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.