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At the World’s Toughest Race Does It Pay To Be Young or Experienced?

The story at this year’s 32-mile Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard World Championships won't be the sharks, massive ocean swells, or roaring winds. It’s all about two of the race favorites, Dave Kalama and Kai Lenny.

Ironically, Kalama, who has crossed the Kaiwi Channel more than 30 times and is 28-years older than Lenny, has taught his younger competitor almost everything he knows about the sport.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/dave-kalama-backside-surfing_fe.jpg","caption":"Dave Kalama is no stranger to the Molokai2Oahu. Here he is going backside on a wave during the 2012 race."}%}

Will it take 49-year-old Kalama’s strength, wisdom, and mental toughness or 21-year-old Lenny’s youth, agility, and endurance? Or will two-time champ Connor Baxter or Aussie Travis Grant blow them both out of the water? Stephanie Pearson checks in with the legendary waterman and the rising star before they take the battle to the waves on July 27.

OUTSIDE: What makes this race so much more difficult than every other standup paddling race? 
KALAMA: It’s a 32-mile race, but because of the current it paddles at more like a 45-mile race. The closer to Oahu you get the stronger the current gets and the last mile and half is directly into the wind, which averages 15 to 25 knots. As for the sharks, well, yeah they are out there and I have seen one or two, but you’re so tired and fatigued and trying to focus on what you’re doing that you don’t have time to think about them. The mental battle is what matters. It is a constant battle to not give up.

LENNY: Yeah, I mean it’s absolutely insane. The race is more than just paddling a normal course. It’s so mentally challenging you tend to have to lay down the line and push yourself. By being the best you can be is how you win. It’s not so much that you beat the other guy. I always joke that it’s the first 30 miles that are easy and the last two that will kill you. At 30 miles I feel fine, but the last two I really have to put everything into it because my mind is telling me to stop and when it turns straight upwind I have to dig into my soul.

Standup paddling is unique in that a 49-year-old and a 21-year-old can have an equal chance of winning the World Championship. Why is that?
KALAMA: In almost every other sport you would be laughed at if you thought you could be competitive at 49. But standup paddling is not just purely about physical fitness and is a relatively low impact sport where agility isn’t as critical. It’s more about endurance and emotion—the psychological side of it. There’s so much to it, being able to read the ocean, maximize every glide, make educated guesses on what’s going to happen. If you took marathon running and chess and threw it together, that’s a little bit what it’s like. You have to have the endurance to even get in the game, then it’s a giant chess match the whole way across, based on moves you think your competitor is going to do, and you have to outguess and outwork your competitor.

LENNY: Dave has all this ocean knowledge that allows him to work less, but paddle smarter, and that’s what makes him really fast. He’s been reading the water close to 50 years and I haven’t been around that long. I have the endurance and the speed, but I lack a lot more in ocean knowledge. I also have long arms and can keep a little bigger stroke, which can add up to a mile.

So how do you train for this keeping in mind your respective ages, strengths, and weaknesses?
KALAMA: I really like to do long paddles in my training because, for me, so much of it is the mental aspect. It’s a constant mental battle with yourself to just keep going. Then it’s pushing and maximizing every glide and paying attention to what your competitors are doing without getting too focused on them because you gotta stay focused on yourself. A lot of times I can catch those really big bumps that if those guys did catch it may overtax them. I’m trying to catch bumps anywhere from six inches to eight feet. I have a saying: “The little ones pay the bills, the big for the thrills.” The little ones keep you moving and the big ones are a lot of fun, but they take a lot of energy and are hard to catch, so you can’t count on them. A lot of people think “Ah, Dave you can do it man, you’re so solid you can put so many miles in.” The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t get easier, I’m just used to not quitting.

