Sunday, December 18, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series Race #2

Race: Race #2 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 18 December 2016.

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.

Distance: Approximately 5.3 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was a warm, humid day with a SE wind. The river level was moderately high and the tide was ebbing, with the current at about 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: Though many of the local crew were tired from the previous day's race around Lovers' Key, most of us still showed up, and there were a few more besides. Robert Norman came down from Inverness to race again, and to test the speed of a 14' inflatable raceboard from RedPaddle Co. Justin DiGiorgio was fresh off the airplane from a snowboarding vacation in California and Nevada, but he still made it. Justin's pilot buddy Juan Pena raced for the first time, and there was at least one other first-timer, too. Some people came not to race but for a concurrent board-demo event from Jobe Watersports. It didn't look like my toughest competitor Mark Athanacio was going to race, but the rascal made a late appearance when the rest of us were already 2/3 done.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin.

Results: Mark Athanacio got first with 34:12 on his deadly black 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. I was second with 34:15. Phil Trudgeon was third in 38:23, followed closely by Bryan Herrick with a personal best 38:27. (2nd through 4th were all on Riviera RP raceboards.) Robert Norman got 38:47 on the RedPaddle inflatable board; only about 8% slower than he was on his conventional board two weeks ago. Fastest woman was Cindy Gibson in 39:33, followed by Damien Lin in 42:53 and Jen Hayes in 44:39. Of the people who just did one lap, Murray Hunkin was the fastest in 19:08, followed by Justin DiGiorgio in 20:50, and Jared Hamilton in 23:17. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Bryan Herrick, and Cindy Gibson. I sprinted into the lead and Murray, on his 14x27 Starboard Allstar, got in my draft. We had to weave through some unaware kayakers shortly after the start, but managed to do so without slowing down. I could definitely feel some cumulative fatigue from the previous day, so I paced myself carefully after the initial sprint. Murray stuck in my draft all the way to the further turn-around buoy, which is where he usually falls and I lose him. But this time we both had clean turns and Murray got back in my draft for the first upriver leg. He doggedly hung in there all the way back to the start/finish line, where I planned to try to sling him off with a quick turn + sprint combination. It turned out that wasn't necessary, though, because Murray bowed out after completing just that first lap.

On the second downriver leg is when I saw Mark Athanacio paddling upriver to start the race late, shattering my hopes for getting an easy first place by default. Would I have paddled harder on the first lap if I'd known Athanacio would be racing? Maybe. But to be honest, I think I was already pushing myself about as hard as my mind and body could stand. So it's tough to say if earlier awareness of my competitor would have pushed me faster or just psyched me out. Anyway, my strategy for the last part of the race stayed the same as before: paddle as hard as possible without blowing up. It's tough to judge how much energy I have left, and it's tough to recover if I burn out my muscles with too much sprinting, but when I got to the final few hundred meters of the race I upped the suffer factor to make sure I was fully spent by the finish. Regardless of whether I placed first or second, I'm happy with my time, which is slightly faster than my time in the first superlap race.

What else is new: This may have been my last SUP session of 2016, since I'm heading to North Carolina for Christmas on the 21st, and then heading to visit inlaws in New Hampshire after that. I'll try to still do some exercise stuff up there so I don't get totally out of shape.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lovers Key No-Name-Race

Race: Lovers' Key No-Name Race.

Date it happened: 17 Dec 2016

Host: Naples area fitness trainer and CGT Race Team coach Mark Athanacio organizes these free "no name races" a few times a year.

Location: Lovers Key State Park, North Parking lot next to the Big Carlos Pass bridge.

Distance: It's about 9 km / 5.6 miles around the island, but the exact distance can vary depending on how much you cut corners or follow the channel.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, warm December day, with an ESE wind around 10 knots. The tide was very low and still ebbing, so optimizing the route to avoid shallows and strong current was important. We rounded the island clockwise, so the wind and small chop were in our faces for the first leg, on the bay side of the island. In the second leg, on the ocean side of the island, the wind was at our backs and there were some opportunities to ride bumps.

Participants: There was a good turnout of about 20 racers. Racers included the usual CGT paddle tribe, plus some of Athanacio's friends from other sports who don't usually SUP race, plus a SUP racer or two from the East Coast of Florida, such as Mary Ann Boyer Willis.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin. Devin Turetzkin and Mark Hourigan used 14x23 RPs, as well. Mark Athanacio used his 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. Matt Kearney used a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC. Tadem Stewart used a new 14' Naish Javelin and Steve Fleming used a 14' Naish Maliko. All the women were on 12'6 SUPs- Mary Ann Boyer on an Indigo, Cindy Gibson, Damien Lin, and Donna Catron on Hovies, Meg Bosi on a Bark, and some of the other ladies on MHL custom boards.

Results: Mark Athanacio won first place, finishing in just over 59 minutes, while I was about a minute behind in 1 hour even. Matt Kearney was impressively 3rd overall and 1st 12'6, just edging out Tadem Stewart in 1:04:18. Mary Ann Boyer was the first woman, but looked to have been seriously challenged by rookie racer Cindy Gibson, who was only about two board lengths behind at the finish.

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

Play by play: We started and finished from the beach. It was a little awkward because we had to launch out, but then immediately turn to the right to begin rounding the island. So the right side of the starting line was favored. Mark Athanacio had a great start that immediately put him a few board lengths in front of the rest of us. Matt Kearney, Tadem Stewart, and I also started aggressively, and for a while the three of us were about even with each other, behind Mark. Devin Turetzkin was in the mix, too. Tadem fell where some strong current was creating weird ripples, and I gradually outpaced Matt with my board length advantage, so it was soon just me behind Mark. I considered making an all-out effort to sprint up into his draft, but decided to set my own pace instead, and hopefully maybe catch him later if he tired out or ran into choppy water trouble with his ultra narrow board. As it turned out I had no luck catching Mark. Though I paddled hard, he set a blazing pace that I simply couldn't match, and he gradually extended his lead.

At the half-way point of the rounding we went through a tidal inlet called New Pass. There were some tricky shallow areas entering and exiting the inlet that frustrated me. Shallow water slows the board down and also prevents me from sticking the paddle all the way in the water, because it hits the sand below. One in the Gulf of Mexico we were going downwind, which was nice. Downwind with the assistance of following seas sometimes allows for speeds higher than can be achieved in flat water. Although I was getting occasional surges of speed, I was slowing down running into the backs of the waves at other times, so my average speed was breaking even with about what it would be in flat water. Heading into Big Carlos Pass was upcurrent and upwind again, so that final leg of the race was a draining grind.

Though my finishing time of 1 hour even was pretty good given the conditions, I'd like to find some more tricks or another level of fitness to catch up with Mark again. Including this time he has beaten me by a significant distance 3 of the last 4 times we paddled around Lovers Key. The one time I got him was a week ago when it was really windy and choppy and both of our times were slower than usual. I think my board may have better stability and handle ugly side-chop better, but when the chop is relatively small, Mark just makes his ultra light and narrow Hovie fly in a way that I can't keep up with. I'll keep at in the gym, work on my stroke technique, and experiment with a smaller paddle blade. I might also try to eat healthier, since that's one area where I have considerable room for improvement. I burn enough calories to not get fat, but I probably eat too much sugary fatty processed food, like cookies, hot dogs, pizza, and mac & cheese.

What else is new: There's another SUP race tomorrow morning, hosted by CGT. It's only about half the distance of the Lovers' Key rounding, but it's challenging in a different way because it's more of a sprint.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series #1

Race: Race #1 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 4 December 2016.

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.

Distance: Approximately 5.34 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, blue sky day with typical warm Florida fall weather. The river level was low and the tide ebbing, with the current at about 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. There was a moderate wind from the East that added to the challenge of paddling upriver.

Participants: We had 16 wonderful people, including most of the race team regulars. Coach Mark Athanacio couldn't make it because he's in Miami renewing his cross-fit trainer certification, but his girlfriend Jen paddled one of his cool custom Hovie SUPs- 12'6x22 -and tested out her new Apple Smart-Watch. "Superman" Robert Norman drove down from Inverness and raced his 14x21 custom MHL board. Most of us were racing as fast as we could, but there were several people this time who took a more relaxed approach and paddled the course with their dogs onboard. After the race it seemed like there were more dogs than people at the buffet in the shop. I like dogs, so I thought that was cool.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin.

