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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #4



Race: The fourth race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 18 June, 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 very hot and humid, about 31 C, with a faint breeze from the east. The river was high and flowing strong due to two weeks of heavy rain. The current was 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense in the narrow upriver part near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: Some people were missing, probably because of the Father's Day holiday, but most of the serious CGT race team folks were there, including venerable coach Mark Athanacio, who won. My best recollections of who rode what and how fast they were are in the list below. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:40
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:47
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:10
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:27
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:02

Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:12
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:00
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:26:35
Steff Bichi ** 11' SUP ** 34 BodyGlove iSUP ** 2.9 km ** 0:42:27
Mark Payne ** 14' SUP ** 27 404 v3 ** ?? ** DNF

Play by play: During the week I discussed with Matt Kearney that we would both race 14' boards and he would try to stay in my draft as long as possible. He took CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar hybrid construction, which is a good match for my 14x23 Riviera RP. Justin, also on a fast 14x23 board, started in the same group as us. Matt sprinted pretty fast off the start and was parallel to me for a long time. I'm not sure if he was vying for the lead or just trying to draft in my "side wake". If I'd wanted to be a jerk I could have squeezed up against a dock or tree branch to force him to get behind me, but I didn't want to be a jerk, and I thought doing so might actually be dangerous with how fast the current was moving. Anyway, Matt got into the usual directly-behind-my-board drafting position after about 500 meters. Around that time I heard a "SPLASH" and thought he might have fallen in, but it turns out it was Justin, who had been right behind Matt until then.

On the way downriver I struggled to set an appropriate pace that was fast enough to get me a respectable time but easy enough that I wouldn't burn out prematurely. One thing I did differently than in the last CGT race was I never yielded the lead to Matt. If I was only competing against Matt then it would benefit me to make him pull some of the time while I rested in his draft, but since I'm also competing against Mark Athanacio for overall fastest time, it's better if I just keep the lead and go the fastest possible pace. Though Mark hadn't been in the starting line, I knew he'd be in the race because we passed him as he paddled from his house upriver to the start.

At the US 41 bridge at the bottom of the course I did a good, tight buoy turn near the bridge piling, and took a few sprint strokes to get back up to speed. The turn put a 3 board length gap on Matt. I didn't intentionally sprint to get away from Matt, but I kept a hard pace. Matt says he'd been having no trouble keeping pace when he was in my draft, but that once out of my draft it nearly killed him trying to get in again. Ultimately he had to give up, drop back, and recover. On the way upriver I tried to guess the fastest "line" to take to avoid the strong current and shallow water and to minimize the distance traveled. Since the water was high I didn't worry about shallow water spots too much, which helped me cut more corners than usual. I felt very hot, tired and out of breath, and tried to focus on taking efficient, effective strokes to save energy without slowing down. I was encouraged when I got to where I knew there were just 800 m left, and I increased my effort just a bit there, and at 400 m and 200 m from the finish line. I was super exhausted and overheated at the finish, but happy to approximately tie my personal best time for this race series. I still haven't come near Mark Athanacio's amazing 40:00 time from the first race of the series, but I was only 7 seconds behind him today, which suggests that I'm at least holding my ground. I don't think there were any technical or strategic things I could have done differently to go faster today, but generally improving my strength, conditioning, and stroke technique could help me gain a few more seconds in the future.

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


Sitting in the water after finishing I saw that Matt was the next over the line, but that he'd given up a lot of distance to Justin who nearly caught him in the end with a time that was 18 seconds faster than his race #3 time. Pretty impressive in these conditions. Devin Turetzkin also went faster this time on his 14x23 Riviera than he did on the 14x23 Starboard AllStar in race #3. Matt went slower than in race #3, probably because he burned himself out physically with the failed drafting moves and had trouble getting back in the mental groove after that. I think only when he heard Justin creeping up on him did his mind wake up to spur him faster again.

After the race we had good eats and socializing at CGT. There's a lot of buying and selling action on the board racks at CGT, with Mark Payne trading in his 14x27 404 v3 for a 14x24.5 StarBoard AllStar, and Devin Turetzkin talking about how amazingly fast he's going to be when he gets his five-finned 14x23 Infinity Blackfish in August. (CGT is an Infinity SUP dealer now.) One of our other local racer guys, Mark Hourigan, just got a 14x25 Blackfish that he seems to be in love with.

What's Next: I'm done teaching for the summer, but I have lots of research and writing to do. I have to try to do lots of impressive things in the next 6 months because I apply for promotion to associate professor in January, and it's definitely not a given that I'll get it. (Unfortunately I don't think I can list SUP racing as a work-related achievement in my portfolio.) Although the work will be hard, my schedule will be flexible, so I should have plenty of time for sup training, including getting to the gym, which I haven't been very consistent about since last summer.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SUP Race Report: 2017 Sunshine SUP race #1

**UPDATE- Somebody put together a video of the race with some cool drone footage. You see a little bit of me (guy with the pink backpack and the light blue board) at various points in the video**



Jen Hayes' facebook photo album from the race. Thanks for the pictures!


Race: The first of two races in the 2017 RK Sunshine SUP Series. The next one is August 12th.

Date it happened: 3 June 2017.

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 facebook page.

Location: Pompano Beach, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. I carpooled over to Ft. Lauderdale the night before with my CGT Team buddy Matt, and we stayed with his college friend Oden.

Course: The course was multiple laps around a big triangle in the ocean. The first leg went straight out about 200 m, then we turned south for a long leg parallel to shore, then diagonally back to a buoy set near the start/finish line. At the end of each lap we had to come to shore for a short run through a little corral in the sand. Board handlers would flip your board around and hold it for you to jump back on as you re-entered the ocean. The total distance of a lap was ~1700 m. The shorter "rec" race went first, with three laps total, then they held the longer "elite" race with 5 laps.

Conditions: The morning started cloudy/hazy and hot, with light and variable wind and some ankle to knee high waves on the Atlantic. Those conditions persisted through the short race, and for the first two laps of the elite race. But halfway through the elite race the sky grew darker and a southeast wind picked up, progressively increasing to white-capping strength and beyond. The fast finishers avoided the worst of it, but those who were still on the water got hit by a deluge of rain along with the wind, and many were forced to abandon the race before completion. The weather curtailed the post-race beach festivities, although some took advantage of the wind waves by shredding in the rain on surf-style and race sups.