LENNY: I’ve been traveling so much and doing so many other races that I haven’t been able to train quite as much specifically for this one. At a minimum you want to do two months of training. There’s no other race like it. It’s the hardest race I do all year. It may not be the longest, but it’s definitely the gnarliest. It’s all included: the channels, chop , churn, swells constantly changing, going upwind at times, not only that, but you’re racing, going against guys that want to win as badly as you so that pushes you to go 100 percent for 4.5 hours.

How will you stay mentally focused at mile 27?
KALAMA: I have to listen to music. The theme to Rocky always gets me pumped up.

LENNY: All I can think about is focusing on each stroke, each swell, and focusing on not letting my mind wander. I don’t listen to music, but I have a song playing in my head. There’s this song called “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Lorde. That song is cool, it gets you pumped. I love rap but over 4.5 hours it gets too much.

What’s your secret to beating each other?
KALAMA: There’s no real secret to beating Kai or Connor Baxter. You just have to be fast. You have to manage your fluids, your calories, your energy output, and you gotta glide fast. If you do all those things really well you give you yourself a chance. I hope Kai and Connor race each other and I can do my own thing and see if that plays out because I’m not sure if I can go head to head with them.

LENNY: I would rather put all my energy on myself to do well. Kelly Slater can look at someone and they break. It’s super gnarly. That works for other people, but I would rather do my own thing, and put all my energy into what I need to do. On the beach we’re really good friends, but once we get on the water, it’s not vicious, but it’s intense. Everyone’s going to do everything in his power to beat the other guy. Then when we get back on the beach we’re all friends again. If you get smoked, you laugh it off. That’s why standup is the best sport—there aren’t as many egos in it yet. I hope it doesn’t ever get to the point where people become more selfish.

What have you taught each other about stand up paddling?
KALAMA: When Kai started to get really good at wave riding it definitely inspired and motivated me to push myself to get better at wave riding, for sure.

LENNY: I remember Dave always told me, ‘Kai, you want to work as little as possible and paddle as smart as you can.’ That’s something I’m going to take to heart. When the going gets tough you tend to want to do 100 percent. Also huge is taking the right line and having patience. If I end up being able to beat Dave, he’s going to know it was all him giving me the tips to do it. I’m surprised he ever wanted to be my mentor or train me, because he basically has been helping me get better and pushed myself to be able to beat him. But he tells me that he hasn’t given me all his secrets and I believe him.

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Go Pet Your Jealous Dog

Next time your dog gets rowdy when you start cuddling your friend's puppy, you'll know what's up. A research team from the University of California, San Diego discovered that Fang might experience jealousy, though not quite like you and I do.

UC San Diego psychologist Christine Harris has been studying human jealousy for years. She became curious about the possibility of jealousy in dogs when she noticed her two border collies fought for her attention when she gave it to just one. Researchers are split on whether dogs are capable of experiencing true emotions, because they aren't capable of higher-level thinking, so Harris went about evaluating canine jealousy similarly to how the emotion is tested in another less-cerebral group: human babies. 

Harris and her team collected dogs and their owners and had them engage in two activities. First, dog owners were asked to pet and talk to realistic stuffed dogs that made noises while their own dogs looked on. According to the New York Times, this behavior got a rise out of the real dogs, which barked and pushed the stuffed dogs out of the way. 

However, the second activity didn't elicit as much of a reaction. After playing with fake dogs, dog owners read books to and petted jack-o'-lanterns to see if dogs became envious of any and all attention. Turns out they don't. In her recent paper published in PLOS ONE, Harris concluded that "jealousy has some 'primordial' form that exists in human infants and in at least one other social species besides humans."

What occured might look a lot like jealousy, but there's a reason Harris hedges in her conclusion. The test confirms that a lack of attention in the presence of some elicits a reaction, but it doesn't prove genuine jealousy. What it does show is that if attention is being given out, your dog wants it—especially if a rival is on the receiving end.

Tests like this, researchers told the Times, could support the idea that emotions such as jealousy are innate across species—and could inform whether we should seek to eliminate it or learn to manage it better.