Results: I had the fastest time in the 14' sup class, with 34:18, followed by Robert Norman in 36:20. Third 14' man was Murray Hunkin with 37:11. Matt Kearney was the first 12'6 paddler, getting 37:46 on his 24" wide Hovie Comet ZXC. The top three women (all on 12'6 boards) were Damien Lin in 43:19, Jen Hayes in 44:53, and Donna Catron in 46:31. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Robert Norman. I was in the faster-flowing middle of the river, which helped me nose ahead in the initial sprint and find an open path in undisturbed water. Meanwhile the other guys had to struggle with each others' wakes as we formed a draft train. Though I was confident that I could eventually tire out and drop Murray and Devin (those guys are 14 years older than me and not as ultra fit as Mark Athanacio), I was worried that Robert (14 years younger than me and very fit) might be able to stay in my draft indefinitely and then pass me later when I got tired. Fortunately for me / unfortunately for Robert, his start put him in 4th position in the draft train. So when Devin and Murray couldn't stay on my tail, Robert got dropped, too. I knew I wasn't totally out of the woods, though. I'd still have to maintain a fast pace to hold the initial lead.

On the first downriver leg I opted to go to the more distant buoy, to get my long lap over with first. Of our starting group, only Murray chose to do the short lap first. At the turn I was nervous and almost fell, but was reassured to see that I had a safe gap on Robert and Devin. The wind and current were annoying on the upriver leg, but I tried to paddle especially hard in the worst patches to get through them quicker. Back at the start/finish line I rounded the halfway buoy without incident, though I think I took it wider than necessary. Devin's girlfriend Larissa took a lot of good pictures of people rounding the buoy.

Me on the 14x23 Riviera RP.

Robert Norman on the 14x21 MHL custom.

Matt Kearney on a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC.

Justin DiGiorgio on 14x24 Hovie Comet GT.

Bryan Herrick on 14x23.75 Riviera RP custom.

On the second, shorter lap I was feeling pretty tired but tried to think fast, peppy thoughts to continue paddling effectively. I wasn't wearing my heartrate monitor, which died the other day, so I gauged my effort level just by how I felt. A couple hundred meters from the end I picked up the pace to make sure I used up all my remaining energy. It sure felt good to cross the line and be done. Then it was fun watching everybody finish and hanging out on the water. I can't wait for the next race two weeks from now. :)

What else is new: CGT recently became a Starboard dealer (Starboard is the #1 sup and windsurf board brand in the world), and they're getting their first shipment of race boards in early January. They will keep selling Riviera boards, which is good because I am a Riviera brand ambassador and plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell the Riviera boards are at least as fast, and cheaper.

Later this winter Robert Norman is going to try to break the world record for the longest distance sup paddled in 24 hours. The current record is held by Seychelle Hattingh, who set it earlier this year at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL. Robert is going to make his attempt at the same park, which is a big artificial lake used for rowing competitions and such. Whereas Seychelle set her record on a 14' Mistral sup, Robert is going to use an unlimited length sup; a 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint. The very long board should make it a little easier to maintain a high average pace for a long time, but I still think it will be very difficult for Robert to beat Seychelle's incredible record of 177 km. It will be neat to see him try, though.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Series 2016 Final

Race: Race #9 (the last one) in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 20 November 2016.

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.

Distance: Approximately 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and several people took that option this time.

Conditions: The morning was cold by Florida standards, long-pants weather, with a North wind blowing. The river current was moderate, about 0.7 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. Is hasn't rained for about a month, so the freshwater input to the river has gone way down.

Participants: There was a great turnout with a mix of the regular racers and some first-time racers. On the womens' side, Beth Schadd was back from her summer in Idaho and paddling a new 12'6x24 Riviera RP. Donna Catron and Jen Hayes were on 12'6 Hovies, Meg Bosi on a 12'6 Bark, and Cindy Gibson on the 14x22 "Blue Streak" Riviera that I sold her a while back. Saralane Harrer paddled with one large dog on her board, and Damien Lin with two dachsunds on hers. (Damien had done a 12 km race in Miami the previous day.) Patricia tried out her new BOTE board for the first time. On the men's side, "Superman" Robert Norman drove down from central Florida with his 14x21 MHL custom board and his charming beau Carigon. A guy who was visiting from New Jersey raced on a rented Riviera. Two dudes were on Naish raceboards- Steve Fleming and teenage Tadem Stewart. Mark Athanacio had done the Miami race the day before, so he wasn't in full competitive mode, but he used opportunity to test out his new 12'6x23 custom Hovie, which has rough-water / all-around design with a concave hull similar to the Starboard Allstar. Mark Payne showed up with his 18' long unlimited SUP, but ended up swapping boards with Justin DiGiorgio and paddling Justin's 14x24 Hovie Comet GT. Matt Kearney was on a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC, Mark Nicoletti on a 12'6 Boga. Devin Turetzkin and I were both on 14x23 Riviera RP boards, and Bryan Herrick was on a custom 14x23.75 Riviera. Murray Hunkin was on his 14x27 Starboard Allstar.

Results: I had the fastest time in the 14' sup class, with 38:23, followed by Robert Norman in 40:06. Mark Athanacio was fastest 12'6 with 40:20. Cindy Gibson was the fastest woman, and set a personal best time of 43. something. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

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

Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Tadem Stewart. We were all about the same speed off the line, but I stayed in clear water and angled into the lead after 100 meters or so. Murray got in my draft, and I think the other guys got behind him. I did my best to set a fast-but-sustainable pace, but I felt slightly out of tune physically. I had lingering symptoms from a cold earlier in the week, and sore muscles from doing an awkward bench press test on Friday at Dr. Jose Antonio's sports physiology lab in Ft. Lauderdale. (Matt Kearney and I were both there participating in a new study. More on that later.) My pace wasn't fast enough to drop Murray. He stayed on me all the way downriver to the turn-around buoy, but he fell rounding the buoy so I dropped him that way. Heading upriver I didn't doing anything super special, but I did try to strategically pick the parts of the river offering the best shelter from headwinds and currents, or if that wasn't possible, the deepest water and the most direct path.

Race director Nick Paeno announced my split time as 19 minutes when I reached the start/finish line at the end of the first lap. I knew I'd need to maintain that pace for the second half in order to get an overall time on par with my 38.something average for the series. Seeing Robert Norman charging hard at the lead of the second group of starters also helped me stay motivated. That guy is only 23, and strong and agile as Bruce Lee, so I reckon it's just a matter of time before he starts beating everyone. Anyway, to go fast on the second downriver part I thought fast thoughts. I tried to "feel" my paddle grabbing the water and my board sliding forward, and I willed the wind to push at my back. On the final upriver leg I focused more on forcing my body to work harder, knowing that the end was coming and that I should use up every drop of energy remaining. It seemed to work OK, and I was happy to finish with the time I got. Murray was next to cross the line, and he looked like he was still paddling well. I think he had a good race despite the one fall. Robert Norman seemed to have pulled ahead of the guys who had been near him before the second lap, and he was really flying at the finish. Beth Schadd also had a charging sprint finish, with a rapid cadence and more effective looking paddling style than I remember her having last season. Maybe she practiced in Idaho. Bryan Herrick, who has changed up his training to focus more on injury-reducing recovery and developing a strong endurance base, reaped the rewards of his training by improving on his previous best time by nearly a minute, and averaging a very respectable 8.4 kph over the entire race.

After the race we tried out some of each others' toys. I got a kick out of paddling Mark Payne's long unlimited board. It didn't accelerate very well, but it could cruise at high speed with a little less effort than would be required on a 14' board. I also got on Mark Athanacio's 12'6x23 custom all-water Hovie, and I really liked the feel of it. Light and efficient feeling but remarkably stable, perhaps because of the very wide tail and concave hull design. It will be interesting to see how Mark does on it at the next rough water race. Robert Norman bought a 12'x19 Riviera prone paddleboard from CGT and tried it out while we all watched and commented. His first move was tip it over and immediately fall off, then he ran it into the bushes, but pretty soon he had it going like he sort of knew what he was doing. Then he impressed us by standing up on it and using a paddle like it was a standup paddleboard. It was obviously very tippy, but just the fact that he could stand up on it at all was pretty impressive. Since Robert doesn't live near the ocean, we're speculating that he could use the prone paddleboard as a rough water simulator sup, since it's as hard to balance on in flat water as a normal board would be in very rough seas.

