Monday, March 31, 2014

Santa Cruz Paddlefest

The Santa Cruz Paddlefest weekend came and went in a flash.  I've attended this event as a spectator for the last 6 or 7 years, since before I even lived in California.  This was the first year I've ever competed in the event and the first time I've ever surfed in a competition.  It was super fun!

I entered the Cowell's Classic friendly surf contest on a standup paddleboard and we surfed the 'B' site at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz.  Normally the contest takes place at Cowell's proper, but with the conditions handed to us, everything moved west and we ended up surfing Indicator's, just inside the lane.  

The highlight for me was definitely my final heat on Sunday when myself and two others had the entire break to ourselves for 20 minutes, a huge benefit to entering the contest.  The real kicker was that the other two surfers I faced off against in my heat were about 1/3 my age.  It was inspiring to surf with them, watching them take off on good sized waves without fear or hesitation.  They were both surfing really well and more importantly, they were having fun.  It really didn't feel like a contest, just another fun session in the waves.  In the end, I won my Sunday heat by one point and finished 9th of 32 overall.  I'm pretty psyched with that finish and look forward to getting back on the waves in Santa Cruz soon..

It was a great treat to watch the pros compete in the finals - both the SUPs and the surf kayakers.  They were going big and the waves were impressive.  I'll probably never ride at a level near theirs, but watching them makes me want to get better and makes me feel good about improving my skills every time I hit the water.

BPC represented over the weekend too.  MM raced and won on Saturday and we all finished the weekend with a surf session, tequila & tacos.   I got to connect with some friends I don't see too often and meet some new folks.   It's pretty cool to see the small worlds of standup paddlers & kayakers mixing for the weekend.  Nice event and a great weekend.

working on indoor surfing skills

Monday, March 24, 2014

Port of Oakland Tour

After a long week in Southern California and a full day of travel on Saturday, I woke on Sunday with the intentions of a rest day.  But, the sun was shining warm & bright and I figured some paddling was in order.  A quick text conversation led to a 11:45 meet in Oakland for a paddle out to Yerba Buena Island.

We were both late and by the time we actually launched it was after 12:30.  As the tide started to flood and the wind gained strength we paddled out the Oakland estuary.  The ride out was exciting with plenty of boat wake and traffic to contend with.  We reached the mouth and stopped on the beach at the point of Alameda for a snack and a rest.  As we re-assessed our plan I picked up a handful of shiny beach glass.

Continuing to Yerba Buena meant a straight slog against a 2kt current and 10kt wind and would take at least an hour without breaks.  Instead, we ferried the channel towards middle harbor, found shelter from the wind against the jetty and made good forward progress towards the outer harbor.  The last push was a straight shot upwind from buoy 3 to the Bay Bridge.  Half way there we decided not to push it, opting to turn and burn downwind, riding bumps back into the estuary.  Another rest at the Chappell R. Hayes Memorial Observation Tower for pb&j and hardboiled eggs and then back to the start.  Good day.

heading out the estuary

North point of Alameda, looking towards Yerba Buena & the Bay Bridge

Back through the Port


Sunday, March 23, 2014

ACA SUP Instructor Certification Workshop - Newport Beach, CA

On Wednesday we began a 3-day SUP Instructor Workshop in Newport Beach with 9 Instructor Candidates with a wide range of skill and educational background.  Candidates came from all over California for three intensive days of paddling, teaching & learning.

These courses are designed for experienced standup paddlers with solid Level two skills.  Over the course of the workshop we attempt to progress each candidates skills by breaking strokes & maneuvers down into pieces and reinforcing paddling concepts.  

We work on:
  • Forward strokes (standard, canted, cross)
  • reverse strokes (standard, reverse J)
  • draw strokes (standard, sculling, sideslip, cross-nose)
  • turning strokes (sweeps, rudders, pivots)
  • braces (low, high, sculling, heelside)
  • footwork
  • rescues & towing methods
  • group management & leadership
  • trip planning & navigation

We also cover a ton of theory related to paddling concepts, teaching & learning theory, learning styles, delivery methods, teaching models and much, much more.  

