Friday, August 10, 2012

Lake Tahoe Circumnavigation - SUP

For the first time in years, I have a paddling-related blister.  My arms feel heavy and my abdomen is sore but I'm in good spirits.  I knocked off two of my summer paddling goals yesterday when I standup paddled 45 nautical miles in a day and completed the 56nm loop of Lake Tahoe.  This was sort of a backyard expedition for me.  I had 3 days completely free from any responsibility and the weather forecast was highly favorable.  I packed supplies for 48 hours on the water, loaded the car in the late morning on Tuesday and by 6:45pm I was launching at Carnelian Bay.

6:45pm launch at Carnelian Bay
A few folks approached me on the beach to see what I was doing and it probably looked odd since I was loading gear onto the front deck of the board and had two paddles with me.  All of the people were standup paddlers and commented on the trip; one guy was really intrigued by the Werner 3-piece paddle on my foredeck and repeatedly asked me why I carried a spare.  A different gentlemen told me that last weekend a couple of guys did the trip in "like 16 or 18 hours."  I assured him it would take me longer than that.  I'd wondered what it would take to complete the loop in 24 hours and knew I had it in me, but didn't quite feel the need to go that hard this trip.

As I floated the board and paddled away from the beach I could feel the weight of the equipment I was carrying.  I never did weigh the pack but it consisted only of a sleeping bag, pad, dry clothes, food, repair kit, first aid kit, spare paddle, water filter & camera.  I quickly second guessed my board decision, rationalized it and forgot it.  The first few strokes of any trip often brings up questions.  A half hour later, the wind let up significantly and by 9 o'clock that night, I was paddling in flat conditions.

With no moonlight and little light from land, I paddled another hour until it became too dark to effectively see.  It's difficult to stay near shore because there are so many moored boats.  I used a strategy of paddling straight into lights projecting from shore.  When an obstacle was in the line of light it would be easy to recognize as a boat, buoy or rock.  This came in useful at the very end of the trip too.  The 17' Naish Glide I paddled has a foot-operated rudder.  To break it on a rock would not be good and I didn't carry a spare.

Around 10pm I stopped at Homewood marina to eat and put on warm clothes.  The pebble beach I landed on would make a nice bed and with that a decision was made to stay and sleep.  I didn't even inflate the sleeping pad because the pebbles were so comfortable and smooth, conforming to my body.  I woke after midnight and was treated to a cloudless sky twinkling with stars and a half moon high up in the night sky.  The lake went completely flat a few hours later and was barely audible with the littlest movement up and down.  An hour later I woke, ate, re-packed and launched into glassy lake water reflecting the moon's light and had to once again follow the trails of light around the shore.

4:55am launch the next morning
Naish Glide 17 loaded and afloat for the morning launch
As I approached Sugar Pine Point, a shallow rocky area with an absence of light from shore, the twilight kicked in enough to help me see my way.  During my next break at Lester Beach I removed clothing, ate second breakfast and basked in the sun for awhile.  It was warm and bright with at least twenty miles of visibility as I sat and scrolled the entire coastline with my eyes.  I briefly contemplated the trip and in my head assigned checkpoints to the landmarks I could identify on the opposite shore.  That was 7am and by 10pm that night I would be all the way around the lake and back to where I started.  With such ideal lake conditions my body and mind kept telling me to move forward, so that's what I did.

Wednesday morning sunrise

Looking down into the "cockpit"

Love the view from a standup board - South Lake

Dinner at Secret Harbor

When I got off the water late that night I really started to feel tired, especially after walking on land for awhile and feeling less stable than I should've.  The last hour of night paddling was relaxing but I had just put in a 17-hour day with eight of those hours in confused wind chop and a headwind that put a strain on my body.  My muscles ached, sleepiness was starting to set in and I was craving red Gatorade badly.  Packing up, I made a final notation in my journal, called home and headed for the supermarket to indulge.  Once outside the market I realized I was still wearing my paddling clothes and probably offended the cashier with my stink.  She'll get over it.  I changed my clothes in the parking lot, headed for the highway and pulled off into the 2nd rest area to sleep a few hours.  The trip was over and I'd succeeded in meeting my goals and challenging myself physically.  Nice trip.   

Done.... and done

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ACA SUP Level 1/2 ICW

Last weekend I ran an American Canoe Association Standup Paddleboarding Level One/Two Instructor Certification Workshop in Half Moon Bay, CA under the watchful eye of Roger Schumann. We had 7 candidates attend the 3-day workshop from all parts of California with various degrees of skill and experience from the kayaking and surfing worlds.

The SUP ICW contains over 24 hours of material in a casual back-and-forth learning environment based on learning & teaching theory and personal training.  Ideally, candidates will come to the course well experienced having already mastered Level 1 & 2 strokes and maneuvers.  That's not always the case, however, so we do spend a significant amount of time tuning up candidates personal skills and defining the technical aspects of each stroke & maneuver.  That takes time, because in my experience, not all candidates come armed with all the necessary strokes needed to pass, and before they can teach these skills they have to be very competent at them.

Learning & teaching theory become a major part of the workshop with classroom time addressing the way we learn and how to best approach a group of students that all learn in different ways and at different speeds.  In the words of someone smart, "just because you're teaching, doesn't mean they're learning..."  That's the challenge and the reason the ACA's Instructor training program has been around since 1973.

As an instructor on this course, I learned as much as most the candidates.  I'm armed for next time with a fresh take on how to best run the schedule, cover the syllabus and give the candidates as much as possible.  Having taught paddle sports for many years, I'm a strong believer in personal development - both paddling skills and coaching skills.  People pay good money to learn to paddle well and as instructors it's our job to make sure we're qualified to coach them as best we can.  If you teach SUP, take a good look at this course and consider putting in the time to improve your skills.

If you're interested in an ACA SUP Instructor certification workshop, email matt at calkayak dot com.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jersey Shore

The red duffel holds an inflatable standup board, pump, leash, clothing & 3-piece paddle.
After a recent cycling-related wrist injury I was forced off the water for three long weeks while I recovered.  My first dive back into paddling found me on the Jersey Shore visiting the fam.  Since we were staying beachfront for a week and SUP rentals were scarce and expensive in that area, I opted to bring along a borrowed 10'6" inflatable with a Werner 3-piece paddle.  For $25 on Virgin America I checked the SUP, paddle, leash, fins, pump & clothing and was guaranteed fun while I was there.

Even though inflatable standup boards lack stability, speed, and glide when compared to rigid boards, they more than make up for it with their ability to travel.  If you can only have one board in your quiver and have room to store it and means to transport it, go with a rigid.  If you have room for board number two and love to travel, consider purchasing an inflatable.

This trip to Jersey was by no means a paddling trip, but having that inflatable meant that I could paddle and surf whenever I wanted.  It would have been strange torture staring at the waves for seven days without some time on the water.  In the end we surfed most of the days we were there and my wrist performed beautifully, well on its way to full recovery.  The week was rounded out with funnel cakes, crab fries, lobster dinners and lots of quality time spent with the family.  I don't get home too much these days, so it was really great to see everyone.  I miss them already.

Little Jersey beachbreak & warm water