When we got off the water we had the great buffet at CGT, enhanced by some exotic dishes brought in by healthy chefs Bryan Herrick and Cindy Gibson. Never heard of avocado pudding before. Good times.

What's next: It looks like the next big SUP race won't be until after the holidays, but I'll keep up with the thrice-weekly workouts that coach Mark Athanacio assigns, and try to do some race-length paddles like more Lovers' Key roundings. Hopefully we'll get some good wind and waves for surfing and windsurfing, too.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

SUP Race Report: Englewood Beach PaddleFest

Race: Englewood Beach PaddleFest

Date it happened: 12 November 2016.

Host/Sponsors: Hosted by "Hooked on SUP Paddlesports" and a bunch of other sponsors and volunteers listed on the race's paddleguru page.

Location: The Gulf of Mexico off Englewood Beach, Florida, and into Stump Pass inlet.

Distance: There were three race courses- a 9.2 km one, a 4.8 km one, and a 2.4 km one. The long one went south along the beach and briefly into Stump Pass inlet, before coming back out and going north along to the beach to the start / finish. (See my GPS track.) The 4.8 and 2.4 km courses were 2 and 1 laps, respectively, around a triangle course in the ocean centered around the start / finish. I did the long race and my awesome wife Rhonda Mason did the short race.

Conditions: The weather was perfect for a race on the ocean- light offshore breezes with virtually no waves or chop on the clear, blue-green water. It was cool enough for sweatpants and long sleeves in the early morning, but became pleasantly summery as the day went on. An incoming tide added technicality to the inlet entrance / exit at the halfway point of the long race, with strong localized currents of varying directions sweeping over shallow sandbars.

Participants: There were 48 in the long race, 57 in the medium race, 38 in a short race, and a some in a kids race. Most people were on SUPs, but there were a handful of outrigger canoeists including John Beausang of the Distressed Mullet paddle website, plus a prone paddleboard and a kayak. In the shorter races many of the competitors were on surf-style sups, which were scored in their own division separate from 12'6 and 14' race sups. Though there were some tough competitors, the event had an overall friendly, "family" vibe. Since Englewood is relatively close to my town, lots of people from my local club/team, the CGT Tribe, were there. In the 14' class in the long race we had coach Mark Athanacio, Murray Hunkin, Mark Hourigan, Justin DiGiorgio, Jim McIntyre, and me. In 12'6 class we had Cindy Gibson, Meg Bosi, Matt Kearney, and Devin Turetzkin. Jason Mastin and Jen Hayes did the medium race on 12'6s. Justin's spouse Jessica DiGiorgio and my spouse Rhonda Mason did the short race on 12'6 race and 11'8 surf style boards, respectively.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. Rhonda used my 11'8" Exocet WindSUP, which qualifies as a surf-style board. Mark Athanacio used a 14x21.5" custom Hovie Comet GT, Matt Kearney used a 12'6x24" Hovie Comet ZXC (a little narrower than his usual board), Meg Bosi used a new 12'6x25 Bark Contender, and Murray Hunkin used his new 14x27 Starboard Allstar.

Results: The results were a little goofy because they gave awards based on age classes (under 18, 18-49, and 50+), but some of the teenagers and 50 plussers were faster overall than the 18-49 year olds. The overall fastest sup in the long race was 50+ Mark Athanacio, who finished in just under an hour, followed about a minute and half later by me. The next two finishers were also very-fit 50-plussers; Bruce Day and Jim Valenti. Teenage Will Marston was the first 12'6 finisher, with millennial Matt Kearney just a few seconds behind him, and 50+ Devin Turetzkin a few minutes back in third overall but first for his class. 50+ Cindy Gibson was the first woman to cross the line on 12'6, a bit ahead of younger Meg Bosi and Amy Carden. In the mid-length race, a tiny young boy named Dylan Geiger impressed everyone by getting first place overall, ahead of 50+ Kevin Glatfelter, who was ahead of 18-49 class Jason Mastin! Young Hailey Marsten was first female in the mid-length race, ahead of Jen Hayes. In the short race, I was overjoyed to see Rhonda get FIRST in the 18-49 year old surf sup class. Jessica DiGiorgio also had a stunningly great first race, getting second overall on her 12'6 sup. I'm not sure if Rhonda and Jessica's victories were because of or in spite of incessant advice and goading from paddling obsessed husbands. Probably in spite of. The full, complicated results and times are posted on PaddleGuru.

Rhonda with her TROPHY.

Play by play: I felt weird before the start of the race. I wasn't sure if it was just nerves or maybe something physical, but as I write this I've come down with a major cold, so my funny feelings may have been the beginnings of that. Despite feeling off, I started the race pretty well, with only hard-charging Mark Athanacio and wirey Will Marston out-sprinting me from the beach to the first buoy. I passed Will shortly after the buoy and found myself a few board lengths behind Mark. I wasn't close enough to be fully in his draft, but I think I got some benefit from being on about the 4th "wave" of his draft. I debated trying to sprint right up behind him, but the pace we were going was already close to my full sprint and I was worried that going too hard at that point would ruin me for the rest of the race. Nobody else was matching our pace, so it was clear that, barring disaster, Mark and I would be the only ones in contention for first and second.

After a while I moved out of Mark's wake and took a line more inshore of his, working my way up to about parallel with him. In retrospect, that would have been a good time for me to cross back into his draft and really stick there, but I assumed (wrongly) that I'd have another opportunity later. I didn't have that opportunity because Mark put on some more speed and stayed just out of reach as we moved into Stump Pass inlet. The gap increased after we rounded the buoy in the inlet and headed back towards the Gulf of Mexico. That was partly because I got too shallow hugging one side of the channel in my efforts to avoid the incoming tidal current. Something I should have learned from our practice paddles around Lovers' Key is that Mark somehow sneaks over shallows without losing as much speed as I do, so I'm better off staying deeper and not following his exact path.

I briefly regained some distance on Mark when he got caught paddling in place in a river-like tidal current exiting the inlet. I thought I'd try crossing over the strongest part of the current before turning against it, but I ended up falling off when the currently suddenly caught the nose of my board. Though I recovered quickly, Mark put more distance on me as I struggled through the sucking region near the inlet. At this point in the race I was feeling physically enervated and now demoralized with the realization that I probably wouldn't catch up to Mark again. Though my heart rate wasn't quite at it's maximum, and I wasn't having any particular muscular failures, I nevertheless found it impossible to squeeze any more speed out of myself. That might have had something to do with my oncoming cold, or with over-training in the gym and on the water this week. Or it might have been entirely a mental thing. I'm not sure. Anyway, though Mark continued to slip further ahead, I at least didn't let anyone sneak up behind me, and I held onto that second place. My average speed for the race was 9.12 kph, which is not much worse than my best-ever speed for an hour-long paddle (9.32 kph for a Lovers' Key rounding on August 20th). With Mark paddling really well lately, it looks like nothing short of my all-time best performance, or something even better than that, is going to match him.

After the long race the team hung out on the beach, and cheered Rhonda and Jessica in the short race. As is typical of big SUP events, it was a while after the races were over before we got through all the lunch and awards and stuff. I spent part of the time trying out some QuickBlade paddles that were available for demo. The awards and raffle were run efficiently, but the awards still took a while because there were an outrageous number of divisions. 3 age classes x 3 board classes x 3 races x 2 genders x 1st through 3rd place in each = 162 trophies just for the SUPs! Both Rhonda and I were happy to get our first place plaques, though, and we felt pretty boss driving home with them. Go team CGT!

What's next: There's going to be one final race in the season's CGT Race series on November 20th. In the meantime I'll continue my training with coach Athanacio and the team. I'm not planning any major changes to gear or training strategies, other than maybe going to a smaller paddle blade. The Riviera R8 I've been using is 106 in^2, but a lot of of people are switching over to 80 - 90 in^2 blades with good success. For example, Athanacio's strong second-half performance may have something to do with his switching to an 86 in^2 QuickBlade Trifecta paddle. (The smaller blades are supposed to reduce skeletal muscle fatigue and increase endurance.) Riviera makes a 93 in^2 blade on a paddle called the "Bump 7.0," which I have tried and which is likely to be my next paddle.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gamer Girls, by Rhonda

In addition to being a multi-published science fiction / fantasy writer, my talented wife is also an adept video game player. She was recently commissioned by the video game news website "Gamers Sphere" to write a blog article about her personal experiences as a "Gamer Girl." As you may or may not have heard, there has traditionally been a lot of sexism / misogyny / immaturity in the video gaming community, which can make it a treacherous environment for women. Rhonda Mason is not one to stand for that shit.