Participants and Gear: There were around 50 participants in the rec race and 40 in the elite race, along with some others at the beach for a concurrent kayak fishing tournament and crossfit obstacle course. In addition to the sups, the elite race included three prone paddlers and four "OC1"s (one-man outrigger canoes). Hotshot racers in the 14' sup division included Jake Portwood on a 25" wide JP Flatwater board, Jake Graham on a 24" wide Rogue, bodybuilder Josh Smart on a 26" wide recessed-deck NSP, and tall Christian Goerloff on a 25" wide ONE "Storm" sup, which is also a recessed-deck design like the NSP. I rode my usual 23" wide Riviera RP, with a 6" Fins Unlimited Keel fin. (Using this short fin in an ocean race was a departure from my usual strategy of using a bigger fin for rough water stability. The small fin makes the board easier to steer and may be helpful in side-winds when constant course adjustments are necessary.) Another noteworthy 14' racer was my CGT teammate Justin DiGiorgio, who brought his Mahi Mahi colored custom 14x24 Hovie GT. Hotshots in the 12'6 men's class included Steve Miller on a 24" wide Starboard AllStar, Packet Casey on a 24" wide JP Allwater, Mark Athanacio on a 23" wide Hovie GTO, and Matt Kearney on CGT's 24.5" wide StarBoard AllStar. Female hotshots included Maddie Miller (Steve's teenage daughter) on a 24" JP, Catherine Uden on a 26" Boga, and Karen Kennedy on an Indigo sup. In addition to racing, Cat Uden was representing the Surfrider marine environmental conservation organization, which provided recycling bins for the many plastic water bottles and aluminum drink containers generated at the event.

Results: For the 14' SUP class, Jake Portwood won decisively with 1:00:26, followed by Christian Goerloff's 1:01:51 and my 1:03:01. First place 12'6 finisher Steve Miller was between Christian and me with 1:02:25, far ahead of 2nd place 12'6 Packet Casey's 1:04:18 and Mark Athanacio's 1:05:57. Maddie Miller was first woman and 4th 12'6 overall with 1:10:08. Matt Kearney was 5th 12'6 overall in 1:13:04 but got the 3rd place men's title because Athanacio was in the 50+ class. Catherine Uden was 2nd woman in 1:15:17 and Karen Kennedy 3rd in 1:27:32. The rec race men's class was won by Max Kolisch in 0:37:38, with runner-up Jeff Berry at 0:40:06. Rec race women's winner was Mini de Cunha in 0:41:30, followed by Jen Hayes with 0:43:44. All the 1st-3rd finishers got wonderful, creative hand-painted trophies. Here's mine:



Play by play: Before the races started we were led in a Hawaiian blessing by one of the race organizers' native Hawaiian friends. During the blessing I got to hold hands with Catherine Uden on one side and Karen Kennedy on the other side, so I knew my luck for the day was strong.

While the rec race was going on I did some warm-up paddling just outside of the race area, and some dipping in the ocean to stay cool. I find that the warm-up paddling is helpful for getting psychologically in-tune with the conditions. Also while the rec race was going on I caught up with CGT team coach Mark Athanacio, who gave me tips on the current direction (southward) and race strategies. Mark said I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with Jake Portwood, but that I was good enough to beat Jake Graham and I had better do so. He told me to pay attention to what segments of the course I was doing relatively well on, and to strive to make gains on my competitors in those sections.

For the race start I lined up somewhat on the north end of the beach, heeding Mark's advice that the current would carry me southward, and avoiding traffic congestion at the south end of the line. I got off cleanly, sprinted pretty hard, and was fourth sup around the first buoy, after Jake P., Steve Miller, and Jake G. I was really impressed with how fast Steve Miller was going on his 12'6 board, and it took several hundred meters of paddling before I could finally edge around him and get into third position behind the Jakes. At the end of the first lap Jake P. was pulling out of range, but Jake G. was still catchable. I ended up drafting him intermittently on the second and third laps, but there was enough "bump" on the course that it was sometimes better to go alone in clean water than to try to follow. I also think that in that mid-race period Jake G. and I got too comfortable and conservative about our pacing and positions, and may have opened the door for those behind us (e.g., Christian Goerloff) to creep up. I particularly wish I been more aggressive about my buoy turns, because I did some of them in the slow and conservative "cross bow" style instead of the quicker "step-back" style. Also, I should have remembered from other races and training the importance of making a brief sprint effort after every turn or transition, to quickly get back up to race speed. Little things like that add up to a lot of time saved in a long race with many laps.

The southeast wind began to affect our speed in lap #3, where a speed difference between the southward and northward legs first became apparent. Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff seemed less affected by the wind than Jake G. and me, and they creeped up and passed us in lap 4. There was a bit of conflict when that happened, because Christian was drafting Steve, not realizing that Steve was on a 12'6. (You're not allowed to draft from a different sized board.) He stopped drafting when we let him know, but he was still able to go faster than Jake G. and me. It might have been smart for me to cut over and draft Christian at that point, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do so. My problems increased when I had a slow buoy turn on the 4th lap due a combination of overly-cautious technique and traffic with an OC1 and some slower sups that we were lapping. Jake G. was about 50 meters ahead and it looked like I might get stuck in 4th and miss the podium. Nevertheless, I tried to work the bumps of the ocean and not get any further behind Jake G. as I worked my way downwind and into the final beach transition.

Looking out to sea again after the last little beach run I was shocked to see how much the wind had suddenly increased. Fatigued and paddling almost straight upwind, I was only getting 5.1 kph for the 200 m out to the first buoy. When we rounded that buoy the mostly-headwind turned into mostly-sidewind. But there I discovered that even though I was slow, I was making a little better progress than Jake G., and I caught up. He made some remark about how sucky the conditions were and I responded by passing him and digging hard, a little lightbulb going off in my mind that this could be the opportunity Athanacio had alluded to for me to put distance on the competition. Psychologically, I found it more motivating to battle the conditions than to battle Jake, but by focusing intently on the conditions and my paddle technique I put a good gap on him before the upwind buoy. Then it was a dicey slightly-downwind sidewind run to the finish. I had one scare where I fell and had to hop back on quickly, but Jake G. was far enough back that he didn't catch me then. I could see Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff up ahead, but they were doing great in those rough conditions and continuing to increase their gap on me. My goal was only to not screw up, and to get that third place. I had a shakey wave ride around the last buoy into the finish, but miraculously avoided falling and ran through the finish gate pretty happy.

Here's water photographer Ryan Pinder's pic of me about the jump off the board at the finish.


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


Other race intrigues: There was a lot of drama watching people come in to the finish as the conditions got progressively worse. Some of the kayak fishermen returning to shore for the weigh-in had spectacular crashes in the waves, spilling and busting their fishing rods, heavy buckets and tackle boxes etc. There ought to be some kind of weight limit for those kayak fishermen, because it's pretty ridiculous how non-portable their boats are. They had to have a backhoe on the beach to drag some of the kayaks back to the parking lot, where they were winched onto trailers. In my opinion, if it's too big to lift onto the roof rack, you're doing it wrong.

What's Next: Next weekend there are two big races on Saturday, the Orange Bowl SUP race in Miami, and the Battle on the Blueway race in Fort Myers. I'm going to the Battle on the Blueway because it's local, cheaper, and I know a lot of people involved in organizing it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Starboard Race SUP Test- 12'6x24.5, 14x24.5, 14x23



The Bonita Springs paddle shop that sponsors our SUP race team, CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, sells a couple different brands of paddleboards, including StarBoard. Not all of us on the team race the StarBoards (I ride a Riviera and some others use Hovies), but we're all curious about the pretty blue and red StarBoards and how they perform. Justin DiGiorgio had the idea to do a board test of the three different models of StarBoard AllStar that CGT currently has on the for sale / for demo rack: a 12'6x24.5 and 14'x24.5 in carbon construction, and a 14'x23 in the cheaper "hybrid" construction. The AllStars are all designed to work for both rough water and flatwater racing, with the different lengths and widths intended to suit different weights and styles of rider.

