Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Edisto Island Windsurfing & New Surfski

I started the summer of 2018 with a trip to my folks' beach house in Edisto Island, South Carolina, and I'm pleased to be ending my summer with another Edisto trip. This time it's extra special because my sister and nieces are here, along with my science and nature loving aunt and uncle.

I arrived here Sunday with my minivan loaded with water toys: my windsurf stuff, plus a new surfski kayak. The surfski kayak is a Stellar SR, 584 cm long x 48 cm wide. It replaces a 640 x 43 cm Epic v12 surfski that I decided was too advanced for me and not shaped right for my bum. The Stellar SR is a bit slower in flat water, but faster (for me) in rough water by virtue of I'm not wobbling and capsizing it all the time.



I've found the Stellar SR really enjoyable to paddle in the choppy Atlantic ocean here. Today I convinced my dad to drop me off on the other side of the island so I could paddle out into the ocean with the ebb tide current pushing me, then turn and paddle downwind with the swells to the beach in front of our house. It worked really well and I was able to get the fastest average speed I've ever gotten for a paddling session of any kind. Woo hoo!



After paddling I played on the beach with my nieces for a while, then swapped out the surfski for my windsurf. A 6.8 sail and 106 liter Exocet Cross with a 32 cm MUFin NoSpin fin were perfect for blasting around in the steady 15+ kt conditions. The track below is from a similar session on the same gear on Monday night.



I'm not going to want to go back to work after this.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Exile's Throne: Final book in Rhonda Mason's Empress Game Trilogy



My wife Rhonda Mason is a writer. She has published a romance novel with a small publishing house under the name "Katherine Ivy," and more recently she has published a Science Fiction trilogy with the major publisher Titan Books. She completed the third installment in the trilogy just this year, and it's now in print! I haven't read it yet, but I expect "Exile's Throne" to be even better than "The Empress Game," and "Cloak of War," which preceded it. I know what I'll be doing on my end-of-summer vacation in South Carolina next week!

If you want to read Rhonda's books, you can find them at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon.

PS- Rhonda is currently working on a new project in a new genre, but it's top-secret for now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Dr. Damien Lin's Lee County Republican Primary Eco-Voting Guide

This was written by my paddleboarding friend, veterinarian Dr. Damien Lin

As a follow-up to James Douglass’s voting guide for the Democratic primary in Lee County, I am following up with a Republican primary voting guide. The main issue guiding my opinions is local water quality. Environmental protection becomes the larger umbrella from which to address our catastrophic coastal water problems. I am a registered Republican. I have been for over 30 years. The reason I am a Republican is that I want to be able to participate in local elections at the county and city level. Being that the Republican party is the dominant political party here, almost all local elections are decided in the primaries. Since our primaries are closed I need to remain a Republican.

The only race in the Republican Primary where there is a discernible difference between candidates is at the Governor level. Ron DeSantis has not taken any money from big sugar. The organization Bull Sugar does not endorse DeSantis. They do list him as a better alternative to his opponent Adam Putnam.

In the general election it is my intention to support the Democrats running for office at every level. This party has clearly shown more intent to protect our environment. The Republican party at a local and state wide level has consistently shown efforts to eviscerate any sensible regulations to repair the water situation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lee County Democratic Primary 2018- Eco-focused voting guide

Note 1: This is not a journalistic quality ballot guide. It’s more of a stream-of-consciousness look at what my pre-voting thought process was. (I voted early, by mail. If you're not voting by mail, the actual voting day is August 28th.)

Note 2: A sample ballot, including options for both the democratic and the republican primary, can be found here: https://www.lee.vote/Portals/Lee/Sample%20Ballots/SB_17X17_Primary_072418_LeeSOE_Final-2.pdf

Note 3: I'm posting this in installments so I can get it online faster. The first installment is about the candidates for governor, then I 'll add the other stuff asap.



