No matter how you slice it, Dan Gavere is a stud. In snowboarding, he’s shredded big lines and has starred in such movies as Deuce. In kayaking, the four-time U.S. team member placed second in hole-riding at the 1993 World Freestyle Championships and has starred in such flicks as Paddlequest and Dashboard Burrito. When he took up kite-boarding, he quickly soared to similar heights, placing top three in 2004’s Bridge of the Gods event in Stevenson, Washington, a marquee event for turning pro, and last year he finished top 10 in the Gorge Kite-board Blow-out, a 25+-mile downwind race near Hood River.
Watch out, fellow watermen; he’s now adding another arrow to his athletic quiver: stand-up paddle boarding.
“I’ve seen very few people excel at whatever sport they attempt the way Dan has,” says Jim Miller of Werner Paddles, where Gavere now works as category business manager for the company’s stand-up paddle line. “Now he’s doing the same in stand-up paddling. He’s also providing a lot of insight into our product design and sales strategy.”
Splitting his time between Hood River, Oregon, and Hawaii, where his girlfriend lives, Gavere got into the sport in 2005, taking the job with Werner in 2007 largely because of its foray into the stand-up market. Not that he’s completely hung up his paddle from kayaking and kite-boarding, but they’ve taken the backseat to stand-up paddling. He estimates that he takes about 300 sessions a year, whether it’s for surfing, touring or competition. As with his other athletic pursuits, he places well in the pro or elite divisions of every race he enters, and is a driving force in propelling the sport further. “It’s pretty much replaced kiting for me,” he says. “It’s my daily fitness regime now.”
If anyone can vouch for his new addiction, it’s long-time buddy Eric Ekman, northwest sales rep for Surf Tech. “No one is more focused on stand-up paddling than Dan,” he says. “When he goes, he goes deep and has little time for anything else. A lot of his other toys, even his snowmobile and dirt bike, just sit around now.”
Gavere, of course, is doing anything but, traipsing the country with boards and paddles in tow. “That’s the beauty of the sport,” he says. “It’s quick and simple. All you need is water.”
SUP caught up with him between sessions to shed some light on his new life-altering pastime.
In His Own Words
“Paddleboarding has become the fastest-growing segment in paddlesports. It’s to paddling what snowboarding was to skiing in the early ‘90s — largely because of its ease of use and simplicity. All you need is a paddle and a board; it’s that easy. It’s also the perfect recreational platform to paddle on, especially in warm waters. You can use it for touring, wildlife viewing, fitness and distance paddling, and even swimming. Its fitness benefits make it an addictive sport. I like to say it’s the only sport that comes with a six pack at no charge.
“Its main potential lies along the country’s fresh-water coastlines. There’s far more fresh-water coastlines in the U.S. than there are ocean coastlines, and once this sport hits the mainstream, watch out; I think it could get even larger than surfing. There will be stand up paddling on lakes and rivers across the globe. Companies are taking note and creating boards and paddles for specific uses as well; people are paddling 18-foot full carbon race boards to inflatable 10-foot boards down whitewater rivers.
“I got turned onto it by JD Davies, the co-founder of AT Paddles and Waterwalker. He was way into outrigger paddling and mentioned it to me when we were at Kite Beach in Hood River and there wasn’t any wind. I had gotten shut down from kite-boarding 10 days in a row, and was sick of waiting for wind. Wishing I had something else to do standing there on the bank of the Columbia River, it couldn’t have come along at a better time.
“My first board was a Surf Tech. It wasn’t even a stand-up board. It was just a wide, old person’s long board. It wasn’t very easy to paddle. I first started fooling around with it in Hood River, poking up side river inlets that dumped into the Columbia like the Klickitat, White Salmon and Hood. I’d also do down-winder runs, from the hatchery up where the wind-surfers are surfing the wind swell back down.
“I was always traveling, so I started bringing my board along on top of my car for whenever the winds were too strong or weak for kiting. Then I began taking it in the ocean and rivers and figured out it could be the perfect new tool for surfing small waves. The first time I did it I was super stoked. The next year I bought a more surf-specific Naish board and began surfing it more regularly along the coast and farting around on the small Class I-II rapids of the local rivers.
“I finished DFL at the first stand up paddle surf contest I ever entered in Hawaii at Waikiki, and that was pretty humbling. But I’m still learning, which makes it so fun. I did do well in the Battle of the Paddle Race, placing in the top 10, which has inspired me to train harder for some racing this year. I’ve since done a few more competitions, including the Slalom and Downriver whitewater events at the Kern River Festival, which was super cool also. This year the Santa Cruz Surf Kayak Festival invited stand-up paddlers also. So the kayak market is embracing stand-up, which is great to see.
“I’ve always been into new sports, and stand-up paddling is the funnest yet. I’ve always been pretty good with a paddle in my hands, and this gets me out onto the ocean. It also lets me expand that part of my whole waterman experience. I love the perspective you get from standing and paddling.
“I’ve taken my stand-up board onto rivers more and more lately, and I’m fired up to paddle more on the river. This year I’ve run several Class III sections in California. I found that you can boof the boards over bigger drops by riding them backwards so the fins get out of the water and don’t hit the rocks at the lip. But it also makes it harder to steer with no fins. It’s an amazing challenge and the easiest way to make Class II kayaking into challenging Class IV stand-up paddling.
“I’ve yet to discover the ultimate river-running board. Charlie McArthur from Aspen helped C4 develop the first whitewater-inspired board, and it has some excellent design features, but it’s still made like a regular board and can still get dinged up on the rocks. So far the Uli inflatable board is the best for rivers that I’ve tried.