Sunday, September 3, 2017

SUP Adventure to Cape Romano "Dome Home" Ruins

Last week's events offered a preview of future climate change and sea level rise. Whilst Houston was suffering unprecedented, tragic flooding from Hurricane Harvey (which was strengthened by abnormally high ocean temperatures and atmospheric moisture levels related to anthropogenic global warming), Southwest Florida was deluged by a separate tropical precipitation system, resulting in significant flooding in my area, the likes of which hadn't been seen in decades. After the rains my graduate student measured salinity levels in our local estuary, Estero Bay, and found no salinity levels higher than 9 anywhere in the Bay. The normal salinity level of seawater is 35; I fear many marine organisms such as the brittle stars that carpet the bay bottom will perish at < 9 salinity. Extreme precipitation events like these are likely to increase in both frequency and severity as climate change progresses, especially if the nations of the world are slow to transition from unsustainable fossil fuels (which create the CO2 pollution that is the primary driver of the current warming trend) to renewable energy. The consequences of extreme precipitation, e.g., flooding, are also likely to be exacerbated by land development trends. As we replace forests and wetlands (which are pretty good at absorbing rain and transferring it to the groundwater) with impervious surfaces like roads, malls, and sprawling urban/suburban development, floodwaters are less able to soak into the ground and more likely to flow fast over land. We need to build less, and build smarter, to prepare for what's coming.

In keeping with the week's "climate catastrophe preview" theme, some buddies and I made a difficult pilgrimage to a unique Southwest Florida site that epitomizes the folly of building along the eroding shores of a rising sea: The "Dome Homes" of Cape Romano. The history of the homes is described in detail on Wikipedia and other easily-googleable websites so I'll be brief here. Basically, the dome homes were one of several "off the grid" homesteads built on remote Caxambas Island, south of Marco Island, as far south as you can possibly go on the west coast of Florida before reaching the vast, uninhabited "10,000 islands" region where the Everglades wetlands meet the Gulf of Mexico in a maze of mangroves, sandbars, and oyster beds. The dome homes and the other weird off-the-grid houses on Caxambas Island (one was a pyramid) were actually pretty cool examples of sustainable living, with features for collecting rainwater, heating and cooling naturally etc. They just weren't in a safe location, as shifting sands and rising seas ate them away in the late 20th and early 21st century. As the shoreline retreated, the Dome Homes went from being in a dry sand dunes area, to being awash on the beach, to now being over 100 m offshore, permanently surrounded by water.



It's a long paddle from the nearest SUP launch to Cape Romano, and my buddies chose an even longer route to make sure they got enough distance training for the ultra long distance "Chattajack" race they are doing in Tennessee this fall. The Chattajack team is Matt Kearney, Robert "SUPerman" Norman, and Bill Mussenden. I'm too chicken to do the Chattajack myself, but I couldn't resist this chance to join the guys today and see the Dome Homes. We intended to launch at 7:30 am, but delayed until 11:00 am to let some storms pass through. The launch site was a bridge near Goodland Florida, a tiny outpost in the mangrove fringe of the Everglades.



We all brought 14' boards. Bill's was a 14x27 custom Indigo sup with a green leprechaun theme. Matt brought his new 14x23 Starboard Allstar. Robert and I were both on 14x23 Riviera RP raceboards. We all brought backpacks full of water, snacks, and various energy / electrolyte drinks and goos. The route was around 26 km, which is less than the Chattajack, but still a lot farther than I had ever paddled or wanted to paddle. I figured we'd be going at a relatively slow pace, though, and with a long stop for lunch the paddle wouldn't be too challenging for me. Ha!

Almost immediately after we started paddling we got our first warning that things might be more difficult than imagined. Very shallow water and an incoming tide kept our speeds slower than expected despite our working together in a draft train, trading leaders every 800 m. Then, about 2.4 km in, Matt announced that he wasn't feeling quite himself and couldn't keep up with our pace. He hypothesized that he'd slept on the wrong side of the bed, or mixed the wrong kind of energy powder into his water, or filled too many sandbags to protect his house earlier in the week. Things got worse as we left the sheltered waters near Goodland and entered a long sidewind/upwind stretch in the choppy waters of Gullivan Bay. Matt and Bill stayed near to shore and made directly for the cut through Caxambas Island, while Robert and I were feeling peppy and impatient and paddled more into the wind for a while so that we could take a direct downwind line to the cut, practicing our bump-riding skills. The fastest part of the route was the cut through Caxambas Island, where the water was flat and the current was now ebbing and in our favor. Robert, Bill and I regrouped there and made good progress in a draft train.

