We’re incredibly excited to announce that Nate Errez has joined the Faster Farther paddling team. Nate is a native of Seattle currently living and training in San Diego where he focuses on sprint kayak disciplines and races as a member of the US National Team. But when we heard he was in town for the holidays, we had to have him swing by Faster Farther HQ in Bellingham (aka Vikingham!) for a proper winter downwind and then an interview afterward.
FF: So to start, when did you discover the water and what drew you to paddling?
NE: My start in paddling is actually a pretty funny story. When I was 12, my mom, who was a single mother at the time, needed a place for me to go after school while she was at work. Through a business connection she heard about the youth program at my local kayak club and signed me up. I came home from school one day and she said “you’re gonna go to the kayaking club.” Being the snarky 12-year-old I was, I mouthed off to her about how kayaking sounded lame and I didn’t want to go. Kicking and screaming she dragged me down to my first session and I was introduced to everyone at the club. From the very first time I sat in the K1 I fell in love with being on the water. It was a different sensation then I had ever felt and I couldn’t believe my mom was right.
FF: Mom’s have a talent for being right! Describe for us your best day on the water, and when you felt like you wanted this to be your future?
NE: I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of really awesome days on the water recently where my technique, strength and fitness all feel better than ever before. If I had to pick a day or days that stands out it would be paddling at the Gorge Downwind Champs. Downwind paddling is the most fun thing I do on the water. My training in the K1 is about 50/50 fun and pain, though I love the feeling of grinding in the K1, so I would be hesitant to call any of those my best day. In terms of racing, making some international finals at the Olympic Hopes Regatta and Junior Worlds are up there for sure.
FF: In the past, there hasn’t been much cross-over from sprint to downwind paddling? Do you see that changing?
NE: I think that the two sports can complement each other nicely but to be honest I think it is unlikely that you will see athletes be at the top of both. The amount of time you need to spend in the ocean, in the bump, to get the feeling for surfing is insane. Also, to be an elite sprint paddler you need to have a great aerobic capacity, high aerobic threshold and lots of strength and power which also all take a lot of time to develop. I find surf ski paddling an enjoyable way to develop some aerobic capacity but I am fully committed to sprint paddling which limits the amount of time I spend in the ski.
FF: Great answer which reminds me of this insight; "the essence of strategy is sacrifice." In terms of open ocean paddling, do you see any benefit in terms of cross training or balance?
NE: It’s definitely a more enjoyable way to paddle 20k and I use a smaller paddle to keep the rate high and work on some cardiovascular capacity. Balance wise I think spending time in the K1 is more beneficial.
FF: A paddler at your level has to spend a LOT of time on the water, which for weekend warrior types sounds great... But the reality is that there has to be hard days (even if they’re always sunny in San Diego). Tell us what the day-in-day-out grind and racing at an elite level is like?
NE: I have definitely had a lot of tough days on the water where you just try and try as hard as you can, but everyone still seems to be crushing you. I usually don’t let it get to me though because I tend to forget about those pretty quick. Some of the most trying days have been poor results at races. I got eliminated in the heats at my last Junior Worlds in 2016 which sucked, and I’ve had plenty of bad races in addition to that one but again, I don’t really let it get to me. I always think about my dreams after tough results and just think to myself that it would be way more painful to give up and quit then to train for another year.
FF: It seems like you’d need a great support system to stay focused on keep going. What is your local paddling scene like?
NE: Paddling in San Diego is really amazing. The sprint club is doing really well and its inspiring to see so many young kids out there loving the sport. My training group is super solid and we push each other every single session. The surfski/outrigger community is also great down here, there a lot of folks that come out to the local races which we have about one every two weeks during the winter in southern California. Mostly outrigger paddlers but also a decent amount of surfski competition.
FF: You’ve been training with some pretty fast guys from the Chez Republic, how did that come together?
FF: Where do you see the paddling sports heading in the US and abroad?
NE: I think in the US we have a lot of potential for our sprint team. In the past 20 years we have pretty much been at the bottom of the barrel in terms of competing with the Europeans at Junior and Senior worlds but have actually done well at international competitions for the U17, U16 and U15s. We need more kids to stay committed to the sport through university and after because that’s usually where we lose most of out talent. I am very lucky that I am part of the PLNU paddling scholarship program and I get to keep training full time while getting my degree. Abroad I think the sport has some really exciting opportunities. The ICF put on what they called the “super cup” series where the top athletes in the sport from around the world were invited to compete against each other at non-traditional distances, such as 350 and 600 meters, for real prize money and big TV coverage. It’s exciting to see this kind of stuff happening with paddling.
FF: Ok, final question - we save the fun ones -
NE: My ultimate paddling trip is an 8-week training camp in the spring somewhere warm where we have comfortable beds, don’t have to worry about food or school and 20 super fast guys to paddle with. I love being at training camps and I’ve never done one that long before. Of course my dream is to get to the Olympic Games, but to get there I’ll need a couple camps like this!