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.  marinij.com/general-news/20150425/five-rescued-in-two-separate-incidents-at-tomales-bay .  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 paddlestandingup.blogspot.com

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!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Santa Cruz Paddlefest

What an awesome weekend.  There was just so much good energy being passed around Steamer Lane this weekend that it would've been difficult to not have fun and feel refreshed.  I had a blast spending time in and out of the water with friends, watching the pros compete and scoring some fun rides on well-formed Santa Cruz waves - a rare treat.

I arrived into town Thursday eve to small waves.  The intensity got dialed up a bit more by Friday morning and by the end of the day I'd had a great double session and a solid warmup after not surfing for four months.

Saturday I surfed in the early afternoon in the Cowell's Classic Intermediate sup surf contest and did well enough to win my heat.  The real high point of the day was the evening session at Indicators and Middle Peak.  Once the contest wrapped at 5:40pm, the waves were free for the riding, so that's what we did.  Mitch, Marion, Michelle and myself had an incredible progression session in 4-6ft swells with great energy from everyone in the uncrowded break.  Michelle broke in her new surf kayak, Mitch was ripping, Marion rode her biggest wave ever and I had the best wave of my life.  Pure stoke and a trip to the post-contest party ended the evening with poke plates and margaritas.  

I had a bad heat on Sunday, but still a good time on the water.  Turns out I finished 5th overall, which was better than I had expected and quite suprising.  Had i picked up any good waves during Sunday's heat, I'm sure I could've done even better.  Lots of love and fun though, so a good time nonetheless.

Santa Cruz Paddlefest delivered.  Weather was great (hot!), waves were great, buzz was great and the boys at Kayak Connection really did a great job on the 29th contest.  Nice weekend.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

California 100 Training Clinic #2

Paddling is so awesome.  Today I co-lead the second California 100 Training Clinic of the season with Elaine Baden, a great paddling coach with a ton of experience and comfort on the river.  Our styles meshed well with each other and the 14 students and 2 assistants we paddled with.  18 of us put in on the Sacramento River at Posse Grounds in Redding, CA and worked our way downriver, sharing technique and strategy along the way.  We were an unusual assortment of people and backgrounds all brought together because we love to paddle.

Cary charging the chute below Kutras Pond

crossing underneath the Cypress Bridge

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

ACA Level 2 SUP Instructor Certification Workshop - February 27th - March 1st

Fifteen years ago when I was in my first year of paddling I got some great advice from a mentor.  "Don't worry about the certifications" he said, "focus on your paddling."  From that point on I've never taken an assessment until I was absolutely, positively sure I was ready and able to pass.

  • personal paddling skills
  • teaching skills
  • technical knowledge
  • rescue ability 
  • safety / judgement / leadership ability
  • ambassadorship
These are the six criteria we're using to judge where people fit on the ACA SUP instructor scale.  It's a difficult job assessing multiple candidates over multiple days on multiple things.  It's difficult to decide whether a candidate really has their skills down or if they just seem to be paddling well at that time.  Will they stick with it and maintain their skills or will they get certified and become complacent, neglecting to improve any more.  

Assessments are subjective and difficult.  I do my best but many times it's not black and white.  When it's questionable, I'm now in the mindset to make the candidate work harder, reinforcing their skills and making my decision less questionable.

This past weekend, Mitch Silverstein and I ran an L2 Instructor Certification Workshop in Half Moon Bay for 6 candidates.  Fun people, fun conditions, fun course.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Red Bull Frozen Rush - Sunday River, Maine

Thirteen degrees below zero.  -13 degrees.  I'm in Sunday River, Maine this week for the Red Bull Frozen Rush.  RBFR is an on-snow head to head race among berms, jumps & race gates.  Nine professional racers fought until it was down to one.  Their trucks are 4 wheel-drive, 900-horsepower PRO-4 trucks with custom BF Goodrich tires studded with 700 1-inch spikes in each tire.  It's awesome excitement and the rush keeps you warm, even in sub-zero temperatures.