Thursday, June 18, 2015

Settling in to the Maine way of life

I moved to Maine.

I never thought I'd live on the East Coast again, but things change and people do to.  Change is good and I'm embracing this one.

After a five-day cross-country drive listening to a Short History of Nearly Everything, sleeping in the backseat of my Subaru at truck stops with everything I own and toting 5 standup paddleboards and a bike on a trailer behind me I arrived in Maine only to find out I still had another hour and a half to go.  Trish surprised me by renting a cabin for the week on a little lake chain in central state.  I quickly unloaded my crap into a small storage unit, dropped the trailer and headed Northwest to Belgrade Lakes with bikes and sups for a week of unwinding on the lake.  Northwest?  Yes, Northwest.  I have to get used to that again.  If I'm looking north the ocean is to the East, not the West.  And I just spent the last ten years learning it the other way.  Whatever - by the end of the day I was paddling with loved ones and was off to a good start settling in to the Maine way of life.

In the next week I relaxed, read a book, visited family, got some mountain biking in and paddled just about everyday.  I canoe commuted to the market to pickup groceries for dinner and to the post office to mail some work.  I paddled in a downpour when I ventured too far across the lake (it rains here!).  I portaged Main street in order to explore another lake in the chain.  There is water everywhere and coming from a California drought, this is a huge treat.  I've renewed my love of canoeing and I'm excited to undertake some downeast adventure.

scouting some streams.  Site of a canoe poling competition.

dock life is the good life

mountain biking the Bigelow range

exploring Great Pond

freshwater & a borrowed canoe

training on Long Pond

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Last paddle on San Francisco Bay

I'm leaving town soon so when I got the call from Gretchen to do one more paddle before I left, there was one particular paddle I had in mind.  Looking at currents and weather, everything appeared perfect for a trip going west and then east.  I'd always wanted to paddle to Angel Island and hike to the top so it seemed the perfect day to give it a try.

We met in Berkeley at 5:45am with Shanna surrounded by fisherman and power boats.  By 6:50am we paddled out of Berkeley Marina right into a quartering chop.  Winds weren't strong yet, but were showing signs and it was the chop that slowed our progress.  What I predicted as a two-hour crossing turned into three hours.  Not big deal though, because we still made the island before the wind turned on.

Taking our time on the beach, we changed into dry clothes and proceeded to hike to the top of Mt. Livermore, 781ft above sea level in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  It was my first time to to the top of Angel Island and on a great day with great company.  It really couldn't have been better for my last paddle in the area.  But wait, it got better.  While we ate and relaxed, the wind did pick up and was blowing about 20mph when we re-launched on the east side of Pt. Blunt.  This was exactly what I wanted, although the wind didn't line up for perfect straight downwind rides.  It lined up well enough that we could catch some bumps, paddle south and repeat.  We zigged and zagged right back to Berkeley in ninety minutes with a bumpy mix of 2ft wind chop and swell.  We spent about 8 hours on the trip and covered 16.7 miles of paddling and hiking.  So fun to mix paddling and hiking!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 California 100

The California 100 is an important grass roots paddling race & fundraiser in Northern California.  From Redding, CA to Chico, CA racers paddle their sups, surfskis, kayaks, canoes and outriggers downriver, touring the central valley of this gigantic state.  In one day they cover 100 miles of class I & II river in the heat, taking between 10 and 20 hours to finish.  This was my second, and last, year as Race Director and although I won't be holding the reigns next year, I will be back to race again.  

My team is made up of a couple key staff, lots of incredible volunteers and four board members from Rivers for Change, a great CA non-profit with the mission of connecting people to rivers.  Founded by Danielle Katz and John Dye in 2011, they've been successful using paddling as a catalyst to engage, educate and excite people on river issues.  They're connecting people to rivers in a very important time as water management in California is of utmost importance.  RFC is a young, growing organization and I'm proud to have worked alongside them for these two seasons.  Now that my role as Race Director is finished, I'm brainstorming new ways to stay connected to this organization from across the country.  

The race this year did not disappoint.  Racer attendance was down, river flows were low (8000cfs), but energy was higher than ever and lots of new paddlers completed this journey and accomplished their goal.  Check out the photo album here:

Keeping up with the Live Update.

Returning to the launch after starting the Adventure Class at 6am.  

Morning Workout.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bay to Bay - San Diego, CA

I haven't paddled this route since, I don't know, 2006 maybe?  It's been awhile and I've been wanting to standup paddle it for a long time.  It's a gorgeous stretch of coastline with beautiful waves & scenery.  Since Federico recently finished restoring his classic thirteen foot prone paddleboard from the 70's/80's, it was the perfect time to partner up and make the trek.

I've been staying with him in San Diego for about a week and a half now.  I've had two paddling courses back to back weekends so it's been hard to find a time to do this.  We decided Monday would be our best option and if swell and weather aligned we'd give it a try.  Come Sunday night, the wind looked good, tides were perfect and the swell had dropped to 2 feet.  It's a go.

beach break

nearing Point Loma

rounding Point Loma

ACA Level 3 SUP Surf - Dana Point, CA

Back in November last year Tim Chandler of TRY Standup and myself started talking about an ACA L3 Surf SUP Instructor Certification Course in California.  California is known for surf and this course has never been delivered in this state.  A few months of back and forth emails and Tim was at work organizing and hosting the course.  Because the ACA SUP program is still fairly new, we had no choice but to fly-in an instructor trainer to deliver it.  Keith arrived last Thursday and on Friday morning our group of four candidates met up with him to get started.  

For the next three days we surfed, learned, taught and discussed the extremely intricate and physical aspects of technical surfing all day long and into the evenings.  The waves weren't perfect but did allow us plenty of wave time.  The group of folks was awesome, full of positivity and contributions to the course.  