This course was funded by a US Coast Guard grant with the intentions of better educating key personnel managing & delivering on-water standup paddling programs.  Candidates included waterfront directors, college sport providers, municipal recreation managers, adaptive program facilitators and non-profit organizers.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

40 hour vacation

I turned my phone off at 9pm on Friday, tossed it in the drybag, launched my paddleboard and began my 40-hour vacation from email, phone, texts and work.  We planned an hour to make the crossing to the campsite and with wind and current at our backs we met up with the rest of the BPC at 9:45pm. Dinner was made, the full moon was shining, the fire was burning and the relaxation could continue.

Until Sunday afternoon we spent our time paddling, napping in the sand, hula hooping, eating, relaxing & laughing.  Exactly what I needed.  

Full moon launch

My memory of the first night

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

ACA Kayaking Level 2 ICW - Redding, CA

Last weekend I assisted an ACA Kayaking Instructor workshop in Redding, CA hosted by Headwaters Adventure Company.  Joe & Terri opened Headwaters 4 years ago and have helped foster a wonderful community of paddlers in the area.  Most participants in the course had really solid foundation skills to work from and were able to progress significantly in a short time.  Most are on track to becoming great paddlers and instructors and will pass-on their love of the sport to others.  Next time I'm in Redding, I look forward to exploring more of the area on the water and on the trail.

Whiskeytown Lake is beautiful

Joe & Alan practicing rescues in the pool on day two

Joe & Terri Arbuckle in a Valley Etain and Sterling Reflection

The crew... Bryant, Alan, Donna, Terri, Shawn, Mary, Joe, Jeff, Tiffany, Jim, Marilyn

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Don't be an Inflator Hater!

Inflatable standup paddleboards get a bad rap from too many people.  My first & second experience was on a borrowed POS (piece of shit) that I rolled up and took East - twice.  Yes, it was great that I could travel with it, especially to an area where board rentals were mostly non-existent at the time.  But the board was heavy, slow, unstable and way to flexible.

Fast forward one year and I'm getting ready for a baja trip.  Again, nowhere to rent quality boards where I was going so I again started to research inflatables.  I settled for the Starboard 14' x 30" Astro Touring - a great board, especially against what I'd paddled in the past.  I first paddled the board back in October and thought it was alright.  It was fast, it was stable, wasn't too heavy - didn't have any of the characteristics I was afraid of.  It doesn't have the beautiful lines you can get with a rigid board, but you can still roll it up and fly with it.

After that trip, I continued to paddle the Astro and I noticed something when paddling it.  My stroke adapted to minimize bounce and I was having lots of fun paddling it.  It became a great loaner board, since it's so durable.  Every time I paddled it, I liked it more.  By December, that board became my go-to board for everything but surfing.  And even when I did take it surfing, it did alright on waves up to 3'.  By January, I started selling off my rigid boards since I wasn't paddling them anymore.  I'd fallen for inflatables.

Paddling that Starboard Astro gave me so much joy every single time I used it.  It has this far-out characteristic that is hard to measure, kind of like umami.  You don't read about it on the board websites, no mention in the specs page.  I call it the fun factor because that's what it is - so much fun.  Inflatables are fun to paddle..

This month I purchased a 14' Elite by Red Paddleboard Company.  Holy shit!  The fun factor has remained the same, but all the other board characteristics have just shot forward into the rigid board category.  It's narrow (26"), it's fast, it has a great shape, a good design, it's stable and it incorporates a standard fin box, a huge improvement.  Like other inflatables it's durable as hell, fits on my back, my bike, or in my luggage and is a joy to paddle.  But, it doesn't bounce as much, it's stable on the tail and great at pivot turns, it feels light on the water & has a full deckpad.  Look for a review in the future.