Sunday, September 25, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lake Mary Jane

Race: 5th Annual Lake Mary Jane Paddle Race

Date it happened: 25 September 2016.

Host/Sponsor: Hosted by Wave of Wellness, a sup-based fitness / tour / yoga business run by Jessica Cichra. Sponsored by Albert Cichra Builders, a marine construction company that makes nice docks for lake houses and such. There were also many other sponsors who had tents at the event site or donated stuff for the raffle. For example: ECS boards and Boardworks Surf.

Location: Isle of Pines Property Owner's Association Beach Park on Lake Mary Jane, near Orlando, FL.

Distance: The main courses were 4.8 and 9.6 km races; 2 and 4 laps, respectively, around an M-shaped course. After that there was a free, 1.6 km race for beginner sup racers, then there was a sprint race, a board-tow relay race, and a kids race. I just did the long race, which I measured at 9.55 km on my GPS.

Conditions: This was a Florida morning in September, thus it was sweltering hot and humid with nary a breeze. The lake was warm and naturally coffee-colored from tannic compounds leaching out of the swampy surroundings. The water surface was nearly glassy, with "bumps" provided only by sup wakes.

Participants: There were 40 racers in the 9.6 km, 46 racers in the 4.8 km, and around 10 in each of the shorter race events. There were a handful of surfski kayak and outrigger canoe paddlers, but the vast majority were on standup paddleboards. Professional and sort-of professional sup racers in attendance were Ryan Helm and Kim Barnes (Riviera), Seychelle Hattingh (Mistral), Jeramie Vaine (Werner Paddles), Kieran Grant (Hoviesup), Alyssa Veres (Lokahi), and Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo). Windsurfing / Kiteboarding legends Isabelle Picard and Bill Kraft from the US Virgin Islands were also there. Top level surfski kayaker and pretty darn good sup paddler Reid Hyle was there, supping. From our local CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards "Tribe" we had a good turnout: Devin Turetzkin, Matt Kearney and I carpooled up (see picture), and we met Murray Hunkin, Jason Mastin, Jim and Quinn McIntyre, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also there were standout sup families Cat & Neil Uden et al. (Boga), Stephen Chase & Rachel Ferguson (JP Australia), and The Marstons (Hoviesup). Keeping things lively were bold characters Robert "Superman" Norman, Yensys "Hulk" Loyola, Adam "Speedcoach" Pollock, Karl "Wings" Eugster, and others.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP, with my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The pro men were on 14's and the pro women were on 12'6s, though there were also some men on 12'6 (e.g., Matt, Devin & Karl) and some women on 14'.

Results: Full results are posted on webscorer. Surfski kayaker David Rush was the first to finish the 9.6 km race, just a few seconds faster than men's 14' sup winner Ryan Helm, who had a time of 0:59:55. Jeramie Vaine was 2nd with 1:00:28, Kieran Grant 3rd with 1:00:46, me 4th with 1:01:41, and Bill Kraft 5th in 1:01:58. Seychelle and Kim were the first 12'6s and the first women in 1:05:07 and 1:05:13, respectively. First male 12'6 was 15 year old Will Marston (1:06:30), followed by Matt Kearney (1:07:03) and Jason Geiger (1:07:05). Third place woman (1st in 50+) was Isabelle Picard in 1:09:31. Murray Hunkin got 3rd in the 50+ men's division with 1:09:23. In the 4.8 km race, 14' division, Robert Norman won in 0:32:25, just ahead of fellow MHL custom board rider Jeff Berry in 0:32:36. Lanky teenager Peyton Thomas was third in 0:35:06. Devin Turetzkin won the 12'6 division in the 4.8 km race, and was first overall for 50+, with 0:35:13. Jason Mastin was 4th in 12'6 with 0:36:19.

Play by play: The day before the race the Cichras hosted some events on the lake for the arriving racers. Devin, Matt and I had a long drive up from SW Florida but we got there in time for chilling out and pre-registration at Albert Chichra's beautiful lake house. Central Florida, with its tall pines, cypress, and oak and maple trees, seems to have more in common biologically with the Carolinas than with tropical South Florida. The shady lake house fit nicely with that temperate woods feeling, and reminded me of good times with my Douglass relatives at a Lake Murray cabin in South Carolina. Jessica Cichra and the other race organizers and volunteers were very warm and welcoming, both at the pre-registration and at the race itself.

The hotel we stayed at on the outskirts of Orlando, the Courtyard Marriott Lake Nona, was sparkling new and sprawling, like much of Disney-centric Orlando. We were well rested when we arrived at the race site in the morning, and had time to do some warm-up paddling. I was a bit nervous about this race because I've recently attempted to change in my stroke technique, in response to tips I got at Ryan Helm's most recent paddle clinic. Ryan said that I really needed to work on getting a more "positive" blade angle at the beginning of the stroke; something that could be achieved with more bend in the top arm and more stacking of the shoulders. He also said that I was paddling too far past my feet, and ought to remove the blade from the water earlier so as not to waste energy on an unproductive phase of the stroke. I had incorporated those changes into my practices the week before this race, but I wasn't sure if they would "stick" once I actually got into a race situation.