I entered the course without many expectations.  I love to surf and I wanted to experience an L3 course just to know what it's all about.  L3 is the logical next step after L2, so knowing what students may go through after L2 would help me better prepare them.  I definitely have some material to work with and modifications to make the next time I deliver an L2 course, so mission accomplished.  Personally, I have some things to work on when it comes to my personal surfing skills.  I have a solid base and am working towards surfing at a higher level.  

Keith and I splitting the peak.  Photo:  TRY Standup

Photo:  TRY Standup

Maggie, myself, Tim, Keith & Mitch.  Photo:  TRY Standup

taking our spots in the lineup.  Photo:  TRY Standup

Tim shredding the low volume JP. Photo: TRY Standup

photo: TRY Standup

Monday, May 4, 2015

SUP Instructor Certification Workshop May 1-3 San Diego

When three days disappear in a blink, you know it's fun.  We had a solid group of eleven made up of eight candidates and three Instructors.  The real kicker for this weekend is that every single person brought something to the course, most notably their fun personalities and willingness to learn and contribute.

It's difficult to measure the outcome of these courses.  You can't just say he or she got certified.  The certification shouldn't be and isn't the most valuable piece of these workshops.  It's really about improving skill, learning new teaching methods and becoming better instructors for our future students.  Candidates dial-in their personal skills as much as possible.  They practice with coaching models, they learn and review safety & leadership.  They gain awareness and become safer, stronger paddlers.  Hopefully they leave the course inspired and stoked for more.

I get better at delivering these courses each time, but I still ask myself 'were we safe?' 'Did we improve our measurable performance?' 'Did we have fun?' 'Was it valuable to the candidates?' 'What could I have done better?' Yes, yes, yes & hmmm.  That's the question - what could I have done better?  After every course I run, lesson I give or trip I lead, I'm immediately reflecting on the experience and taking notes on what worked, what didn't work, what will I change next time, what could I have done better.

We have a new group of ACA certified SUP Instructors in the US and I'm pretty certain everyone left the course with new paddling friends and a renewed appreciation for the SUP community.  That makes me feel pretty good, even though there are lots of things I'll do better next time.

Thank you Mitch for assisting, thank you Tim of Try Standup for assisting and thank you Jen of Aqua Adventures for hosting the course.  Fun times!

Chris, Alex, Matt, Paul, Erin, Tara, Dylan, Mitch, Tim & Wendy.  photo by Erin O'Malley.

double trouble

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tomales Downwind Camp

Months ago I got an email from Jeff Burton that basically said "we should put on a downwind camp."  Time passed and we brainstormed, put together a basic curriculum and eventually evolved the idea into a 3-day Tomales Bay Downwind Camp with friends who were interested in learning more, getting some focused practice, sharing ideas and having some fun.  It was an unofficial beta test for any potential future courses offered to the public.  What actually happened did not got to plan, but it didn't matter because we ended up having just a fun, refreshing weekend with a handful of dedicated paddlers with positive attitudes and a willingness to go with the wind, and the flow.

On Thursday evening I arrived to the hostel to realize there is no phone service (expected) and no wifi (not expected).  So I backtracked to Point Reyes Station and camped at the library for a few hours to finish some work before focusing my long weekend on paddling.  We approached Friday without an outline but with a general plan of collaboration and peer-coaching among the group.  Since the first run took way longer than anticipated and the wind sort of blew out while we were on the water, our 2-run intentions turned into a 1-run day.  The tail end of the wind passed and the calm before the storm came in.

It rained hard that night and we woke to increasing winds on Saturday morning.  We blasted through run 1 pretty quickly and everyone did really well.  Everyone is at a different level and was working on different things, but we still managed to function as a group.  At the Marconi Cove takeout we had some lunch in the sun, sang Gretchen a song (Happy Birthday Gretchen!) and shuttled back to Nick's Cove for a second run, this one with faster wind and bigger conditions.  Later we found out that others didn't fair so well on the bay that day and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Dept pulled off two separate rescues, helping 5 people in distress that day. .  Over pizza and drinks we discussed goals, attitudes, paddling theory and how much fun the bumps were.

Sunday was mellow with just four of us left on the water and small, defined bumps to chase.  Since we were all solid, I went all out and paddled hard until Marconi, gliding as much as I could along the way and linking some good ones.

Overall, we learned quite a bit about the venue and the logistics of offering such a course to the public. Tomales Bay has great wind, but little protection.  Not a great place for beginners, but an excellent location for paddlers with solid fundamental skills, proper equipment and the desire to get better and learn to downwind.  Future course or not, this was a fun weekend and a great chance to bond further with some good people and good paddlers.  I was just stoked to spend some time with friends and to see people improving their paddling skills in the wind.  Next April we'll be back.

Thank you Jason, Rosebud and Mister for shuttling our asses.  Photo: Jeff Burton

Marion aka 'SUP Glider'

of course there was some hooping by Gretchen - she rocked it this weekend.  Photo: Jeff Burton

It was a pleasure to paddle with Craig.  Photo: Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton of

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sea Otter Classic 2015

For two weeks every April, Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA becomes my home.  The Sea Otter Classic brings me back year after year because the people are awesome, the work is rewarding and it's just plain fun.  I get to re-connect with folks I see once a year and create a new set of memories for the next.

This year was extremely smooth running and was a little special since it was the 25th Anniversary of the event.  In those years it has grown to be the biggest & best bike event of its kind with over 50,000 people attending.  Checkout 25 years of Sea Otter.

Dual Slalom

Cyclocross @ Sea Otter
fancy coffee drinks!