Saturday I got up early and went with Matt Kearney of the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race team to the Orange Bowl Paddle Championships in Miami. The event was put on by the same people who put on the Orange Bowl football game, so there were lots of officials walking around in orange colored shirts, and there was a guy wearing the smiling orange mascot costume.
The event was a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, so registration was about twice as expensive as a typical sup race. It was for a good cause, though, and it was nice to be at a big, well-produced event with lots of vendors and snacks and stuff. The venue was ideal- the "Marine Stadium" on Virginia Key, next door to the Miami Seaquarium. They had sprint races, recreational races, a "corporate challenge" relay race, kids stuff, and an 8.5 mile "elite" race all the way around Virginia Key (see GPS track). I did the long race, along with my official CGT teammates Matt Kearney, Kate Pagan, and Kevin Hill, and de facto teammates Brandon Gunderson and Mark Athanacio.
Despite glassy calm conditions perfect for fast paddling, the race felt VERY long and hard. It went well for me, though. I rode the 404 v3 14' x 24" board and finished in 9th place; 1:31:17 with 8.45 miles on my GPS. That was a 5.55 mph average over the whole distance, which is really good for me since I usually struggle to get a 5.5 mph average over half that distance. Talk to the guys at the CGT shop if you want to get a good deal on a similar 404 v3 board.
First place in 14' class Brennan Rose (pictured below) finished in 1:24:45 on a Riviera paddleboard, which is also a brand they sell at CGT.
Second and third place Matt Arensman (Boga boards) and Josh Riccio (Rogue boards) were less than a minute behind the leader. In fact, the top 5 or 6 riders started close together at the beginning and stayed close for most of the race in one or more "drafting trains".
Drafting is really important, but tricky. When you're riding in the wash behind another board you can match the leader's speed with significantly less effort than the leader is putting out- maybe 10-20% less effort. Then when the leader gets tired you can take a turn leading, or try to pass. I thought I might be doing lots of drafting in this race, but I wasn't quite fast enough in the first minutes to attach myself to anyone in front. It would help to know beforehand who one's closely-matched competitors would be so you could stick with them. You could even make a civilized agreement with your training buddies beforehand to stick together and trade-off who had to sprint at the front of the draft train every mile or so. Speaking of buddies, I want to do some shout-outs to mine who did well at this race.
Matt Kearney had one of his best races ever.
"Team Death Metal" Kevin Hill (shirtless) and Brandon Gunderson (tattoos) did well, as usual, in the 12'6" class.
Kate Pagan made it look easy with her smooth style.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was by SW Florida badass Mark Athanacio, who finished first in the 12'6 board class with a time of 1:33:31. At the end of the race he was locked up with with second place 12'6 guy Jeremy Whitted, and the two competitors had an epic battle around the buoy and through the last sprint to the finish. Jen Hayes got the action on camera. It's especially cool to watch it as a slideshow, but I'm just showing one of the most action-packed pictures here.
Although I was really hurting after the race, with sore everything, my mood got better and better as I recuperated and the festive mood of the event soaked in. It was great to see the smiling crowds of adults and children out on the water, delightedly playing with toys and socializing with each other, which is what this whole thing (windsurf, sup, kite, surf, etc.) is really about.