For the start of the 9.6 km race, they lined us up on the water between two docks, which provided a convenient corral. I tried something a little different this time, lining up in the second row, behind Kieran and Ryan, rather than in my own slot in the first row. I figured I could fit into the gap they left behind when they zoomed off better than I could elbow my way through a bunch of slower paddlers. Reid Hyle tried something similar. What I didn't account for was how tough it would be to paddle through the chaotic wakes left by the fast-sprinting starters. After struggling with that for 100 m or so I ended up picking a wider line to get more clear water, and that helped me get around some people on the way to the first buoy. After the first buoy I believe I was in about 7th position, on the tail of Reid Hyle and Steven Bernstein. Between them and the leaders (Ryan Helm, Jeramie Vaine, and Kieran Grant) was a lone paddler on a JP board. It didn't look like Steven was going to close the gap on the JP guy (who turned out to be Bill Kraft), so I broke to the side and made a big push to catch up to Bill Kraft. Reid zigged when he should have zagged, and on his slower 14x26' not-quite-race board he couldn't follow me as I chased and eventually caught Bill.

Once I got in Bill Kraft's draft, I had it MADE. He was setting a fast pace; not quite matching the three leaders, but not going any slower than I would have gone on my own. It helped that Bill is a beefy 90 kg, which meant he was displacing a good bit of water and making an easy wake to ride. On the buoy turns I stuck really close on his tail so I wouldn't get left behind, and that seemed to work well. After I while I offered to pull, but Bill said his cutting-bow JP board liked smooth water better than the draft. I continued to draft until the beginning of the third lap when I went wide and took the lead. I kept about the same pace, but my heart rate went up considerably. I tried to keep focused on form, and to be aware of any little ripple or puff of breeze that could give me some extra oomph. I tried to do tight turns followed by quick accelerations to build a little distance on Bill, who remained just a few board lengths behind me. Ahead of me I could see the lead trading off between Jeramie and Ryan, and after a while I noticed that they had dropped Kieran from their train. Kieran was wearing a long-sleeved black rashguard and black swim trunks, which may have been a handicap in the scorching heat. We actually started to get closer to him in the last lap, though never close enough to threaten his third place position.

In the final one or two legs of the last lap I picked up my pace to as much as I could stand, and then picked it up some more to a sprint at the very end, just to be sure Bill couldn't sneak around me. I actually remembered how my leash was attached this time, and unbuckled it quickly for the run up the sand through the finish line gate. Whew! I was very happy to get 4th place in this competitive group, and felt good about my revised stroke technique and successful tactic of saving energy by drafting. Given how easy it was to sustain a pretty fast pace in Bill's draft, I couldn't help but wonder if I could have hung on to the really fast guys' draft train, had I been able to get on it at the start. The trick may be learning to get off the line faster without getting slowed down by traffic and wakes.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

After the race there was a nice atmosphere at the site, with good Mexican food, kids playing in the water, adults talking about their water toys, etc. The race organizers tried hard to get the raffle and awards done as quickly as possible and they did OK. There were SO many raffle items and race categories that it still took a while. Matt Kearney made a suggestion that they could call all three finishers (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) up to the podium in one breath instead of waiting for each person to arrive and stand up before calling the next one out of the crowd.

What's next: There's a race in Clearwater on Saturday, and a local CGT race on Sunday. I'll definitely go to the CGT race but I'm undecided about the other race. Traveling 3+ hours to a race and staying overnight is tough to do two weeks in a row.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Old Formula Windsurf Board, Again

This is my new old windsurf board. It's an Exocet Turbo Formula II from (I think) 2004. It's 230 cm long x 100 cm wide, with a 70 cm fin.

It is a grand irony that this is the exact model of formula board I had FOUR boards ago when I lived in Fort Pierce. I sold it then because I was too busy playing with other water toys (like kiteboards) to use it. Then I moved to Massachusetts and shifted to more wavesailing and paddlesurfing gear, simplifying thing by selling all my kiteboarding gear. I didn't miss the formula board much until I moved south again, to the Florida Gulf Coast, where the wind was light and there were no waves. I grabbed the first cheap formula board I could find, a very old (85 cm wide) Starboard. Soon I decided I didn't like that one, and I traded it for an 87 cm wide Bic fv1.2 that was almost as old. But the Bic was just a stopgap measure, because I REALLY wanted a full-fledged 100 cm width board that could hold an 11.0 m^2 sail and plane super early.