When we emerged into the Gulf of Mexico we turned south along the eroded western shore of the island, facing some headwind and some tricky currents where tidal inlets gushed out of inner passages in the island. I tried to hug the coastline and duck into little bays to get out of the wind, and I picked up the pace, figuring if I lost the other guys I'd just wait up for them when we got to the dome homes. The landscape was beautiful, with jade green water, white beaches, and rugged piles of driftwood where the receding coast was scouring away the mangrove forest. Coming out of one of the minor bays I caught my first glimpse of the dome homes in the distance. It was rough getting to them, though, because the wind and chop had increased and they were straight upwind. I was happy to finally arrive, take a few pictures, then retreat to a small patch of beach to rest and recover. Robert and Bill were just a little bit behind me, and Matt wasn't much further back. We had paddled approximately two hours.Below is the GPS track from the trip to the domes, and some pictures.





I felt OK, but as I ate my lunch I started to worry that I hadn't brought enough water, because I'd more than half drained what was in the pouch in my camelback. After another round of selfies and stuff we started the return journey, this time rounding the southern end of Cape Romano and crossing Gullivan Bay instead of cutting through the island. The outgoing tidal current was ripping hard at Cape Romano, and didn't diminish much as we turned north into Gullivan Bay. Even with the wind and chop at our backs we were going about 2 km slower than normal pace, and had to cling to the shoreline where the current was less. Eventually, though, we had to veer into the open water to get to where we were going. Around then is when I ran out of water and started to feel various kinds of unpleasant soreness and fatigue that increased through the rest of the paddle. At least I didn't have to go fast, because the other guys were also slowed down by the fatigue and side-chop.

The shoreline to the west of us was a series of mangrove islands punctuated by points and inlets that all looked alike. It was hard to tell which one would be our turn to get back towards Goodland. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was paddle even longer than necessary because I was lost. In the distance I spotted a boat that was drifting along, fishing, and I decided to ask them for directions. Unfortunately the boat was about a kilometer away across a bay with lots of current and side chop, so it took me a while to get there and put me a little off course. Thankfully, the friendly fishermen pointed me in the right direction, and the other paddlers behind me saw which way I went after that so they didn't have to paddle quite as far before turning. The final phase of the paddle was frustrating, as the ebb tide current coming out of Goodland was quite strong, the mid day sun was blazing, and we were totally sore and fatigued. For me, that part was worse than any of the rough open water stuff had been. All my muscles felt like they were right on the verge of cramping, and even getting off and on the board for cool-off dip in the water was a delicate operation. Robert and Matt both had to spend some time just sitting on their boards and trying to talk themselves out of giving up, but eventually we all made it back to Goodland. Here's the track for the return trip.



Bill, thank goodness, had tons of extra water bottles in his truck, and I chugged two of them before laying down in the bed of Robert's truck almost in a coma of soreness and exhaustion. Gradually, after more water, and some gas station snacks and gatorade, the feelings of whole-body stiffness and misery diminished. But I'll need a while before I'm ready for another crazy long paddle like that.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Race Report: CGT Summer Series #8

The river was crazy high. This picture was from the day before the race, but the park was just as flooded on race day.


Race: The eighth race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 27 Aug, 2017

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.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was the third day of heavy rain in SW Florida from a tropical weather system called 92L. The river was higher than I have ever seen it before, overflowing its banks into Riverside Park. The rain continued during the race and actually made things nicely cool. Nevertheless, the strong current made for slower times than usual. The current was 2.3 kph according to my paddling in current calculator.

Participants, Results and gear: Most of the regulars were undeterred by the rain. We also had one new member of the team, Gregory Zasinets, from Naples by way of Belarus. Greg is an avid sup surfer and downwind paddler who recently started doing Mark Athanacio's sup training program with us, in early preparation for some downwind sup races in Hawaii that he plans to do next year. Flat water racing isn't really Greg's thing, but he was a good sport to paddle with us anyway. Most of us did the long race, but the fastest guy, Athanacio, did the short race, which meant there was less direct competition for me in the long race. Below is a table of who raced and what they used. I'll add times when I get them from the race director.

