Sunday, August 30, 2015

Naples Water Tri and Riviera RP 14' Race SUP

Today, for the first time in more than a decade, I participated in a race that wasn't purely a windsurf or SUP race. It was the "Naples Water Tri Challenge," organized by SW Florida athletic gurus Mark Athanacio and Jen Hayes. A classic triathalon is a swim, bike ride, and run, in immediate succession. The Naples Water Tri was a little different. It was a 1.6 km swim, then a short rest, then a 4.8 km beach run & 4.8 km sup paddle. You could do all three sub-events, or just one or two, and you could choose to do the beach run before or after the sup paddle. I liked the flexibility of the event, which I think encouraged more people to do it.

Part of me wanted to do all three sub-events, but I knew the long swim would have been too much for me unless I'd committed to practicing for it a month or more in advance. So I just did the run and the SUP, which I knew were within my abilities to complete. My total time was 0:58:16. Of that my run time was roughly 0:25:03 and my sup time was roughly 0:33:13. I say roughly because the end of the run was me taking my shoes and socks off and grabbing my sup, and the beginning of the sup was me micturating in the water before climbing aboard. The board I used for the race was a Riviera RP 14' x 25" in fiberglass construction. It's on extended loan from CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards on the condition that I kick butt with it to show it off and help advertise the shop. Compared to my blunt-nosed Fanatic Falcon, the Riviera RP seems to cut through the water a bit faster, and it does pivot turns better.

My CGT teammates Kate Pagan, Murray Hunkin, and Matt Kearney also did the race, and some other CGT folks helped with the boats and buoys. Kate actually did all three events, and did them all very well, even with the handicap of being on a 12'6 instead of a 14' board. Various folks took pictures, some of which I downloaded from facebook and posted below. Let me know if you want your photography acknowledged or removed.

Swimmers set out following sup-shepherd Mark Athanacio, and 800 m later round the halfway mark buoy.
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Start of the run/sup.
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Matt Kearney and Kate Pagan at the start of the SUP part.
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Murray Hunkin finishing the sup part with POWER. He was part of a relay team, with a buddy who did the run and swim.
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There was a random group of scuba divers right next to the turnaround point of the sup part.
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Coming in to the finish, wondering if I should have pushed it a little harder.
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CGT's Riviera RP.
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Interesting tail design on the RP to help with water release and with catching and riding "bumps."
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Double Header SUP Race Weekend

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Whew! After the first week back to teaching at FGCU I had a fun but tiring weekend of standup paddleboard racing. Saturday was the Sunshine SUP Series in Pompano Beach, and Sunday was the CGT Summer Time Trials in Bonita Springs. This is how it went down:

Friday morning- Drove across "Alligator Alley" to the South Florida Water Management District offices in West Palm Beach to give a presentation about algae on seagrass.

Friday afternoon- Drove back across the state to FGCU to sign a student's thesis document just before the deadline.

Friday evening- Came home to pack the van and to coach my own poor grad student in dog-sitting. Then my sweet wife Rhonda drove herself and me across the alley once more to the Sea Horse Motel in Pompano Beach.

Saturday morning- Rhonda dropped me off at the race site for early morning registration, then she went back to the hotel to sleep. I schlepped my 14' x 24.75" Fanatic Falcon down to the shore and got it all set up with my speedcoach GPS. After a bad experience being late for the start in another race I wanted to make sure all my gear was ready way ahead of time. I also brought the 11'8" Exocet WindSUP to the beach to be a snorkeling platform for Rhonda after the race.

I only paddled a tiny bit to warm up because it was really hot with no wind and no shade besides the vendor booths. Mostly I stayed cool and energized by swimming in the water, drinking and refilling cups of water over and over again, and eating bananas and orange wedges from the registration tent. They ran the 6.2 km "rec race" first so it was a long time before the 10.3 km "elite race" started. The course was a north-south rectangle along the beach, about 2 km per lap, 3 laps for the rec, 5 for the elite. You can see my GPS track and speed + hr data on strava if you click the map below.

The tricky part was that you had to come into shore at the end of each lap, run through a little corral, then hop back on your board, which a "handler" would be wrangling for you at the water's edge.

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Rhonda was at the beach by the time my race started, and it was nice to have her in my corner. The race start was from a lineup on the beach, which is always kind of nerve-wracking and chaotic.
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At least they gave a good starting countdown. I didn't miss the horn, but my running into the water and jumping on the board wasn't quick enough to immediately bust me out of the big crowd of other competitors, which would have given me a good advantage. I at least managed to not fall off on the way out and around the first buoy. On the first leg I passed most of the 12'6 guys and some of the 14' guys who started well but faded. I was behind the real good 14' racers but doing my best to close the gap so I could draft them. That plan was modified when someone behind us called out that we were heading the wrong way for the third buoy. Whoops! Instantly I was ahead of the former leader but behind the new leaders as I backtracked to the correct buoy. I awkwardly rejoined the pack, falling off in traffic at the buoy. I worked on passing some people again, then the fast guys wove through doing the same. I felt a gentle "knock" on the back of my board when eventual winner Kieran Grant was subtly telegraphing that I needed to speed up or get passed. He went around me and I drafted him a bit, but he and some others blew me away with aggressive sprints and buoy roundings into the first beach run. I realized I should have sprinted there, too, because I was just slow enough to get caught in and contribute to an ugly jam at the beach run spot. The board handlers were still wrangling my board when I finished the run, and womens' winner Victoria Burgess' sharp-nosed Coreban board (picture) got wrangled into mine and gouged a divot in the flank. Oh, well.