In the pursuit of cheapness I got a home-built "Don's Lab" formula board. It was 100 cm wide and had some other good characteristics. I enjoyed fiddling with it, but ultimately decided it was a white elephant. The feel of it didn't suit me, and it wasn't quite as lively and early planing as I'd hoped. So I sold it with no replacement lined up. Standup paddleboard racing kept me busy enough that I could bide my time in light winds, waiting for the ideal, good-enough-but-also-cheap-enough formula board to float in front of my nose. I passed up some that were too expensive, or where the seller was too far away, then finally found my perfect board, again, in Fort Lauderdale.

I used it for the first time today, with an 11.0 sail in iffy 10-knot winds. Even when it didn't seem like there was enough wind to plane, the board LEAPED up and ZOOMED, with just a little pump of the sail. It was fast, and frisky, and well-behaved, and I rode it all up and down the shore from Bonita Beach to Wiggins Pass and Back. YESSSSS!

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #7

Race: Race #7 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 18 September 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot and humid. The tide was moderately low and ebbing, and the river current was a strong 1.55 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. I.e., I averaged about 11 kph going downriver and 8 kph going upriver.

Participants: Several of the regulars were absent. For example, Mark Athanacio is vacationing in California, Matt Kearney is doing another SUP race in Key Largo, Justin DiGiorgio is flying to Ireland. Other absences included: Murray Hunkin, Saralane Harrer, Damien Lin, Mark Payne, John Weinberg, Steve Fleming, Jared Hamilton, Mark Hourigan, and Jim McIntyre. Fortunately, stalwarts Bryan Herrick, Devin Turetzkin, and Meg Bosi were there, and they were joined by less frequently seen racers Cindi Gibson, Patricia, Donna Montgomery, Paul Petersen, Mark Nicoletti, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also attending (but filming, not racing) was Justin's friend Juan, who is a licensed pilot and drone operator. Juan got some 4k video that will hopefully be available soon.

Gear: This was my first CGT race on "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. I used my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Rudy used the 2015 14x25 Riviera that he recently bought from Devin, and Devin used his 12'6x25 Hovie Comet GT. Bryan Herrick used "Fletchy," my older 14x23.75 carbon Riviera, which he has beautifully refinished with a Game of Thrones dragon-themed custom paintjob. Pat, who usually paddles a surfski kayak, boldly entered the SUP arena on a 12'6x26 Riviera RP. Meg Bosi used her 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC, and Cindi used Meg's 11' Boga touring board. Donna Montgomery used a 12'6x26 BlkBox board borrowed from CGT. Mark Nicoletti was the only person on a surf-style board this time. I'm trying to interest Cindi and Donna in my 14x22 "Blue Streak" Riviera, which has recently had a deck repair and is now on the consignment rack CHEAP at CGT. (Call CGT if you're interested. The Blue Streak is still the fastest and truest-tracking flatwater board I've ever paddled.)

Results: I had the fastest time, with 38:27. That is OK for me, but 40 seconds slower than my Race #2 best time of 37:47 on the 14x22 Blue Streak. I haven't been lifting weights or doing Mark Athanacio's training program for the last month, so I might be slowing down because my do-it-yourself workouts are not as effective as his program. The strong current surely played a role, as well. My third excuse is that I got a nasty wasp sting while mowing the lawn yesterday, and had a mild whole-body allergic reaction requiring Benadryl. Second fastest finisher was Devin Turetzkin, with 46:00, just one board length ahead of Rudy's 46:02. Impressive that Devin got 2nd overall even though he was on a 12'6. 4th overall and 3rd 14' finisher was Bryan Herrick in 47:06. Meg Bosi was the fastest woman in 48:19, ahead of Cindi Gibson's 50:55, and Donna Montgomery's 52:30. In the one-lap division Mark Nicoletti cut 2 minutes off his previous best to get 28:04 on his 11' surf style board. Pat got 39:47, which I think is great for an over-50 first-time sup racer on an unfamiliar board. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was Bryan, Rudy, Devin, Donna, and me. Devin and Rudy gave me some good competition on the initial sprint, but I got clear ahead after about 200 meters and didn't look back. The real race action was with Bryan, Devin, and Rudy, who stayed in a tight draft train for most of the race, only dropping Bryan after he fell off his board in the final leg. One thing we know about Devin is that he gets MUCH faster when he's feeling the adrenaline of competition than when he's just paddling with no one else around. There's a reason they call him "Revvin Devin". Anyway, out in front my race was a relatively simple, painful, grind. I backed off from my initial sprint pace to a pace that was aerobically challenging but wouldn't burn out my muscles prematurely. Strategically, I tried to stay in the fast-flowing center of the river channel on the way downriver to the turnaround, and I hugged the slower-flowing edge of the channel on the upriver legs. Compared to the 14x22 "Blue Streak," 14x23 "Minty" turns more readily in response to foot-steering, so I tried to use that to my advantage to make smooth curves around the river bends. By the halfway point I was quite tired and at a wicked high heartrate of 189 bpm. I did my second downriver leg as fast as I could (10.8 kph), but it wasn't as fast as my first sprint-shot downriver (11.3 kph). Oddly my upriver sections didn't vary as much in speed; first was 8.0 kph, second 7.9 kph. I guess my initial sprint is a unique thing that I can't replicate mid-race.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Congrats to everyone who finished this hot, hard race.

