Sometime around the spring of 2013, I joined a workout group made up primarily of paddlers that call themselves the North County Paddlers or NCP. I knew very little about the group except that the members seemed to be on the podium at all the paddle races around town. Just like starting anything new, it was intimidating at first and I was instantly shocked at the speed of the top paddlers and the intensity of the workouts. I quickly realized that all the paddling I had done up to that point had been pretty lame.

As I got to know the members of NCP better, I began to understand why the workouts were so intense. The group included Ironman World Champions, Molokai legends, Catalina lifers, big wave surfers, lifeguards, triathletes, world class runners and professional trainers. Each of these paddlers disguise themselves as business men and women, engineers, teachers, techies, parents, etc. on a daily basis. Since meeting them, I’ve grown to admire the suffering they experience training and competing at our niche sport — all without very much mainstream recognition.

Fast forward to present day, and we’re once again readying ourselves to start workouts for the upcoming paddle season. I’m looking forward to training, paddling, and suffering again with this group of incredible friends and mentors. As usual there will be some new crafts on the water for 2019 and I’m excited to bring my Shearwater boards into the group so my friends can give them a spin.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

By Kyle Smith

It was the 2017 Davenport Downwinder. We were battling to the finish for the win. Because the race gets so spread out I had no idea we were battling for 1st place. My legs were gone from having to knee paddle so much to keep up. He sprinted up the beach and easily beat me.

I met Nick for the second time later that summer on the podium for the Molokai to Oahu race. We were both in the top 3 for our age group. Nick was 1st, I was 3rd. My first M2O and I didn’t die, all good.

I met Nick Franco here. (Photo via Ghostryders Watermen Club)

2018 Davenport race, Nick was 2nd, I was 3rd. We raced each other from the buoy off the pier once again.

2018 Molokai to Oahu, Nick was 2nd in our age group. I was 3rd.

After each of these races I was fortunate enough to get to know Nick better and better.  I had a chance to pick his brain about paddling and check out the great boards he was on. In true paddling tradition he was always gracious.

I’ve grown to love prone paddling. It’s weird to type that but it’s true. The overall fitness, surf cross-training and competitive races are obvious reasons why. But being alone and escaping into the ocean is probably my favorite reason.

After the 2018 Molokai race Nick asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Shearwater team. An honor I never anticipated, strived for or even really understand. It took me a little while to compute it. In the end the answer was, of course, yes.

I feel extremely blessed to ride Shearwater paddleboards and surfboards. To escape alone into the ocean while being a part of this team is extremely motivating. I hope to represent Shearwater with the same humble heart that Nick has. If you can’t beat em, join em.


SHEARWATER is proud to announce that we are expanding the business. We are adding a full line of surfboards to the existing line of paddle boards. SHEARWATER shaper Nick Franco has been ghost shaping for one of the top craftsmen in the surfboard industry for the past 6 years, while also building the SHEARWATER paddle board brand. Now it is time to grow SHEARWATER into a full, year round board business. Follow us @shearwaterpaddleboards for new custom boards (both paddle and surf) and look for our full line of surfboards on the website. As always, feel free to contact us through our contact page and we look forward to working with you very soon. 


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Waterman’s Challenge

The Waterman’s Challenge is a paddlers race. At risk of sounding cliche, it has a ton of soul. It is one of the few races that champions traditional paddling and has strong ties to its roots and founding fathers, Shearwater Paddleboards is so thankful that it exists. No sups. No BS. Just get yourself from Swamis to Windansea as fast as you can with a Mexican feast to greet you at the end. This year, ceviche tostadas. A large and very legit crew showed up in Encinitas for the early morning start, including record holder Don Miralle and past winner Dan Mann. The pace was fast from the get go with Robert Parucha and Max First (Bark) taking an outside line while Dan Mann (Mann Kine) and Shearwater’s Nick Franco (Shearwater Flatwater UL) on the inside with Josh Ryan (Shearwater Flatwater UL) right in the mix. After 15 miles Robert Parucha was the 1st to cross the finish line, with Max First in 2nd 13 seconds behind Parucha and Nick Franco in 3rd 17 seconds behind First. Josh Ryan finished a solid 19th out of 56 paddlers beating his 2016 time by 31 minutes. It was a long drive home, but as always, well worth the effort. Huge thanks to everyone who helped to put on such an outstanding event. Thank you!

The Dana Ocean Challenge

Shearwater Team members Nick Franco and Josh Ryan decided to start off the season with a new race this year. They headed down the coast in hopes of competing in the 10 mile Dana Ocean Challenge. Theywere accompanied by good friend and SF resident Brady Andrews and were put up in Seal Beach the night before the race by the legendary Doug and Denise Andrews. Huge thanks to the Andrews family for their hospitality and support. 


Unfortunately, through much confusion, Team Shearwater was not allowed to compete in the long course and was forced to compete in a short course of 4 miles. To make matters worse, although early for the long course start time, they were late for the short course start. Deciding to give it a go anyway, Nick and Josh used the race as a sprint workout and were able to finish respectably despite starting 10 minutes late. Good to get the snafus out of the way early. 


In order to salvage the trip, they decided to catch some World Baseball Classic games at Petco Park in San Diego with friends, so all was not lost.