Candidates for Governor: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Phillip Levine, Alex “Lundy” Lundmark, John Wetherbee

Picking a gubernatorial candidate took longest of all my decisions on this ballot. I tried to base on it on who I thought would be the best “antidote” to the Big Development / Big Sugar / Big Oil / Big Pharma corruption that I think plagues Florida politics. But a competing thought was, “which one of these candidates has the political savvy and resources to win the general election?” That second thought made it easy to rule out “Lundy” Lundmark, who doesn’t even have a campaign website. John Wetherbee is the other “amateur” contender- a slightly awkward engineer with no prior political experience. However, he at least has a nice website, where he comes across as having genuine good intentions and thoughtful stances on Florida issues. I ruled him out only because he didn’t quite seem in “fighting shape” for winning the general election.

Two of the remaining candidates are millionaire businessmen from Miami: Chris King and Phillip Levine. Levine is also the current mayor of Miami Beach, and seems to be doing a pretty good job addressing climate change and sea level rise and such in his vulnerable city. Chris King is to the left of Levine politically, and was the first of the gubernatorial candidates to refuse to take any money from the Big Sugar lobby. (The other candidates followed suit, though it was too late for Gwen Graham who had already taken money from Big Sugar [but promised to give the money to a good environmental organization].) Chris King is relatively young (just 39 years old), handsome, and Harvard-educated. I was a little uncomfortable to read that he made his fortune largely in real estate development, because I associate that with cutting down the forests and creating more suburban sprawl. But apparently he does the kind of "redevelopment" within cities that doesn’t destroy nature, so that's good. There was some bad press about Chris King offending farmers when he was speaking strongly about the harmful effects of sugarcane farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area. However, at the democratic gubernatorial debate at FGCU he was careful to articulate his concern for and plans to bring economic benefits to the people around the EAA as it’s converted more from farmland to water storage and filter-wetland areas. I dug that, and decided I favor King over Levine.

One of the candidates, Jeff Greene, is a billionaire from Palm Beach. You know who else is a billionaire from Palm Beach? Donald Trump. Greene is positioning himself like he’s the only one big and strong enough to take on Trump, like we better vote for King Kong to fight off Godzilla. To be honest, I didn’t even look that much into Jeff Greene. The Palm Beach Billionaire thing just turned me off, especially with him barging into the race at the last minute and throwing more money at ads and stuff than anyone else. Too much hubris, not enough humility and humanity. Also, he used to be a republican, and might secretly still be. No thanks.

Gwen Graham is the most politically experienced and accomplished of the candidates, having been a US Senator. That also means that she has a big voting record we can review to see how environmental she is. She got 89% and 69% scores from the League of Conservation Voters for her votes in 2015 and 2016. For reference, Bill Nelson got 100% and 84%, respectively, for those years, and Marco Rubio got 6% and 0% (FAIL!). So Graham is obviously way better on the environment than Marco Rubio. However, there is the sketchy business about her taking Big Sugar campaign contributions, and there’s some more sketchy business about her family financial ties to a mega mall development proposed for a wetland area on the edge of the everglades. She has been dodgy in her comments about that. For that reason, I’ve ruled out Gwen Graham for the primary, although she's obviously still much greener than the republican competition, so I'll wholeheartedly support her if she is the one who wins the democratic primary.

