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.


boardsurfr said...

Interesting how low water depth increases drag when SUPing, thanks for posting the link. When planing on a windsurfer, the same physics may actually increase speed. One way of thinking about it is that the board is outrunning the bow wave (we're going down the wave instead of going up), and the bow wave is stepper in shallow water. Another way is to think of some of the water being pushed down by the board is reflected back up by the ground, increasing lift on the board. This would allow for a reduction in wet surface area and thus drag - the opposite of what happens on a SUP. I'm not sure if this is correct, but the best speedsurfing results are generally in very shallow water.

James Douglass said...

Yeah, shallow depth certainly doesn't seem to slow down planing windsurfers. You might be onto something with that idea of increased lift on the board reducing displacement when planing over shallow water.