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:50
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 25 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 km ** 44:10
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 44:11
Greg Zasinets ** 14' SUP ** 24.5 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 47:36
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 51:56
Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 54:13

Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 20:11
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 2.9 km ** 25:47
Meg Bosi ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Bark ** 2.9 km ** 26:20
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 27:41
Tony Walz ** 12'6 ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 2.9 km ** 31:29

Play by play: The first starting wave was me, Greg, Matt, and Justin. Everybody sprinted off the line fast. It was more thrilling than usual because while paddling all-out we had to duck a railroad bridge and a foot bridge that usually have plenty of clearance (but not when the water is so high). As we sprinted, Greg was nose to nose with me, until I cut a corner close to the mangrove foliage and forced him to drop back into the draft. The four of us stayed linked in a draft train for a while, which was tricky with the strong current swirling around. A few times I bobbled and had to jam the paddle in the water to catch myself. By about 800 meters down the river I had managed to drop the other three off my tail, and at that point I just focused intently on paddling well and staying in the fast water. We made it downriver to the turn-around point in record time; 16 minutes 20 seconds. When I turned around I saw that Greg, Matt, and Justin were still in a train, and were only about 100 meters behind me. I knew that if I slacked off on the way upriver they would catch me, so I made sure to keep the pace up. More so than usual, I clung to edges of the river on the way up, and made many tactical switches from one side to the other in search of slow current and eddies. Looking at my Speedcoach SUP GPS readout was very helpful for that. If I was getting 8+ kph I knew I was in a good spot, but if it dropped below 7 kph, I knew I was caught in the "treadmill" of strong current and needed to find a better route. When the strong currents were unavoidable, I tried to briefly sprint until I was in better water again. In the last 400 meters or so I mustered all the energy I had remaining and picked up the pace a little. Race director Nick Paeno called out my time as 40:14. I was like, "Wha...? YEAH!" because that would have been a record time for me. I was smug about that until later when I looked at my GPS track and found that my actual time was 41:50- exactly what I got last time. Oh, well.

Here's my GPS track from the course:


For the other three that started with me, there was a lot of good drama in the upriver leg of the race. Though they rounded the bridge together, Greg and Matt separated from Justin soon after. However, Greg, who had never paddled on the river before was taking a slow route against the current, and Justin was able to pass him and Matt by taking a different route. Matt switched from drafting Greg to drafting Justin, and Greg slowed down a lot as his endurance suddenly gave out around 4 km into the race. He said everything started feeling incredibly heavy and he just couldn't maintain the quick pace he'd set earlier. Matt was still drafting Justin as they approached the finish line, and he made a last minute move to pass. Justin was totally tired then and almost wasn't able to hold him off. But the nose of Justin's board was still the first to cross the line, giving him a strong second place.

After the race we had good eats in the shop at CGT, and then a bunch of us went sup surfing or windsurfing at Wiggins Pass State Park. Greg and Matt surfed especially well. I saw Greg in particular go down the line on some good waves, making multiple turns. I sailed a 6.8 sail on my 106 liter board; my second day in a row of good shortboard windsurfing in the ocean. This was a rare treat for August.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Race Report: CGT Summer Series #7



Race: The seventh race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 30 July, 2017

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.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot but not as bad as the previous few races, since there was some cloud cover and a moderate to strong breeze from the West. The river water level was very high, and the current was 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator.

Participants, Results and gear: There wasn't a huge turnout, probably since a lot of us were tired from the long race Saturday, but 12 hardy racers showed up anyway. Donna Montgomery and her son Lloyd both did the long course on 9' surfstyle boards, so they probably worked harder than anyone. Some of the usual racers used different from their usual boards, for example Mark Athanacio brought his 12'6x22 Hovie GT instead of the 14'x21.5 Hovie GT that he usually uses. I borrowed a 14'x23 Starboard AllStar from the CGT rack to test that out on the course. The most shocking thing was that CGT owner Nick Paeno made his racing debut, winning the short course with a very impressive time on a secondhand 14x25 Hovie ZXC that is for sale in the shop. With speed like that he might be able to challenge our regular racers Matt Kearney and Justin DiGiorgio. Hmm. In the long course, Mark Athanacio was the fastest overall despite the disadvantage of being on a shorter board (more on that later). I was second. The full results are below.