The only candidate among the five serious contenders who is not a millionaire is Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee. Gillum seems to be a very active and popular mayor, pushing lots of programs to improve all aspects of the community, from law enforcement to early-childhood education. His statements on the environment seem to be “correct” but fairly standard- he believes the scientists on climate change and sea level rise, he will address Florida’s water management and algae bloom problems, etc. Some of the info we have on Gillum’s environmental views is from his criticisms of Gwen Graham, who I think he sees as his #1 opponent in the primary. E.g., he criticized her “yes” vote on the Keystone XL US-Canada oil pipeline deal. Something that might come up if Gillum makes it to the general election is racial and religious prejudice. That’s because Gillum is black, and his main campaign donor is a Jewish billionaire holocaust survivor named George Soros, who right-wing conspiracy theorists have been trained to view as some kind of godfather of evil. I thought for a little while, “Maybe I shouldn’t vote for Gillum, because his republican opposition will surely capitalize on the racist and anti-Semitic fears of some of their base to tear him apart with ugly, Trump-style campaign rally tactics.” But then I realized that if I went down that path of thinking, the racists and right-wing conspiracy theorists would have already won. Also, the more I thought about Gillum and his campaign, the more I decided he offered something really unique and important. That was coming from the lower class (son of a construction worker and a bus driver), attending public schools and universities in our state, and working for years in un-glamorous local government roles where the emphasis is on actually handling problems and bringing the community together. Gillum’s progressive policies, like support for Bernie Sanders style medicare-for-all healthcare, seem to fit with an overall theme of making sure everybody in the state, not just millionaires and billionaires, can have a good life. I voted for Gillum.



Candidates for Attorney General: Sean Shaw, Ryan Torrens

Attorney General is a really important office for Florida. Our current one Pam Bondi is awful on environmental and social justice issues, and has made some nakedly partisan rulings, like protecting Trump’s scam “Trump University” when it stole money from a bunch of poor, duped people. Sean Shaw seems to be the most ethical of this pair, with Ryan Torrens already having gotten himself into trouble for breaking campaign finance laws. I voted Sean Shaw. Shaw is very experienced and endorsed by respectable non-partisan organizations like the Tampa Bay Times newspaper. https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/Times-recommends-In-Democratic-primary-Sean-Shaw-for-attorney-general_169764486



Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture: Nicole “Nikki” Fried, Jeffrey Duane Porter, Roy David Walker

Roy Walker is the only scientist and environmentalist in the bunch. He got my vote easily.



Candidates for US House of Representatives, FL Congressional District 19: David Holden, Todd James Truax

David Holden is the stronger candidate in this pair, with a fancy Harvard education, well-funded and well-organized campaign, and good environmental and social justice values. I’ve seen him and his family campaigning at all the local environmental meetings and stuff I’ve been to lately, so the issue is obviously on his radar, and he’s working hard to get the green vote. The only thing that gave me some pause about Holden is that he’s a millionaire who made his fortune working for the corrupt bank Wells Fargo. That doesn’t mean that Holden was personally responsible for Wells Fargo’s corruption, but still, it’s a thing. In comparison, Todd Truax is much less funded, less organized, and less environmentally focused, but seems to be strongly ethically motivated by senior issues and healthcare issues, which I admire. He talks about getting out the “grey” vote as opposed to strictly the blue or red vote, and I reckon that could work well in this area. I actually voted for Truax, although my trusted Sierra Club president friend told me later that Holden is really best bet for beating horribly anti-environment GOP candidate Francis Rooney the general election. Probably Holden will win the primary, and I’ll vote for him in the general election without reservations.



Florida State Representative District 76: Neilson Croll Ayers, David Bogner

I liked David Bogner because my friend shared his page on facebook and he seemed to be deeply concerned about our state’s algae bloom problems. In contrast, I couldn’t find ANYTHING online about the other guy. So I voted for Bogner. Later, though, I heard that Bogner is a swell guy, but terrible at public speaking and likely to have trouble against slick republican incumbent Ray Rodrigues in the general election. My trusted Sierra Club president friend said I probably should have voted for Ayers. Oh, well. Maybe Bogner will rise to the occasion and find the strong voice to challenge Rodriguez before the general election.



This next batch were nonpartisan races that can be on the democratic primary ballot as well as the republican primary ballot, depending on where you are in the county. I only commented on the ones that were on my ballot for Bonita Springs.

Candidates for Circuit Judge 20th Judicial Circuit Group 8: James Wesley Chandler, John Owen McGowan

I voted for Chandler, but I now I can’t remember why.



Candidates for County Judge Group 7: Maria E. Gonzalez, David McElrath

Gonzalez is a lot better organized with more of a web presence, and seems to be active and involved in the community and kids and young people’s issues in particular. I voted for her.