The format of the test was one we have used previously- 2x400m with a 30 second rest between them to turn around. The first 400m was downriver, and the second upriver, to cancel out any effects of current. The total paddling time of each trial was about 5 minutes. The testers were Justin (91 kg), Matt Kearney (64 kg), and me (77 kg), and we each tried each board once with long rests in between. We did the timing and distance tracking with my Speedcoach SUP 2 GPS. These are the results:



All of us were fastest on the 14x23 AllStar, slowest on the 12'6x24.5 AllStar, and intermediate in speed on the 14x24.5 AllStar. That is exactly what we would have expected because longer, narrower boards are inherently faster, at least in flatwater conditions where stability is not a limiting factor. What was interesting was how the board dimensions had more or less effect on our speed based on our body weight. As the medium weight guy, I was about equally advantaged by the 1.5" narrower board (+0.36 kph) and disadvantaged by the 1.5' shorter board (-0.33 kph). For lightweight Matt there was less of a 12'6 penalty (-0.22 kph), but unexpectedly there was also less of a narrowness advantage (+0.11 kph). Perhaps the slightly heavier weight or different flex pattern of the 14x23 "hybrid" construction board vs. the 14x24.5 carbon construction board was more of an issue for Matt. Heavyweight Justin had the greatest disadvantage on the 12'6 (-0.47 kph), but benefited from narrow width about the same amount as I did (+0.33 kph). However, for Justin we predict that the narrow width benefit would be lost quickly in rougher water due to more difficulty staying on the board.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Spring Series Race #3



Race: The third race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 28 May, 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, with little wind. The river current was 0.55 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The water level was a little lower than average.

Participants, Results and gear: There was a good crew of local racers, including some new and rarely seen paddlers. Here's our times. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:05
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 24.5 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:43:00
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:45
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:31
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:45
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 ** 0:48:56
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 ** 0:51:49
Steve Fleming ** 12'6 SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 ** 0:52:24
John Driver ** 14' SUP ** 26 Naish Javelin ** 6.4 ** 1:01:35
Donna Montgomery ** 10' SUP ** 32 Naish Surf ** 6.4 ** 1:07:48
Patrick Scheele ** 9'4 SUP ** 33 Fanatic Viper ** 2.9 km 0:28:30
Allison Denuzio ** 10'6 SUP ** 33 Riviera Convoy ** 2.9 km 0:29:01
Patricia ** 11' SUP ** Bote Touring ** 2.9 km 0:34:21

Play by play: I thought I might actually have the day off from racing this day because CGT race team manager Nick Paeno was mulling the idea of racing himself and having me do the timing for this round. But the shop was too busy for him to be away on the water for that long, so he did his usual timing thing and I did my usual racing thing. The first group to start was Patrick Scheele and his girlfriend Allison Denuzio. They looked to be pretty evenly matched in speed and board type. I started in the second group with Matt, Devin, and Bryan. I made a big sprint effort to get out in front, and Matt locked into my draft on CGT's 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar. Devin didn't quite make it into our draft; he may have been tired from doing a Lover's Key rounding yesterday. I didn't do anything special on the way downriver, other than paddle at a pretty hard race pace. 1.6 km into the race I was feeling hot and tired, and Matt was still right on my draft. I decided to slow down and let him around so that he could pull me for a while. I drafted him for 800 meters, at a pace that was about 0.5 kph slower than what I'd been going. Then I passed and started pulling again. Matt stuck with me through the turn-around at the US 41 bridge, and for the first part of the upriver leg. I couldn't decide whether to make him pull again or to just paddle hard and hope he would fall behind. Eventually the decision was made for me, when he fell behind. As soon as he was no longer "in the race" he started slacking off and quickly fell pretty far behind. I knew I'd have first place at that point, but I tried to still keep up a good pace, watching the average speed readout on my Speedcoach SUP 2 GPS and trying not to let it drop below 9.something kph. I kicked it up a little in the final 800 m and again in the final 400 m, and sprinted across the finish line when I saw coach Mark Athanacio hanging out there. My time of 41:05 was a little disappointing, about 20 seconds slower than I was in races 1 and 2, and far short of Athanacio's record time of 40:00. I could maybe blame it on doing hard double workouts on Friday, and formula windsurfing yesterday, and being a little slower during the time I was drafting Matt, but mainly I think I just need more intense focus and better pacing to set a new personal best time.

This is my GPS track from the race.


After the race we had good eats and socializing at CGT. Several of us are selling used raceboards and trying to interest the newer racers Donna Montgomery, Allison, and Patrick in buying them. The nice thing about the raceboards at CGT is that they have lots of different kinds and they're all available to demo on the river before you buy them.

What's Next: I have a busy week of teaching a summer field studies in marine science class, then I may go to the Sunshine SUP race #1 next weekend in Fort Lauderdale. The following weekend is the Battle on the Blueway in Fort Myers, which I'll definitely go to.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bump & jump windsurf session with some duck jibes

This year seems to have been windier than last year, with the wind lasting later into the warm season. This video was taken on a day that it was blowing about 20 knots, and I was on a 5.5 sail with a 106 liter board. I actually made some duck jibes in this one, but they weren't too pretty. I think I need to work on my sail flip movements and timing.

Surprise Wind 5-21-17 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SUP Race Report: Sup & Run 5k

Men's winner Brad Ward with his new 14x25 Sunova dugout board.


Matt Kearney's track as recorded by his GPS watch. Total distance 10.1 km


Me and Matt Kearney posing with our boards after the race


Race: The 3rd annual 5k SUP & Run

Date it happened: 20 May 2017

Host: The Sarasota Athletic Association, led by Felicia Cox. The event was a benefit for Operation Second Chance, which is an organization supporting wounded military veterans.

Location: Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota, FL. The park is built around a big artificial lake, which is set up with buoys, breakwaters, bleachers etc. to facilitate various rowing and paddling events. There are also paved running / biking paths around the perimeter of the lake. This is the same place where Seychelle Hattingh and Robert Norman set their 24 hour sup distance world records.

Distance: The main event was a 5 km run leading into a 5 km SUP race. They also offered the run and the sup "a la carte" for those who just wanted to do one or the other. I did the combo. This year they had us run through the timing gate three times (once at the start, once finishing the run, and once finishing the paddle) which allowed them to report our run times and paddle times separately. Very cool.

Conditions: The weather was sunny, warm and humid, with a SE wind in the 5-10 knot range. The lake surface had some light ripples.