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:40
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:52
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:45:02
Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:51
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:08
Lloyd Montogomery ** 9' SUP ** 31 Naish ** 6.4 km ** 1:06:37
Donna Montgomery ** 9' SUP ** 31 Naish ** 6.4 km ** 1:08:28

Nick Paeno ** 14' SUP ** 25 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:20:12
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:21
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:57
Igor Krasnov ** 14' SUP ** ?? Something big ** 2.9 ** 0:25:07
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 24 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:39

Play by play: On the water there was last minute changing around of who had been planning to do the short versus the long course. I think my stated intention to do the long one persuaded Mark Athanacio to do it, which persuaded Justin DiGiorgio to do it. The three of us plus Bryan Herrick all started at the same time. Those guys, especially Justin, sprinted off the line faster than I expected, maybe because a newspaper photographer was there and they wanted to be sure they looked good. Nevertheless, by the 200 m mark I had edged into the first position, with Justin drafting behind (breaking his pre-race pledge not to draft), and Athanacio behind him. I settled into what felt like a normal pace, trying to carefully gauge what kind of shape I was in after the previous day's big race. I felt OK, just a little less peppy, and with some soreness in my triceps and lats. About halfway through the downriver leg of the course I looked back expecting to see Justin behind me, but realized he'd been replaced by Athanacio. I thought a little about slowing down and making him lead but decided to just go my steady pace and see what happened.

After turning around the bridge at the halfway point of the course, Mark intentionally left my draft and paddled abreast of me. I reckon that was a sportsmanlike move, since he knew he COULD draft me the whole way back, but it would be kinda lame and unchallenging. Upriver was against the current but with the wind at our backs, and I changed my stroke a little to be more upright with a faster cadence, which I thought would help fight the current and take advantage of the tailwind. It seemed to work OK. I gradually pulled a few board lengths ahead of Mark, but that was unsurprising given the inherent advantage of my 14' board versus his 12'6. What WAS surprising was when, 1/3 of the way back upriver, my fin hit some massive, solid obstruction near a dock (maybe a log or a barely-submerged piling?). It instantly stopped the board, and because I was plunging my paddle into the water at the time, I went headfirst straight into the water. My board scooted off towards the shore, being blown by the wind, while I struggled lamely to swim against the current while holding my paddle. Meanwhile Mark zipped ahead, and had a ~100 m lead by the time I got back on the board. Damn! As Mark was passing he shouted, "regain your composure and sprint back up!" I never quite managed that. Though I partially caught up with Mark, he paddled hard and fast and preserved enough of the post-fall lead to finish 12 seconds ahead of me. SIGH. My final time was over a minute slower than in the previous CGT race. I reckon about 30 seconds of that was being slower due to post-race fatigue and the wind, and another 30 seconds, at least, was due to the fall and swimming for my board.

Here's my GPS track from the course:


What's Next: Next major race is August 12th in Fort Lauderdale; the second of the Sunshine SUP series.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Race Report: Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge

Race photos taken by Jen Hayes.


Race: The Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge 2017

Date it happened: 29 July, 2017

Host: The Flying Fish Paddle Sports

Location: The event was at the River Palm Cottages resort on the Indian River Lagoon in Jensen Beach, Florida. I liked that it was near where I used to live in Fort Pierce, and I was able to go to a Cajun restaurant I liked the night before the race with my CGT race team buddies. We didn't sign up soon enough to get a room at the cottages, but we found other hotels in the Stuart / Jensen Beach area.

Course / Distance: There was a long straight course for the kayaks and outrigger canoes, and a more complex multi-lap course for the SUPs. The SUPs could either do a short course (2 laps, 3.8 km) or an "elite" course (5 laps, 9.5 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid as hell, with a modest breeze from the SW shifting to the NW. The water was shallow enough to hit the paddle blade in some parts of the course, demanding tactical decisions about whether to take a longer path to avoid it or just bust right through it. Even if your paddle blade wasn't hitting, you would still be slowed down by hydrodynamic effects that increase drag on displacement vessels in water depths less than 1/2 of the vessel length.