Candidates for School Board Member District 6: Nicholas Alexander, Lori Fayhee, Betsy Vaughn, Karen Putnam Watson

Betsy Vaughn really seemed to be very qualified, organized, and “on it,” with an active campaign including personal engagement on social media. She was a highschool teacher for decades before getting into politics. She seems to have a strong motivation to provide equal educational opportunities for all, including poor and minority students, and special needs students. I voted for her.



City of Bonita Springs Proposed Charter Amendment on term limits:

I voted yes on this amendment to have a limit of two, four-year terms on positions in the Bonita Springs mayor and city council, with no exceptions for discontinuous terms. I know term limits are a two-edged sword. Y’all can make your own decisions about this.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

EUTROPHICATION: A word every Floridian should know

As of today, 28 July 2018, Florida is suffering from at least three different kinds of harmful algae blooms, happening at the same time.

1. We have a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom filling Lake Okeechobee and spilling out into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. The main species of cyanobacteria in that blue-green bloom is Microcystis aeruginosa, which is toxic to both humans and wildlife.

2. We also have "Florida Red Tide" extending along much of the Gulf Coast of the state. For many months it has been shifting and changing shape, flaring up in one spot or another but never going away. We've seen countless dead fishes of all kinds washed up on beaches from Tampa to Naples, hundreds of dead sea turtles, scores of manatees, and most recently a 7.9 meter long, otherwise-healthy young male Whale Shark whose corpse ended up rolling in the surf off the luxury vacation spot of Sanibel Island.



The organism that causes Florida Red Tide is a type of single-celled algae called a dinoflagellate. It has two whip-like flagella and is covered in protective plates, like some kind of alien sperm. The species name is Karenia brevis, and it makes a toxin called brevitoxin.

3. Finally, we have seaweed (multicellular algae; macroalgae) blooms on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with unprecedented volumes of stinky red and brown multicellular algae washing up on the beaches. On the Atlantic Coast, most of the seaweed washing up is brown macroalgae in the genus Sargassum. The Sargassum macroalgae bloom is affecting the entire Caribbean this year. On the Gulf Coast the red seaweed washing up on the beaches is a mix of hundreds of different species of macroalgae that normally grow attached to the bottom but easily break loose and drift around with the waves and currents.



What do these nasty algae blooms have in common? They are all examples of EUTROPHICATION.

Eutrophication is the excessive growth of algae or nuisance plants in a body of water.

Eutrophication is usually caused by nutrient enrichment. You can remember that nutrients cause eutrophication because eutrophication rhymes with “nutrification.”

Nutrients are dissolved chemicals like nitrate and phosphate, which all plants and algae need to grow. Nutrients usually occur in small concentrations that favor healthy amounts and type of plants and algae. But excessive nutrients lead to excessive growth of undesirable types of plants and algae.

Most problems we have with eutrophication are man-made problems, because the excessive nutrients come from man-made sources like sewage and fertilizer-laden runoff.

Eutrophic growth of algae is sometimes called an “algal bloom.” Both microscopic algae (known generally as phytoplankton) and macroscopic algae (known generally as seaweed) can “bloom” in response to eutrophication.

Besides excessive nutrients entering the water, another factor that contributes to eutrophication is a lack of the organisms that normally eat the problematic plants and algae. For example, seaweed blooms can be worsened by a lack of seaweed-eating fish, and phytoplankton blooms can be worsened by a lack of filter-feeding shellfish like oysters.

Eutrophication can have a variety of harmful effects. For example:

*Some of the types of algae that increase in response to eutrophication exude toxic chemicals that can kill wildlife and sicken humans. For example, the Karenia brevis red tide and Microcystis aeruginosa blue-green algae mentioned above.