Participants and Gear: This event has grown every year since its inception, and had 599 total participants this year. Many just did the run or the sup, but 100 did both. There might have been greater numbers of elite sup racers were this race not on the same day as the Florida Cup sup race in Tampa. The sup+run winners from last year, Brad Ward and Katherine Pyne, both returned, but with different boards. Brad recently got sponsored by Sunova boards, and was on their 14x25 flatwater model. It's an unmistakably unique SUP with a wood finish, neon green nose, deep dug-out standing area, and scale-like protrusions over the one-way valves that drain water out of the standing area. Brad let me try it after the race and it felt pretty fast and extremely stable. Katherine was on a 12'6 Bark Contender. Other multi-sport talented competitors who returned this year included Jason Casuga on a sleek 14x26.4 Bark D2, Brandon Taaffe on a 14x25 Riviera RP, and my CGT teammate Matt Kearney on his 14x24 404 v3. I used my usual 14x23 Riviera RP. There was a wide diversity of sup gear among the other competitors, from full carbon Hovie Comets to clunky, beginner-style rental boards. There were also some interesting modified sups and paddles for people with disabilities, and some high-tech racing wheelchairs for the run portion.

Results: Brad Ward won the men's division again this year, with 54:54 total (21:04 run, 33:50 sup). I was second with 57:19 (22:46 run, 34:34 sup), Jason Casuga was third with 58:40 (23:19 run, 35:20 sup), Matt Kearney was fourth with 1:00:23.4 (22:39 run, 37:45 sup), just ahead of Brandon Taaffe 1:00:48 (20:31 run, 40:17 sup). It was Matt's personal best 5k time. Katherine Pyne again won the women's in 1:02:07 (22:50 run, 39:18 sup). The next fastest female was Amber Crowley, who won the masters' division with 1:14:12 (25:16 run, 48:56 sup). It was interesting that there were some people who went MINUTES faster in the run than the overall sup+run winners, but didn't place particularly well because their sup times were over par. For example, 17 year old Dylan Hull ran a blistering 18:38, but took 46:14 to complete the sup.



Play by play: Since the race started at 8 am, I had to get up at 4:30 am to pack and drive to Sarasota. It's probably better to get more sleep before a race, but I don't think it made a huge difference. While setting up my stuff at the event site I had a scare when my board disappeared off the beach. Somebody had mistaken it for a rental board (I don't know how; it didn't look anything like the rental boards), separated it from my paddle, taken it for a spin, and deposited it at the far end of the beach. Fortunately I found it and sorted things out. The only damage was a minor nick in the fin where the dude had set it on the rocky ground without the appropriate tenderness. I'm going to put a sticker with my name on it on the board to avoid future confusion.

The running portion of the race was first. A few minutes before the start they corralled us behind the inflatable timing gate, gave us some last minute instructions, and two young women sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully. The start happened, as advertised, at exactly 8 am. I was fairly near the gate, but still found myself in a traffic jam, unable to move until the layers of people ahead of me got moving. It was OK, though, because the timing chip corrected for when I passed through the start gate, which was about 10 seconds after the gun went off. Somewhere in that traffic Matt Kearney busted out ahead of me. I knew from our practice runs that we were similar speed on foot, so I tried to keep him at the same range as we proceeded along the path. Katherine Pyne seemed to be our speed, as well, so she was another good landmark. I passed Jason Casuga, who I think was pacing himself to save energy for the sup. (Last year Jason beat Matt and I in the run.) I felt OK until halfway through the run, at which point my inadequate running training manifested as increasing difficulty matching Matt and Katherine's pace. My feet and calves felt weird, and I alternated between toe-first and heel-first running styles trying to figure out which gave the most speed with the least effort. With about 500 m left I started to slip behind, but I wasn't more than about 10 seconds behind Matt at the end of the run.

The run transitioned directly into the sup; no break. I hustled to the water's edge, pulled off my shoes and socks, and hopped on the board with a running start. I think I did that part better than last year, although in some video that Matt's parent's took you can see that I bobble awkwardly on my third stroke, still finding my sea legs. Since I was close behind Matt and Katherine, and I paddle a little faster than them, it didn't take me long to pass them. Then it was just a long grind to get around the lake. I could see Brad Ward far ahead but I knew I'd never catch him. I was more concerned with whether or not I could catch the fast runner / slow paddler guys before the end of the race. I was worried that some of them might have practiced their paddling since last year and become a lot harder to catch. With some relief, I got up to Brandon Taaffe before the mid-point of the sup circuit, which was earlier than I'd caught up to him the previous year.

I made a big mistake on the short side of the rectangular lake, though, when I paddled most of the way straight across, into the wind and the sun glare, before realizing that the buoy was actually about 100 meters north of where I thought it was. (You can see the diagonal on Matt's GPS track.) As a result I ended up paddling an elbow instead of a shorter diagonal, probably adding 20 or 30 seconds to my time. Oh, well. The second half of the paddle had more favorable winds, and I got in a good rhythm, putting more distance on Jason and Matt. Brad Ward was finishing just as I rounded the final corner of the lake. I tried to keep good speed all the way to the beach. For some reason I decided to carry my board with me with me as I ran through the finish line. Maybe I was feeling possessive of it after that pre-race incident.

Overall, I felt pretty good about the race and my result, despite some regret over my navigational error and unnecessary board carry. I'd like to do some more running cross-training to see if it can help me with my SUP, and to see how much faster I can get. Many professional sup athletes like Annabelle Anderson and Michael Booth incorporate a lot of running in their training, and I think it might help their "pep," endurance, and leg strength for rough water. I sure feel "worked out" today after that race yesterday (plus a sweet 20 knot wind windsurfing session when I got home in the afternoon).

Other race intrigues: It was excitingly close between Jason Casuga, Matt Kearney, Katherine Pyne, Brandon Taaffe, and Dave Thorne. Matt didn't pass Brandon Taaffe until the very last ~200 m of the race, making for a nail-biting finish. After the race there was a nice, festive atmosphere with a good MC doing the awards, good free food, and some inspiring words spoken recognizing the brave, wounded veterans who are the focus of Operation Second Chance.

What's Next: The CGT Race Series next local race is coming up May 28th in Bonita Springs. Next big race is also relatively local, the Battle on the Blueway June 10th at Fort Myers Beach.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SUP Race Report: Noodles SUP Luau Race

Mark Athanacio and Jesse DaSilva with the best sprint starts.


Race: The 8th Annual SUP Luau Race, sponsored by Noodles Italian Cafe & Sushi Bar, Beach Box Cafe, and B3 Marketing LLC. Benefitting Collier County Special Olympics.

Date it happened: 7 May 2017

Location: In the Gulf of Mexico at Vanderbilt Beach, Naples, FL.

Distance: The competitive race was approximately 5.3 km, but I don't know the exact distance because I forgot to start my GPS tracker. The race was 6 laps around a triangular course, with two buoys offshore and one in the surf zone. That inside buoy provided a good challenge for the competitors and drama for the spectators. After the competitive race there was also a short "family fun" race and a race for the Special Olympics athletes.

Conditions: There was a light side-offshore wind from the NE, and some knee to thigh high swell breaking near the steep sandy beach. For those who weren't used to the rolling ocean conditions, balance was a major challenge, and there were several "retirements" before the race was over.