Participants, Results and gear: 47 people did the short SUP course, 36 did the elite SUP course, and 11 did the canoe/kayak course. For the elite SUP course there were $500 prizes for first place men's 14' and first place women's 12'6, which drew many of Florida's best paddlers. On the women's side was international pro Seychelle Hattingh (SIC boards), who races all over the world but is based in Key Largo. Seychelle had significant competition from teenage phenomenon Maddie Miller, and SW Florida's Meg Bosi (Bark boards) was also vying for the podium. Long time top female contender Kimberly Barnes was there volunteering but couldn't race because she's recovering from a sports-related surgery. On the men's side was last year's Flying Fish champion Sam English, now riding NSP boards. Sam faced a deep field of tough competitors this year. Looking at the names on the registration list I had trouble predicting the likely winner. I mentally sorted the familiar names into guys I KNEW were significantly faster than me (Kieran Grant [Hoviesup], Steve Miller and Tim Warner [Starboard]) and those who I figured were tough but I might be able to beat if I paddled well (Mark Athanacio [Hoviesup], Packet Casey [JP], Jake Graham and Joey Huemphner [Flying Fish boards], Reid Hyle [very fast guy but with a slow board]). My categorization was off, though, and several people I hadn't even thought I needed to worry about got the better of me, including Travis Kindt (ECS boards) and David Slemp (Hoviesup). I was the 11th SUP over the line in 1:10:07, but I consoled myself that at least my time wasn't TOO far behind the leaders. The top three in the major categories, along with their board types and widths if I remember them, were:

14' Men
Steve Miller 1:06:16 (Starboard Sprint 21.5)
Joey Huemphner 1:07:26 (Flying Fish allwater 23)
Kieran Grant 1:07:37 (Hovie Comet GT 23)

14' Men 50+
Mark Athanacio 1:09:45 (Hovie Comet GTO 23)
David Slemp 1:10:02 (Hovie Comet ZXC 25)
Gary Roethe 1:12:09 (?)

12'6 Women
Seychelle Hattingh 1:11:05 (some kind of narrow SIC flatwater board)
Maddie Miller 1:13:57 (JP flatwater) [1st in 17 & under class]
Jessica Ventura 1:16:13 Meg Bosi 1:17:30 (Bark Contender 25)

12'6 Men
Matt Kearney 1:15:38 (Starboard Allstar 24.5). Matt was the only man on 12'6- time to get a 14.

The full results are posted on paddleguru.

Play by play: They ran the short course first, which was nice because there was a pier over the water I could watch that race from to mentally picture my own route around the buoys. In the short race, those who could do efficient buoy turns put a lot of distance on those who couldn't in the 3-buoy "slalom" section at the end of each lap. I was glad I'd done some buoy turn practice in the preceding week, and gotten some good buoy turn tips at a clinic taught by SUPerman Robert Norman.

When the short race was over it was around 10 am, and it was HOT. All the racers knew the heat would be a major factor, so we were dunking in the water, wetting our shirts, skulking in the shade, etc. For the starting lineup, the race director requested that those in contention for the podium line up on the south end of the beach closer to the first buoy to minimize traffic between faster and slower racers. Considering myself one of the "slower of the faster" guys I lined up more towards the middle of the beach. My strategy for the start was to run with my board until the water got too deep, rather than jumping on the board early and having to paddle a long way through the very shallow water. It worked terribly, because people who threw their boards down earlier blocked off my running path and put me behind them. I ended up in bad traffic in chaotically mixed waters, watching those who had started better instantly extend a long lead. But there were so many wakes surging through the water that I was easily swept along, even through the speed-killing shallows after the first buoy. I weaved my way around and by the second buoy I was in an OK position again. I managed to catch up to and pass Jake Graham, but that wasn't surprising because he'd told me he was taking this one easy after not paddling for a long time.

In the slalom section of the first lap or two I seem to remember sticking the nose of my board onto the tail of the boards in front of me and/or in front of the paddlers' legs to help make tight turns. I was close to Reid Hyle and David Slemp, and I think I drafted them some but was mostly on my own, trying to gradually catch up with Mark Athanacio, who wasn't drafting anyone at that time, either. Mark slowed down to hasten our catching up, and was then eager to have someone else pull the draft. After catching my breath, I pulled for a good bit, sometimes going in the side-draft of Mark or Reid but always trying to stay near the front of the train. I ended up pulling ahead of the other guys when I made a better-than-usual buoy turn at the far end of the course on the third or fourth lap. At that point I thought I might be able to just paddle away from them. But what actually happened was that I stayed only a few board lengths ahead, tiring myself out, while they continued paddling efficiently and drafting. They seemed to close in on me in the buoy turns sections, since as I got more tired I was worse about re-accelerating after the turns. On the final lap Mark Athanacio passed me, and soon all the guys who had been near him did, too, along with Travis Kindt who must never have been too far behind us. I was tired and flustered, and had trouble keeping up with the draft group, especially since they were now accelerating the pace to try to edge into leading positions. My problems keeping up were exacerbated when I fell in knee deep water struggling to stay in the shifting draft wakes in the dang shallows near the end of the last lap. I kinda knew it was over for me then, but I hopped right back on and still stayed with the group, at the back.