*Even non-toxic algae can kill wildlife in an indirect way. The algae become so abundant that they run out of space and light and start dying off in mass. As the masses of algae decompose, the oxygen levels in the water go down, because the process of decomposition consumes oxygen. When the water is oxygen depleted, organisms that get their oxygen from the water, like fish, die. This phenomenon is called "hypoxia and anoxia" and it is the cause of the infamous "dead zone" in the ocean near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Hypoxia due to eutrophication has also been the cause of many fish kills recently in the Indian River Lagoon on the East Coast of Florida.

*Dense blooms of algae make the water murky green or brown, which reduces the amount of light penetrating the water. This can be fatal for the “good” plants, like seagrasses (not to be confused with seaweeds), that are trying to grow on the bottom underneath. (All plants and algae need light to grow.)

*Even when algal toxin levels are not concentrated enough to kill the aquatic organisms from direct exposure, they can be dangerous for animals higher in the food chain, like big fish, birds, and humans, who eat contaminated seafood. This is because the sea creatures we eat, like fish, clams, and oysters, can concentrate the toxins in their flesh to much higher levels than they were in the water itself. For example, direct exposure to Florida Red Tide waters irritates the eyes and respiratory system of humans, while eating shellfish contaminated with the red tide causes much more serious Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP).

The best way to prevent eutrophication is to avoid putting nutrients in the water in the first place. If the nutrients are already in the water, then you need to remove them. The best way to remove excess nutrients from the water before they cause eutrophication is to have the water run through lush wetlands, where the “good” wetland plants can suck up the excess nutrients before the water gets into rivers, lakes, or the ocean. The Florida Everglades are a giant wetlands that are great for storing water and filtering out excess nutrients. Unfortunately the man-made water flow in Florida mostly bypasses the Everglades, due to ill-conceived canal and dam projects begun over a century ago. The Everglades are now left dry and unused, while the unfiltered, nutrient-polluted water is ushered straight to the coasts, resulting in major eutrophication effects along the coasts. In addition to the "major plumbing problem" of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, we have the "death from 1000 paper cuts" eutrophication effect of nutrients leaking out from myriad sources in urban, suburban, and agricultural landscapes. I propose that we address those problems with some emergency regulations.


A Modest Proposal
Whereas almost the entire coastline of Florida, and many of the state’s freshwater lakes and rivers are experiencing harmful algae blooms,
Whereas these algae blooms are causing massive damage to the ecology, economy, and spirit of the state,
Whereas these algae blooms flourish on nutrient-polluted runoff,
And whereas a substantial portion of this nutrient-polluted runoff stems from commercial and residential landscape management practices that serve merely aesthetic purposes,
We propose a moratorium on those non-essential landscape management practices that contribute to nutrient pollution, effective immediately and continuing until such time as the harmful algal blooms have abated.
The moratorium will include:
*The sale and use of fertilizers for all non-agricultural purposes. This shall include fertilizer-weed-killer mixtures.
*The chemical treatment of ponds and canals with herbicides such as Copper Sulfate, because this practice results in the release of nutrients to downstream waters from decomposing plants and algae. (The moratorium should also cover the sale of such chemicals.)
*The clearing, mowing, or poisoning of vegetation within stormwater detention areas or within five feet of the waterline in these areas, because destruction of such vegetation limits the nutrient-filtration and removal abilities of these areas.


What do you think? Would you support that proposal?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Race Report: 2018 CGT Summer Race 1

Startline action.


Race: The first race in the 2018 CGT Summer Series.

Date it happened: 24 June 2018

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page. This particular race was also associated with an ECS Boards demo event, with ECS vendors Travis Kindt and Leisa Kilbreth.

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 (6.5 km). The hosts had originally planned to make the long race in this series be a double lap of the short course, but the participants torpedoed that, mainly because a lot of us are paddling long kayaks and outrigger canoes that can't turn around in the narrow part of the river.

Conditions: Aside from intense, mid-summer heat, conditions were good for a fast race. The wind was light, and the tide was high and flowing upriver at 0.45 kph.

