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.

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.