Tuesday, June 28, 2011

shore to shore

Last Saturday I woke early, loaded the wagon and drove out to Stinson with coffee in hand to check out the 4th annual Shore to Shore Paddle Race.  I told myself I was only going to be a spectator and wasn’t going to race, but once reminded that my entry fee benefits the Stinson Beach Junior Lifeguards, I figured what the hell.  If anything I’ll gain some insight as to where I stack up to other local sup’ers.

Arriving early and to far-from-ideal conditions we said our hello’s and went to the starting line at the Brighton courts in Bolinas.  Lots of folks on hand and clearly some quality support for the junior lifeguards.  It was pretty nice seeing so many people stoked to paddle, too.  Just to be clear, this is a paddling race, not an SUP race.  There were lots of prone racers, many on standard longboards, and a handful of open canoe and kayak paddlers. 

I landed in heat 4 with all the other sup paddlers and wandered to the surfs edge once heat 3 was away.  On the go, I took two slow steps into the sea then a few long quick strides and onto my board.  I nailed the start and am convinced it’s because of my experience paddling hard in the kneeling position.  I surf sups quite often and sometimes use this technique to break out.  Also, I learned early that knee paddling is a great strategy on windy days.  The decreased wind drag on the body and increased cadence of the paddle stroke make for quick paddling.  Plus, it’s a stable position for opposing whitewater.

Once clear of the breakers, it was quick to my feet and into a fast stroke with as long a reach as I could manage in the choppy conditions.  A quick pivot with my head and I realized I was in the front of the pack, where I would stay for the rest of my race.  The guys in front slowly pulled away and I did manage to chase down and pass one or two paddlers in the 2.75 mile race (I was in the short leg – the more experienced racers paddled an 8-mile course).  Except for the two times I fell off the board, there was little action mid-race.   A fall is hardly serious save for the fact that it can quickly lose you precious positioning and lots of time.  At the turn buoy I caught a few racers from heat 3, made my way left and passed some on my sprint to the beach.  Again, my time in the surf paid off as I got onto a wave and surfed my 14’ Bark Expedition all the way to shore with grace.  It was by far the high-point of my race and left me on the beach all smiles.

A quick jog to the finish and I was the 2nd paddler across the line, 1st in my division with a time of 36 and a half minutes.  Courtesy of the race organizers, we were treated to a fantastic lunch of oysters and beer, followed by a short awards ceremony.   Hats off to the 8-mile racers and congrats to the event organizers for putting on a great race with a very friendly and supportive vibe.  Nice job helping me get more obsessed with standup. 

We made our way home in the dark after spending the rest of the day at Bolinas surfing and eating.  The next day the deep waters we raced in were closed due to a great white sighting close to shore.

getting into start position

two small steps and couple deep breaths

36 and a half minutes and tired.
The permanent shark warning at Stinson Beach.

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