Our little group of five all finished within a 22 second period, with Mark at the lead and me at the back. Although I was satisfied with my overall time, speed, and physical output, it burned me a little to lose all those places in the finishing order. It was a good lesson in the importance of drafting and strategically budgeting energy. For example, my pushing hard in the third and fourth lap was probably counterproductive because it left me unable to fend off the wolf pack at the end.

Here's my GPS track from the race. If you're registered on Strava you can click into it and see the details:


Other race intrigues: A young Australian man working the ECS boards tent at the race was stung by an American wasp and had an allergic reaction. He was fine after some Benadryl and a nap. Fortunately he was well long enough that I got to try out some of the ECS boards. There was a narrow dug-out flatwater one and an 25" wide "allwater" (Travis Kindt's board). I like Travis' best. It seemed to have really good water-slicing characteristics for a relatively wide board. Next time I'm on the east coast I'd also like to try the Flying Fish boards, which are a new small brand designed and distributed by the shop of the same name. As evidenced by Joey Huemphner's 2nd place finish in this race, they're capable of top-level speeds with the right paddler.

What's Next: Tomorrow morning is a local CGT Kayaks sup race. Nothing like following up a race with a race!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Race Series #6



Race: The sixth race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 16 July, 2017

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.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid as hell, with hardly a breeze. The river current was significant at 1.1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator, but the water level was high, which allowed some tactical corner-cutting.

Participants, Results and gear: There was a good crew of 15 racers, with 6 doing the long course and 9 doing the short one. It was great to see regular racers, newish racers, and some people who used to race but hadn't raced in a long time, such as Kevin Hill, Jesse DaSilva, and Kate Pagan, who did the short course. Series leader Mark Athanacio broke with tradition and also did the short course, which he won with an insane course-record time of 18:16. He used his deadly flatwater weapon, the 14x21.5 Hovie GT, and used a bigger paddle blade than usual for the shorter course; a Quickblade Trifecta 96. Mark's beau Jen Hayes won the women's short course with 24:47. I won the long race with 40:45, which is about even with my personal best for the course, but still way short of Mark's course record of 40 minutes even. That record is looking out of reach for me, unless I can somehow make a major leap in my skills and fitness, or get on some kind of board that's significantly faster than my current one (which is already fast). Matt Kearney was out of town this week, but "SUPerman" Robert Norman came down from Inverness to do the race and teach some SUP clinics. (I did his clinic on Saturday and was surprised how much helpful stuff I learned, especially about buoy turn footwork techniques. Robert has a well-organized, professional teaching style and I would definitely recommend his classes and clinics.) Robert rode CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar. New racer Patrick Scheele had a new board, a 10'6 surf-style Riviera. It's certainly not a raceboard, but he still managed to go 3 minutes faster than last time when he was paddling a heavy 9' windsurfing board. Here's the full results:

Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:45
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:44
Bill Quincy ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:42
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:02
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:48
Jesse DaSilva ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hobie Apex ** 6.4 km ** 0:49:33

Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:18:16
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:07
Kevin Hill ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:13
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:22:44
Bert ** 12'6 SUP ** 26 BlkBox Uno ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:37
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:47
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:24:58
Patrick Scheele ** 10'6 SUP ** 31 Riviera ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:45
Kate Pagan ** 12'6 SUP ** 24.5 Starboard Allstar ** 2.9 km ** 0:28:55

Play by play: There were a lot of potentially fast 14' racers milling around the start line, so it was tricky to figure out what our starting groups would be. I knew I'd be starting with Robert Norman, because we'd been talking for a week about how he was going to try to match Matt Kearney's feat of drafting me for the entire race to break his record time. Besides Robert, I also knew Justin was fast enough to hang with the draft train. I knew Jesse could sprint fast but I didn't think he'd be able to keep up in the longer term. It ended up being Robert, Justin, Jesse, Kevin, and me on the line together. I was in the middle and got the "hole shot" into the lead position, with Robert in my draft, as expected. I think Justin and the others were also in the train for a while, but I'm not sure.