Participants and Gear: There was a big crowd for the family fun race, and there were quite a few Special Olympians, as well. The competitive race was a smaller group (17 people), but it included experienced studs Mark Athanacio and Packet Casey, among race-savvy competitors from the CGT tribe and Naples Outfitters. There were no divisions by board size, so most people used 14' boards if they had them. I used my 14x23 Riviera RP, with an 18 cm "Natural Winner" fin that I stole off of one of CGT's Starboard AllStar boards. I've previously raced with some fins that I thought were too big or too small for rough water, but this green one seemed like a good compromise.

The Goldilocks fin? I might look for an aftermarket fin that has similar specs, such as the Fins Unlimited 7.3" Seagrass SUP fin.


Mark Athanacio used his salmon colored 14x23.5 Hovie GTO, and Packet Casey used a 14x23 JP Flatwater that looked tippy (although it's the same board model that Vinnicius Martins recently won the Key West Classic on). Hal Atzingen used a 14x25 Infinity Blackfish with a 4-fin setup (3 at the tail and one little one towards the bow). Lots of people were drooling over that board. I tried it and was impressed with the stability but thought it might be faster with just a single fin. Matt Kearney used a 14x24 404 v3. Justin DiGiorgio used his Mahi Mahi colored 14x24 Hovie GT. Mark Hourigan used the same model of Riviera as me but with a Futures RedFish fin. John Weinberg used the 14x25 Riviera. CGT team manager Nick Paeno made a rare appearance on the race course with one of the shop's 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar boards. Meg Bosi used a 12'6 Bark Contender, and Donna Catron used a 12'6 Bark Vapor. Cindy Gibson volunteered at the registration booth but had to skip the racing due to a serious muscle injury she sustained while winning her division in the Key West Classic.

Results: Since this was a low-key local race focused mostly on the recreational paddlers and Special Olympics athletes, I don't think they are going to post our times. They did keep track of who got what place, though. I got first, followed by Packet Casey and Mark Athanacio. I think the next two finishers were Matt Kearney and Justin DiGiorgio, who rode in on the same wave but varied in how gracefully they dismounted and ran up the beach. Meg Bosi was the first female. If they'd had age divisions, Athanacio would have won the 50+ division by a wide margin.

Play by play: No buoys were set up yet when we got to the beach, so there was a lot of speculation on what the course would be like while we paddled around and warmed up. Initially we thought there would be running up the sand and around a cone or something between laps, but it was decided instead to just have us go around a buoy near the shore. That turned out to be challenging enough, since the buoy was flanked by breaking wave zones. We also weren't sure how long each lap of the course would be and how many laps there would be, but after we saw where the outside buoys were placed (pretty close in) we collectively decided that 6 laps would be the right amount. I'm glad we didn't do more because some of us had trouble counting to 6. It starts to feel like Groundhog Day after about the third lap. The direction of the course was counterclockwise such that each buoy turn was a left turn, advantaging "regular footed" paddlers, like me, for whom left turns are easier.

The start was the standard type of beach start, and I was lucky to get out relatively cleanly from the favored end of the line. Athanacio got the best start, and dreadlocked Jesse from Naples Outfitters also had a fast starting sprint on his 12'6 custom 404. Packet Casey didn't have as great an initial position, but subsequently sprinted fast and took an outside line to get ahead of me and Jesse. I had a little trouble with Jesse's wake, but I think I passed him before we got to the first buoy. I don't think I caught all the way up to Packet on the first lap, but I stayed pretty close behind him, and he stayed pretty close behind Athanacio. Each of the three legs of a lap had a slightly different character. The first was a bit upwind, and a diagonal angle to swells. The second was vaguely downwind, but the wind was too light to make a noticeable difference. The third leg was straight in to shore, and that's where it paid to time your paddling with the swells to get some boosts of speed on the way to the inside turn. I think the third leg is where I closed some distance on Packet and Athanacio.

My first inside buoy turn was decent, and got me in a position where I could catch up to and draft Packet for a while on the second lap. In flat water I probably wouldn't be able to catch Packet on his 14x23 JP Flatwater, but he had just enough instability wobbles in these conditions that my slightly-more-stable 14x23 Riviera RP was faster on average. Athanacio was still out ahead at that point, but at the end of the second lap he fell on the inside buoy, which had drifted impossibly close to shore. I was also forced off the board at that point, but corrected course and jumped back on without much fuss.

The messy turn after the inside buoy drifted to shore.


The details of the rest of the race start to get fuzzy in my head, but I remember that in subsequent laps I continued a routine of drafting Packet when possible, and trying hard not to fall off at the buoys. Sometimes I did "real" step-back turns, while other times, particularly if I was in the lead, I did less risky cross-bow or arc turns. The inside buoy got both Packet and Athanacio at least once more, which shuffled things around such that each of us spent some time in the lead. We started to lap the slower paddlers, which created a bit of traffic problems, but nothing too serious.

Going into the last lap I had the lead, and tried to pick up the pace slightly to reduce the chances that Packet or Athanacio would pass. Packet later told me that he'd been planning to do a big sprint around me during the last lap. I knew that plan didn't work out for him when I heard him splash into the water behind me halfway through the last lap. I picked up the pace a little more to make sure I had a safe gap and had used up most of my energy by the finish. I managed not to fall on the last leg, and rode a wave ungracefully up onto the sand at the finish line, putting some scuff marks on the nose of my board.

I'd barely had time to lay my board down in the sand before Packet finished, and Mark was just a few moments behind him. The three of us fussed with each other a little over who'd had the better luck with the buoys, whether we had actually done the correct number of laps, etc. I wished I had managed to start my speedcoach GPS properly so I could retrace each lap. Fortunately, Packet's memory of what happened each lap was really clear, and established that we had indeed done all six. Anyway, I was happy to have done well in the interesting, open-water conditions at this race, and to have finished alongside two of Florida's original SUP racing badasses. Athanacio is now 52, and Packet is 40-something, but both continue to punch well above their weight in the Florida SUP circuit.

After the competitive race was over, it was delightful to watch the huge mob of inexperienced but majorly-stoked racers in the family fun race. Some were really charging, some were thwarted by the waves and barely making headway, but all showed admirable determination. I think that a large volume of low-key amateur participation is a good sign of a healthy sport.

The Special Olympics race was also fun to watch, though it was tense watching the challenged athletes face bigger waves than most had ever paddled in before. Miraculously, they pulled through, and a few even managed to surf their waves back into shore as they returned from their short run out to the buoy. Woo hoo!

Family fun racers and some Special Olympians prepare for combat.


What's Next: Next up is more training, working on rough water and race skills, and getting read for the Florida Cup race later this month. Nick Paeno and John Weinberg, who opted to retire early from this race after falling a lot due to lack of practice in bumpy water, are keen to get some more rough water practice, and coach Athanacio has a new combination paddle-run workout that he has recommended we all try.

5.5 Sail on 5-5-17

This year I celebrated Cinco de Mayo by enjoying some fine onshore-wind wavesailing at Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples, Florida. The sail is a 5.5 m2 Aerotech Charge, and the board is a 106 liter Exocet Cross with a 26 cm Maui Ultra Fins wave fin. I really like this combo for winds from the high teens to around 20 knots. I didn't do anything special this session, but the usual jibes, little jumps, and waverides were fun as heck.