You can read the article here:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sexy Space Opera, Part II

My wife, Rhonda Mason, is a published author. Today is the release of her second book, Cloak of War, which is the follow-up to her critically-acclaimed sci-fi debut, The Empress Game. You can order both books on her website, or find them at Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

SUP Race Report: Imperial River Challenge 2016

Race: The Imperial River Challenge.

Date it happened: 22 October 2016.

Host/Sponsors: Hosted by the town of Bonita Springs. Sponsored by CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, and lots of other Bonita Springs businesses including the Shangri-La Springs yoga/spa/resort, Stan's Subs, Wells Fargo Bank, Heaven Shakes Ice Cream, Heaven Scent Flowers and Tuxedos, the Everglades Wonder Gardens, and Benson's Grocery.

Location: The Imperial River, from Kent Road (West of I-75), downriver to Riverside Park in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: Approximately 4.1 km / 2.55 miles, sometimes more than that depending on river levels and how you negotiate the turns and obstacles. The course is one-way, downriver. This is a GPS track from a practice run I did earlier in the month- I didn't use a GPS during the actual race because I didn't want to have to stop if it got knocked off the board by a branch or something.

Conditions: It was pleasant, sunny, breezy weather, not too hot and humid. The river level was much lower than it's end-of-wet-season peak about a month ago. The water flow was relatively slow, but swift enough to create challenging eddies and vortices around the bends and submerged objects. I'd been concerned about some impassable obstacles (fallen trees, etc) that appeared when the water level went down- I had to portage around them when I did a practice run on Tuesday. But between my last practice run and the race, the city had gone up the river and chainsawed the obstacles out of the way. Whew!

Participants: There were a mix of kayakers, canoers, and SUP paddlers, with a majority doing kayak or canoe. In some years there have been serious race kayakers in skinny boats, but this year it looked like mostly slower recreational kayaks. The fancy gear and race-minded paddlers were concentrated in the SUP class. On the women's side there was Damien Lin on a 12'6 Hovie Comet ZXC, Donna Catron on a non-race SUP, and Heather Olson on a 12'6x24 Riviera RP. On the men's side the three top contenders were Mark Athanacio on a 14'x21.5 Hovie Comet GT, Robert Norman on a 14x23 Naish Javelin, and me on my 14x23 Riviera RP. Solid racers John Weinberg and Joe Gladieaux were also there. Four of our usual racers were absent because they're in Tennessee for the torturous 50-km Chattajack race.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. The Riviera production boards have really good resistance to cuts and dings, so I wasn't too worried about taking my beautiful board through the "rapids".

Results: I narrowly got first in 26:49, with Mark Athanacio at 27:00, and Robert Norman at 30:29. There was drama when Robert's time was originally announced as an "amazing new course record" of 20:29, and we had to talk to the committee to uncover their timing error. First woman was Damien Lin in 32-something, followed by Donna Catron and Heather Olson. The SUP paddlers were faster than all the kayakers and canoes this year. But canoeists won the costume contest, with a pair dressed as a Gorilla and a Banana.

Play by play: Since the upper river is really narrow and twisty it would be a demolition derby if they started everyone at the same time. So they started us one by one, about a minute apart. I was terrified that I'd get stuck behind a slow kayaker or something, so I bullied up to the front of the line and got to start first. Athanacio started second, and Robert Norman third. The first part of the course alternated between briefly sprinting and awkwardly negotiating sharp turns. Sometimes I would step back on the board to do a proper "buoy turn" aka "pivot turn" and other times I would do some variation on the "cross-bow" turn without stepping back. It's hard to know what is the fastest sometimes. Athanacio says his strategy in that part of the course was to stay back on his board the whole time to pivot it around, not sprinting too much but mostly saving his energy for the more open water later in the race.

There were about three times that I ALMOST fell off my board and caught myself by using the paddle as a crutch. It wasn't the turns that were throwing me off, it was where a swirling current would shift the board under me unexpectedly. By the time I got through the upper part of the course I was feeling a lot of cardio fatigue and muscle fatigue, but I tried to stay fast and find a rhythm for the rest of the course. I didn't have my speedcoach GPS on the board because I was worried it might get knocked off, so I just gauged my effort level and speed by how I felt. In the last several hundred meters I took it up a notch, and when I saw the "FINISH" banner and balloons stretched across the river at the end I went as hard as I could. I rested in the water until Athancio finished, and was relieved when he said his time was a few seconds slower than mine. Too close for comfort, but good enough to get the first place prize basket and $100... which Athanacio will get anyway because I'm paying him to train me. :)

Congrats to everyone who finished this challenging, adventuresome race, and big thanks to the race organizers.

What's next: There's going to be one final race in the CGT Kayaks summer series, and a race in Englewood in early November.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Snorkeling for "Work" at the Florida Keys Marine Lab

I spent the last four days snorkeling with Rhonda and my Florida Gulf Coast University students at the FL Keys Marine Lab on Long Key. It was delightful, and educational for the students, of course. I've posted an annotated picture album, and put a couple video clips together in a very short video. (See below.)

KML Fall 2016 clips from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Formula Windsurfing Boom Mount, 11.0 Sail

The seasons have just flipped here in Florida, from the overcooked rainy season to the drier and more comfortable, but still summery, season. In this season we often get wind from the Northeast, which is side-offshore on the Gulf Coast. Formula windsurfing gear can be fun in these conditions. Sunday evening I got out on my big 11.0 sail for a nice sesh in 5-15 knots of breeze. I tried a new boom mount position for the GoPro camera. It worked fine except for water droplets on the lens. Maybe next time I'll use some rain-x or a different shaped lens to reduce the water droplet problem. I also tried wearing my SpeedCoach SUP 2 gps on my head to track the session. Video and track are below.

Formula Boom Mount 10-9-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Hurricane Matthew related windsurfing session + red tide

Hurricane Matthew was a terrible tragedy for Haiti, and a major nuisance for some of the Southeast Atlantic coast. Here in Southwest Florida it was just a breezy Thursday and Friday. I was off work because the University had cautiously closed. So, I went windsurfing. This is a video of the session from Friday afternoon, which was the tail end of the strong wind. I went out on real small gear (4.7 sail, 83 liter board) and ended up having to rig a slightly bigger 5.5 sail after a while. The song in the video is White Riot by the clash.

Small board windsurfing 10-8-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The only bad thing about the session was that the water was stinky and full of dead fish related to a Karenia brevis red tide bloom. The Florida Gulf Coast has had occasional red tides as long as records have been kept, but the scientific consensus is that the red tides have gotten worse in recent years due to coastal eutrophication; the pollution of nearshore waters by excessive nutrients from man-made sources like sewage and fertilizer. You can track Florida red tides on the FWC Red Tide website.

Monday, October 3, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #8

Race: Race #8 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 2 October 2016.

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.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and several people took that option this time.

Conditions: It was sunny, hot and humid- this is South Florida, after all. The river current was a strong 1.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. This is the time of year (the end of the wet season) that the river current peaks in strength.

Participants: There was a great turnout; 8 racers for the one-lap course and 12 for the two-lap. In addition to CGT race regulars like Meg Bosi and Mark Athanacio, there were some new or newish racers.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. A lot of other people were on Riviera's, too; Murray Hunkin on a 14x27, Mark Hourigan on a 14x23, Donna Montgomery on a 12'6x22, Meg Bosi on a 12'6x24, and Saralane Harrer on a 12'6x26. Hovie sups were also common. Mark Athanacio paddled a 14'x21, Justin DiGiorgio a 14x24, Devin Turetzkin and Matt Kearney 12'6x25s, and Cindi Gibson a 12'6x26. I think Jen Hayes used Mark A's 12'6x21.

