Friday, May 31, 2013

Starboard All Star SUP

Today, I launched from Tidewater Boathouse in Oakland just before 11am for a lap around Alameda island.  The course is 15.5 miles long and offers a balanced circuit of upwind & downwind.  I caught the very end of the ebb and was able to ride that almost to the north tip of the island.  Paddling against the very start of the flood, the wind threatened to pick up some, reaching maybe 10 kts at times.  As I rounded the point and turned southeast into the Oakland estuary, the flood was gaining a bit of speed and the wind was now at my back.  After a short break for some food & water, I powered the All Star the rest of the way back to Tidewater for a time of 3 hours, 14 mins averaging 4.8 mph.  I managed to take 40 minutes off my best time for this route.

This was the 2nd time I've had the All Star on the water and I started to get fairly comfortable on it.  It isn't unstable at all, but the secondary stability kicks in further on edge than wider boards, so it takes some getting used to.  On flat water it absolutely flies and the narrow beam is very apparent.  It handles upwind and downwind very well, although I have yet to have it out in rough, windy conditions.  Having not weighed the board yet, I can say that it feels light during the carry and while on the water.

I'm looking forward to many more miles on this board and think it's going to be a perfect board for the mixed conditions we get in the Bay Area.  Once I get more time on the board, I'll put together a better review for anyone interested in it.  14' long,  25" wide,  238 liters

Starboard All Star 14' x 25"

Ready to launch from Tidewater boathouse - Oakland

The clockwise route starting from the bottom right corner

Nice paddle

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

California 100 SUP Race

On Saturday I participated in the inaugural California 100 paddling race from Redding to Chico on the Sacramento river.  100 miles of continuous paddling is a challenge for anyone in any discipline and I opted to do the course on a standup board.  I anticipated a conservative, consistent pace down the river and was shooting for a time under 14 hours 24 minutes.

Michael Melville & I started the race in the adventure class at 6am with 50 or so other racers.  The relay teams and competitive class racers would start one hour later at 7am.  We both positioned for a front of the pack upriver start, rounded the buoy and took off downriver towards the first rapid on river left.  That rapid helped break the pack up, and gave me a quick lesson on how the Starboard K-15 would handle rough water - just fine.  My fin clipped a rock in the first bend, sending me to my knees quickly.  The river was flying in sections and the pillowy whirlpools following almost every rapid could easily grab a rail and roll the board.  After recovering from the fall and paddling a few more minutes I found myself next to Michael again.  Minutes later the pack started to head river right, across a flat lagoon towards a point that cut off a significant stretch of water.  Dropping into the large standing waves at the far end we both went to one knee to negotiate the rough water.  Later that day Michael confessed he didn't want to take that cut-off because he knew how big those waves were.  He did it anyways so he wouldn't lose ground.  

I landed at checkpoint number one about 2 seconds ahead, jumped off the board, carried it up the embankment and began filling water and dropping layers.  Michael turned in his number, and jumped back on the board.  I didn't know what to make of it and continued to finish my refueling & resting.  Fewer than five minutes later I re-launched and couldn't catch a glimpse of him - he was gone.  Only 25 miles in and I thought it was decided.  Michael is a fast paddler and I wasn't sure I'd be able to catch him.  He had a couple falls, and I paddled like mad.  After another 25 miles of continuous paddling, I had somehow made up a considerable distance and was slowly reeling him in.  By the time I entered checkpoint number two around mile number 55, I was about 20 seconds behind him.

Just behind Michael for the first 90 miles.  Photo by Lisa Thomas

The stop lasted about 2-3 minutes and we were back on the water.  I took a few seconds longer than him to refuel and was just behind him heading downriver for another 25 mile stretch.  I made up at least 10-15 seconds at that checkpoint and was determined to not let him gain too much more of a lead.  I did everything I could to match his pace and at one particular river diversion I chose the faster line on river left and made up another 2-3 seconds.  We were matching pace with each other so well that our positions were being determined by the lines we were taking and by whoever could stay in the fastest current long enough.  It came down to river reading to find the fast lines and constant calculations to decide what would be faster, the outside line with stronger current or the inside line with less distance.  I was 2 seconds behind him when we landed at checkpoint number three.

We both turned in numbers, raced to fill water and then got back to the boards.  Luckily I had a friend at this stop who grabbed me some gu, opened some energy gels for me and tossed them onto my foredeck as I was re-launching.  I had taken some other food from my bag and tossed it on my deck, but never had enough time to open it, nevermind eat it.  While floating downriver on my knees I was able to slam some almonds and beef jerky, Clif energy products and water as I watched Michael increase the distance between us.  If I didn't eat there was no way I'd catch him.

Michael Melville at Jelly Ferry Bridge looking strong.  photo by Lisa Thomas

About 10 miles later, around the 90-mile mark, I somehow passed him and for the first time was able to stay in front.  I gained a couple boardlengths per mile for the next hour and slowly increased the distance between us.  I was completely weary by this time and looked back every once in awhile expecting him to be right there.  In the end I edged him out by a very slim margin and finished in 12 hours, 33 minutes averaging 7.57 mph.  We had a clean, honest race that wasn't determined until the very end and I'm still stoked that a 100 mile race was that close for that long.