What's next: Next SUP event is a race clinic with Riviera's top professional rider Ryan Helm, Tuesday evening at CGT. Hope to see some new faces there. Then next weekend there's the Lake Mary Jane race near Orlando. Lake Mary Jane will be the last race of the "Fastest in Florida" points series. It will be tight competition between me and fellow Riviera ambassador Samuel English, because we're both in the running for second place behind Garrett Fletcher. I'll need to finish no more than 1 place behind Sam for the points average from my top 5 races to be higher than the points average from his top 5 races.

Monday, September 12, 2016

SUP Race Report: Ocean Warrior Challenge

Men's 14' sup podium- 1st Place Ryan Helm (center), 2nd place Vinnicius Martins (left), 3rd place Garrett Fletcher (right).

Race: The Ocean Warrior Challenge.

Date it happened: 11 September 2016

Host: The Town of Jupiter and Blueline Surf & Paddle Co.

Location: On the beach at Carlin Park, Jupiter, Florida. It was an interesting beach, with exposed limestone rocks along the water's edge.

Distance: The elite SUP course was about 7.1 km / 4.4 miles, counting a short beach run at the finish. The course was laid out as a giant "M," which we traced twice in each direction. I thought it was a good distance; long enough to test endurance and spread out the pack, but not an excessive slog. Courses for the other race divisions (kayak / outrigger canoe, prone paddleboard, kids, Special Olympics, lifeguard) varied in shape and distance

Conditions: Typical Florida summer conditions; very hot, humid, and sunny. There were 1-2' waves and some smaller chop coming in from odd directions. The wind varied from calm to about 10 knots, but was light for most of the elite race. Though the ocean was by no means violent, I found it hard to adapt to the unpredictable rocking rhythm, and I fell in a few times. The trickiest paddling was actually when I was warming up before the race. The water was so clear, and the surface of the waves so undisturbed by wind at that time, that I had a vertigo-like feeling seeing the sea floor in more detail than the rolling surface of the water.

Participants: There were 22 entries in the surfski/outrigger race, 28 entries in the elite sup race, 27 in the rec sup race, 14 in the Special Olympics race, 4 in the 2-mile prone race, and 4 in the kids race. Three international pros did the elite sup race: 1) Riviera's Ryan Helm, a native of Jupiter FL who now lives in Sayulita, Mexico. He won the Battle on the Blueway earlier this year. 2) Vinnicius Martins a Brazilian sponsored by JP Australia. He won the Key West Paddle Classic this year. 3) Kimberly Barnes, a Florida schoolteacher who does US and European races in the summer, sponsored by Riviera. Up-and-coming pro Garrett Fletcher (Yolo) was also there, as were some very talented sponsored riders including Steve Miller (Starboard), Catherine Uden (Boga), and Maddie Miller, Packet Casey, and Jake Portwood (JP Australia). Riviera owner and racer Brandon Rambo was visiting from California and raced a 12'6 board. None of my CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards teammates were there this time, but I rode over with CGT shop owner Aaron Thomas.

Gear: I used a brand-new board; a 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. It's one of the standard Riviera production raceboards for this year. (They also make a 14x25, 14x27, 12'6x22, 12'6x24, 12'6x26, and 12'6x28, plus a 14x26 downwind-specific board and a 12' prone paddleboard.) The shape is the same as the 2016, but there are slight differences in the finish. For example, they used a lighter colored epoxy resin so the boards are paler and cooler in the sun. Aaron Thomas schlepped over a second, identical 14x23, destined for Samuel English. Samuel is a fast racer who used to ride a Lahui Kai board but who just became a Riviera Ambassador. This race was my third time on the 14x23, Samuel's first, so we were both just getting the feel of it. The fin I used was the one that comes with the board, a Riviera "surf race" fin. I used my usual paddle, a Riviera Vantage R8. A personal flotation device (pfd) and leash were required for this race. I attached the leash to my waist-belt pfd instead of to my ankle so that it would be less likely to tangle around my feet while I was stepping back on the board in turns. That left room on my ankle for the digital race timer that everyone had to wear.

