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Interview: Rick Starr (WSKA chairman)

Rick Starr

Interview with Rick Starr, chairman of the World Surf Kayak Association.

kayak surfThis interview was originally produced for the Portuguese web site 'kayaksurf.net' and is published exclusively on Playak in english to make it available to a wider audience. The portuguese version of the interview, with larger versions of some of the photos, is available here.

Rick StarrName: Rick Starr
Age: 54
Occupation: Marine Biologist
Home base: Santa Cruz, CA
Website: www.wska.org

You are the WSKA president and one of its founders... What are the main objectives of the WSKA?
I have been President of the World Surf Kayak Association since it began in 2001. The WSKA was formed because kayak surfers wanted to see some consistency in the World Surf Kayak championships. In 2001, kayak surfers formed the World Surf Kayak Association, identified goals, and elected officers. You can see that information on our web site ( www.wska.org). The countries also set up rules forboth the individual and team events. Every two years, we have a meeting at the Team World Surf Kayak Championships to review the goals and rules. We will have the results of this year's meeting on our web site soon. In the future, we may have a contest for the Individual title every year.

Are you satisfied with the world championships in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a great place to have a contest. We had warm water, lots of waves, and the Costa Ricans were excellent hosts! It seemed that everyone had a good time at the event. We had more than 12 countries and 130 competitors, no wetsuits, and few clothes! You can't beat sitting in the sun watching great surfers rip the waves apart. The local bars and restaurants were also a treat. We'd surf until we couldn't lift our arms, then go sit in the shade of a local restaurant and eat and drink while watching Scarlet MaCaws, Iguanas, and other tropical animals. It was a real Pura Vida experience. The great thing was that the World Committee and all the countries really pulled together to make it an outstanding event - and did I mention the parties? Too hot to mention.

pura vida kayak surf worlds

How did you selected the judges for the contest?
The judges for the contest were professional surf board judges who have experience judging kayak surf contests. The judges were from 4 different parts of the World. We started using board surfing judges many years ago, but have found that it is better to have board surfing judges who are trained in kayak contests. What is a trashing in a kayak sometimes looks like a great move to a board surfing judge. We are hoping to develop a group of judges around the world who have experience in both board and kayak surfing events.

What can you say about the next worlds?
The next Team World Surf Kayak contest will be in Basque Country in 2007 - it should be a great time. The Basques are great kayak surfers, have put on good surf contests, and know how to party (although it will be tough to top the Costa Rican parties).

Rick Starr

How do see the evolution of this sport?
Surf kayaking is evolving rapidly. I have been board surfing since 1963 and river kayaking since 1975. I started kayak surfing off the coast of Oregon, at first with river boats, then with short, finned surf kayaks. It seems like the fastest change I've seen is in the past 10 years - in all of kayaking, but especially in the sport of kayak surfing. The evolution is caused by a combination of improved boat designs and construction, and better paddlers. As a long time board surfer, I recognize that the lighter boats we have now make a huge difference in the types of moves that good paddlers can pull off in the surf. We need to get even lighter.

What do you think about the new surf kayaks designs?
The designs are getting better and a big part of the evolution is the skill of the paddlers. The level of surfing jumps up several levels at each World Championship. The best part of the evolution is that paddlers are using their creativity to throw moves in the surf while maintaining a classic surfing style of staying in the pocket of the wave. I think we will soon see people in light, stiff kayaks that are able to generate a lot of power and get radical air. The trend towards these more dynamic moves is occurring all over the world.

You have been on the U.S. team since 1995. How do you describe your contribution to the team?
Many people don't really understand the team event in kayak surfing. Most kayakers are strong individuals and don't think of themselves as being a part of something bigger. When I first started competing in the early 80's, I wanted to win to show off my skills and didn't think of being on a team. But the team event is incredible.

us surf kayak team

I was Captain of the USA West team that won the World Championships in Brazil in 1999. That was a great feeling - to be able to feel the support of my team mates and to come home as a world champion is a highlight of my life - just like it was to be a member of the 2005 USA West team that won the Worlds this year. We had a strong team and had a lot of fun as well. All countries show a lot of support for their team mates and it really makes a difference in the water - everyone surfs better when their countrymen are cheering for them. I have made new friends because of the team event as well - that is something you can't put a price on.

Please explain your nickname "Da Gansta"
I got that nickname in Brazil. My team mates called me that, because in competition, it seemed like I was taking all the good waves. Some people call me Mr. Consistency because I was in the finals of both the Open IC and HP categories in the 1999 and 2001 World Championships, and twice finished in second place in the world. I got another second in the World this year in the Grand Master Open division, and have placed second in the US National Championships. I like people in my heats to think of me as Da Gangsta, though, it keeps them focused on me and not on waves.

Rick Starr

You had a WSKA meeting in Costa Rica. What are the main decisions and news for 2006?
The World voted at our meeting in Costa Rica to keep the IC division. The idea is that we want a boat that has the look of a traditional kayak, and we recognize that there are many times when a person wants to use a long boat - in slow mushy surf or in really big stuff. We changed the Open (HP) category to be a short boat division. There will be few kayak design rules in this division, and we are hoping it keeps the sport progressing by allowing people to be creative. Check out the WSKA web site in a few months to see the new judging rules for this category - we will be placing a higher emphasis on radical moves.

Rick Starr

If you had to convince someone that surf kayaking is really one of the greatest sources of paddling sports in general, what would you say?
I come from both a surfing and a river background. To me, you can't beat a 3 week long river trip through some place like the Grand Canyon. But, surf kayaking is a fantastic paddle sport, especially if you live near the ocean. It has something for everyone. Whereas most rivers are either too easy or too scary for someone, it seems you can always find something you like in the surf. You can get as much adrenaline as you like and you can also go out and just have fun. One thing I like the most is that the Ocean is always changing. At one point you might
be enjoying the scenery and a little later you might be hanging on as a big set comes pounding in. I live near the ocean so I can surf every day if I like. You can't beat that for exercise, fun, and a spiritual feeling.

Rick Starr

Some closing remarks for our readers?
One of the best things about this sport is that we have great people who are interested in sharing cultures and good times. At the Worlds this year we made an effort to have all countries go to a local school to talk about their homelands. It was great for the Costa Rican kids and great for us. The Pura Vida attitude we shared in Costa Rica was fantastic and I hope that we can all share the love in our countries. We need to share waves, respect the ocean and people who use the sea, and continue to bring good into the world. I can't wait to see what moves kayakers will be doing in the surf in the next few years. I will be surfing as much as possible so I'll see you at the next Worlds!

Thanks a lot Rick and… keep riding!

Click here for a short video of Rick

Text - Luis Pedro Abreu
Photos - Morlee Griswold, Midge Costin e Mike Jonhson
Video - www.paddlesurf.com

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