Wiggins Cross 5-5-17 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SUP Speed Analysis, 14' vs. 12'6, Male vs. Female

There were a lot of good racers at last weekend's challenging "Key West Classic." That included at least one elite level racer in each of the four classes: Men's 14', Women's 14', Men's 12'6, and Women's 12'6. That provided an interesting opportunity to examine: A) The relative speeds of the best racers in each class. B) How "stacked" the field was in each class, i.e., how much difference in speed there was between the first and fifth place finisher within each class. Check it out in this chart-



Here's what I see:

1) 14' boards are about 0.5 kph faster than 12'6 boards, on average. This makes sense, because the theoretical "hull speed" of a 14' board is 9.3 kph, vs. 8.8 kph for a 12'6 board.

2) There are big differences in how "stacked" the various board classes are, as calculated by the percent difference in speed between the first place finisher and the fourth or fifth place finisher in each class. Men's 14' and women's 12'6 class are the most stacked, and women's 14' class is the least stacked. Conclusion- It would be great to get some more women in the 14' class.

Men's 14' Class- 8% difference between 1st and 5th
Women's 12'6 Class- 11% difference between 1st and 5th
Men's 12'6 Class- 18% difference between 1st and 5th
Women's 14' Class- 40% difference between 1st and 4th (only 4 competitors)

3) Looking just at the differences between the 1st place finishers in each class, the fastest men are a little bit faster than the fastest women. However, this difference is pretty small. In both the 14' and the 12'6 classes, the first place female is faster than the 5th place male.

Monday, May 1, 2017

SUP Race Report: Key West Classic 2017



Race: The Key West Paddle Classic, organized by the Lazy Dog, sanctioned by the WPA, and benefiting the Monroe County Special Olympics.



Date it happened: 29 April 2017

Location: Higgs Beach, Key West, Florida.

Distance: The main event was to be a race around the entire perimeter of Key West, including Dredger's Key. However, due to strong winds, the US Coast Guard required the race committee to modify the course, replacing the challenging Dredgers Key portion with a detour through narrow canals in the interior of the island. The detour applied only to the paddleboard racers. Kayakers and outrigger canoes still had to go the tough way around. The modified course for paddleboards was 17.5 km, vs. 18.8 km for the original course. In addition to the main event, there was a sup relay, where teams of three split the island rounding into three legs of about 6 km each. My GPS track from the course is below.



Conditions: It was very windy with gusts over 20 knots in the exposed sections of the course.

The wind was from the Southeast, so the start and finish of the race were sort-of downwind along the south-facing shore of the Key. The skillful ocean paddlers were able to go extremely fast in this area by using the waist-high waves and chop to their advantage, while the rest of us actually went slower than normal because we were fighting just to stay upright. The tide was coming in, which gave us favorable currents along the west side of the island and through Fleming Key Cut, but unfavorable currents in the island's internal canals and in Cow Key Channel on the east side of the island.

Participants: There was a big turnout despite the scary weather forecast. 112 people did the solo rounding, and 45 people did the relay rounding.

Professional racers in attendance included last year's defending champions: 21 year old Brazilian Vinnicius Martins (JP boards) and 30 year old vegan yogi Seychelle Hattingh (SIC boards). Challengers to Vinnicius included 25 year old Garrett Fletcher from Destin, Florida (Yolo Boards), 54 year old Canadian Olympic canoeist turned elite sup racer/trainer Larry Cain (Starboard), and a few "dark horses" like south Florida's Jake Portwood (JP boards) and Sam English (Riviera paddlesurf), and Quickblade Paddles founder (also a former Olympic canoeist) Jim Terrell. Seychelle Hattingh had no close competitors in the women's 14' sup class this year, but the women's 12'6 class had tight competition between Kimberly Barnes (Riviera), Katherine Pyne (Bark boards) and teenage Maddie Miller. Maddie's dad Steven (Starboard) was one of the favorites for the men's 12'6 sup class, along with Packet Casey (JP), and Jamie Twigg. Last year's 12'6 winner, teenage Joey Huemphner, switched to 14' for this year. A bunch of people from my local CGT sup club came down for the race, including Cindy Gibson, Murray Hunkin, Bill Mussenden, Devin Turetzkin, Justin DiGiorgio, Robert Norman, Matt Kearney, and me. The latter four of us all carpooled together in Justin's truck and split a hotel room on the famous Duval Street in downtown Key West.

Results: Vinnicius won the men's 14' class in 1:53:13, followed by Larry Cain in 1:55:52. In an interesting upset, non-professional racer Jake Portwood (1:59:10) narrowly edged out pro Garrett Fletcher (1:59:33). I was the 14th SUP overall in 2:09:55.

Portwood, Cain, Martins


Hugely impressive Seychelle Hattingh was 5th 14' overall in 2:02:10, before Sam English's also-impressive 2:03:06.

Women's 14' podium with Meg Bosi (2:52:25), Seychelle, Josette Lata (2:51:35), and Jen Huelett (3:23:44)


First place 12'6 man was Steven Miller (2:08:15), followed by Jamie Twigg (2:10:42), Packet Casey (2:14:55), [3 women], Robert Norman (2:25:42), [3 more women], and Matt Kearney (2:35:33).


First female 12'6 was Kim Barnes in 2:16:35, followed by Katherine Pyne in 2:21:45, Maddie Miller in 2:23:09, Catherine Uden in 2:30:08, and Cindy Gibson in 2:33:22.

Maddie, Kim, Katherine, Catherine, and Cindy


Notable performances from the CGT team included Cindy Gibson being first over-50 female (2:33:22), and Devin Turetzkin being first over-50 12'6 male (2:36:23). Full results are posted on paddleguru.

Devin at the finish line


Gear: I used my 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 7.0 paddle. For the fin I used a large, weed-shedding fin that I always take for rough water races because I think/hope it adds stability. I wore my wife's pink Camelback water carrier and drank a dilute mix of water and Gatorade. I had lots of trouble with stability and board handling in the rough water, but Sam English used the same board as me, only fell twice, and finished almost 7 minutes faster, so I don't think I can blame the board for all my troubles. Race winner Vinnicius was on a 14x23 JP Flatwater board, which was not at all designed for the rough water of this race, but was obviously fast under his expert piloting. Third place Jake Portwood used the 14x24.5 JP Allwater model, which seems like a more logical choice for the conditions. Second place Larry Cain used the 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar, which is also an "all water" board. Seychelle was on a 14' "all water" prototype from SIC that was 23 or 24 wide (I can't remember which). Jim Terrell was on a board of his own design that had a recessed deck and channeled bottom somewhat like the Starboard AllStar. Several people were on canoe-style NSP boards with deeply recessed standing areas and high rails. Christian Goerloff was on the 14x26 version of the NSP and finished ahead of Billy Sweezy who was falling more often on the 14x23 version. Joey Huemphner and a few other people were on "Flyingfish" custom raceboards that seemed to have a voluminous nose, all-water orientation.

Play by play: The start of the race was a confusing, disorganized disaster, at least for me. My impression from the racer's meeting was that we were to line up parallel to shore within the Higgs Beach cove, rather than stretching out in a long line perpendicular to shore as we had in previous years. But as soon as paddlers got to the edge of the cove they continued to paddle further out, dispersing in all directions.



