SUP International Magazine catch up with Perth based, Australian racing machine; Michael Booth, to find out what he is up to, how he is training and some tips on what it takes to be one of the best SUP racers in the world.
Photos : APP / Carter
SUP INT: How are you doing over in Australia right now with the crises going on?
MB: I am doing really well, obviously was a bit of a shock when everything came down at first, but I’ve learnt to accept the situation and adjust my thinking. I’ve been able to start up a few different projects that would otherwise be on the back burner due to time restraints like my new podcast BOOTHCAST. It’s been really fun being able to talk story with so many different paddlers around the world and hear about their successes and failures and how they became successful in their different sports. Otherwise just spending my time at home, doing a bit of training for fitness and adjusting my focus. I find I am always chasing the next race or next event, so it’s been nice to have a sense of calm these past few months.
SUP INT: I guess the lock-down means no events for you for now?
MB: Yes, no events for me now and the hardest part is that I have nothing to plan for because everything is so uncertain. All I can do is keep fit, not lose too much fitness and have fun doing different things. It’s actually been really cool lately as I’ve been able to train daily with my partner Kristi and it’s something we would honestly never do normally due to my programming. However, I can’t wait to get back to normal and compete again, it’s definitely kick started my fire to be able to go out and compete again! Just not sure when that will be.
SUP INT: How much are you missing racing or is this a chance to re charge your batteries?
MB: It’s honestly a bit of both, on one hand I miss going to races and testing myself but on the other it is nice to have a rest period from it all. Normally I am chasing the next event or the next title that I want to achieve but because I can’t do that it has been a period I can really relax. It’s funny as I thought I was a bit over racing and competing after years of chasing events around the world but now I know that just isn’t the case. I guess it’s easier to digest this period as no one else is able to race either, it is like everyone is injured or taking a break, but I’m excited to see how competitive races will become when we get back to normal. I think it will be really exciting when we can all get back out on the water and compete. I believe the races and events will really grow again because everyone is starting to realise what is important. I’ve found myself pondering why haven’t I don’t this race or why haven’t I gone to that place and I’m sure many others are doing the same. People are realising that we work to live, we don’t live to work!
SUP INT: Have you been keeping to the same training schedule as normal?
MB: My training schedule has definitely adjusted to suit the period I am in. I’ve designed plenty of home workouts with BOOTH Training which has allowed me to still get my cross training in while not being able to go to the gym. I’ve also taken the approach to paddle when I feel like it and take it a bit less seriously at the moment. So, I go for nice easy paddles or downwinders, go out on the double surf ski with Kristi, do foil downwinders whenever I can, go for runs and just stay fit and healthy the best way I can. What I’ve learnt is that I absolutely love to paddle and train regardless of whether I am racing or not. It is become more about mental health for me than I ever imagined, which is nice to know how much I love to paddle and train.
SUP INT: Are you allowed on the water?
MB: I am still allowed on the water but only in twos so I have been sticking to that as I’m trying to be as responsible as I can in these tough times. I had a little training group that I had to cancel which was a bit disappointing due to government restrictions but always staying connected online and keeping in contact the best I can. It’s really important we stay connected at this time and reach out to people as we are all struggling in our different ways. I love the water and the ocean, and I feel very lucky to still be able to use it at this time :).
SUP INT: How many race events would you normally attend each season?
MB: I race about 20 events a year, but I would do a lot more singular races than that. As a racer we have to make our mark in the years we get the opportunity as it doesn’t last forever, and it’s been so fun being able to compete in so many different events over the years. What’s really cool about the sport is there are so many different events, with different formats, and different types of athletes that I get to test myself against week in and week out. One minute you are in Europe competing in 10km races, the next you’re in Hawaii competing in a 52km event then the next week you might be in Japan doing a sprint. I just really enjoy the variations and the opportunities to be able to better myself each and every day.
SUP INT: How are Starboard looking after all of their athletes?
MB: Starboard like all my sponsors have been very kind to me in this time and continue to support me through this time. Starboard have been fantastic and have given every opportunity to allow us to continue to do what we do day to day without too many changes. It’s obviously nice to know that we all come together in times like this and we will come out the other side stronger. Very lucky to have been working with Starboard for the last 5 years and I hope to continue doing so for many years to come.
