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A swell sport: Stand-up paddle boarding catches on

BY KATHY DAY and LAURA PETERSEN

Wondering What’SUP? Just ask the owners of Surf Diva in La Jolla Shores.

SUP stands for stand-up paddle boarding, the growing sport that has Izzy Tihanyi and sister Coco busy with the shop’s latest twist.

When they’re not selling boards, clothes and accessories to the female surfers in the area, they’re making sure that their new paddling school, What’SUP is keeping up with lessons and rentals.

“It’s a great workout,” Izzy Tihanyi said. “It’s good for your core muscles, works your arms and shoulders and your legs, too.”

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Besides that, she added, it’s a good cardio workout.

Small classes

Lessons are primarily private ones, at the most for three people, and last an hour or 1 1/2 hours, she said.

Rookies start out learning in flat water to get the basics on position and paddling the 10- to 12-foot boards.

“We only let experienced surfers in the waves,” Izzy TIhanyi said, noting that safety is a prime concern and the reason they use soft boards.

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The instructors and staff at the store recently entered a race at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point as a team. The Race for Humanity was a benefit for SurfAid’s efforts to fund malaria education.

Society benefits

Founded to improve living conditions for those in remote areas connected to its founder through surfing, SurfAid was in part the inspiration for A Stand-up World, a humanitarian organization founded by Del Mar resident John Perell and professional surfer Ekolu Kalama.

“If we as individuals can be stand-up people, and teach everyone else to be like that,” Kalama said, “then we can live in a stand-up world.”

The friends decided to combine their desire to help others with their favorite sport after hundreds competed in the first exclusively stand-up paddle boarding race, Battle of the Paddle, in Dana Point in October. (The Shores, a popular place for launching and racing, in November was the site of the first race in the SoCal OceanRacing Series.)

More than paddling

“We saw how big stand-up was getting. I thought, ‘It’s time for us to do something,’ “said Perell, who moved from Hawaii to Del Mar four years ago.

While originating around the stand-up sport, A Stand-up World aims to become an umbrella organization bringing together communities in need with individuals and corporations willing to give. There’s no one cause, no one issue.

“We want to assist and inspire as many people as we can,” Perell said. “Bring awareness that it’s really easy to go out and help people.”

Off to Honduras

Case in point: Two months after founding A Stand-up World and its formal nonprofit arm, The Ohana Project, Perell and Kalama headed to Honduras to build a well so a rural community could have running water seven days a week. A week later, Kalama, who is also a musician, performed a charity concert in El Salvador, which raised $3,000 to feed 50 malnourished children for the entire year.
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“Surfers are often the first people in remote areas of the world, where doing very little can make a huge difference,” Perell said.

Kalama likens the proposal to “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” in which a huge crew builds a new home every week for a deserving family.

Perell recently sold his Internet company to pursue his dreams of philanthropy, surfing and traveling. He said he was inspired to redistribute his wealth after seeing the profound impact SurfAid had building community resources in Indonesia.

Similarly, Kalama left the fire service to pursue his dreams of surfing, music and helping others.