Results: In the one-lap division Mark Hourigan had the fastest time- 21:45, followed by Bryan Herrick- 22:40. Pat on her kayak was third overall in 24:30 and Saralane Harrer was third sup in 27:11. In the two-lap division I was first in 39:26, followed by Mark Athanacio in 39:27. Matt was next with 43:21 on his 12'6, followed Justin DiGiorgio in 44:15 on 14', and Devin Turetzkin in 44:48 on 12'6. First woman was Cindy Gibson in 48:04, followed by Meg Bosi in 48:42, and Donna Montgomery in 57:24. Jon Weinberg was slower than usual because he stopped to pick up a sprouted, floating coconut that he plans to plant in his yard, but he still got 50:00 even. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: It was tough lining up at the start because the current wanted to flip us around. Eventually we got it straight. I started in the first wave with Mark Athanacio, Justin DiGiorgio, and Murray Hunkin. I got out in front then slowed down to a moderately fast pace that I thought I could maintain. The other guys were right behind in the draft train. About 5 minutes into the race I moved aside for Athanacio to lead. He went about the same pace I'd been going, but in his draft I was able to save a bit of energy. Justin and Murray hung on until the first buoy turn, when Murray fell and Justin couldn't get around him fast enough catch Mark and I as we accelerated away.

Mark and I cooperatively swapped leads another time or two on the way upriver. It was tough fighting the current; our usual tricks of hugging the edges and the inside of river bends seemed inadequate. By the midpoint of the race I was at a miserable heartrate of 185, but I recovered slightly by drafting Mark when heading downriver. As we approached the downriver buoy for the second time, our equitable trading of draft positions shifted into side-by-side jockeying. Mark rounded the buoy first but I turned sharper and got into the more favorable current on the edge of the river. At this point I had to decide between trying to stay in front until the end of the race, or letting Mark lead one more time and hoping for him to tire out enough for me to pass. I chose the former, based on my experience that it's easier to defend the lead than to take the lead, especially going up a river, where the leader can pick the best path.

I paddled hard, especially when I heard Mark making a move to pass. One of Mark's passing attempts involved him crossing to the opposite side of the river. I hadn't been planning to take that side, but I followed to make sure I could block Mark's way. That was actually a strategy I learned from Mark- he says it's better to stay on your competitors than to separate, unless you're SURE that an alternate path will give you a big speed advantage. Anyway, I finished the race paddling as hard as I could and reaching a ridiculous 194 bpm heartrate, with Athanacio just one second behind in my draft. Whew! My time in this race was my slowest of the series, by an entire minute, but I think that's mostly attributable to the current. One thing I felt good about was my relatively even "splits". I.e., my first lap was 19:35 and the second was 19:38. Usually the second lap is a lot slower.

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

Congrats to everyone who finished this challenging, strong-current race. Special kudos to new racer Cindi Gibson for setting the pace in the womens' division and getting a surprise win over local favorite Meg Bosi, who is a couple decades younger. Ironically, Cindi did it on the 12'6x26 Hovie she just bought from Meg. Cindi also bought my 14x22 Riviera "the Blue Streak", and I expect she'll be fast on that, as well. Cindi and newish male racer Rudy Ambrosi (47:46) are my two "rookie racers to watch" this season, because they're strong and focused, but have lots of room remaining for improvement in board handling skills and race strategies and stuff. I would put Donna Montgomery (57:24) in the same category- she is still getting used to some big changes she's made in paddle length and board width and she should be picking up speed rapidly.

After the race we had the usual buffet at CGT, and we watched the Pacific Paddle Games (most competitive sup race in the world) on TV. Good times.

What's next: Next SUP event for me is the Imperial River Challenge downriver blast on October 22nd here in Bonita Springs. It should be wild this year with as strong as the river flow has been. I'll need to take a test run or two on the course to make sure I know where the hidden tree stumps and whirlpools and such are located.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Formula windsurfing session video

The other day I took a spin on my Exocet Turbo Formula II board with an 11.0 square meter Gaastra Nitro 4 sail. The wind was about 10 knots, which was plenty to get planing with that powerful board and sail combination. The video is below. I'm not risking putting songs in my videos anymore because I've been told I have just one copyright infringement strike left before they'll pull my vimeo account. I wish there was a simple way you could pay like, 5 bucks, and be able to have whatever song you want in the background of a video.

Exocet Formula 9-28-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lake Mary Jane

Race: 5th Annual Lake Mary Jane Paddle Race

Date it happened: 25 September 2016.

Host/Sponsor: Hosted by Wave of Wellness, a sup-based fitness / tour / yoga business run by Jessica Cichra. Sponsored by Albert Cichra Builders, a marine construction company that makes nice docks for lake houses and such. There were also many other sponsors who had tents at the event site or donated stuff for the raffle. For example: ECS boards and Boardworks Surf.

Location: Isle of Pines Property Owner's Association Beach Park on Lake Mary Jane, near Orlando, FL.

Distance: The main courses were 4.8 and 9.6 km races; 2 and 4 laps, respectively, around an M-shaped course. After that there was a free, 1.6 km race for beginner sup racers, then there was a sprint race, a board-tow relay race, and a kids race. I just did the long race, which I measured at 9.55 km on my GPS.

Conditions: This was a Florida morning in September, thus it was sweltering hot and humid with nary a breeze. The lake was warm and naturally coffee-colored from tannic compounds leaching out of the swampy surroundings. The water surface was nearly glassy, with "bumps" provided only by sup wakes.

Participants: There were 40 racers in the 9.6 km, 46 racers in the 4.8 km, and around 10 in each of the shorter race events. There were a handful of surfski kayak and outrigger canoe paddlers, but the vast majority were on standup paddleboards. Professional and sort-of professional sup racers in attendance were Ryan Helm and Kim Barnes (Riviera), Seychelle Hattingh (Mistral), Jeramie Vaine (Werner Paddles), Kieran Grant (Hoviesup), Alyssa Veres (Lokahi), and Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo). Windsurfing / Kiteboarding legends Isabelle Picard and Bill Kraft from the US Virgin Islands were also there. Top level surfski kayaker and pretty darn good sup paddler Reid Hyle was there, supping. From our local CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards "Tribe" we had a good turnout: Devin Turetzkin, Matt Kearney and I carpooled up (see picture), and we met Murray Hunkin, Jason Mastin, Jim and Quinn McIntyre, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also there were standout sup families Cat & Neil Uden et al. (Boga), Stephen Chase & Rachel Ferguson (JP Australia), and The Marstons (Hoviesup). Keeping things lively were bold characters Robert "Superman" Norman, Yensys "Hulk" Loyola, Adam "Speedcoach" Pollock, Karl "Wings" Eugster, and others.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP, with my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The pro men were on 14's and the pro women were on 12'6s, though there were also some men on 12'6 (e.g., Matt, Devin & Karl) and some women on 14'.

Results: Full results are posted on webscorer. Surfski kayaker David Rush was the first to finish the 9.6 km race, just a few seconds faster than men's 14' sup winner Ryan Helm, who had a time of 0:59:55. Jeramie Vaine was 2nd with 1:00:28, Kieran Grant 3rd with 1:00:46, me 4th with 1:01:41, and Bill Kraft 5th in 1:01:58. Seychelle and Kim were the first 12'6s and the first women in 1:05:07 and 1:05:13, respectively. First male 12'6 was 15 year old Will Marston (1:06:30), followed by Matt Kearney (1:07:03) and Jason Geiger (1:07:05). Third place woman (1st in 50+) was Isabelle Picard in 1:09:31. Murray Hunkin got 3rd in the 50+ men's division with 1:09:23. In the 4.8 km race, 14' division, Robert Norman won in 0:32:25, just ahead of fellow MHL custom board rider Jeff Berry in 0:32:36. Lanky teenager Peyton Thomas was third in 0:35:06. Devin Turetzkin won the 12'6 division in the 4.8 km race, and was first overall for 50+, with 0:35:13. Jason Mastin was 4th in 12'6 with 0:36:19.

Play by play: The day before the race the Cichras hosted some events on the lake for the arriving racers. Devin, Matt and I had a long drive up from SW Florida but we got there in time for chilling out and pre-registration at Albert Chichra's beautiful lake house. Central Florida, with its tall pines, cypress, and oak and maple trees, seems to have more in common biologically with the Carolinas than with tropical South Florida. The shady lake house fit nicely with that temperate woods feeling, and reminded me of good times with my Douglass relatives at a Lake Murray cabin in South Carolina. Jessica Cichra and the other race organizers and volunteers were very warm and welcoming, both at the pre-registration and at the race itself.

