Jeremy Whitted: Stand-Up Paddler with a Sunny Disposition

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When you meet Jeremy Whitted, you are immediately struck by the energy in his voice, his dark brown eyes, his crazy curls, and his animated gestures. It shouldn’t surprise you to find out that he is also a competitive athlete; a standup paddleboarder and a runner to be exact. He loves competition, and while he is no stranger to it, his affinity for standup paddleboarding is fairly new.

He grew up in the land locked states of South Dakota and Wyoming, loving baseball and playing every summer until he was in 8th grade. When his parents divorced, sports and other activities which generally require parental support, went by the wayside. He turned to heavy metal music, cigarettes, and general trouble making activities to fill his time.

Eventually though, in what may have been a subconscious desire to sabotage his smoking habit, Jeremy found running and soon fell in love with it — especially the feeling he got from going for a long run. Before long, he quit smoking altogether, became “a full fledged runner" and started competing in local and regional 10k road races. He loved the training, competition, and camaraderie, not to mention the thrill of being fast enough to start in the "elite corral" at some of the biggest races in the southeast.

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Perhaps he would have stayed on the running path, going who knows where next, but fate threw a funny little curveball. Around 2010, although he lived to run at the time, he also knew he needed to mix it up. A thin, but strong man to begin with, he believed “the little muscle [he] did have was shrinking away.” So, when he was invited to go paddleboarding for the first time on a river outside of Charleston, he jumped at the opportunity. “My friend said, ‘C'mon, man. I'll show you how to do it,’” Jeremy says. As it turned out, his friend was one of those guys that has to be in the lead, one of those guys who claims not to be competitive, and then races out ahead. Being the equally competitive person that he is, Jeremy tried to catch him the whole time, and a passion was born.

From that first time on the water, Jeremy realized standup paddleboarding could be the perfect way to cross train. And in a short amount of time, he realized he could race on boards too. Soon he was pursuing the sport — finding local and regional races and signing up to compete. He experienced all the same things he did with running: pre-race jitters, anticipation about the competition, and the desire to win. He also made great friendships during and after each race. These things, in addition to “getting on the water, standing on a board, making it glide, catching bumps, competing in open ocean and flat water races” kept him coming back for more. He suddenly had the best way to relax, train, and relieve stress, all in one activity.

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Jeremy has participated in, and won, multiple races in a variety of distances and events — both SUP races and those that combine running and paddleboarding. A review of the results for the Hunting Island Biathlon and Wrightsville Beach Biathlon show that Jeremy has won the former 3 years in a row, and placed 2nd and 1st at the latter for the past two years respectively. Although there are many obvious differences between running and paddling, “the mindset is much the same,” Jeremy argues. “A flat road race is much the same as a flat water SUP race in that you can find a pace and flow... A trail run is like an open ocean race or racing in choppy, windy conditions. You need to be able to save energy or spend it, depending on what you're faced with.”

His training unsurprisingly involves paddling and running the majority of the time, and he is “hooked” on this combination because the transition from paddle to run is so easy: “You’re already warmed up and loose, so the run starts out very easy--no achy bones and muscles to get warmed up!”

Don’t let his joy of competition fool you into thinking he's only in it for himself though. On the contrary, Jeremy participates in plenty of SUP & RUN training programs and directs races as well, all in the hopes of growing this relatively new sport that he loves so much. Jeremy is good at teaching. He’s uninhibited, articulate, and truly excited for everyone and anyone to learn SUP-ing. The desire to direct races came about after he and his friends were traveling to various races along the east coast and noticing that some were inherently better than others. From what they experienced, some of the races that were put on by surf shops and outdoor stores were a little too self-promotional and sometimes lacking in a grassroots, voluntary aspect - meaning that paid employees were creating the race and not always enthusiastic paddlers simply trying to help. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes the quality of the event and the course safety suffered, and some races were cancelled at the last minute.

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With a Charleston event that Jeremy was involved in called  The Chucktown Showdown , they figured out a way to showcase the city’s amazing waterways and scenery by creating a race 'by the paddlers, for the paddlers' featuring the collective experience and knowledge necessary for ensuring a great venue and course, accurate timing, and a new standard in water safety during the race. They could also give away prize money, which is always a great enticement for competition, and provide a variety of pre- and post-race activities, including training techniques (using drills, resistance and technique workouts) and race skills workshops, as well as a preparation and strategy clinic. It’s also in September, which is a great time of year to paddleboard in the Charleston area.

But not all SUP races and biathlons are sunshine and coppertone. Even though Jeremy's year-round tan and sunny disposition might convince you otherwise, there are plenty of events that take place in cold water, and Jeremy can be found at many of them. The Cold Stroke Classic, which Jeremy won, is held in January and it was 34 degrees. And the ChattaJack 31 in Chattanooga, Jeremy’s favorite event, was 30 degrees at the start last year. Hosted by endurance paddleboarder Ben Frieberg, the expertise and passion necessary for such an event to be successful was evident from the start. “Ben and Melia (Jacobs) made sure that we had nothing to worry about but ourselves. They took care of everything, even getting our boards set out for us prior to start time,” Jeremy noted. The well-organized event grew from 40 participants in its first year, to 140 last year.

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ChattaJack is Jeremy’s favorite race in part because racing through the Tennessee River Gorge is such a different experience than the waterways surrounding Charleston and any other low country venue he’s been to. He cites “the sense of accomplishment, the beauty, and the high from the race,” with its time commitment of almost 6 hours, as being hard to describe. “Even the toughest parts were bound to be great memories,” Jeremy adds. He lists the challenge of the distance, the exposed rocky cliffs, the incredible expanses of tree covered mountains, and the wind that picked up during the last six-to-ten miles as additional bonuses.

The gorgeous Tennessee River Gorge in fall
The gorgeous Tennessee River Gorge in fall Michael Hicks

Even though he mostly trains alone, he sometimes enjoys working out with others in order to get a feel for how well he’s doing. Distance racing in SUP and running are certainly individual sports--how well he does or doesn't do is all up to him — but the friendships he's made and the feeling of camaraderie he gets afterwards are both a huge part of why he does it. Ben Frieberg describes Jeremy as “a team player in a draft pack...who’s constantly smiling big!”

Jeremy is currently a Team Werner Paddles Ambassador and a Carolina Paddleboard Company Team Rider.
He will be competing in this year's Chattajack 31 on October 25th.

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