May the Force be with you – Phil May interview

Interview: SUP Mag UK

Photos: Dave White and Peter Tranter

Phil May is one of Loco SUP’s team riders and represents the brand at various race events through the year. As many will know, juggling work/life responsibilities with playtime isn’t easy. It’s still possible, however, with a bit of prior planning and Phil manages to score a decent amount of brine time. And if you’re concerned about not being up there with the UK’s elite here’s some inspiration that may nudge you towards your first race event. Over to Phil for the goss.

phil may

As a family man holding down a regular job, how much time do you usually manage to snag for training?
Not as much as I would like! In a good week probably do 3-4 hrs of training a week. I work from 4am every day and although this means I finish around 1pm it also means I spend my life constantly tired. I usually get up at about 3:15am so by the time I am finished with work and able to train I don’t feel much like it. This may sound lame but it’s no good trying to burn both ends of the candle. I also like to grab a gym session here and there and usually manage at least one session a week.

Where do you normally train for events and who with (if anyone)? What areas do you normally focus on improving?
I usually train on the Chichester Ship Canal (if I’m looking for mirror flat water) and on the sea around the Witterings. I train a lot on my own because most of the time people with normal jobs are still at work. I work on building fitness, endurance and stamina. Intervals, in and out practise through waves, buoy turns and distance paddling are other areas of focus.

You’re a dad and hubby which makes trekking across the UK a tricky prospect. In 2014, however, you managed to get to a decent number of SUP races? How easy is this? Do you have to pick and choose in advance or is it more of a case of deciding nearer the time?
In 2014 I managed six of the UK SUP Clubs series races plus a couple of others. I did OK I think. Getting the dates in the diary is the easiest bit! As soon as the series is announced my wife Katie and I put them all in the calendar and then we discuss if any clash with other stuff. Some fall by the wayside as logistically they are impossible but I will make as many as I can. My wife sometimes has to work weekends and this means juggling child care, but I’m lucky and she will try and swap weekends if she can.

phil may

How many events do you have planned for 2015? Will you be taking the family with you or are they usually solo missions?
I have already done two of the three races so far. I will probably be doing another four depending on how things pan out. Whether the family come or not is usually based on weather forecasts, race location and type of event. I have a 5yr old son so there needs to be plenty to occupy him while I am racing.

You currently race using a Loco 14ft sled – how did this come about? Was paddling 14ft boards a conscious decision? What do you like about the 14ft class?
I did my first ever race on an old 10.6ft surf shape and got the bug. From there I picked up a cheapish second hand race board which was a 14ft. I loved the glide. I have since tried numerous 12.6ft boards and I just don’t get the same feeling as with longer SUPs. 14ft boards accommodate my weight whereas 12.6ft’s seem too little.

Out of all the races you’ve attended which has been your favourite and why?
From a fun point of view my favourite races are at the National Watersports Festival (NWF). The atmosphere is relaxed. The NWF format that Allan Cross and his NWF team have come up means everyone’s a winner – cheesy but true. We can all get among the medals

In ‘proper’ races my favourite is probably the National SUP Club Championships at Eton Dorney. The champs are always well fought (even among team mates ay Ken?!) and the team element of competing for your club makes it a shared experience which isn’t necessarily true of individual events.

What do you do for race preparation off the water?
Make sure my timings are right. I hate being rushed to the water when I arrive at a race. I like to get ready slowly but methodically. I preload with fluids before the race. Get changed and warm up my muscles a little. I make sure all my equipment is present and correct. Nothing worse than finding a loose fin or that you’ve forgotten a leash when you get on the water. If I can get everything sorted early I will.

phil may

What’s been your best result to date? Do you think being a family man makes it harder to achieve high level results? Is this/should this even be a consideration for other paddlers in similar situations?
My best result was a couple of years ago now when I won the four mile race at Suffolk SUP’s SUPtember event. Being a family man does make it harder to achieve top results. You are constantly worrying about bank balances, car repairs, the day job, the school run and that can only ever detract from the focus needed to train and be successful. This really shouldn’t be a concern for other paddlers though. While a podium is nice and a medal is great it’s mostly the personal battles that motivate me the most. It’s finishing the race in a better time. It’s finishing in front of the guy that beat you last race/season. It’s losing places and then battling to get them back again. Just because you aren’t leading from the front and beating everyone to the chequered flag doesn’t mean the competition is any less fierce! You’re competing on your own level, facing your own demons and nine times out of ten competing with your own head and willpower. As long as I go out every time and finish my race and I know I have given it my all I am happy. Some races will be better, some worse but I am always proud when I know I have beaten that little voice in my head that tells me I’m past it.

Talk to us about Loco’s support – how did you become a team rider for the brand and what’s expected of you?
Loco have been great. I met Joe (head honcho) at the NWF event in 2013 and we got chatting and hit it off. I loved his ideas and I felt Loco would be a perfect match for me! I scored a podium in one of the races and I left the festival feeling like I had given a good account of myself both in the bar and on the water. Joe got in touch and suggested we worked together and following a conversation with my wife I entered the Loco asylum.

I am Loco’s resident racer (although we now have Hannah on the team as well) and south coast rep for the brand. I have demo kit available in the Witterings for people to try and I’m always up for a paddle if I can squish it in around everything else. I love to get pics and vids of my sessions and I’m currently loving my Instagram account (@locophil). Things are building pace with Loco and being part of the team has meant sneak previews of new shapes and designs and the chance to have my opinion heard about the new batch of race kit. This is something that just wouldn’t happen with a larger brand and it means that Loco develop their lines in parallel with feedback directly from the water.

phil may

We know you like SUP surfing as much as the flat water side of things. Which locations do you normally hit up for wave riding antics?
I tend to stay fairly local. Bracklesham is my favourite place to surf. On its day it can be mind blowingly good but as with any spot it can also be average. I make the trip to Hayling to rip up the SUPer Bank but it’s a 30min trek there and back which soon eats into any window I have. I recently had Cornwall good and scored sessions at The Bluff and Gwenver. Both of which have just got me super fired up about wave riding again.

Does mixing up your paddling benefit other areas of your SUPing? If so, how?
In general all forms of paddling work together to make you a more rounded SUPer. Wave riding helps my racing and vice versa. Being able to read the water is key and only by being out there in all conditions will allow you to maximise your effectiveness. Downwinders help you practise generating speed from bumps – as does surfing. These can pay off in a race where you have wind or swell on the course.

If there’s only one global event you had to attend which would it be and why?
I would love to be good enough to enter Molokai, but I would equally like to enter one of the SUP surf competitions. Somewhere like Tahiti or Fiji would be amazing. Molokai is the ultimate though.

How do you see the general level of SUP racing in the UK?
The level of racing in the UK is good but as the Euro Tour has shown we are some way off the rest of the world. Connor Baxter has proved that training all year in warm water works. We are always at a loss here in the UK as we have at least three months where it is extremely tough to train outdoors.

Do you have any long term goals for your stand up paddling – racing or otherwise?
I want to keep racing as much as possible. I’d like to get myself a little fitter and stay at that level. I would also like to enter a SUP surf competition as already mentioned. It’s another competitive form of SUP to try my hand at regardless of the outcome. I would also like to do some more downwinders.

Final shout outs.
I want to say thanks to Katie my wife for being understanding about my paddling, Loco SUP for the kit and support and RSPro – Carles and the team have looked after my kit.

I also want to thank Georgia Wharton for being at events and documenting races through her photography. The guys behind UK SUP Clubs also deserve mention. They put in hours of work to keep results up to date and events on track!

Huge thanks to our advertisers

Leave a Reply