The hotel we stayed at on the outskirts of Orlando, the Courtyard Marriott Lake Nona, was sparkling new and sprawling, like much of Disney-centric Orlando. We were well rested when we arrived at the race site in the morning, and had time to do some warm-up paddling. I was a bit nervous about this race because I've recently attempted to change in my stroke technique, in response to tips I got at Ryan Helm's most recent paddle clinic. Ryan said that I really needed to work on getting a more "positive" blade angle at the beginning of the stroke; something that could be achieved with more bend in the top arm and more stacking of the shoulders. He also said that I was paddling too far past my feet, and ought to remove the blade from the water earlier so as not to waste energy on an unproductive phase of the stroke. I had incorporated those changes into my practices the week before this race, but I wasn't sure if they would "stick" once I actually got into a race situation.

For the start of the 9.6 km race, they lined us up on the water between two docks, which provided a convenient corral. I tried something a little different this time, lining up in the second row, behind Kieran and Ryan, rather than in my own slot in the first row. I figured I could fit into the gap they left behind when they zoomed off better than I could elbow my way through a bunch of slower paddlers. Reid Hyle tried something similar. What I didn't account for was how tough it would be to paddle through the chaotic wakes left by the fast-sprinting starters. After struggling with that for 100 m or so I ended up picking a wider line to get more clear water, and that helped me get around some people on the way to the first buoy. After the first buoy I believe I was in about 7th position, on the tail of Reid Hyle and Steven Bernstein. Between them and the leaders (Ryan Helm, Jeramie Vaine, and Kieran Grant) was a lone paddler on a JP board. It didn't look like Steven was going to close the gap on the JP guy (who turned out to be Bill Kraft), so I broke to the side and made a big push to catch up to Bill Kraft. Reid zigged when he should have zagged, and on his slower 14x26' not-quite-race board he couldn't follow me as I chased and eventually caught Bill.

Once I got in Bill Kraft's draft, I had it MADE. He was setting a fast pace; not quite matching the three leaders, but not going any slower than I would have gone on my own. It helped that Bill is a beefy 90 kg, which meant he was displacing a good bit of water and making an easy wake to ride. On the buoy turns I stuck really close on his tail so I wouldn't get left behind, and that seemed to work well. After I while I offered to pull, but Bill said his cutting-bow JP board liked smooth water better than the draft. I continued to draft until the beginning of the third lap when I went wide and took the lead. I kept about the same pace, but my heart rate went up considerably. I tried to keep focused on form, and to be aware of any little ripple or puff of breeze that could give me some extra oomph. I tried to do tight turns followed by quick accelerations to build a little distance on Bill, who remained just a few board lengths behind me. Ahead of me I could see the lead trading off between Jeramie and Ryan, and after a while I noticed that they had dropped Kieran from their train. Kieran was wearing a long-sleeved black rashguard and black swim trunks, which may have been a handicap in the scorching heat. We actually started to get closer to him in the last lap, though never close enough to threaten his third place position.

In the final one or two legs of the last lap I picked up my pace to as much as I could stand, and then picked it up some more to a sprint at the very end, just to be sure Bill couldn't sneak around me. I actually remembered how my leash was attached this time, and unbuckled it quickly for the run up the sand through the finish line gate. Whew! I was very happy to get 4th place in this competitive group, and felt good about my revised stroke technique and successful tactic of saving energy by drafting. Given how easy it was to sustain a pretty fast pace in Bill's draft, I couldn't help but wonder if I could have hung on to the really fast guys' draft train, had I been able to get on it at the start. The trick may be learning to get off the line faster without getting slowed down by traffic and wakes.

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

After the race there was a nice atmosphere at the site, with good Mexican food, kids playing in the water, adults talking about their water toys, etc. The race organizers tried hard to get the raffle and awards done as quickly as possible and they did OK. There were SO many raffle items and race categories that it still took a while. Matt Kearney made a suggestion that they could call all three finishers (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) up to the podium in one breath instead of waiting for each person to arrive and stand up before calling the next one out of the crowd.

What's next: There's a race in Clearwater on Saturday, and a local CGT race on Sunday. I'll definitely go to the CGT race but I'm undecided about the other race. Traveling 3+ hours to a race and staying overnight is tough to do two weeks in a row.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Old Formula Windsurf Board, Again

This is my new old windsurf board. It's an Exocet Turbo Formula II from (I think) 2004. It's 230 cm long x 100 cm wide, with a 70 cm fin.

It is a grand irony that this is the exact model of formula board I had FOUR boards ago when I lived in Fort Pierce. I sold it then because I was too busy playing with other water toys (like kiteboards) to use it. Then I moved to Massachusetts and shifted to more wavesailing and paddlesurfing gear, simplifying thing by selling all my kiteboarding gear. I didn't miss the formula board much until I moved south again, to the Florida Gulf Coast, where the wind was light and there were no waves. I grabbed the first cheap formula board I could find, a very old (85 cm wide) Starboard. Soon I decided I didn't like that one, and I traded it for an 87 cm wide Bic fv1.2 that was almost as old. But the Bic was just a stopgap measure, because I REALLY wanted a full-fledged 100 cm width board that could hold an 11.0 m^2 sail and plane super early.

In the pursuit of cheapness I got a home-built "Don's Lab" formula board. It was 100 cm wide and had some other good characteristics. I enjoyed fiddling with it, but ultimately decided it was a white elephant. The feel of it didn't suit me, and it wasn't quite as lively and early planing as I'd hoped. So I sold it with no replacement lined up. Standup paddleboard racing kept me busy enough that I could bide my time in light winds, waiting for the ideal, good-enough-but-also-cheap-enough formula board to float in front of my nose. I passed up some that were too expensive, or where the seller was too far away, then finally found my perfect board, again, in Fort Lauderdale.

I used it for the first time today, with an 11.0 sail in iffy 10-knot winds. Even when it didn't seem like there was enough wind to plane, the board LEAPED up and ZOOMED, with just a little pump of the sail. It was fast, and frisky, and well-behaved, and I rode it all up and down the shore from Bonita Beach to Wiggins Pass and Back. YESSSSS!

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #7

Race: Race #7 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 18 September 2016.

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.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot and humid. The tide was moderately low and ebbing, and the river current was a strong 1.55 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. I.e., I averaged about 11 kph going downriver and 8 kph going upriver.

Participants: Several of the regulars were absent. For example, Mark Athanacio is vacationing in California, Matt Kearney is doing another SUP race in Key Largo, Justin DiGiorgio is flying to Ireland. Other absences included: Murray Hunkin, Saralane Harrer, Damien Lin, Mark Payne, John Weinberg, Steve Fleming, Jared Hamilton, Mark Hourigan, and Jim McIntyre. Fortunately, stalwarts Bryan Herrick, Devin Turetzkin, and Meg Bosi were there, and they were joined by less frequently seen racers Cindi Gibson, Patricia, Donna Montgomery, Paul Petersen, Mark Nicoletti, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also attending (but filming, not racing) was Justin's friend Juan, who is a licensed pilot and drone operator. Juan got some 4k video that will hopefully be available soon.

Gear: This was my first CGT race on "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. I used my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Rudy used the 2015 14x25 Riviera that he recently bought from Devin, and Devin used his 12'6x25 Hovie Comet GT. Bryan Herrick used "Fletchy," my older 14x23.75 carbon Riviera, which he has beautifully refinished with a Game of Thrones dragon-themed custom paintjob. Pat, who usually paddles a surfski kayak, boldly entered the SUP arena on a 12'6x26 Riviera RP. Meg Bosi used her 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC, and Cindi used Meg's 11' Boga touring board. Donna Montgomery used a 12'6x26 BlkBox board borrowed from CGT. Mark Nicoletti was the only person on a surf-style board this time. I'm trying to interest Cindi and Donna in my 14x22 "Blue Streak" Riviera, which has recently had a deck repair and is now on the consignment rack CHEAP at CGT. (Call CGT if you're interested. The Blue Streak is still the fastest and truest-tracking flatwater board I've ever paddled.)