Participants, Results and Gear: There were 14 racers, including the usual locals, plus Travis Kindt and Packet Casey from the East Coast. Four people did the short course, with the rest of us egging each other on to do the long course. Interestingly, nobody raced a 12'6 SUP; the shorter, slower SUP class having fallen out of favor since a number of races worldwide have shifted the focus to 14' boards for both men and women. Here are the results, and what people were paddling.

Racer ** Class ** Model ** Course ** Time
Justin DiGiorgio ** Surfski Kayak ** Nelo 550 ** 6.5 km ** 0:36:28
Jennifer Peters ** Outrigger Canoe ** ?? ** 6.5 km ** 0:40:43
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide Riviera RP ** 6.5 km ** 0:40:45
John Weinberg ** Surfski Kayak ** Nelo 520 ** 6.5 km ** 0:40:46
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide custom ** 6.5 km ** 0:41:03
Travis Kindt ** 14' SUP ** 25-wide ECS Stealth ** 6.5 km ** 0:44:20
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 25.5-wide 404 Ltd ** 6.5 km ** 0:45:42
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 24-wide custom ** 6.5 km ** 0:45:46
Cindy Gibson ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide ECS Speed ** 6.5 km ** 0:46:47
Steve Fleming ** 14' SUP ** 24-wide Naish Maliko ** 6.5 km ** 0:49:54

Packet Casey ** 14' SUP ** 25-wide JP Flatwater ** 2.9 km ** 0:18:37
Meg Bosi ** 14' SUP ** 23.5-wide Bark custom ** 2.9 km ** 0:20:40
Donna Catron ** 14' SUP ** 24-wide Flying Fish custom ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:24
Damien Lin ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide Hovie GTO ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:54

Play by play: Before the race there was some discussion of which folks were doing the long vs. the short race. I paid close attention to what my three fastest competitors were choosing- Packet chose the short race, but Travis and Athanacio chose the long race, so I did, as well. I lined up in the first starting group with Packet, Travis, and Matt Kearney. Athanacio opted to start in the second wave so he could do his wolf-chasing-the-rabbits thing. I sprinted hard at the start. I didn't necessarily want to lead, but I wanted to get a good, forward position in the draft train so I wouldn't be struggling with wakes. I ended up getting on Packet's side-wake for a bit, then into a drafting position directly behind him. Travis was vying for the same position, so we bumped rails a bit and I kind of squeezed him toward the mangroves. There were a few times that I deliberately left the draft to avoid shallow water (which increases drag), and to briefly draft Justin DiGiorgio when he passed me on his surfski. I was in a good position right behind Packet when he reached his short race turn-around point at 1500 m, and we had lost Travis and Matt.

Continuing on my own, I tried to paddle hard but efficiently with good reach and a clean "catch". When I looked back, though, Travis and Matt weren't far behind. More ominously, Athanacio had caught up with them and seemed to have his full afterburners on. I really did my best to keep a hard pace and pick a good line, hoping to keep Athanacio from getting any closer. At the US 41 bridge where I turned around, I saw that Athanacio was about the same distance behind me that he'd been when I first saw him, which was good, and that Travis and Matt had fallen back further, which was also good. To keep myself focused and motivated on the way upriver I watched my speedcoach GPS and tried to stay in the middle parts of the river with the strongest assistance from the incoming tidal current. Because of the incoming tide, I was able to average about 10 kph going upriver, which was a delight. There were times that I felt my "engine" overheating and had to cool down the pace a bit, focusing on form, but as I got to the landmarks of 1600, 800, 400, and 200 m from the finish I notched up my effort and suffering level to make sure all my energy was spent by the end. I was really happy to get a sub-41 minute time, which I never managed to do in the last series. I'll admit I was also happy when they called Athanacio's time and I knew I'd beaten him by a few seconds. Cooling off in the water beyond the finish line felt so nice I mostly forgot that just two days prior, Matt, Cindy, and myself had been charged by a decent sized alligator about one km down the river.