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In the second lap I regained some positions and settled into the 4th place spot that I would hold for the rest of the race. There were times I thought I miiight be gaining on the 2nd and 3rd place dudes, but as more laps went by it was clear I wasn't. In the end the race was won in 1:11:17 by the very talented young surfer/racer Kieran Grant (HovieSUP).

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Kieran was followed by bearded musclebeast Josh Smart (BlkBox) in 1:11:52.

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Third was handsome highschool athlete Joey Huempfner (BOTE) in 1:11:55. My time was 1:12:47, which I'm pretty excited about. If I keep practicing I might eventually be able to get on the podium in this level of race.

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Saturday afternoon- Rhonda and I paddled out over the reef at the race site to snorkel while trailing our sups on their leashes. There wasn't a lot of live coral, but there was a lot of rock with soft coral, sponges, parrotfish, etc. Any snorkeling in clear tropical water is a win in my book. On the drive home after snorkeling I discovered I had a huge bruise on my leg where the keys in my pocked must have gotten jammed into me by a paddleboard during the race start or one of the traffic jams.

In the 12'6 class it was 20-something Zach Rounsaville, then skinny teenage Connor Rush, then SW Florida 50 year old hero Mark Athanacio. Zach is to my right in first pic, almost as fast on his 12'6 as I am on my 14'. From left in second pic is Connor then Mark.

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Other heroes were Mary Ann Boyer (MAB) and Mini Cunha Marageth Lagace, who seem to have switched from riding BlkBox boards to riding MHL boards.

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Sunday morning- Woke up, had breakfast, and walked down to the Imperial River with my board for the CGT Summer Time Trials. The guys at the shop offered to let me try out a Riviera 14' x 27" raceboard in the race. The Riviera is nice. It's the fiberglass version so it's a bit heavier than carbon, but it has a good blend of cutting the water and gliding on top of the water. In the race I started alongside Mark Athanacio, who rode his 14' Boga Typhoon. Both Mark and I were tired from the Sunshine SUP race the day before (Mark got 3rd in the 12'6 class) so we were happy to trade "pulling" a draft train. Matt Kearney hung with the train for quite a while, too, which shows he's continuing to improve. The current was strong in the river due to it being the height of Florida's wet season, so heading downriver was a lot faster than upriver. We stayed in the channel going down and skirted the edges coming up. We reached the most upriver point in the course, the "bat bridge" during one of the periods when I was pulling the draft train. Mark said something to the effect of once we hit the bridge it would be all-out racing for the final leg back downriver to the finish. So I did my fastest turn around the bridge pylon then my fastest sprint downriver to drop him out of my draft and not let him catch me again until the finish. It was real exciting with the extra speed of the river and all the turns and trees, plus hearing Mark splashing right behind me. I managed to barely stay ahead and got 46:10 to his 46:16 for a squeaker of a win. He still leads me in the series, though.

Next Sunday is a race that Mark is organizing: the Naples Water Tri Challenge. It's a 1 mile swim, 5k run, and 5k sup at the beach, but you can pick and choose which parts you want to do if you're not up for the whole thing. I'm just going to do the run and sup.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

High on low pressure; 4.2 Windsurfing in July in Florida

Two Sundays ago it was really windy and I went windsurfing with 5.5 and 4.2 sails on my smallest board, an old Starboard Evo 83. Caught Dr. Alex Owens getting some air on his Fanatic and Ezzy 5.3. Beware heavy metal music in the video. \m/

Big Wind at Wiggins 7-26-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Dusting off my smallest windsurf board (a Starboard Evo 83) for a freak high-wind session in mid summer. In this session I alternated between 5.5 and 4.2 sails. Song is by Volbeat.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

SUP Technique and Training Links

Note: As a modern nerd, I believe that the answer to any question, about anything, can be found somewhere on the Internet. Of course there is no guarantee that the Internet's answer will be easy to find, helpful, or even factual. It takes lots of critical picking-through-the-rocks to find the real gold nugget answers. That's what I've tried to do here with this list of standup paddleboard (SUP) technique and training links. This list is mostly focused on flatwater and race paddling and does not cover how to ride waves, which is a whole 'nuther thing.