Results: I had the fastest time, with 38:27. That is OK for me, but 40 seconds slower than my Race #2 best time of 37:47 on the 14x22 Blue Streak. I haven't been lifting weights or doing Mark Athanacio's training program for the last month, so I might be slowing down because my do-it-yourself workouts are not as effective as his program. The strong current surely played a role, as well. My third excuse is that I got a nasty wasp sting while mowing the lawn yesterday, and had a mild whole-body allergic reaction requiring Benadryl. Second fastest finisher was Devin Turetzkin, with 46:00, just one board length ahead of Rudy's 46:02. Impressive that Devin got 2nd overall even though he was on a 12'6. 4th overall and 3rd 14' finisher was Bryan Herrick in 47:06. Meg Bosi was the fastest woman in 48:19, ahead of Cindi Gibson's 50:55, and Donna Montgomery's 52:30. In the one-lap division Mark Nicoletti cut 2 minutes off his previous best to get 28:04 on his 11' surf style board. Pat got 39:47, which I think is great for an over-50 first-time sup racer on an unfamiliar board. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was Bryan, Rudy, Devin, Donna, and me. Devin and Rudy gave me some good competition on the initial sprint, but I got clear ahead after about 200 meters and didn't look back. The real race action was with Bryan, Devin, and Rudy, who stayed in a tight draft train for most of the race, only dropping Bryan after he fell off his board in the final leg. One thing we know about Devin is that he gets MUCH faster when he's feeling the adrenaline of competition than when he's just paddling with no one else around. There's a reason they call him "Revvin Devin". Anyway, out in front my race was a relatively simple, painful, grind. I backed off from my initial sprint pace to a pace that was aerobically challenging but wouldn't burn out my muscles prematurely. Strategically, I tried to stay in the fast-flowing center of the river channel on the way downriver to the turnaround, and I hugged the slower-flowing edge of the channel on the upriver legs. Compared to the 14x22 "Blue Streak," 14x23 "Minty" turns more readily in response to foot-steering, so I tried to use that to my advantage to make smooth curves around the river bends. By the halfway point I was quite tired and at a wicked high heartrate of 189 bpm. I did my second downriver leg as fast as I could (10.8 kph), but it wasn't as fast as my first sprint-shot downriver (11.3 kph). Oddly my upriver sections didn't vary as much in speed; first was 8.0 kph, second 7.9 kph. I guess my initial sprint is a unique thing that I can't replicate mid-race.

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

Congrats to everyone who finished this hot, hard race.

What's next: Next SUP event is a race clinic with Riviera's top professional rider Ryan Helm, Tuesday evening at CGT. Hope to see some new faces there. Then next weekend there's the Lake Mary Jane race near Orlando. Lake Mary Jane will be the last race of the "Fastest in Florida" points series. It will be tight competition between me and fellow Riviera ambassador Samuel English, because we're both in the running for second place behind Garrett Fletcher. I'll need to finish no more than 1 place behind Sam for the points average from my top 5 races to be higher than the points average from his top 5 races.

Monday, September 12, 2016

SUP Race Report: Ocean Warrior Challenge

Men's 14' sup podium- 1st Place Ryan Helm (center), 2nd place Vinnicius Martins (left), 3rd place Garrett Fletcher (right).

Race: The Ocean Warrior Challenge.

Date it happened: 11 September 2016

Host: The Town of Jupiter and Blueline Surf & Paddle Co.

Location: On the beach at Carlin Park, Jupiter, Florida. It was an interesting beach, with exposed limestone rocks along the water's edge.

Distance: The elite SUP course was about 7.1 km / 4.4 miles, counting a short beach run at the finish. The course was laid out as a giant "M," which we traced twice in each direction. I thought it was a good distance; long enough to test endurance and spread out the pack, but not an excessive slog. Courses for the other race divisions (kayak / outrigger canoe, prone paddleboard, kids, Special Olympics, lifeguard) varied in shape and distance

Conditions: Typical Florida summer conditions; very hot, humid, and sunny. There were 1-2' waves and some smaller chop coming in from odd directions. The wind varied from calm to about 10 knots, but was light for most of the elite race. Though the ocean was by no means violent, I found it hard to adapt to the unpredictable rocking rhythm, and I fell in a few times. The trickiest paddling was actually when I was warming up before the race. The water was so clear, and the surface of the waves so undisturbed by wind at that time, that I had a vertigo-like feeling seeing the sea floor in more detail than the rolling surface of the water.

Participants: There were 22 entries in the surfski/outrigger race, 28 entries in the elite sup race, 27 in the rec sup race, 14 in the Special Olympics race, 4 in the 2-mile prone race, and 4 in the kids race. Three international pros did the elite sup race: 1) Riviera's Ryan Helm, a native of Jupiter FL who now lives in Sayulita, Mexico. He won the Battle on the Blueway earlier this year. 2) Vinnicius Martins a Brazilian sponsored by JP Australia. He won the Key West Paddle Classic this year. 3) Kimberly Barnes, a Florida schoolteacher who does US and European races in the summer, sponsored by Riviera. Up-and-coming pro Garrett Fletcher (Yolo) was also there, as were some very talented sponsored riders including Steve Miller (Starboard), Catherine Uden (Boga), and Maddie Miller, Packet Casey, and Jake Portwood (JP Australia). Riviera owner and racer Brandon Rambo was visiting from California and raced a 12'6 board. None of my CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards teammates were there this time, but I rode over with CGT shop owner Aaron Thomas.

Gear: I used a brand-new board; a 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. It's one of the standard Riviera production raceboards for this year. (They also make a 14x25, 14x27, 12'6x22, 12'6x24, 12'6x26, and 12'6x28, plus a 14x26 downwind-specific board and a 12' prone paddleboard.) The shape is the same as the 2016, but there are slight differences in the finish. For example, they used a lighter colored epoxy resin so the boards are paler and cooler in the sun. Aaron Thomas schlepped over a second, identical 14x23, destined for Samuel English. Samuel is a fast racer who used to ride a Lahui Kai board but who just became a Riviera Ambassador. This race was my third time on the 14x23, Samuel's first, so we were both just getting the feel of it. The fin I used was the one that comes with the board, a Riviera "surf race" fin. I used my usual paddle, a Riviera Vantage R8. A personal flotation device (pfd) and leash were required for this race. I attached the leash to my waist-belt pfd instead of to my ankle so that it would be less likely to tangle around my feet while I was stepping back on the board in turns. That left room on my ankle for the digital race timer that everyone had to wear.

Results: My grad school classmate Reid Hyle won the surfski kayak race, because he's a badass. I'm not sure who the other sit-down paddlecraft race winners were, but the results should be up later on paddleguru. Ryan Helm won the men's 14' elite SUP race by a safe margin. Vinnicius Martins was 2nd, just one second ahead of Garrett Fletcher, who nearly caught him on the beach run. Jake Portwood was 4th, Packet Casey 5th, me 6th, Samuel English 7th. Men's 12'6 winner Steve Miller was just ahead of me. Second men's 12'6 was Brandon Rambo, followed by Zeke's surf shop owner Travis Kindt, who was riding a Coreban board. Kim Barnes was first 12'6 woman, Maddie Miller 2nd, Cat Uden 3rd. In the rec race, Amy Carden and her husband Will Smith were both first place finishers on 14' boards- Amy in the rec race and Rachel Ferguson in the elite race were the only women to use 14' boards this time. Ryan Boettner won the 12'6 class in the rec race.

Play by play: The start was a combination beachstart / waterstart. I.e., we waded out onto a shallow sandbar, then lined up and waited for the countdown there. My start wasn't terrible, but I was a little off-balance and didn't have the speed to keep up with the fastest group. I also fell on the way to the first buoy and more people passed me, including the strong ladies Kim Barnes and Maddie Miller. I tried to paddle efficiently and get in tune with the conditions, not getting psyched out by my initially poor position. I made some gains after the first buoy turn by catching "glides" on waves, but fell again about halfway through the first M. The long, towards-shore leg at the end of the first M gave me a chance to glide past Maddie, and on a later towards-shore leg I got around Kim. (14' boards catch wave glides better than 12'6s.) I was behind Samuel until he fell and I got around. He stayed close, though.

Midway through the race, Samuel and I caught up with Brandon Rambo. He was on a 12'6x26; a shorter and wider board than he would normally race, but the only spare Riviera that day. Brandon also didn't have any water with him, so he was parched and roasting in the Florida heat and humidity. He was also securely in 2nd place in the 12'6 class so he didn't fight too much as we 14's went around.

No longer following anyone closely, I made a BIG mistake by heading for the middle buoy instead of the corner buoy after one of my turns. (See strava track.)

I didn't realize it until I started wondering about which direction I should go when I got to the buoy I was headed towards. I was like, "Something doesn't add up here... DOH!" Fortunately, there was a favorable current that helped push me back on track toward the correct buoy, and I miraculously stayed ahead of Brandon and Sam. Side note- My buoy turns were quite bad in this race. I tried doing some the correct way, stepping way back on the board to raise the nose and pivot it around, but with my shaky balance and clumsy technique the turns were wide and inefficient, and I was close to falling each time. So I switched to more secure but slower "Grandma" turns; paddling across the bow.

