In the July issue of Outside, we took a wild ride down the freed Colorado River and let Clint Dempsey fire soccer balls at us in an enclosed studio. And we brought our cameras along too. Feast your eyes.
What happens when you let America's best striker in front of a camera with a soccer ball? Some amazing footwork. And a lot of ducking:
The 2014 Colorado River Pulse Flow gave a ragtag group of Outside reporters and environmentalists the chance to paddle where no man has paddled before —or at least in a very long time. Pete McBride takes us along for the ride:
Pro beach volleyball player Todd Rogers lives less than half an hour from the Pacific Coast. But surprisingly, the beach isn’t his favorite thing about living in sunny Solvang, California. “It is focused on families and children,” says the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, who moved to town in August 2002, when his kids were 3 and 1. “People are friendly, and everyone knows everyone else—I could never get that in a big city.”
Located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, Rogers says Solvang operates at a slow pace. "That is why my wife and I moved here," he says. "Neither of us are into the hustle and bustle of the city. We like to enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir on our porch while enjoying the natural view."
Here’s what else the five-time AVP world champ has to say about life in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Describe Solvang. The Santa Ynez Valley is made up of five small little towns: Solvang, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Los Olivos, and Ballard. Solvang, where I live, is a quaint Danish town with windmills, wineries, and great places to eat. The Santa Ynez river runs through it, and it is bordered by the coastal mountains.
One thing most people don't know about Solvang? It isn't as big of a secret as it used to be, but the wine industry is blowing up here. We are becoming well known for our Pinot Noir and the Santa Rita Hills Appellation. Once the movie Sideways came out, people started buying up all the Pinots from the area.
Favorite place to get outside? The Santa Ynez River. It runs through the entire area, and I am down there almost everyday running, walking my dogs, jumping in with my kids, or generally exploring what the river has to offer.
Best time of year to visit? All year long in my opinion, but I am biased. Weather-wise, either spring or fall are the best times. Usually it is a bit nippy (50 degrees or so) in the mornings, but warms up to around 80 in the afternoons.
Best restaurant? Trattoria Grappolo. This quaint little Italian restaurant has been the go-to restaurant for my wife and me since it was opened about ten years ago by immigrant Italian brothers. Great wine list, great food, and great ambiance for both locals and tourists.
Must-see attraction? The city of Solvang itself is great. Spend a day going into wine tasting bars, eating delicious Danish food, and shopping. Another favorite spot of mine is Sunstone Winery. You'll feel like you're in France or Italy. Ask about the "Villa" while you are there. Simply amazing!
Best place to stay? My house because we have a beach volleyball court! But if you aren't invited there, I've always liked the Hadsten House.
Need to Know:
Solvang is 130 miles from the Los Angeles airport, and 300 miles from the San Francisco airport.
BUDDY UP:Train and race with a partner. When you know someone else is suffering with you, you’ll be less inclined to let them down—and vice versa. It’ll also help ease race-day worries. It’s a good format for success.
GET A TIRE: Go to a tire shop, get a free used tire, drill a hole in it, put a rope through the hole, then drag that thing everywhere. If you can slog out several miles doing that, you’ll be well prepared for the mental strains you’ll experience in a race, because you’ll be working for every step.
HIT THE HILLS: More and more of these races seem to take place on ski slopes, with serious elevation gain. Go find a big hill and run up and down it, perhaps with a weighted pack. Don’t do it every day—you want to give your body time to repair itself. But you definitely want to simulate this race condition in training.
PROTECT YOUR ARMS: I’ve been wearing OCR Gear’s Pro Arm compression sleeves ($30). They work really well when you’re going under barbed-wire-crawl sections. They protect your elbows from getting scratched. Get a dark color, so the mud doesn’t stain and you can reuse them.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS: A GPS watch is immensely helpful for someone like me who feeds on information. It can tell you how far along you are, so you’re not wondering how much is left and you can give a strong finish. The Garmin Forerunner 310XT ($250) is a good fit for obstacle racing. It’s rugged, it’s waterproof, and it gives you more info than you’ll ever need.
GET SITUATED: First, always keep your eyes on the horizon. Most people look at their feet when they stand-up, but that can throw you off balance. And this may seem totally obvious, but a lot of people hold their paddle facing the wrong way. Always make sure the scoop is facing away from you.
AVOID OVERPADDLING: Don’t stroke past your feet. When your elbow comes to your hip, bring the blade up out of the water. If your paddle passes your feet, you’re actually slowing yourself down.
THINK ABOUT TEMPO: I’m on the high-cadence train. The faster I paddle, the higher the turnover, and the faster I go. For me, I have to rely on my fitness and do a faster cadence, but if you’re super strong, like Dave Kalama, you can get away with a slower, stronger stroke.
START FAST: For races, I usually go hard at the start and then settle into a comfortable rhythm. Don’t start slow, thinking you’re going to conserve energy for later, because at that point you won’t be able to play catch-up. If other racers are ahead of you, even if it’s just three board lengths, it takes so much effort to reel them in.
NERD OUT: I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to paddling—I love using a GPS watch, like the Garmin Forerunner 910XT ($450). It not only tells me how far and fast I’m going, but it’s heart-rate-enabled, and I can create custom workouts.