Categoriesstore 1/29/2011 Behind the Paddle—Heather Reylea Baus By Distressed Mullet Part two of the Catch: Behind the paddle

Jim, Heather and Savannah

You really get to know someone when you paddle in a race and find yourself within a board length of them. These races within the race connects you to other paddlers. It creates a bond and when you step out the the water, you know them better. Most of the time, it’s the beginning of a lasting friendship.

In the Cold Stroke Classic, I had the pleasure of paddling next to Heather Baus. She hammered past me on my right side. I was on my 14. She was on her 12’6″ Bark. I was exhausted and she seemed like she was just warming up. I immediately jumped on her, drafting for about 30 seconds to catch my breath then told her to jump on and I’d return the pull. She declined. She was focused, but smiling and laughing. She was getting a kick out of the race, enjoying every grueling paddle stroke.

We went through that exchange a few times over the race, talking and laughing, cheering each other on. Heather went on the win the womens stock elite division, I faded into oblivion, and after the race, I knew I had a new Mullet.

In last week’s catch, I told you about all of Heather’s wins, her plans for this upcoming year and how Heather paddles (think caffeinated hummingbird), but you should know what she’s like in real life. She’s not that hard-core. She’s actually quite the opposite.

Stoked. Gracious. Appreciative. Happy. Real. And in a constant state of awe about how cool this sport is and how wonderful the people are.

I spoke with her last week and she’s so excited to be paddling with and against some of the greats in this sport. She’s particularly inspired and driven by Brandi Baksic who her daughter, 8-year-old Savannah adores. In fact, Brandi gave Heather a hat that Savannah won’t give back.

Only a few minutes into our call, I can tell how deeply family-oriented Heather is. In fact, without her family, she tells me she couldn’t do any of this.”They’re my biggest supporters,” she tells me.

But let me back up. Where did it all start? Heather grew up paddling canoes and sailing in the Missouri river. She’s always had a fascination with paddles—antique paddles, wooden paddles of all kinds. She was always around the water in some capacity, so the love’s always been there.

But her route to Puerto Rico, her family and paddlign is nothing less than  extraordinary. After college, Heather went to Florida to become a boat captain. According to her site, she “completed the Chapman’s School of Seamanship course and from there began washing boats at a marina, which led to a full time first mate position on a 112′ Hatteras Yacht.”

The desire to fly planes sparked a move to Charlotte, NC where she learned how to fly, completing all her aircraft ratings. She started a business washing planes and eventually becoming a Captain on a Lear Jet for large Charlotte Company and their family, and finally a Captain flying a Beechjet 400A for Raytheon.

That’s when she met her future husband, Jim Baus and moved with him to Puerto Rice where in 2001, they married with Savanna following shortly after in 2002.

Jim’s been a huge supporter, taking her out for open-ocean training runs where he drives their support boat. He’s encouraged her training and racing. It sounds like despite the excitement of going to events, she truly misses her family at home.

In Puerto Rico, she added teacher to the list of identities. She’s home-schooled Savannah since day 1 with an accredited program. Taking things into her own hands seems to have paid off. Savannah is an extraordinary child and extremely accomplished. Savannah is the #1 female dinghy sailor in Puerto Rico. Check out her site and see the photos. She looks like a real competitor and Heather tells me she’s having a lot of fun in the process.

Heather, Jim and Savannah have been on the lookout for Regattas and SUP races that are close so they can travel and compete together. Last year, after Heather won the Yolo Seaside Celebration, and called home to find out that Savannah had also won in her regatta. It was a great day in the Baus family.

As I mentioned earlier, I saw first-hand how competitive Heather is on the course. What I didn’t mention is Heather’s humanity. When I asked her about her start in competitive paddling she tells me, “I was scared to compete in the U.S. (on the mainland).” She had some early success, and got the state-side bug, but still, she was in awe of some of the top women paddlers like Brandi.

With success would come sponsors, but Heather had no idea how people get them until her success at the Hennessey International Championships.  Bark, Kialoa, New Elements, and Maui Jim soon signed on to help her with travel expenses and equipment. She sounds humbled by the experience, by the success and incredibly stoked.

Again, I know Heather gets some hard-core pictures painted of her, including the one I posted earlier this week, but that’s just a surface description and it’s not entirely accurate. She may be serious about racing and training, but she’s equally serious about being with and supporting family and friends and having fun.

If Heather was a dog, her tail would be wagging for the entire paddle. She’s just having a blast and sharing her joy with those around her. Having Bark, Kialoa, New Elements, and Maui Jim as her sponsors speaks volumes of Heather.

When I asked Heather about her tips for paddlers, she just about yells on the phone that they need to, “Smile and have fun!” I don’t think she ever forgets this. And no one who hangs out with her after a race can deny how much fun she seems to be having.

When I ask her about technique, I can see how passionate she is about having people use a correctly-fitted paddle. A paddle that’s too long can promote shoulder injury while one that’s too short isn’t efficient. Then there’s paddle surface area. That depends on your size and strength, the distance and type of paddling you’re planning to do. Heather has it dialed in and is eager to share her knowledge with others. That’s why she’ll undoubtedly make an excellent rep for Kialoa in the Caribbean.

We are so excited to have Heather (and hopefully Jim and Savannah) to NC for the Carolina Cup. I may get the chance to paddle Catalina with her before then, and the Gulf Coast Championships after. In the meantime, I’m hitting her up for training tips and some weekly stoke.

Check out Heather’s site: and her daughter, Savannah’s site

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