Results: My grad school classmate Reid Hyle won the surfski kayak race, because he's a badass. I'm not sure who the other sit-down paddlecraft race winners were, but the results should be up later on paddleguru. Ryan Helm won the men's 14' elite SUP race by a safe margin. Vinnicius Martins was 2nd, just one second ahead of Garrett Fletcher, who nearly caught him on the beach run. Jake Portwood was 4th, Packet Casey 5th, me 6th, Samuel English 7th. Men's 12'6 winner Steve Miller was just ahead of me. Second men's 12'6 was Brandon Rambo, followed by Zeke's surf shop owner Travis Kindt, who was riding a Coreban board. Kim Barnes was first 12'6 woman, Maddie Miller 2nd, Cat Uden 3rd. In the rec race, Amy Carden and her husband Will Smith were both first place finishers on 14' boards- Amy in the rec race and Rachel Ferguson in the elite race were the only women to use 14' boards this time. Ryan Boettner won the 12'6 class in the rec race.

Play by play: The start was a combination beachstart / waterstart. I.e., we waded out onto a shallow sandbar, then lined up and waited for the countdown there. My start wasn't terrible, but I was a little off-balance and didn't have the speed to keep up with the fastest group. I also fell on the way to the first buoy and more people passed me, including the strong ladies Kim Barnes and Maddie Miller. I tried to paddle efficiently and get in tune with the conditions, not getting psyched out by my initially poor position. I made some gains after the first buoy turn by catching "glides" on waves, but fell again about halfway through the first M. The long, towards-shore leg at the end of the first M gave me a chance to glide past Maddie, and on a later towards-shore leg I got around Kim. (14' boards catch wave glides better than 12'6s.) I was behind Samuel until he fell and I got around. He stayed close, though.

Midway through the race, Samuel and I caught up with Brandon Rambo. He was on a 12'6x26; a shorter and wider board than he would normally race, but the only spare Riviera that day. Brandon also didn't have any water with him, so he was parched and roasting in the Florida heat and humidity. He was also securely in 2nd place in the 12'6 class so he didn't fight too much as we 14's went around.

No longer following anyone closely, I made a BIG mistake by heading for the middle buoy instead of the corner buoy after one of my turns. (See strava track.)

I didn't realize it until I started wondering about which direction I should go when I got to the buoy I was headed towards. I was like, "Something doesn't add up here... DOH!" Fortunately, there was a favorable current that helped push me back on track toward the correct buoy, and I miraculously stayed ahead of Brandon and Sam. Side note- My buoy turns were quite bad in this race. I tried doing some the correct way, stepping way back on the board to raise the nose and pivot it around, but with my shaky balance and clumsy technique the turns were wide and inefficient, and I was close to falling each time. So I switched to more secure but slower "Grandma" turns; paddling across the bow.

In the final part of the race I could tell by splashing sounds that Samuel was pushing hard to catch me, so I tried extra hard to get glides and stay ahead. I made it to the beach first, and Aaron Thomas was standing in the water to catch my board. I reached down to my ankle to undo my leash and fumbled, unable to find the release strap. Aaron was like, "Hey, it's on your pack." Huh? Oh yeah! I'd forgotten that I'd attached the leash on my pfd. I had lost several seconds by the time I finally freed the leash and started running across the sand. Samuel, who was a track athlete in college, zoomed up from behind, and it looked like he would beat me for sure. But then he tripped and SPLATTED face down in the sand, allowing me to pass and finish first. It was so surreal I though maybe he'd done the nosedive on purpose to let me pass because he felt bad for me. Anyway, we're both on team Riviera now so a win for either of us is a win for both.

After the race there was a lot of downtime before the awards, during which I rode some waves on a Riviera 11'6 surf sup, redeemed my lunch ticket, and hung around the Riviera tent, vendor tent village, etc. Some environmental organizations opposed to the harmful Lake Okeechobee water releases were peopling booths and circulating petitions in the vendor village- I'm glad that people who like to play in the water are taking responsibility for the protection of the water.

Other Commentary: Though this was a delightful race in a beautiful venue there were some aspects of the organization that I thought left room for improvement. I got the general impression that the ambitious vision of the race planners exceeded their actual organizational logistics abilities. For one thing, there were SO many different events requiring different buoy placements, etc. that it took ages to set up and get through them all. Also, the announcer / DJ stand was at an awards pavillion that was too far from the race start/finish area to be audible there, so communication between the organizers and the diffuse herd of racers was bad. At various points the organizers would try to gather us some place for some thing or another, only to make us wait in confusion, and it happened over and over. The awards ceremony, when it finally started, was the same way- ten times as long and confused as it needed to be, with slow communication between the lady with the results list, the guy with the microphone, and the people passing out prizes and raffle items.

What's next: I might go to another race next weekend- The Margaritaville Cup in Hollywood, FL. That should be another bumpy water one, so I'll try to get my new board dialed into the ocean conditions this week.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hermine: Windsurf, WindSUP, SUP, and SUP-repair sessions

Last week I was out on the water just about every day after work, as we had an extended period of Gulf of Mexico wave and wind action related to the passage of Tropical Storm Hermine.

