One small step – conquering fear and riding big waves, SUP style, with Mike Lenane

Words & pics: Mike Lenane

We first came across Mike Lenane and his surf SUP exploits after he messaged SUP Mag UK’s Facebook page asking to share his videos detailing his wave riding exploits. Having watched his tongue in cheek delivery we were intrigued by Mike’s story so decided to find out more. For anyone looking to be inspired, push their own limits – either in waves or in life – then this is for you.

Tell us when you first discovered SUP and what made you want to get involved.

During 2011 my wife and I were travelling through Mozambique and ended up staying in one of those places that looks like it’s from a Corona advert. They had SUP rentals from a beach shack so we hired a board each and gave it a shot. In 2014 my younger brother introduced me to SUP surfing and I was hooked.

Where’s your chosen paddling location these days? What does it offer SUPers?

I love flat water paddles at a place in Perth called Shelley Beach Park. It’s a very beautiful location with dolphins and very few boats. I love that place; some day’s the water is perfect glass-off and it feels like a dream.

My favourite surfing location is in the Margaret River region (a 3-hour drive south of Perth).

Why surf? Does flat water not do it for you?

Flat water SUP is what I do for a living, by providing beginner lessons. It’s beautiful, relaxing and peaceful. SUP surfing is much more challenging, and there-in lies the appeal to me. The waves push the limit of my skills and forces me to constantly learn more.

And why big waves?

SUP surfing big waves scares the hell out of me, so overcoming that fear gives me a huge feeling of achievement. That feeling when a big wave rears its head on the horizon…it’s the best. You know it’s game time, any mistake has serious consequences. When that wave picks you up and you head down the face nothing compares to that rush. The speed, the adrenaline; a monster chasing you down. Passing your fears, adrenaline pumping, instincts guiding my movement, until it’s over, leaving you an exhausted wreck of lactic acid in a pure euphoric condition.

Your videos, whilst inspirational, are quite tongue in cheek. Do you think this may detract from the message you’re aiming to get across?

Maybe. I try to stay true to who I am. If I see an opportunity to embrace humour in any situation, I have to take it. Too often life can be serious as hell so I always lean towards humour as a result. I really just want to inspire people to go out and be who/what they want to be. My tongue in cheek video style just makes the message a little more relaxing and fun. If some people don’t like that, that’s cool with me.

In all seriousness you must’ve surfed (traditionally) prior to SUP? If not, how come?

You’re right, however, I can be best described as a below average surfer. Before this, as a teenager, I was a maniac on the bodyboard. It’s by far the easiest way to get barrelled and it taught me how to read the ocean.

You’ve gone out all guns blazing with stand up and your message of self belief/confidence. Why is SUP a good vehicle (in all senses) for this message and its promotion?

SUP is so good for your body, mind and soul. From beginners to advanced, I believe people will live longer as a result of SUP participation. I’m convinced the fullness of time will prove that to be true. From ages 8-80, everyone can do it.

I use SUP to promote self-belief because it has worked for me. However, the principles apply to every endeavour humans can undertake. The core idea that you can be better tomorrow than you are today is universal. At the moment I’m using big waves to apply that idea in my life. If you want to be a better parent, friend, brother, sister, business person, husband or wife, you can make it a reality. Small positive steps everyday will, overtime, produce results you never dreamed possible. We all have shit days, let those slide and remember life is always two steps forward, one step back.

How do you deal with the haters? You’re putting yourself on quite a high pedestal so there must be a few?

I’m cool with it. I mean, it hurts in the beginning, but each time you experience it, you get stronger. I believe it’s a fact that at least 10% of people will dislike me, regardless of what it is that I am doing. Be true to the path you have chosen for your life and the haters soon disappear from your consciousness.

Plus haters really only hate themselves. I see evidence of this over and over. People will say things like “you can’t do that, it’s not possible” and all they really mean, deep down, is that they can’t do it. It’s very advantageous to understand this, as it allows me to keep these people out of my circle of influence.

Talk us through the kit you’re using and why.

The board from most of the videos is a 2017 Starboard Whopper Junior 9’5” x 33” Pine Tech. For bigger waves, it’s easier to control at high speeds. The added weight is great for getting down the face and it’s super strong. It also performs really well in smaller conditions too. It’s the best all-round board in my quiver.

