The Next Challenge!
With Australia in full lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the usually packed travel itinerary of elite distance racer, Michael Booth has been put on hold for the foreseeable future! We caught up with Michael to find out how he has adapted to a season at home, how he continues to stay positive and how he is learning to live with the ‘new normal’!
Photos: Nick Thake photography, Starboard and APP/ Carter
Words: Michael Booth
For me, the whole Covid situation has been quite interesting! Normally I am travelling this time of year racing overseas and competing against the best of the best. I am also used to training hard and not having much time to myself, so it has been quite different. I am missing racing and the travel side of life and being able to chase different opportunities that come when you are on the road. I feel I am in great shape and am racing well, so it is a shame I can’t compete internationally right now. You can only control the controllable so that is the way it is. Over the last few months, I have been doing a labour job so that has been something new! I have also started doing the podcasts and have also been training just to stay fit and ready for when I can go back and do some racing. I started a training group over here in Perth which has been fun, and I also got engaged which is really exciting! So, it has been a very unusual year and I have just made the most of what this period of time has brought! I have been enjoying just sitting at home and just having a bit of a rest! It has been fifteen years or so since I started racing and travelling and the last five years have been quite intense, racing non-stop. I just have to take the positives out of the situation and hopefully within six months to a year we can return to normal! Or whatever normal will be going forward.
Perth has been incredibly lucky. We did not have too many Covid cases and not too many transmissions. Our borders have been locked for the past few months. We have basically been back to normal here. We have everything open, crowds in stadiums and sports events are going ahead. There have been concerts and all sorts of events happening. The only thing I can’t do is travel! Basically, I can’t even leave the state of West Australia! It is nice to be able to have no Covid running through the community over here. There have only been a few people that have been affected. Winter in Perth is a bit colder, but it is fine! It would be nice to be over in the summer in Europe or America, but it is just nice to be home and enjoying time in my own back yard. We are confined to WA, but our state is very big, so we can move around and enjoy the beautiful places on our doorstep. For the foreseeable future there will be no travel in and out of Australia. I think Qantas one of our major airlines are not committing to flights until the middle of next year. It will be interesting to see what happens. Most states have cap limits on how many people can fly into the country. Domestically we can’t travel and there are quarantine rules as well. It is going to be an interesting period going forward. Like most people we are waiting for a vaccine to rid the world of the virus.
STATE OF MIND
This period definitely worried me. There were decisions that had to be made early on to make sure my family and friends were kept safe. A few hard calls had to be made. I could not travel and could not go anywhere. I was not going to see my family for a while because I live on the other side of the country, but I stayed positive and tried to just make the most of the situation. I have just tried to enjoy this different period in the best way I can.
As far as competing goes, there is not a lot I can do. I was lucky enough to do a state title race in Freemantle here with the WA SUP crew. That was great, I ended up winning a technical race title which is something I have always wanted to achieve but have usually been away at this period. It was nice to feel the nerves, get back in to racing and of course get the state title under my belt. It was also great to feel the exertion of the body and to be able to hang out with a lot of good friends. I won’t be able to travel overseas this year. If the APP goes ahead, I will be unable to do that! I think they have kind of stopped the tour for this season so it will not be a world championship! I think the Euro tour has postponed a few events, but I am out of the picture because I can’t travel out of the country. It is quite an interesting situation. I am not sure if I want to travel overseas. I could get stuck. I have heard of a lot of Australians that are abroad and can’t get home. There are a lot of restrictions happening at the moment so for the foreseeable future there won’t be any travel for me. I will be heading up to Geraldton soon for a technical race and any WA events that are on the calendar. We have to roll with the punches, take the hits and make the best of the opportunities we have.
I have been trying to create new ways of promoting myself online. I have my Booth training community which I try and help athletes through that channel. I have put quite a few training videos and home work-outs on there, which have been very well received. I also will be doing some live streams on the new 2021 Starboard SUP’s that are coming out in the next few months. I started the ‘Booth-Casts’ to create some value for my sponsors. I have been able to chat to a lot of riders in similar situations which has been cool. That helped me mentally as well. It was great to hear all the different stories and keep the community alive and positive. I have done about 78 interviews so far. I am one of those inquisitive people who likes to ask questions and find out what other people have done or are doing to get the best out of themselves. It has been well received and there are a lot of people listening and a lot of positive comments. I don’t like writing as much as I like talking so it has been a great outlet for me. I was going to use the outlet to promote myself but with not so much to talk about being at home I decided to interview other people and ask them about their stories. I find that a lot of riders out there have amazing lives and are interesting, but the public don’t know them and just see their results. The public just see the ‘123’ result and don’t know about the hard work and the person behind these achievements or the athlete. I really enjoyed interviewing Kai Lenny, Shae Foudy, Martin Vitry, Lincoln Dews, Zane Schweitzer, and many others. I never thought I would end up doing something like this, but it has been fun. All the interviews are still there on my podcast channel and are well worth checking out on Apple podcast or Spotify!
