Photo: Deb Stipa
Natali Zollinger is a professional stand up paddleboard athlete, river guide and co-owner of RVR 2 RVR. She is based in Moab, Utah, but spends most of her year traveling around in her sprinter van training as an athlete, hosting clinics, and racing in whitewater and flatware events.
We sat down with Natali at the GoPro Mountain Games this summer, where she took first place in the SUP Surf Cross event, to learn more about her favorite gear.
Gear Institute: Great to see you here in Vail for the Mountain Games. What else have you been up to lately?
Natali Zollinger: All winter I worked at my partner’s restaurant trying to get ahead financially after all the playing I’ve been doing over the past few years. He and his business partner both co-own Sabaku Sushi, which has been in business since 2009, and then this new restaurant, 98 Center that just opened up June of 2016. I’ve been trying to make smart decisions for how I want the next phase of my career to look like both as an athlete, and as an instructor, so it was good for me to get a reset back at my home in Moab.
Photo: Brad Mickelson
Besides working at the restaurant, I also worked hard with my RVR 2 RVR business partner, Brittany Parker, all spring to set up our events and our clinic tour to help spread the stoke of the river. We did a west coast circuit to Bend, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho, both places we’ve taught at before and love returning to.
Once the river season picked up, Brittany and I were off racing, surfing and enjoying the high water run-off traveling to all the different events along the circuit, like here at GoPro.
Photo: Nadia Almuti
GI: So what is next for you?
NZ: Next on the horizon are a few more river clinics, the Outdoor Retailer Show, Pacific Paddle Games in October, and the XPT Experience in Kauai in December. XPT is Laird Hamilton’s new training retreat that I’m really curious about participating in so I can potentially help create something similar within our own river industry. As a trainer, I’m excited to adopt some of his new techniques and see how they enhance my career both as an athlete and a trainer.
GI: What pieces of gear do you take with you whenever you hit the road? Any favorites?
NZ: Yes, of course. For instance, I love the Watershed Mesh Drybag. This bag is huge and carries all my river gear, it has plenty of ventilation so things can breathe, and is bomber in holding up to all the different elements I put it through.
I’m also a fan of the Astral BlueJacket. This is the slimmer version of their Green Jacket that is perfect for women paddlers as well as racers that want a little more floatation and pocket space. Astral’s Brewess Shoes are also a constant companion. I love how versatile they are! I also appreciate how reliable they are when I have to move my board or walk around in the river without slipping or sacrificing my safety. They’re even fun when I’m training on land with my Onewheel plus, or just hanging out on the town. They have a skater look to them that transition perfectly between river and city without sacrificing style.
I never paddle without my Badfish SUP Re-Leash. The company’s releasable technology helps keep me safe on the river and connected to my board when times get big. This year I’ve also set my paddle length a little shorter to help me get lower in the water. This saves my shoulders when I have to make quick moves in whitewater or surfing river waves. To help with this, I switched over to the Werner Legend 99 Paddle.
I’ve also focused a lot on mobility this year considering I haven’t had a lot of time to get out on the water. Because of this, I have been really impressed with how quickly I can recover and maintain my flexibility throughout these tough race weekends by using the Trigger Point Mobility Kit. In my kit I have the Trigger Point MB5, MB2 and GridX foam rollers. Trigger Point helps me keep moving both on and off the water. Wouldn’t go anywhere without it.
GI: And what gear from your sponsors are most impressed with?
NZ: That is hard to say. Probably the Hole Shot Carbon Innegra SUP. It has been around for three years or so and I’m now just starting to paddle it. My skills have improved enough to take on that board and start to focus on my speed. Badfish Stand Up Paddle has been a great company to represent and a family I don’t ever want to let go of. They are the leading brand for river surfing and a community that is so supportive both on and off the water. Stoked to represent them throughout my competition seasons.
GI: Are there any tips or tricks for packing your gear that you’ve picked up along the way?
NZ: Make sure your gear bag is big enough and you have backups of everything that you use. I love being self sufficient enough so that when something breaks, pops out—or if you need to loan someone else some gear—you have enough to go around. Also, make sure you always have a cooler stocked with bubbly water and any other refreshing beverages for your post paddle hang out session. You’ll win the crowds every time.
Photo: Brad Mickelson
GI: Is there any one piece of gear that you’re super excited about right now?
NZ: Yes! The Halo Sport Neuroscience Headset has been a game changer for me. I purchased one in April of this year and have been using it to help me learn moves quicker like popping up to surf and jumping my feet around a “pretend board on land.” Halo Neuroscience works by stimulating the motor cortex of the brain to mimic movement without stressing my body physically. It’s helped me work a lot smarter vs. harder this year.
Thanks for all of the tips and good luck the rest of the year Natali.
Follow Natali at natalizollinger.com.