Other Starboards that I will use in different conditions range from 9’0” x 33 Hero through to the 11’2” x 36” Avanti.

Your two part vid features a decent sized lump of water you’re aiming to combat. Where is it and why did it make your bucket list?

The wave from “How I lived the dream- part 1 –

is Yallingup, in the South West of Western Australia. I SUP the lefthander on bigger swells, as it is a thick, fast wave that a SUP can do some damage on. It’s a place that I’ve always wanted to surf, but never had the balls.

The wave from “How I lived the dream- part 2

is The Shack on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It’s a fast, gnarly wave that breaks in barely any water. It made my bucket list because of the combination of beautiful warm water on a tropical island and the rush of surfing a shallow reef break with your mates. It’s a perfect wave in mid-sized conditions, however when the swell is up, it gets real big and heavy.

From the footage we’ve seen there are also some other significant pieces of water you get stuck into during training. How did you decide on these spots for your prep regime?

Most of those locations are local spots in Perth, so I could get to them easily. I would focus on one particular skill each session, depending on the wave shape and the conditions. Because of the location, I could surf them with friends and family, which is a much more fun way to train.

How much off water work did you put into your SUP surfing?

Lots! Over 6 months I did weights 6 days a week to develop my strength and power, and I ran 3 days a week to develop my endurance. I also undertook breathing training and mental skills training to make sure that I was ready to tackle any challenge that may arise.

What’s the scariest moment you’ve had whilst paddling?

The most recent session had the scariest incident. My first larger wave in over 6 months, I free fell down the face and was thrown over the falls. The hold down was intense. About halfway through, I was on the bottom of the ocean and thought “I won’t make it to the top before the next wave” and just freaked. Then something in my mind clicked, and I remembered to relax. I got to the surface a few seconds before the next wave nailed me, but my mindset was right, so I knew it’d be ok.

The hold down was only 18 seconds, but it nearly ended me. And that is the difference between the right mindset and the wrong mindset in life. The right mindset will keep you alive and wrong mindset could kill you. And that goes for more than just surfing.

Who’s helped you the most on your journey?

My wife for sure. She loves to surf too, and although she doesn’t like the bigger waves she understands my need to work outside of my comfort zone and go big when the conditions are right. From checking the surf report to preparing post-surf snacks and bevvies, she is an awesome girl to have in my corner.

So now you’re a famous big wave charger do you have brands lining up to sponsor you? Are next steps to get support?

Haha, very flattering, but no sponsors yet. My major focus is to bring attention to what I’m doing. I really want to create a legacy of positive influence in the lives of others. If an 80-year old guy starts supping because I spoke loud enough, then I’ve achieved something real. One way that people can support what I am doing is to check out the clips on my YouTube channel and share them with their friends.

Is there a plan of attack in terms of your continued progress? What about ultra-distance for instance, which is equally challenging?

For now, surfing is my focus. I’m looking for bigger waves and barrelling waves. I would love to surf more overseas as I see that as a stepping stone towards bigger and better things. I am interested in ultra-distance paddling, but that’s a few years into the future for me.

How will you continue spreading the stoke?

I’m going to make more videos, push the boundaries of what I am capable of and share my story with a wider audience. I love hearing about other people’s SUP experiences; they really get me stoked and inspire me to continue to do what I am doing. I want to take as many people as I can out on the water, particularly if they have a hard time believing that they can SUP. I love being there to help them realise that they can.

Should Zane (Schweitzer), Mo (Freitas) and Georgio (Gomez) et al be concerned?

Those guys have earned their place at the top through years of hard work and dedication. I am really just starting out by comparison. I’m enjoy documenting my journey and trying to inspire others whilst doing so. It would be a dream to one day surf with those guys and learn from them.

Fancy a stab at spots like Jaws? If so, how do you think you’d accomplish this?

I certainly fantasise about Jaws and other big wave spots. My approach would follow the same steady progression that got me to where I am now. This would take many years of preparation, as Jaws is a wave that commands respect, and I need to put in my hours. I’ll be ready soon enough, but I’m having lots of fun along the way.

Check out Mike’s YouTube channel for the videos mentioned in this article and more –

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