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Father and son allergists work, run, bike and paddleboard together

Patrick and Stephen Klemawesch are paddling partners and surfing buddies. They run together, they ride together, and given the chance, they race together. When you start talking about their exploits, they can't stop smiling.

"It is great to have somebody who is ready to go all the time," said Patrick, a 35-year-old allergist in St. Petersburg. "It is even better when your training partner is your dad."

The younger Klemawesch is tall, blond and built like something out of a Thor comic book.

His father, Dr. Stephen Klemawesch, started Allergy Associates in 1984 and raised three children with wife Deborah on the local beaches. Patrick is the middle child.

"All of my children are very independent," Stephen Klemawesch said. "They were all brought up in the outdoors. They were all very active. And it shows."

The Klemawesch offspring all chose professional careers (two doctors and a lawyer) but only Patrick decided to enter the family practice, so he gets to borrow his dad's skateboard at lunchtime. His mother works there, too.

The father and son share kayaks, surfboards, boats, bikes and now, more than a half-dozen standup paddleboards (SUPs) that they take out several days a week.

"I think the trick is to expose your children to as many different activities as possible," said Stephen, who at 62 maintains a trim runner's physique. "If you are lucky, you might find a couple of things that you both enjoy."

In high school, Patrick was a skinny kid who ran cross country and looked like he might get sand kicked in his face if he went to the wrong beach. But in college (Harvard) and medical school (Alabama) he discovered weights and transformed his runner's body into that of an outside linebacker.

The football coach would see him in the weight room and stop and ask, "Are you on my team? If not, you should be." Patrick would laugh and say, "Can't, coach. Pre-med."

The father and son, exercise partners for life, would support each other regardless of the activity.

"I went up once to do the Boston Marathon when Pat was in school," Stephen recalled. "He met me at the first mile marker, jumped on to the course, and ran the whole thing with me . . . Just like that."

Stephen taught all three of his children to surf at Sunset Beach, pushing them into the breaking waves until they could stand up on their own.

The son of a naval aviator, he spent his high school years in Pensacola, which had a vibrant surf scene in the early '60s.

"I got my first surfboard at Sears & Roebuck's," Stephen said. "But eventually, after sitting on that board in the lineup with all my friends, I buckled under peer pressure and bought myself a proper board."

Patrick surfed his way through school, and then after nearly a decade out of state, he returned home to practice with his father and pick up where they left off.

"We both thought we could catch more rides if we could paddle into the waves with real paddles," Patrick said. "But that was before there were standups. So we tried it with little canoe paddles on our surfboards and it just didn't work."

Then, the SUP craze hit Florida full force about four years ago. Patrick took to it instantly and quickly became a seasoned competitor. He and his father soon started slipping out of their west St. Petersburg office at lunchtime and paddling out at the beach.

As they share fitness, the Klemawesches also share patients, so when you visit Allergy Associates, you never know who you are going to get, father or son.

"It works out great," Patrick said. "We cooperate and put our heads together on difficult cases.

"It is great to get two different perspectives. My father has a lot of wisdom and experience, things you can't learn in medical school."

In July, Patrick will head to Hawaii for the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championship. It is a 32-mile crossing of one of the roughest channels on Earth, but he will not be alone. Pop, as he calls him, will be there on an escort boat, offering spiritual and hydration support.

"How many 62-year-olds would head out into water like that just to hand a guy some Gatorade?" Patrick said. "But the best times in my life have always been with my dad. It is a blessing to live in a place where you can do so many different things, and to have an old man who just wants to be outside all the time."

Stephen said he can't take too much credit. He learned much of his fathering skills from his own dad, a career military officer.

"Even though he might be gone for months at a time, when he was home, he made sure he made an effort to do specific activities with his children that they enjoyed," he said.

"I have tried to do the same thing. There is no better way to parent."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at tomalin@sptimes.com.

Father and son allergists work, run, bike and paddleboard together 06/17/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 4:30am]
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