During this period at home, I have also created a collaboration with Vaikobi Ocean Performance on a range of paddling gear which is technical wear as well as regular clothing!
I have not been going as hard as normal. I have stayed fit but when I am not targeting a particular race then I can ease of the gas a little. I have usually been doing one session a day, just to do enough to stay healthy and fit so I can enjoy my paddling. I have not been doing three sessions a day that I might normally do. There is no need right now. Now it is just training for the local races, enough to stay competitive and have fun. I am spending time with people I don’t normally have so much time to socialize with. I have been enjoying my paddling and enjoying getting down the gym.
When I am on the programme for an endurance race, I will mainly train by just paddling. Sometimes we get a bit ahead of ourselves and do too much away from actually paddling. If we are going to be the best paddlers we need to focus on our paddling! Core training and running are also important, but I like to stay fit actually on the board! The focus for me is a lot of paddling!
They have been ‘amazing through this whole period and have backed us the whole way. We have been extremely fortunate to be still working with the team over there. A lot of the SUP brands were hurting at first but now they are doing very well now many countries are coming out of lockdown! For whatever reason people are buying more stand up paddle boards now they are not travelling so much, and they are trying to get the best environment they can while they are locked in their own community. The SUP brands are selling very well. Starboard have been great with me as they have been for the past five years! The 2021 boards will be released very soon so we are working on those. I have been staying in contact through emails and promoting the brand the best I can through this period.
Sup racing for me is not just about the race itself. The racing is about the community of paddlers and the like-minded people that I get to spend time with when I go to all these different events. I like challenging myself and the fitness aspect and I like to go out there and do my best at anything I do, and SUP has given me such amazing opportunities and experiences all around the world. That is what I love about it the most, be able to meet people have experiences and enjoying challenging myself and pushing myself to the limit.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
My strengths I feel are the fact I have a positive outlook and I take my opportunities. I feel that I am able to push myself to achieve the best that I can in any condition or race that I put myself into. As for weaknesses, I tend to like to say that I don’t have any! I have aspects that I am not as good at, but I am always working on them to be better. I don’t feel I have weaknesses. I just have some things I can’t do as well as other people, but I always try and put my best foot forward. I feel I have a good balance and can race pretty well in most conditions.
I think my edge comes down to the amount of experience I have had in racing. I have been racing since I was six years old. I have been racing around the world for the past ten years! I have a will to win and I really want to do my best when I go out there, I always make sure that I do that! I never do not give 100%! If I win that is fantastic but if I don’t, I know I have done my best. I think that is the most important element. I don’t know if I have the edge over other riders but some-times I do get across the line first and that is amazing for me. Success is no accident, it is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all loving what you do!
All parts of the body are extremely important to be at the top of your game. The arms are particularly important, and you must use them efficiently and make sure your paddling technique is correct. The legs are also vital to be strong. If your legs go, then you are not going to be able to maintain your technique or stay efficient. As for your core, that also needs to be strong because that is what connects your arms and upper body muscles to your legs. Stand up paddling is a sport that has so many different elements and you have to excel in every single one of them to be the best!
THE LAST SPRINT
Towards the end of a big race I start to feel nervous and excited. Nerves are important. If you don’t feel nervous, then you don’t care, and it is all about controlling the nerves and having a level mindset going towards the finish line. You must be able to perform when it counts and that is something that excites me at the same time. We live for those moments. I do anyway. I live for that opportunity where I can excel and see if I am as good as I think I am and the other guys around me. The home straight is where you can really push yourself to the next level and find your limit. If I did not get excited by those moments, I would not do it anymore.
I think travelling around and experiencing so many places has been something I will look back on. That has been incredible. Results wise, probably winning the ISA world titles in Fiji and in China and the ISF worlds in China as well! I won the Euro tour three times and of course the APP overall distance race title. All of those have been important to me while as the same time I have met so many amazing people around the world. That has been the biggest highlight. I have met so many characters and made so many friends that I have really enjoyed every moment of it.
Normally the worst part about my job is the amount of travel I have been through. Suring a regular season, my schedule is extremely hectic! You are bouncing around the world doing 20-25 races a year. I have raced a weekend in New York and then the next day in Germany and then three days later in France! That can be taxing sometimes but I do it because I want to, so at the end of the day there is no real worst part of my job! I put myself in the positions where I want to do all these things and find myself truly fortunate to be able to do all of this. This is what I enjoy doing even though there are sacrifices along the way!
THREE WORDS TO LIVE BY!
I can’t do three words, but I would say staying positive, chasing opportunities, and having fun are the important things for me!