Here's my GPS track from the course:


The women did great in this race, with Meg Bosi improving her time on the short course by almost 2 minutes, aided by her slick 14' Bark. Cindy was also about 30 seconds faster on the 14' ECS Speed than she was in the last CGT race on her 12'6 board. She wasn't far behind Bill, and might give all the guys a good challenge if she finds a 14' board that suits her.

After the race there was a lot of board and boat swapping. John Weinberg let me try his Nelo 520, which is a shorter and more stable surfski than the tippy Epic v12 that I have. It felt nice- a bit slower in flatwater than mine, but I think it would be a lot more comfortable in rough water and downwind conditions, where I struggle on the Epic. I also paddled the 14x25 ECS Stealth, which is a very smooth and well-balanced board that has a nice way of cutting through the water. Packet Casey hopped on Athanacio's custom board and remarked at how well it sprinted. Watching him sprint past, almost a meter of the nose of the board was hovering above the water. It seems to be the style of the modern board designs that they "release" from the water when paddled in high gear, whereas the older designs don't do that as much, for better or worse.

Next race on the calendar is Mark Athanacio's "No Name Race" around Lover's Key on June 30th, which I'll probably do on my surfski.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Race Report: Battle on the Blueway 2018

A tight finish between the top two female competitors Kim Barnes and Maddie Miller, decided by a footrace.


Race: The Battle on the Blueway.

Date it happened: 9 June 2018.

Host / Sponsors / Benefitting: Hosted by Lee County's "Calusa Blueway" paddle trails program and the SWFL Sup Club. Sponsored by Ron Jon Surf Shop, Estero River Outfitters, and others listed on the event page. Benefiting Lee County Special Olympics.

Location: Crescent Beach Park, Fort Myers, Florida.

Distance: The main event was four laps around a 3.5 km course, about 14 km total. There was also a shorter race; just one lap. Each lap had 6-7 buoys to go around, although two of those turns were oblique enough that you could curve around them without slowing down. After those races concluded they held some kids races and Special Olympics races.



Conditions: It was blazing hot with a light and shifting breeze. The Gulf of Mexico was glassy except for small ripples, wakes, and "microswells". A noticeable tidal current flowed from SE to NW. The water quality was OK, but a bit brown stained due to discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River, which empties near Ft. Myers Beach. The polluted lake water ought to be passed southward to the parched everglades, where it used to go before being channeled to the Caloosahatchee to appease the sugar barons who own land south of Lake Okeechobee. "Big Sugar" is infamous for getting in bed with corrupt state politicians like awful Florida gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. (Vote for someone else, please.) As I've advocated in this blog post, the state needs to buy out the sugar land asap and convert it to a wetland for water storage and treatment, or our "Blueway" is going to get browner and browner with polluted water.

Participants and Gear: There were about 90 racers total. The long race had 36 SUPs and 16 outrigger canoes or kayaks. We had good representation from our local CGT race team, including several people opting for sit-down watercraft- Murray Hunkin and Justin DiGiorgio on surfski kayaks, and Mark Athanacio, Matt Kearney, and Bill Mussenden on OC1 outrigger canoes. Besides the CGT crew, another big crew representing at the race was associated with Jupiter, FL's Blueline Surf Shop. Those folks were almost all riding John Meskauskas' "Flying Fish" brand custom boards, made in Florida. Flying Fish had all the top competitors in their tent (literally and figuratively), including pro-level Brazilian Eri Tenorio, top Florida paddlers Steve and Maddie Miller, Kim Barnes, and Tim Warner. An interesting SUP gear trend this year was that a majority of the women in the long SUP race opted for 14' boards, eschewing the slower 12'6 boards that were traditionally promoted for women's racing. This reduced the gap in times between the top men and the top women. In the short race the majority of women were still on 12'6. I used my 14'x23" Riviera RP, which has been my do-it-all board for two years.