SUP INT: Why do you love SUP racing?
MB: I love SUP racing as it is so varied. No race is the same, no challenge is the same and I constantly get to test myself against the best. It’s not all about the racing though, I really enjoy meeting amazing people from every corner of the globe at events or workshops. Everyone is so likeminded and just enjoy getting out on the water and having fun. The most rewarding thing for me is sharing my knowledge and helping people become better paddlers. There’s nothing more satisfying for me to hear from one of my athletes that they’ve achieved one of their goals and I’ve been able to help them get there. Lastly the thing I love most is having a beer with paddlers after events and talking story with them, it is great to have so many people who enjoy SUP and enjoy the water!
SUP INT: Why do you think you excel in the long distance / stamina side of racing?
MB: It comes down to a lot of things but first and foremost it comes down to hard work and determination. I have been an athlete in some description for the past 25 years and I honestly love it. Nothing gets me more excited than getting on the water for a hard session and working my arse off to achieve that upcoming goal. The hard work helps you win races and as they say you win races in training many times before the race day occurs. I am committed to making sure that I am the best I can be each and every day and I fall back on my years of training every time the going gets tough in races. I also have adapted training to suit my style of racing, I work hard on my weaknesses and I have formulated programs to suit every race on the training calendar with BOOTH Training.
SUP INT: How much time do you put in to improving in all of the disciplines?
MB: Not as much as I would like. Usually when I am racing a lot, I can only focus on the 10-15km races as they are the ones I generally am racing, week in and week out. I would love to have more time for those ultra-endurance races like Molokai and the APP sprint races but when working out my averages I need to try and be the best I am a the ones I am consistent in. You only have so much time in pre-season and then once you start the year off in Carolina it doesn’t stop till my last race in Paris in December, so most of the year I am getting worse and I just have to maintain my fitness the best I can. It is obviously hard to be peaking all year so I have to target certain races I want to excel in and others I know I will be underdone for but that doesn’t stop me from making the start line and doing my best. In the off-season and right now when I have more time, I am focusing on these things so I can constantly make myself a more rounded athlete!
SUP INT: Is there a perfect build for a champion SUP racer?
MB: Definitely not, the perfect build for a SUP paddler is someone who wants it more than others, will do more work than their competitors and takes on that challenge to be the best they can be every day. We can only work with what we are given and if we start looking sideways at others we will never succeed. Always work with what you have and make sure you have the right support team around you, and you can do anything! Always remember if you want to get better at SUP paddling go paddling!
SUP INT: How important it the right paddle and set up?
MB: Depending on what stage of paddling you are at it is extremely important. If you are just getting into the sport your focus needs to be on a stable board that you can paddle without too much effort and a paddle that you can pull through the water without hurting your shoulders. You also need to find the right coach or paddle shop to help you make these decisions which will allow you to quickly improve. As a racer it is important to have the best boards like Starboard SUP and the best paddles like MB Paddles. I am lucky to work on all the boards I race on and it is nice to know that every time I get on the start line I have the best equipment under my feet or in my hands. Biggest tip I can give is focus on your training and skills first then think about upgrading your equipment there is no magic solution to making yourself faster and more stable. It comes down to how much work you do.
SUP INT: How much are you involved in the R & D of the race boards?
MB: I’m lucky to be heavily involved in the R&D at Starboard and every race board that I stand on I have had a say in what it should look like and how it should perform. Svein, Ollie and the team really allow us to have a big say in the boards as we know what we need to be the best and the most successful brand in the sport. When I started the sport, I had my eye on working with Starboard and I haven’t looked back!
SUP INT: Do you think you will be competing again by the end of the season?
MB: Honestly that’s the question I am sure no one has the answer to, I would really like to be competing at the end of the year, but we will just have to wait and see. I think it is all out of our hands and we can hope that things go back to normal sooner rather than later! It’s definitely not easy to plan, I can’t leave my region in my state at the moment, so I think we have a long way to go.
SUP INT: What are your words to live by?
MB: We don’t rise to the occasion; we fall to our highest level of preparation.