Tuesday, 30 August- There were strong onshore winds all day while I was at work. Unfortunately, by the time I got home, the wind had died off. I had major indecision out about what gear to take to the beach, and ended up bringing just my small windsurf gear (in case the wind came back) and my 14' Riviera race sup (so I could get some bumpy water race and wave-riding practice). The waves at Wiggins Pass State Park were bigger than I had expected, and the confused sandbars and wave reflections made it really hard to balance on the narrow (22" wide) race sup. Meanwhile, my SUP buddies who had sensibly brought surf-style SUPs were having the rides of their lives. I switched to a bigger fin on the race sup and that seemed to take some of the wobble away, such that I could actually stay upright. I caught some exciting, fast rides on the big, smooth waves, until I realized that my board was developing a buckle and crack about 4' from the tail. Doh! I had to cut the session short and just do a jog on the beach to get my workout in. The board is an unusual "production prototype" model, and it has slightly different shape and "layup" (what layers of carbon, fiberglass, and plastic are put in what parts of the board) than the normal production model Riviera RP raceboards have. This particular layup seemed to have a vulnerability to buckling where a carbon reinforced area met an unreinforced area. I am currently doing surgery on the board in the operating room at CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards to add fiberglass reinforcement to the failing area. I think the end result will be just as fast as the original, stiffer, and only a wee bit heavier.

Wednesday, 31 August- This time I took one of my windsurfable SUPs to the beach; the Angulo Surfa 10'4 that I modified with a planing tail and twin-fin setup. The waves weren't as perfect as on Tuesday, but they were still quite rideable, and I had a good time, paddling half the time and using a 6.4 sail the other half of the time. Some strong wind and rain squalls came through, which were really exciting on the windsup. (See video.) It was nice to have a bunch of sup buddies out there on the water again.

Thursday, 1 September- This was the big windsurfing day, with 20-25 knots of wind from the South and lots of water moving around. I joined my windsurf buddy Alex Owens at Wiggins. He was using a 4.7 sail and a 105 liter Fanatic Freestyle-wave board. I also went with a 4.7 sail, and put it on my 83 liter Starboard Evo waveboard. The first run out I was LIT! (That mean's overpowered with wind.) But later the wind dropped just slightly, and with all the whitewater and current I sometimes wished I was on my floatier board, i.e., had a tough time getting in and out of the waves. Still, great session.

Friday, 2 September- One more day light wind and SUP on the 10'4 Angulo.

Here's the video, with footage from Wednesday and Thursday.

TS Hermine Sup, Windsup, Windsurf from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #6

Race: Race #6 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 28 August 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot and humid. There was some wind from the East that was a minor nuisance on the more open stretches of the river. The river current was 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: The usual suspects were present, plus a few newbies, minus Matt Kearney and Bryan Herrick who were in recovery mode after the Sunshine SUP race yesterday.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Mark Athanacio went with his newest, narrowest 12'6x22 board. Jim McIntyre and Murray Hunkin checked out demo boards from CGT- a 14x25 Hovie Comet ZXC for Jim, and a 14x25 Riviera RP for Murray. Devin Turetzkin rode his brand new mint-colored 14x23 Riviera RP with a Hippostick 7.5 paddle borrowed from Matt Kearney.

Results: I had the fastest time, with 38:16. Impressively, Athanacio went nearly as fast on his 12'6, finishing in 38:23. Next fastest was Justin DiGiorgio in 42:08, followed by John Weinberg in 45:20. First woman was Damien Lin in 51:01, ahead of new racer Cindy Gibson in 52:43, then Saralane Harrer in 53:38. In the one lap division, Jim McIntyre did his fastest ever with 21:42, and felt so good he did another lap just for the heck of it. Next was Patricia who did 23:33 on her surfski kayak, then Steve Fleming with 24:33 on a Naish sup. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was Devin Turetzkin, Murray Hunkin, and Justin DiGiorgio. Any of those guys could beat the others on a good day. Mark Athanacio and I started in the second group. We were an odd couple because of the board length mismatch, but Mark is so good at sprinting and drafting that, at least in flat water, he can stay in my draft as long as he wants to even when he's on a 12'6. I think Mark's mission this race was to figure out the best standing position and drafting technique with his new 12'6x22. Anyway, we sprinted off the start then settled into a fast pace with me leading the train. It was tough to catch the first starting group, whose initial pace was similar to ours. However, at the first downriver turnaround, 1.5 km into the race, we reeled in Devin. He had fallen back from Murray and Justin's train, and ended up retiring early from the race because he got unexpectedly ill. I hope he perks up soon because I want to see how fast he is on his new 14x23 Riviera. About halfway through the first upriver leg we caught Murray and Justin, who were still together at that point. Justin says Murray got in our draft as we passed, but couldn't hang on, and Justin wasn't able to sprint around Murray to get up to us, though he did pass Murray a little later.