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Selfies Make You Stronger

Living in the age of #fitness junkies, activity trackers, and sports bra selfies was bound to lead to this: a new fitness app called PumpUp.

PumpUp allows users to not only post their workouts and meals for others to see, but also share progress photos to keep themselves inspired and on track. "Consumers today are looking for inspiration and guidance regarding their physical activity and eating habits without being overwhelmed by a plethora of applications," said Niko Bonatso, a principal at General Catalyst Partners, according to the Boston Business Journal

The new application also includes classic fitness app features that build custom exercise plans, give coaching feedback, and track activity such as calories burned (a la FitBit or Jawbone). But with 1.7 million users already getting pumped up about the app, the ability to build a social media community to share fitness photos and healthy recipes with other users seems to be the one-up PumpUp has over wearable tech or Strava.

The app's creators claim that fitness-selfie-sharing users are five times more likely to stay on track with fitness goals. More than 90 percent of current users are female, but co-founder Garrett Gottlieb said that the new app is just scratching the surface of the fitness community. "With PumpUp, we're leveraging mobile technology to connect like-minded individuals across the planet who would have never met otherwise,” he said in a company statement.

But the science behind it says that at the end of the day, we all just want someone to notice how hot we are.

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Famous Hermaphrodite Albino Tree Is Saved

Chalk one up for albino trees. Back in March, we reported on an albino redwood growing perilously close to a railroad right-of-way that looked like it was destined for the chipper. Now, after a prolonged battle to save this ultra-rare specimen of the Sequoioideae species, residents of Cotati, California, can rest easy. The tree will be dug up and replanted at a nearby location, thus spared the ignominious fate of being turned into mulch.

"This is a huge victory for the tree," says local arborist Tom Stapleton in the SFGate. "I'm happy to see that SMART [Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit] has decided to save this truly unique redwood."

In this case, "truly unique" is certainly an apt description. This redwood has two kinds of DNA, albino and regular, a rare genetic constitution that qualifies it as a chimera. Stapleton says that, worldwide, there are only about 10 known samples of this type of tree, which has the unique ability to produce both male and female cones.

A local resident planted the tree 60 years ago. Now 52 feet tall, it has become a cherished neighborhood treasure.

"We heard from the public that this coast redwood was important to the community in Cotati," said Judy Arnold, chairperson of the SMART board of directors. "We felt it was worth the effort to see if there was a way to relocate the tree instead of cutting it down."

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Iron Curtain Tourism Heats Up

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European Union is turning the Iron Curtain into a 4,225-mile (6,800-kilometer) cycling trail to bolster bike tourism.

The European Parliament's transport and tourism committee has set aside $2.4 million to connect bike paths running through 20 countries between the Barents and Black Seas, using small blue squares to mark the trail system. Committee chair Michael Cramer, who proposed the route in 2005, says the trail would not only help interstate tourism but also improve a sense of European unity. By rebranding a physical reminder of segregation as a means of connectivity and historical understanding, the Iron Curtain will "no longer [be] a dividing line but a symbol of shared, pan-European experience in a reunified Europe," Cramer wrote in a trail brochure published by the Greens-European Free Alliance.

The trail was officially added to the EuroVelo, the European network of cycling routes, in 2012 but is largely unknown to Europeans. Cramer hopes marking it will change that.

This isn't the first time Europe has made bike trails from negatively symbolic space. Cramer orchestrated construction of the Berlin Wall Trail, a hundred-mile route throughout West Berlin that leads cyclists through culturally significant spaces along the former border of the German Democratic Republic. 

This trail might help bike tourism pick up, but it could also legitimize (or help orchestrate) a recently popular cult challenge of biking the continent from Spain to Norway. (Interested parties should know the challenge takes about a month to complete.) Serious hill-seeking cyclists might not ride the Iron Curtain Trail, however, as it's relatively flat. 

Regardless, you're encouraged to grab your travel guides and panniers and put aside time for an adventure vacation you can legitimately label as an educational experience. Check out the map and start planning.

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