No one was being herded back in, not even those who were already starting to drift down the course. I figured I shouldn't be caught following the rules when nobody else was, so I kind of followed the crowd further out. A few minutes before the scheduled 9 am start, without any sound or warning, that I could detect, people just started going. The race was on, apparently, and just like last year, I was one of the suckers who was way behind before I even stood up. AAAAGHG! I later learned that the start had been a subtle hand-signal from a jet ski rider, visible only to a few people. For future years, I strongly suggest that the race committee: A) Hold us all behind a line in the cove, B) Place a buoy offshore that we all have to paddle out to and around initially so that the downwind end of the line won't be favored. C) Having blaring horns, flapping flags, and buzzing jetski's to keep everyone behind the line until it's time to go, D) Give a warning blast on the horn 30 seconds before the actual start so people can start their GPSs and stand up.

It took some of the wind out of my sails, figuratively speaking, to see that I'd put myself at a huge disadvantage before even paddling a stroke. Nevertheless, I tried to move forward. It was awkward as heck paddling in that confusing, multi-directional chop and swell, with none of the directions quite the direction I wanted to go in. Though I had practiced in rough water several times the previous week, I still couldn't figure out what to do with those conditions, and my balance was too shaky to paddle hard. I had one fall about two minutes in, another two minutes later. I saw Jake Portwood (who had also been caught out by the start) passing me and making decent progress, but when I tried to go faster myself it backfired and led to more falls. Cindy Gibson and other paddlers who are normally slower than me would pass me when I fell, even though they weren't "riding bumps" at all. Finally after my 6th fall in the first 10 minutes of the race I decided I needed to stop trying to go fast and start focusing solely on staying upright. By doing that I was finally able to make consistent enough progress to get ahead of Cindy and some of the other pack around me. I did have one more pair of falls approaching Fort Zachary Taylor at the end of the downwind portion, but that the last of the falling for a while as we had moved into the flatwater section of the race.

In the lee of the seawall on the west side of Key West I actually paddled like I've trained to do, and closed in on a few people, the hardest to catch being Maddie Miller. I was caught myself by Zach Rounsaville. He's a strong paddler who was on an Indigo board designed more for flatwater than bumps. It definitely worked for him in the flatwater section as he briefly drafted then passed me. I tried but couldn't stay in his draft as we crossed an open bay where the wind forced me to paddle really hard just on my left side. The next scene change was passing Key West Bight and turning east to enter Fleming Key Cut. That put me going upwind, but it wasn't too bad because the current was at my back, and the seawall provided some slight shelter from the wind. Exiting the cut I caught up with 12'6 women's leader Kim Barnes, and gradually passed her in the upwind but relatively smooth water conditions. I stayed close to the shoreline on the north side of Key West, hoping to get a partial break from the wind. I kept one eye on a group of male paddlers who weren't too far ahead of me, and I saw that Zach had caught up with them. Depending on whether they worked cooperatively or antagonistically as a draft team, I figured they would either pull further ahead, or break and give me a chance to catch whoever fell off the back.

I followed those guys into the backwater canal and under a bridge. It looked like the main path went straight under the bridge, but the other guys forked off on a really narrow canal to the right and I followed them, thankfully avoiding a dead end that a lot of other people fell for. The canal got REALLY narrow and became a tunnel through the mangrove trees. The water was deep, but you had to stay in the center and keep the paddle straight up and down to avoid hitting roots or shallows on either side. There were some small bridges and branches that I had to get down on my knees to get under, and one creepy claustrophobic tunnel under Flagler Avenue. For that one I had to lie on my belly and paddle with my arms because it was too low to even kneel and paddle.

Another racer ducking under a bridge in the canal section.


The canal took an eastward turn and opened up a bit, and I saw that the draft train in front of me had indeed fractured, dropping Steven Bernstein on his 14x25 Starboard AllStar. I paddled hard and caught up with Steven, taking a minute or two to catch my breath in his draft before taking a turn leading. I saw another paddler who I thought I might catch and add to the train, but it turned out to be Packet Casey who was on a 12'6 and couldn't draft with the 14' class. In my enthusiasm to get up to Packet I'd dropped Steven, but he wouldn't stay gone for long.

Eventually the canal went under A1A and joined with Cow Key Cut, the route back to open water. There were some forks in the road but I just followed those ahead of me. Later, looking at my gps track I saw that I could have taken a wind-sheltered shorcut and shaved a little time off. Doh! The side-wind in Cow Key Cut, and the tiny side chop bouncing off the seawall, was annoying. But it was just a preview of the epic nastiness that we would face when we left the protection of the cut and started rounding the exposed southeast corner of Key West. One of the guys in front of me, Christian Goerloff, paddled south (away from shore) for quite a while to get away from the zone of shallow water and reflected seawall chop. I wish I had done that. Instead, I began another round of falling a whole bunch while paddling slowly. It was actually harder to stay on the board here than it had been in the larger waves at the start of the course, such was the insidious reverberating chop effect. I had 6 falls in that area, putting my total falls up to 12 at that point in the race. As bad as it was for me, though, it was worse for Zach Rounsaville, and I got by him. Once around the corner, the sea state was a little more organized and I had a miraculous 20 minutes of not falling. I think this was an area where a skilled paddler could have caught lots of rides and maintained a high average speed, but I played it cautious, and actually gained ground on some of the paddlers ahead of me, coming abreast of Joey Huemphner and Billy Sweezy, who are both good paddlers on 14' boards. Everything went to hell again when I got almost to the end of the course, and I started to hit the chop reflected from the massive concrete "pier of doom" that marks the entrance to Higgs Beach. I squeezed another four falls into the last few hundred meters of confused water and breaking waves between the pier and the finish line, letting Joey and Billy get away easily, and inviting Steven Bernstein back to steal my spot. Somehow Steven fell just as much as me, though, and I did (barely) hang on to the lead that I'd stolen from him back in the narrow canal.

When I jumped off my board in the surging, seaweed-filled shorebreak at the finish line I landed right on a bunch of coral rocks and bruised my heel, but still hustled up and through the gate. WHEW! It was an utterly humbling race. I suppose I'm proud to have finished and placed among the faster amateur paddlers, but I'm left with a lot of "woulda coulda shoulda" feelings about things I might have done differently to get a better result, or at least a more graceful one.

Other race stories: I heard that race leader Vinnicius was far ahead at the midpoint, but unsure about where the turn was to get into the inside passage, so he stopped and waited for Larry Cain to ask for directions! Seychelle Hattingh said she had a good start and a great race on her prototype "all-water" 14' SIC board. She was keeping pace with Garrett Fletcher through much of the race, which is extremely impressive. Further from the front of the pack, the stories were more about surviving than flourishing. Robert Norman went fast in the flats on his 12'6x25 Hovie ZXC, but couldn't stay upright long enough in the rough water to catch the fast 12'6 ladies Kim Barnes, Katherine Pyne and Maddie Miller. Matt Kearney on CGT's 12'6x24.5 Starboard AllStar had the usual problems with falling, and also cursed his choice of a non-weed shedding fin, which snagged huge wads of Sargassum seaweed and slowed him way down in both the flat water and rough sections. Justin DiGiorgio and Murray Hunkin suffered many falls on their 14' boards and both had to resort to paddling from a kneeling or sitting position for portions of the race. Bill Mussenden wisely chose a wide touring board instead of his 25" wide raceboard and managed to complete the course shortly after Murray.