I was quite tired entering the second half of the race, and the heat was unpleasant. Mark offered to pull the draft train but I declined, because I would have felt wimpy to be on a 14' drafting someone on a 12'6. After the final downriver buoy turn, Mark warned me that he would attempt a passing move before the end of the race, and I would have to hold him off. Nothing like a little pressure to keep me paddling hard! When Mark made his first move it was towards the middle of the river, while I was closer to the edge. It wasn't too hard to hold him off then because I was in the lighter current. The next time Mark left my wake, near the finish line, the river was narrower and he had less space to try to get around. So I did manage to cross the finish line first, and I felt like it had been a real good run. My time was about 30 seconds shy of my personal best, which is probably attributable to being tired from the day before, plus the heat, the wind, the river current, random luck, etc.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Congrats to everyone who finished this scorching race.

What's next: Next race is the Ocean Warrior Challenge, 11 September in Jupiter, FL. I need to get some rough ocean practice in before then. This week looks good for that, with the Invest 99L tropical disturbance entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

SUP Race Report: RK Sunshine SUP Series #2

Race: The second and final of two races in the RK Sunshine SUP Series. (The first was on June 18th.)

Date it happened: 27 August 2016.

Host / Sponsors / Benefitting: Hosted by Island Water Sports, organized by racers Victoria Burgess and Roray Kam. Supported by lots of sponsors listed on the event website.

Location / Travel: Pompano Beach, Florida, just south of the pier. My CGT Teammate Matt Kearney and I drove over together on Friday and stayed with Matt's college buddy Andrew in Fort Lauderdale.

Distance: The course was a simple upwind/downwind, to and from a buoy about 600 meters off the beach. The rec racers did three laps, and the elite racers did six laps. At the end of each lap you had to come ashore and run through a little chicane on the beach while board handlers turned your board around and held it in the shallow water for you to jump back on. I had 7.65 km on my GPS at the end of the race, which is 4.75 miles.

Conditions: It was sunny, very hot, and humid, but with a significant onshore wind, 10-15 knots from the East Northeast. The ocean was choppy with closely-spaced waves up to about waist high.

Participants: Despite the challenging weather conditions there was a great turnout, especially for the rec race. There were also lots of kayak fishermen and beach obstacle course race people there for concurrent events sharing the same stage and tent city. Most of the podium winners from race #1 were back, vying for the series title. Race #1 men's elite winners Jake Portwood (14') and Packet Casey (12'6) were back but with new boards- they have both picked up sponsorships from JP Australia. Ultra-ripped fitness model Josh Smart (NSP Boards) was there, looking to better the 4th place result he got after breaking his paddle in race #1. New hotshots also joined the fray, including the incredible father-daughter duo of Steven and Maddie Miller, both on 12'6 boards. From my local sup group, the CGT Tribe, we had coach Mark Athanacio, Matt Kearney, Jason Mastin, Bryan Herrick, and me. Mark and Matt both used 12'6 Hoviesup boards in this race. Jason and Bryan did the rec race and the rest of us did the elite.

Gear: Though I've been loving my 14x22 Riviera RP, I decided to use a wider board after looking at the rough water forecast. CGT generously lent me one of their shop demo boards, a 14x25 Riviera RP. With the wider board my balance was secure enough that I could put more effort into moving forward (vs. into staying upright), and my only falls were a few crashing dismounts coming into the beach. Still, I think I ought to practice on the narrow board in rough water, and maybe do a side by side comparison some windy day. Several other riders also opted for wider than their narrowest boards, for similar reasons. There were even some who chose surf style or touring boards instead of their raceboards. Rec race men's winner Yen Loyola was on a large touring board of some sort.

The 14x25 that I used in the race (left) vs. the 14x22 that I own. Both fast boards for the right rider skill / size / conditions.

Results: In the rec race, many riders less familiar with paddling in wind and waves found it a struggle just to get out of the breaking waves zone, let alone to complete three laps and finish. Yen Loyola didn't seem phased by the conditions, and got first in his class. I was proud of relatively new racer Jason Mastin for finishing the whole thing on his Fanatic SUP, and for Bryan Herrick for ALMOST finishing the whole thing (2 out of 3 laps) on his 404 sup. The top 6 finishers in the men's elite race were Jake Portwood (14' JP Flatwater board), Packet Casey (12'6 JP All water board), Steve Miller (12'6 Starboard Allstar), Jake Graham (14' Rogue), me (14' Riviera RP), and Jamie Twigg (12'6 Dean custom). So even though I was the 5th finisher I was 3rd in the 14' class, and got $100 for being third in the series. I think the mish-mash of 14' and 12'6 boards had something to do with the rough conditions reducing the usual board length advantage, and had something to do with some extremely talented riders happening to choose 12'6 boards for this race. Mark Athanacio was first in the 50+ age class and 4th overall in the 12'6 class. He is fast as heck, so it says a lot about how stacked the 12'6 field was that he wasn't on the podium this time. Not too far behind Athanacio, putting in an amazing performance, was women's winner, young Maddie Miller on a 12'6 JP board. Second woman was experienced racer Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo SUP), followed by Cat Uden (Boga) in third. Matt Kearney was 5th in men's 12'6. I think the full results will be posted soon here on paddleguru.