After about 1 km it was clear that it was just me and Robert. I asked Robert if he wanted to pull. He said "No," and I said something like, "Interesting." I considered stopping paddling and trying to force him to lead, but ultimately decided to just paddle my own pace and deal with Robert later if he tried to pass. I maintained a pace that was hard, but not to the point of burning out my arms. In comparison with race #5 I stayed more collected in the first half, saving some energy for the second half. It helped to focus on the river ahead, visualizing my speed and feeling my strokes in each moment, rather than focusing on the GPS readout and how I was doing overall.

Robert stayed with me as we turned around the bridge at the bottom of the course and started the exhausting upriver slog. But about 800 meters into the second half he quietly dropped back. I tried to keep my pace up even when he was far enough back that I knew I wouldn't have to worry about him. A trick that helped me on the upriver was aggressively hugging the edges of the river where the current was slower and I could occasionally find a blessed patch of tree shade. When I sensed that I was paddling in unavoidable bad current or slight headwind, I increased my effort just a bit, but overall I kept the pace steady at 53 strokes per minute cadence. I was happy to pass the 3/4 point of the race in just under 30 minutes, indicating that was making a little better time than in race #5. At the end I sped up as much as I could manage (which wasn't much) to shave whatever seconds I could off my time. I was really happy to get back in under 41 minutes, after my slightly disappointing 41:13 time in race #5.



Other race intrigues included a surprsingly strong performance by dark horse Bill Quincy, who was borrowing Athanacio's salmon-colored Hovie. It will be interesting to see if he becomes a regular racer. Also impressive was how much faster Jen Hayes went compared to her usual time. Maybe having another fast woman on the course (Kate Pagan) was motivating. As usual, after the race we all had really good food and social time at CGT. The AC felt especially awesome.

What's Next: Two weeks from now we have an out-of-town race, the Flying Fish Summer Paddle Challenge in Stuart, FL. The following day there will be another CGT race. There's a rumor that CGT Kayaks owner Nick Paeno is going to race.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Damn you, dirty scoundrels of Photobucket

I used photobucket.com for several years to host the pictures for this blog, but it got progressively more annoyingly packed with pop up ads and malware and such, to the point that the site interface became maddeningly slow, awkward and unusable. At the same time they started making more and more unpredictable and unreasonable subscription extortion attempts. Now they've turned off all my pictures and told me I need to pay $40 a month for the rest of my life to turn them back on again. $40/month? F U that's more than my phone bill.

Now I have to decide how to deal with the problem of rehosting the images from hundreds of old blog posts. For new blogs, I've just been uploading the pics directly into blogger, but I don't know if blogger might also pull some kind of ransom attempt like this in the future.

Advice to companies like photobucket: If you want people to pay for the premium version of a service, don't let the free version of the service turn to such user-abusing shit that all your potential customers hate you and would never dream of giving you money.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #5



Race: The fifth race in the CGT Spring/Summer Series.

Date it happened: 2 July, 2017.

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.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid, about 30 C, with a light and variable wind. The river current was significant at 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: We had a decent crew, including some who didn't race but were hanging out because of the Quickblade Paddles demo event run concurrently with the race. (CGT recently became a Quickblade dealer, which is cool because QB is renowned as the #1 paddle company in the world. CGT also sells HippoStick and Riviera paddles.) It was cool that we had Jennifer Peters do it on a one-person outrigger canoe (OC1) this time. Jennifer beat me by a couple seconds, but couldn't steal the line honors from Mark Athanacio, who was first overall on his wicked fast 21.5" wide Hovie SUP. Another cool gear thing was that Justin DiGiorgio had modified his 14x23 Hovie GTF by cutting a deep recess in the standing area of the deck. It turned out to be a huge success in its first race since the modification. Previously the board had been fast but awkward and tippy because it was so thick relative to its width that the rider was standing precariously high above the water. With the newly recessed standing position it wobbled less, and the wobbles would correct themselves instead of getting out of control. Justin improved on his previous race time by 7 seconds, probably because he avoided falling this time.

Justin's successfully modified 14x23 Hovie GTF.