Results: Full results are posted on Paddleguru. First over the line were surfskis- Murray Hunkin (01:16:54.85), Chris Vincent (01:17:02.63), and Doug Lindsay (01:21:32.79). Next was first place OC1 Mark Athanacio (01:23:24.57), just ahead of Justin DiGiorgio's surfksi (01:23:37.37). Both Murray and Mark are 50+ years old and beat younger competitors to get first overall. Second and third OC1s were Zachary Cole (01:24:56.01) and Matt Kearney (01:25:04.23). Not far behind the sit-down craft was Eri Tenorio on SUP (01:26:40.00), followed by Steve Miller (01:28:01.10), Tim Warner (01:31:59.63), Zach Rounsaville (01:33:08.92), and me (01:33:35.38). I was a small distance ahead of Packet Casey, who isn't in the official results because he registered late. I barely finished in time to see a tight battle between the top women's finishers Kim Barnes (01:35:50.40) and Maddie Miller (01:35:52.69). JP SUP team member Karen Kennedy was the third woman across (01:43:42.04). The top 12'6 women were Katherine Pyne (01:45:16.94) and Cindy Gibson (01:47:21.09). Cindy was the first woman overall in the 50+ division.

Play by play: They started the sit-down racers from shallow water and waited a minute or two for them to get clear before releasing the SUP racers, who were lined up on a shallow sandbar. I was in the middle of the line and got somewhat caught behind the faster starters. Things sorted out a bit by the buoy turn, and I managed to get ahead of Kim Barnes and Steven Bernstein, and behind Packet Casey and Zach Rounsaville. Eri Tenorio, Steve Miller, and Tim Warner were quickly getting board lengths ahead of us, with speed that we couldn't match. Thus, only a minute or so into the race, it was clear that my battles would be with Packet and Zach. In the past those two guys have beaten me sometimes, and I've beaten them sometimes, so the outcome for today was uncertain. The only thing that WAS certain was that the fight would be long and painful.

On the first leg of the race I found it easier to go fast by getting in clear water and working the tiny bumps than by trying to draft Packet. This let me get in front of him. He was in my draft for the first straightaway, but I think the accelerating and decelerating I was doing because of the tiny bumps might have made it hard for him to use my draft. Eventually he drifted back a bit and I focused on keeping pace with Zach. On the up-current leg I took a more inshore line, hoping that the current would be lighter there. I'm not sure if it helped or not. I also tried to buoy-turn efficiently, and ride whatever microscopic bumps I could. I finally caught up to Zach on the first leg of the third lap. I was able to lower my stroke rate and catch some breaths, but I wasn't very relaxed, and it took a lot of concentration and switching sides to keep the board in the sweet spot of the draft. Towards the end of the leg Zach picked up a bit of speed, and by the buoy turn I gave up and let him go. After the race Zach said that his race plan had been do each lap a bit faster than the previous, which was amazing because my "plan" was to do the first lap fast and then unavoidably fade in each subsequent lap as the heat and exertion took their toll.

After losing Zach, my attention turned to keeping myself focused and not losing my lead on Packet. I had to push myself really, uncomfortably hard to do that. It didn't help me that Packet got a second wind and a burst of motivation as he expertly rode a series of gentle boat wakes to close much of the distance on me. I can neither confirm nor deny that I shouted "kill me now!" at that point in the race. Anyway, in the end I did stay ahead of Packet, and only 27 seconds behind Zach, which I reckoned was respectable. I managed not to fall on my face when I jumped off the board and ran through the finish. I had to IMMEDIATELY jump in the ocean because I was hot as hell and verging on collapse.

The other racers seemed to be in similar states- totally cooked. In fact, several had to drop out of the race before it was over and got "DNFs". There were a few grumbles about the race being 25% longer than advertised, but overall there was a general agreement that it was run very well. The BBQ lunch was good, and the awards and stuff were administered competently. I think lots of money was raised for the Special Olympics. I'll be back next year, perhaps on surfski.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details. I think it's interesting to click the "view flybys" link in strava to watch where I was relative to the other racers who posted their GPS data there. E.g., you can see where I was gaining on Zach, then where Zach was pulling away from me.