 Stilleto and a 110L 8’7 Stun Gun.
Joe: I was the jammy lad who won the 12’6 Starboard Race at Sup the Creek! I have used the Jimmy Lewis Stilleto inflatable and a 14’ Red Paddle Elite though this year.
Have you got a magic set up in your SUP arsenal?
After watching Connor Baxter off the beach start with a handle on either rail I changed mine to the same, which has proved really successful for fast starts combined with my K4 fin. Great stability and it doesn’t matter if you smack the bottom as it’s plastic! Lots of practice is recommended though.
What do you think about the UK’s stand up scene in general – anything you’d like to see change?
I could rant on a bit here but I’ll stick what I think are the key areas. 1. We need to sort out junior racing across all organisations to provide athletes for the future. Sam and Jamie did a great job this year with the Red Paddle competition but there are a few youngsters that want to mix it with the adults but have their own class. 2. All organisations need to stop slagging each other off and work together for ‘the greater good’! 3. Good quality boards need to be cheaper. Loads of people ask me about surf SUPs but then you tell them the price and it’s the last you see them – not to mention race boards at twice the price of a carbon K1 kayak! It’s all about economies of scale I’m led to believe! Oh and I almost forgot: loads more surf contests please! Apart from that it’s a brilliant friendly sport spanning all generations and abilities and long may it stay that way.
Where do you see the biggest growth of the sport?
Leisure, recreation and touring style paddling as it’s so easy to access, cheaper and very rewarding.
Quick fire – bacon or sausage, dogs or cats, blonde or brunette, tea or coffee and black or blue?
Jason: Sausage, dog, blonde, coffee and blue.
Joe: Both, dogs, both, tea and blue.
Todd: Bacon, dogs, too young, tea and blue.
Any final shout outs?
Mrs Sarah Sawyer, we all love you for putting up with us three and looking after us when we come out of the water. Big thank you to Ian Phillips and Jimmy Lewis SUP UK for the continued support. Bring on 2016!