SUP Technique and Training Online Resources
Organized by James Douglass
Last Updated 24 May 2015

Larry Cain- - Larry Cain was an Olympic canoeing medalist for Canada a while back. He’s now a top-level coach and competitor for canoeing and SUP. He’s a good writer and really good about breaking down the details of technique. There’s tons of info on his site to go through, but here are some of the things that I’ve found most helpful.
·      Video of Larry Cain cruising using perfect stroke technique:
·      Video series that breaks down each phase of the paddle stroke into a drill that you can practice
o   Applying the catch drill:
o   Middle of the stroke:
o   Achieving max results:
·      Why it’s sometimes GOOD to fall in: - Serious (maybe too serious) athletic training tips for paddleboarding. Site is run by a bunch of insane former triathletes. It’s mostly about working out, but there’s some about paddling technique and racing strategy, as well. They have a book and training guides that you have to pay for, too. - Sup racing news site that posts a lot of “how to” articles and videos. It’s pretty entertaining and less macho than ridingbumps. These are some good ones from there:
·      Mindset and manners advice for sup racing beginners:
·      Basics on how to do a pivot turn:
·      Beau Obrien explaining how to do a fast pivot turn, also known as a kick turn:
·      Titouan Puyo cruising vs. sprinting stance tips, and buoy turns video:
·      How to paddle out through breaking waves:
·      How to brace with the paddle to avoid falling off in bumpy water:

Dave Kalama Videos: Dave Kalama is a surfing / windsurfing legend of the same vintage as Laird Hamilton. He was one of the original SUP racing dudes and is still a top racer especially in downwind races. His videos are really short, simple, and helpful, mostly focusing on basics of how to feel better and go faster.
·      How to “slow down to speed up”:
·      Mindset and technique advice for workout paddles:
·      Mindset and warmup advice for right before a race:
·      A grip trick to get you to use your torso and core muscles instead of your bicep:

Jim Terrell Quickblade / Mad Scientist blogs and videos- Jim Terrell is a former Olympic canoe racer who now owns Quickblade Paddles and gives lots of sup gear and technique advice online.
·      Advice on how long to cut your paddle and how low down to grip the paddle with your bottom hand for maximum power and efficiency:
·      Stroke analysis comparing different techniques for going fast:
For anything not on this list, is a good set of online forums to ask specific questions about SUP and have them answered.
Thread about training and racing in Florida heat and humidity:,27273.0.html

Maximizing Early Planing on Exocet WindSUP 11'8

A while back I sold my formula windsurfing board. I did it because I wasn't in love with it and because I had too many light-wind watersports options between racing paddleboards, windsurfable paddleboards, and even windsurfable racing paddleboards.

The remaining board that comes closest to filling the early-planing niche of the absent formula board is the Exocet WindSUP 11'8, which is 360 cm long by 80 cm wide, 220 liters volume, and 16 kg (heavy). That is far from the optimal early-planing stats of a formula board (~235 cm long x 100 cm wide, 165 liters, 9 kg), but the WindSUP is not as far behind in planing ability as you might think. With my 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah sail, I could get my formula board "over the hump" to planing in just about 10 knots of wind, whereas on the WindSUP there's a gradual entry to planing between 10 and 12 knots. The type of planing is a little different, though. On a formula board you're really zipping along "riding the fin" and you can go upwind easily. But on the WindSUP, at least with the 44 cm stock fin, you don't have much upwind drive when using a big sail, like the fin is not quite balancing out the weight and pressure of the board and sail so you don't quite get the flying over the water feeling. In my experience the 44 cm fin is plenty for sails up to 8.0 meters squared, but not for the 9.5.

SO, I ordered a 50 cm Hydrotech fin to test with the 9.5 sail. The first time out was one of those frustrating days where the wind was good when I left my house but had sunk to just below the planing threshold by the time I got to the beach. So I didn't plane that time and of course couldn't tell much difference between the new 50 cm fin and the old 44 cm one. Yesterday, though, I got a good session in 10-15 knot winds, and the 50 cm fin really showed its worth. I could put tons of pressure on it with my feet in the outboard footstraps, and translate that pressure into upwind sailing angle. I think it also helped a little bit with early planing and with maintaining a plane through lulls. The next step is to try it with an 11.0 sail to try to find the ultimate early planing limits of the board. :)

Here's the big fin in the board.
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Here you can see the stock 44cm fin and its sheath next to the sheath for the new fin. They say the maximum useful fin size for a board is approximately equal to the width of the board underneath the fin. The old fin was considerably less than that, while the new one is close to right on. Of course, with smaller sails and for waveriding and stuff the WindSUP handles best with smaller fins. The whopper fin is just for early-planing with the biggest sails possible.
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PS- After I got this fin, which I ordered online from Sandy Point Progressive Sports, I realized I probably could have gotten something just as good from the more local Ace Performer shop. Next time I'll try to remember to order from them because I like what they're doing up in Fort Myers, teaching lots of people to windsurf and sup at the Sanibel Causeway, keeping windsurfing somewhat alive in Southwest Florida.