Jen Kjellesvik: Women of Many Waters

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Jen has taught for Tumalo Creek for the past two summers. The story below was written by Laurel Brauns and originally appeared in Central Oregon Magazine:

Jen Kjellesvik has spent much of the last two decades on the water. She has worked as a whitewater raft guide since 1997 in Alaska and Colorado, and eventually here in Bend for Sun Country Tours. She is an avid kayaker and has also paddled with the Central Oregon Outrigger Team on and off since 2003.

Four years ago, she observed the sport of stand up paddleboarding and noticed the paddles were very similar to the ones she used on the outrigger. She immediately took to the sport and soon became a certified SUP instructor. Today she has a number of regional victories under her belt including winning two race series’ here in Central Oregon: Queen of the Lake at Elk Lake and the Naish Race Series at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. She is also into the second year of running her business, Adventure Fitness, where she provides personal training and an array of classes and other opportunities for getting in shape using a stand up paddleboard. She has plans in the near future to become certified specifically in SUP Fitness.

Kjellesvik has a contagiously uplifting energy when she talks about stand up paddleboarding and her love of the outdoors.

“I will be a stand up paddleboarder for life,” Kjellesvik says. “It encompasses many of the sports I’ve done in the past into one: snowboarding, rafting, outrigger paddling. It’s my passion and I feel like it’s my mission to spread this enjoyment to other people.”

This summer, Adventure Fitness will grow into a mobile classroom and adventure provider. Kjellesvik hopes the business will be a platform for offering everything from instruction in race technique and training to corporate adventures.

When Kjellesvik is not teaching or enjoying time with her family, she is training for SUP racing, something she is destined to continue to excel in. She won many races last summer in spite of enduring the flu-like symptoms of a Hobo spider bite for most of the season, as well as a rib injury. She is sponsored by YOLO Boards (Florida), and Kialoa Paddles, based right here in Bend.

With her health intact, she is confident that she’ll have a great season this year. This summer she will head to Colorado for two big whitewater SUP races, one at Glenwood Springs and the other at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.

“Whitewater SUP racing is all about reading the currents,” Kjellesvik said. Racers all start at the same time, so knowing how to maneuver a board in whitewater conditions is another important skill in this type of race, she explained.

She also has a number of “downwinder” races on the books, including one this summer on the Columbia River Gorge. In this type of competition, paddlers make their way downwind using the waves to their advantage.

Kjellesvik was headed to Maui two weeks after our interview to specifically study how to read waves in downwind races, and to network and study with other SUP professionals.

Finally, Kjellesvik plans to harness some of her passion for stand up paddleboarding into activism for causes that she and her family strongly believe in. She and her son Haakon plan to organize a Paddle for the Environment day to help raise awareness about cleaning up rivers and oceans. She also plans to organize a free SUP adventure day for kids who might not have the resources to enjoy the sport on their own.

“The river and the outdoors is a cure all,” Kjellesvik said. “It’s a place of happiness and peace and a little haven. I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy what’s right here in Bend.”