What to do different next time: My balance and rough water technique was definitely not up to the task of handling my narrow 14x23 board in these conditions. I either need to make significant skill improvements or borrow a wider board next time. It may help to practice paddling at odd angles to the wind and chop. I've mostly practiced straight upwind and straight downwind, but "quartering" is much trickier, and might also require a different fin type and standing position than what I've been using. Having more practice in awful conditions should also give me more confidence to paddle with unhesitating power in those conditions instead of just mincing along. In terms of strategies for this particular race, I should be ready or any kind of crazy start by being at the line early, right where Vinnicus, Larry, and Seychelle are. I should look carefully at Google Earth before the race to know exactly where my turns and legal shortcuts are going to be, both for the normal course and for this "detour" course. At the southeast corner of the island I should take the turn WIDE to get clear of the shallow water and reflected seawall chop zone.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

SUP Race Report: Calusa Palooza 2017



Race: The second running of the Calusa Palooza, organized by the College of Life Foundation and sanctioned by the ACA

Date it happened: 22 April 2017

Location: Koreshan State Park on the Estero River in Estero, FL. It's an area with an interesting pre-european history, as a thoroughfare of the Calusa people, whose coastal empire centered around "Mound Key" in Estero Bay. (The Imperial River, where the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards races are held, is also a tributary of Estero Bay and a former Calusa highway.) The more recent history of Koreshan State Park is also interesting, since it was the site of a bizarre religious compound in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Distance: There was a 12.3 km course, going downriver to the entrance to Estero Bay and back. There was also a 5.1 km race, and a very short race for the kids.

Conditions: It was grey and hazy; warm but not too hot. There was minimal current at the start of the race, but the incoming tide (reversing the river) got quite strong as we approached Estero Bay. The wind was from the east, and strong enough to be troublesome in some of the upwind sections. (It was better than last year, though.) A major x-factor was the shallow water depth, which increases drag through an interesting physical mechanism. Staying in the deepest part of the river was important, but tricky because sometimes there were shallow shoals in the middle.

Participants and Gear: There were 14 people in the long race, 32 people in the short race, and 10 kids in the kids race. A lot of the racers were on recreational kayaks, with a handful of fast "surfski" kayaks and outrigger canoes. There were 9 SUPs in the long race, 9 in the short race, and 1 in the kids race. Most of the SUP paddlers hailed from our CGT tribe. There were no gear-based subdivisions within the SUP category, so it was an advantage to be on a 14' and not a 12'6. For that reason Matt Kearney did this race on a borrowed 14x22 Riviera RP; the "Blue Streak" board that I used to paddle before I got my 14x23 Riviera RP. All the women were still on their usual 12'6 boards, but you wouldn't have known that by how fast some of them went.

Results: The full results should be posted later on PaddleGuru, so I'll just cover the major podium winners. Doug Lindsay on his Surfski Kayak was fastest overall in the long race. The second and third kayakers were George Knight and my FGCU colleague Dr. David Fugate, respectively. David just decided a few days ago to become a paddle racer. In the 18-49 year old SUP division I was first place SUP with a time of 1:21:46, Matt Kearney was second in 1:27:20, and John Weinberg was a ways back in third. First SUP in the 50+ age division was Devin Turetzkin in 1:28:24, just a bit slower overall than Matt. Next 50+ dude was Phil Trudgeon, and Murray Hunkin was the third 50+ SUP guy. Cindy Gibson won the womens' 50+ and womens' overall, and actually finished ahead of Murray. Next female finisher was Beth Schadd in the 18-49 division, followed by Damien Lin and Donna Catron in the 50+ division. In the short race, Justin DiGiorgio won and Jason Mastin was second in the 18-49 division. I'm not sure who the sup winners were for the short race in the 50+ division.

Play by play: I was confident going into this small race since there wasn't anybody else competing who I thought could beat me. (Mark Athanacio is still surfing in Costa Rica.) But I still wanted to do well, and improve on my time from last year. I also wanted to use the race as a last long-distance training session before next week's challenging Key West Classic. Before the start, I did some warming up, hydrating, dunking in the water to cool off, etc. The race committee started the 50+ age class SUPs first. It looked like Devin and Murray got the "hole shot" and the rest had to struggle with Murray's tsunami of a wake. In the second starting group I got off cleanly, with Matt Kearney on my tail. I was balancing a few different objectives in my mind at that point: 1) Go fast and catch up with those who had started in the first group, 2) Pace myself for the long race, 3) Keep Matt on my draft for a while and maybe let him lead for a bit later. Matt is usually on a 12'6 board that isn't fast enough for me to benefit from drafting, but with him on the 14x22 Riviera and me on the 14x23, I thought it might be mutually beneficial to work as a team. So I went fast but tried not to be too "surgey" to not shake Matt off prematurely. However, when we started to gain on Cindy and Phil, I got excited to catch up to their draft so I could rest a bit. In sprinting up to them I dropped Matt. Phil was going at a good clip on his 14x27 Riviera, and Cindy was really working hard to stay on his draft with her 12'6x25 Hovie ZXC. I caught my breath for just a minute with those two, then pushed around to get to Devin and Murray, who were leading at that time. Devin was making good time, and Murray was backseat driving the draft train with regards to what parts of the river looked faster. "Follow the bubbles!" I had some differing ideas about what route might be optimal, and I decided to leave the train to cut a corner and get in front. That split Devin (who followed me) from Murray (who followed the bubbles). It was the beginning of the end for Murray, who would soon wear himself out and get passed by Phil, Cindy, and Matt. Devin stayed on me for a bit, but I was increasing my effort to fight the current, and outpaced him before getting to the turn-around buoy.

It was a huge relief to get around that buoy and start paddling WITH the incoming tide instead of against it. I was happy to see >10 kph speeds on the GPS, and watch the "average speed" display inch up from the dismaying low levels it had fallen to while fighting the current. It was a long grind, though, especially through the spots where headwinds and shallow water slowed things down. My form deteriorated as I got more exhausted, reminding me that I ought to spend some time doing technique drills in practice to beat back bad habits. In the last km or two of the race the river was narrower and surrounded by taller trees, which blessedly reduced the headwind. Finally, I crossed the line, and instantly felt fantastic. It was great sitting and watching my friends finish, then hanging out at the post-race stuff. The lunch, raffle, and awards after the race were in a nice shady pine tree area and were run smoothly.

Here's a facebook album with podium pictures.


Here's my speedcoach track and data from the race: You have to click into it to see the details.

What's Next: Next race is Key West. I'm going to try to get some practice in rough water this week, since I think being able to stay upright and paddle fast in upwind/downwind/crosswind situations is going to be really important for that race.