I was seriously honored to race along Michael.  If we hadn't had this friendly rivalry on the river there's no way I would've finished in that time.  He pushed me to go faster and for that I'm grateful.  Big respect to an amazing paddler, competitor and athlete!  Nice race Michael!

Michael Melville & I at the finish

The Starboard K-15 is awesome..

coming into checkpoint 3.  photo by Lisa Thomas

The California 100 is the only paddle-sport ultrathon in the state and is produced by Rivers for Change, a not for profit organization founded in California in 2011 dedicated to engaging, collaborating & promoting conservation through Source to Sea adventures.  They did an incredible job on this event!  Check out their website and consider joining one of their events.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Davenport Downwinder SUP

The Davenport race last saturday, put on by the Ghostryders Watermans Club, was one of my toughest days on water ever..  I've paddled sea kayaks in some very challenging conditions and this was right up there.  20-25 knot sustained winds created some good sized swells a bit mixed up.  The route is a 14-mile downwind shot from Davenport Landing to the wharf in Santa Cruz.  There had to be close to 100 racers on paddleboards, standup paddleboards, surfskis & outrigger canoes.  The mass beach start was exciting to say the least and once we all hit the wind, just a bit offshore, racers scattered like mad.

By the end, the winner finished in under 2 hours.  I was closer to the 2:45 mark which was a few minutes slower than I wanted to paddle the course in.  I'm fine with that though, it just shows me that I have some improvements to make & having something to work on is good for me.

The finish line

Friday, May 17, 2013

San Fran SUP Downwinder & Artemis Racing

Sean Morley & I got out recently for a nice downwind crossing of San Francisco Bay from Horseshoe Cove, beneath the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, to Berkeley.  We had to get an early start in order to be back in time for other responsibilities, which meant we were a bit too early for the wind.  But, no worries, the wind made an appearance halfway into the trip just as we were getting near Point Blunt.  The tide was flooding and assisted us to that point rather quickly.   

Sean in his P&H Cetus MV, myself on a Naish Glide 17'

Just as we crossed Point Blunt on the southern tip of Angel Island, we halted to allow the Artemis, the Swedish entry into this summers America's Cup, tear past us with amazing speed and sound.  They were out training on the AC72 with four safety boats in chase.  It was a perfect training day with clear skies and wind growing steadily from the WSW to about 20 knots by 12:30pm.  It was incredible to witness one of these cup yachts so close and going so fast.  It creaked like no other sailboat I'd ever heard and sounded quite 'tuned' for speed.  As we were crossing the tidal flow making our way from Angel Island to the Berkeley pier, it crossed about 300' in front of us, so close the chase boats had to split and travel on either side of Sean & I.  

Team Artemis

Team Artemis
Little did we know that not 30 minutes after that, the Artemis capsized, leaving one crew member trapped underneath the wreckage resulting in his loss.  Such a fun day for us and a horrific day for Team Artemis and the sailing community.  Days later, after hearing that the capsize was a result of equipment failure and not over-pushing the boat, I can still hear the creaking and moaning of the boat as it flew past us. 

Team Artemis capsized on SF Bay.  (photo AP/Noah Berger)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sea Otter Classic 2013

Sea Otter is one of my favorite events of the year.  It's a ton of work that involves long hours but in a strange way it's one of the easiest events I've ever worked on, mainly because I had so much fun I forgot I was working.  There was an overwhelming amount of teamwork between departments this year and everyone was working towards one end goal.  Plus, it's cycling so it should be fun, right?

There were lots of highlights this year.  I was working in a new role that suited me perfectly, met a bunch of new people, still got to hang with the operations crew at night, hot-lapped a Volkswagen, won a Go-Pro, got up early, stayed up late and finally after four years got to drive on the track!!  Now I might have to pursue a career as a race-car driver..  Driving Laguna Seca at night down the corkscrew was hairy, but opening it up on the straightaway was so so fun - I will not forget it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Great Russian River Race

1 trashed fin, 2 holes in my board and a 3rd place finish.  What a fun event!  This was my first time running the section of river from Alexander Valley campground to Veterans Memorial Beach Park in Healdsburg.  The fifteen mile route started out shallow and rocky and continued for most of the race.  Some fast moving water in places moved over shallow rapids and around overgrown bends.  More than once I got stopped or knocked off my board trying to take a fast water line and ending up in the trees.  And then there was the one rock my fin connected with that stopped the board dead and sent me flying forwards into the water.  Luckily I paddled my 14' beater board anticipating rocks and that was the right decision.

Great race and I'll be back next year!

Baja Kayak Fest

Baja Kayak Fest was a blast.  Even though I had to jet out on Sunday morning and missed a day on the water, it was well worth the trip and was just an overall good time.  Jennifer Kleck of Aqua Adventures and Victor Leon of Baja Aquatics did a fantastic job organizing the event in a worry-free and safe manner for students & coaches.  On top of that, they really made us all feel very welcomed to the area and nurtured a 'family reunion' type of vibe for the event.  Put this event on your list for next year - April 10-13 2014.

Jen started bringing me to Baja in 2005.  Like dozens of others before me, she was my guide into this fantastic paddling location.  It really is a special location to paddle and relax.  The rock gardens are close and plentiful, the caves are massive, the features vary in degree of difficulty and the wildlife is abundant.  Plus, the food is cheap, the tequila is delicious and the people are friendly.  What else do you need from a paddling trip?

I'll be back soon...