Play by play: I had an OK beach start, but nothing like the jet-propelled, crazy fast start that Jake Portwood, Packet Casey, and Steve Miller had. Those experienced surfer guys whizzed over the whitewater of the breaking waves as if they were no impediment at all. On the first upwind to the buoy there were a few people in front of me who I was able to gain ground on, like Mark Athanacio. Others like Jake Graham and Jamie Twigg I merely kept pace with. It became clear that there was a lot of southward current, turning our path to the buoy into an arc. If you took your eyes off the buoy for a second you'd find that you'd drifted far downwind/downcurrent. If I was a better vector navigator I might have been able to stay on a straighter path to shorten the overall distance paddled. Anyway, at the buoy I made a clumsy but dry turn and ended up close behind Athanacio on the downwind. My 14' board was catching the swells a little better than his 12'6 and I eventually edged around him. My average speed on that downwind was a bit faster than I can normally go in flat water, but I think if I was "downwinding" properly, my speed would be a lot faster than flatwater speed. I.e., efficiently utilizing the push of the waves and maintaining a high average speed downwind is an area where I have lots of room for improvement.

I think I caught a breaking wave near shore that took me the last 40 meters or so into the chicane, but I wasn't too graceful about it. Like most of my times getting off the board I ended up having to wade through surging water and mushy sand more than necessary. Part of the challenge was having to remove my ankle leash every time, and then put it on again ten seconds later after doing the chicane run and getting back to the board. Nobody who finished ahead of me was wearing a leash, and I had agonized somewhat over whether or not I should wear one. It's definitely a good thing for safety, as it prevents the potential nightmare situation of falling off your board far from shore and having the wind carry it away faster than you can swim. To be honest, it bothered me that they didn't require everyone to wear a leash, because it created a situation where you had to weigh your safety concerns against your competitiveness. If everyone had to wear a leash it would be an even competitive playing field, with no one pressured into taking a safety risk for a competitive advantage. It might be overkill for a flat water race, but not for a windy, wavy race.

The middle part of the race is kind of a blur in my memory. I was tired but kept pace Jamie Twigg, just behind Jake Graham. Josh Smart had been with us in the first two laps, but he busted his board in a collision leaving the chicane and had to drop out of the race. Having Jamie and Jake nearby helped me evaluate what techniques were moving me fastest, better than the numbers readout on my speedcoach GPS. On about the fourth lap, going upwind, I got a second wind and rounded the buoy before Jamie, then tried to consolidate that lead by riding the bumps as best I could. I never gained much on Jake Graham, though, until the very last downwind where spent all my remaining energy to get a little closer... maybe enough to get him if he made a mistake, but probably not. As I was lining up for my glorious final surf into the finish line, I started to lap Matt Kearney. Matt inconveniently decided to turn upwind directly into my glory ride path, not knowing I was right behind him, causing some awkward maneuvering that ended with both of us crashing in shallow water and having to prone-surf our boards through the whitewater to shore. Anyway, nobody passed me and no boards were injured during our little fender bender, so all's well that ends well.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details.

After the race it was fun hanging out at the vendor tent area, getting free Mexican Food for lunch, and demo'ing some surf-style SUPs from Starboard. I'd never ridden a sup shorter than 9' before, but I rode an 8'2 and an 8'5 and decided I wasn't missing anything. At my skill level a 10 - 11 foot surf sup is probably the most practical. For an experienced surfer who lives on a coast that actually has waves, it might be different. Jake Portwood really impressed me by seeming to balance effortlessly on one of the tiny starboards, like he was standing on the sidewalk rather than on a tiny piece of foam in the ocean. I don't know whether it's learned from years of surfing, or if it's an innate genetic talent, but it amazed me how far ahead of the field all of the surfer-master guys (Portwood, Packet, and Steve Miller) were in these conditions.

After lunch and fooling around, the race committee gave out awards. I was stoked to get another awesome tiki-themed trophy, this one with a built in bottle opener.

What's Next: There's a CGT race tomorrow morning, which I'll rally for, then on September 11th is the Ocean Warrior Challenge in Jupiter, Florida. That should be another tough one with waves. Jake Graham mentioned a few more fun sounding races in South Florida this fall that also sounded good, including one "Margaritaville" race where there's apparently a ridiculous amount of prize money being offered.