Racer ** Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:48
Jennifer Peters ** OC1 ** ?? ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:10
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:13
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:15
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater Dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:21
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:48
Steve Fleming ** 12'6' SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 km ** 0:57:14

Devin Turetzkin ** 12'6 SUP ** 25 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:06
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:27:10

Play by play: As per our established routine for this series, I started in the group with Matt and Justin, and Mark Athanacio started later. In comparison with race #4, I continued my sprint off the start for a longer period of time. Nevertheless, both Matt and Justin got in my draft and seemed to have no trouble staying there. I neither tried to shake them nor tried to keep them; just went at the fastest pace I thought I could maintain. I messed with my paddle stroke a little, trying to make sure I was using my whole body and not blowing out my arms and shoulders too early. I had done a fairly intense 3x8 minute SUP workout the previous day that I probably wasn't 100% recovered from. It's hard to tell exactly how much I'm affected by working out in the day(s) before a race, but I normally try to have at least one day of nothing strenuous before a race.

About 1600 meters into the race, Justin started to waver a little in his drafting, but he stayed no more than a board length behind Matt (close enough to get some drafting benefit) until we were nearly at the halfway point. Turning around the pilings of the US 41 bridge at the halfway point was where I lost Matt last time, but I knew he was determined to stay on me this time, and he did. Looking at his Strava track, you see that his heart rate jumps from the low 180s to over 190 for a bit while he scratches to reconnect, then it goes down to the low 180s again once he's in the draft. Going upriver I did OK, but not great. I mostly stayed on the gas, but sometimes my stroke rate sagged a bit, and I don't think I had the right mental focus to keep up maximum output at all times. It's hard to gauge pace when the river current is strong and the numbers on the GPS are so much lower than they would be in neutral conditions. It might help if I started paddling with a heartrate monitor band again like I did last summer. That thing kept me honest... but it wasn't as durable and dependable as I would have liked, and too expensive to keep replacing all the time.

Another couple things that were messing with my mind on the upriver portion of the race were wondering if I was taking the best paths to avoid the bad current, wondering if I might have a little leaf or something stuck on my fin (I probably didn't), and wondering if and when Matt would try to pass me. I figured my best defense against Matt passing would be to just maintain a tough pace so that he'd be too tired to mount a sprint attack. In the last couple hundred meters I notched up the pace a bit more, for good measure. Matt never did try a sprint (I think that was mostly out of courtesy, since he'd used my draft the entire race), but he stayed right on me all the way to the end and was only 2 seconds behind, making a HUGE, 1 min 45 second improvement on his previous best race time. The 14x23 Starboard AllStar and 7.0 Riviera Bump paddle seem to suit Matt well, and he has been getting closer to me with that gear combo than he ever used to get. Matt is also really consistent in sticking with coach Athanacio's 3x weekly SUP workouts, plus strength training in the gym, and never missing his post-workout protein shakes. Though he's a naturally skinny guy, he's starting to get beefy looking arms and shoulders, and I think he's improving significantly in speed, power, and endurance. If the trend continues we can probably start drafting cooperatively instead of just me pulling, leading to faster time for both of us.

Elsewhere on the racecourse, there was a good back-and-forth drafting battle of 14' Riviera boards paddled by Bryan Herrick and Bill Mussenden. Bryan's strategy of saving energy by drafting a lot early on then attacking in the last quarter of the course paid of for him, as he eked out the win.

As for myself, I'm slightly disappointed in my "plateau" of performance in this series. I'm not getting any closer to coach Athanacio, who is my main benchmark, and I'm having trouble just matching my own previous race times. However, I've started doing strength training at the YMCA more regularly now that I'm done teaching for the summer, and I expect that to start helping if I can stick with it. I also think I have some room for improvement in terms of managing my diet and body composition (muscle to fat ratio). A few less Dairy Queen Blizzards and a few more running cross-training workouts might help. The trickiest part is probably mental, though- finding the mental drivers that can get my reluctant body to exert to its maximum potential, but not beating myself up in a negative way. I imagine it's normal for athletes to have times of improvement mixed with times of struggle and stagnation, and I imagine that as I get more experience I'll learn more about when and how to push, and when and how to chill out.

This is my GPS track from the race. You can see more details if you view it in Strava.


After the race I demo'd two different models of Quickblade paddles (V-Drive and Trifecta) in various blade sizes. I decided I didn't like the V-Drive 91, but I kinda liked the smaller V-Drive 81 and the Trifecta 86. The V-Drive is supposed to suit paddlers who have a good forward reach and "front load" their paddle stroke, while the Trifecta is supposed to match well with paddlers who get most of their power from the middle part of the stroke... and it may be more forgiving of sloppy technique. I probably qualify more as a Trifecta guy. I'm still very happy with my 7.0 Riviera Bump, though, so I'm not in a hurry to make any expensive gear changes.

What's Next: The next CGT Race is July 16th.