In the final part of the race I could tell by splashing sounds that Samuel was pushing hard to catch me, so I tried extra hard to get glides and stay ahead. I made it to the beach first, and Aaron Thomas was standing in the water to catch my board. I reached down to my ankle to undo my leash and fumbled, unable to find the release strap. Aaron was like, "Hey, it's on your pack." Huh? Oh yeah! I'd forgotten that I'd attached the leash on my pfd. I had lost several seconds by the time I finally freed the leash and started running across the sand. Samuel, who was a track athlete in college, zoomed up from behind, and it looked like he would beat me for sure. But then he tripped and SPLATTED face down in the sand, allowing me to pass and finish first. It was so surreal I though maybe he'd done the nosedive on purpose to let me pass because he felt bad for me. Anyway, we're both on team Riviera now so a win for either of us is a win for both.

After the race there was a lot of downtime before the awards, during which I rode some waves on a Riviera 11'6 surf sup, redeemed my lunch ticket, and hung around the Riviera tent, vendor tent village, etc. Some environmental organizations opposed to the harmful Lake Okeechobee water releases were peopling booths and circulating petitions in the vendor village- I'm glad that people who like to play in the water are taking responsibility for the protection of the water.

Other Commentary: Though this was a delightful race in a beautiful venue there were some aspects of the organization that I thought left room for improvement. I got the general impression that the ambitious vision of the race planners exceeded their actual organizational logistics abilities. For one thing, there were SO many different events requiring different buoy placements, etc. that it took ages to set up and get through them all. Also, the announcer / DJ stand was at an awards pavillion that was too far from the race start/finish area to be audible there, so communication between the organizers and the diffuse herd of racers was bad. At various points the organizers would try to gather us some place for some thing or another, only to make us wait in confusion, and it happened over and over. The awards ceremony, when it finally started, was the same way- ten times as long and confused as it needed to be, with slow communication between the lady with the results list, the guy with the microphone, and the people passing out prizes and raffle items.

What's next: I might go to another race next weekend- The Margaritaville Cup in Hollywood, FL. That should be another bumpy water one, so I'll try to get my new board dialed into the ocean conditions this week.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hermine: Windsurf, WindSUP, SUP, and SUP-repair sessions

Last week I was out on the water just about every day after work, as we had an extended period of Gulf of Mexico wave and wind action related to the passage of Tropical Storm Hermine.

Tuesday, 30 August- There were strong onshore winds all day while I was at work. Unfortunately, by the time I got home, the wind had died off. I had major indecision out about what gear to take to the beach, and ended up bringing just my small windsurf gear (in case the wind came back) and my 14' Riviera race sup (so I could get some bumpy water race and wave-riding practice). The waves at Wiggins Pass State Park were bigger than I had expected, and the confused sandbars and wave reflections made it really hard to balance on the narrow (22" wide) race sup. Meanwhile, my SUP buddies who had sensibly brought surf-style SUPs were having the rides of their lives. I switched to a bigger fin on the race sup and that seemed to take some of the wobble away, such that I could actually stay upright. I caught some exciting, fast rides on the big, smooth waves, until I realized that my board was developing a buckle and crack about 4' from the tail. Doh! I had to cut the session short and just do a jog on the beach to get my workout in. The board is an unusual "production prototype" model, and it has slightly different shape and "layup" (what layers of carbon, fiberglass, and plastic are put in what parts of the board) than the normal production model Riviera RP raceboards have. This particular layup seemed to have a vulnerability to buckling where a carbon reinforced area met an unreinforced area. I am currently doing surgery on the board in the operating room at CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards to add fiberglass reinforcement to the failing area. I think the end result will be just as fast as the original, stiffer, and only a wee bit heavier.

Wednesday, 31 August- This time I took one of my windsurfable SUPs to the beach; the Angulo Surfa 10'4 that I modified with a planing tail and twin-fin setup. The waves weren't as perfect as on Tuesday, but they were still quite rideable, and I had a good time, paddling half the time and using a 6.4 sail the other half of the time. Some strong wind and rain squalls came through, which were really exciting on the windsup. (See video.) It was nice to have a bunch of sup buddies out there on the water again.

Thursday, 1 September- This was the big windsurfing day, with 20-25 knots of wind from the South and lots of water moving around. I joined my windsurf buddy Alex Owens at Wiggins. He was using a 4.7 sail and a 105 liter Fanatic Freestyle-wave board. I also went with a 4.7 sail, and put it on my 83 liter Starboard Evo waveboard. The first run out I was LIT! (That mean's overpowered with wind.) But later the wind dropped just slightly, and with all the whitewater and current I sometimes wished I was on my floatier board, i.e., had a tough time getting in and out of the waves. Still, great session.

Friday, 2 September- One more day light wind and SUP on the 10'4 Angulo.

Here's the video, with footage from Wednesday and Thursday.

TS Hermine Sup, Windsup, Windsurf from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #6

Race: Race #6 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 28 August 2016.

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.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and a few people took that option this time.

Conditions: Sunny, very hot and humid. There was some wind from the East that was a minor nuisance on the more open stretches of the river. The river current was 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: The usual suspects were present, plus a few newbies, minus Matt Kearney and Bryan Herrick who were in recovery mode after the Sunshine SUP race yesterday.

Gear: I used my 14x22 Riviera RP, the Blue Streak, with my Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. Mark Athanacio went with his newest, narrowest 12'6x22 board. Jim McIntyre and Murray Hunkin checked out demo boards from CGT- a 14x25 Hovie Comet ZXC for Jim, and a 14x25 Riviera RP for Murray. Devin Turetzkin rode his brand new mint-colored 14x23 Riviera RP with a Hippostick 7.5 paddle borrowed from Matt Kearney.

Results: I had the fastest time, with 38:16. Impressively, Athanacio went nearly as fast on his 12'6, finishing in 38:23. Next fastest was Justin DiGiorgio in 42:08, followed by John Weinberg in 45:20. First woman was Damien Lin in 51:01, ahead of new racer Cindy Gibson in 52:43, then Saralane Harrer in 53:38. In the one lap division, Jim McIntyre did his fastest ever with 21:42, and felt so good he did another lap just for the heck of it. Next was Patricia who did 23:33 on her surfski kayak, then Steve Fleming with 24:33 on a Naish sup. Full results will be posted on the CGT time trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was Devin Turetzkin, Murray Hunkin, and Justin DiGiorgio. Any of those guys could beat the others on a good day. Mark Athanacio and I started in the second group. We were an odd couple because of the board length mismatch, but Mark is so good at sprinting and drafting that, at least in flat water, he can stay in my draft as long as he wants to even when he's on a 12'6. I think Mark's mission this race was to figure out the best standing position and drafting technique with his new 12'6x22. Anyway, we sprinted off the start then settled into a fast pace with me leading the train. It was tough to catch the first starting group, whose initial pace was similar to ours. However, at the first downriver turnaround, 1.5 km into the race, we reeled in Devin. He had fallen back from Murray and Justin's train, and ended up retiring early from the race because he got unexpectedly ill. I hope he perks up soon because I want to see how fast he is on his new 14x23 Riviera. About halfway through the first upriver leg we caught Murray and Justin, who were still together at that point. Justin says Murray got in our draft as we passed, but couldn't hang on, and Justin wasn't able to sprint around Murray to get up to us, though he did pass Murray a little later.

I was quite tired entering the second half of the race, and the heat was unpleasant. Mark offered to pull the draft train but I declined, because I would have felt wimpy to be on a 14' drafting someone on a 12'6. After the final downriver buoy turn, Mark warned me that he would attempt a passing move before the end of the race, and I would have to hold him off. Nothing like a little pressure to keep me paddling hard! When Mark made his first move it was towards the middle of the river, while I was closer to the edge. It wasn't too hard to hold him off then because I was in the lighter current. The next time Mark left my wake, near the finish line, the river was narrower and he had less space to try to get around. So I did manage to cross the finish line first, and I felt like it had been a real good run. My time was about 30 seconds shy of my personal best, which is probably attributable to being tired from the day before, plus the heat, the wind, the river current, random luck, etc.

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

Congrats to everyone who finished this scorching race.

What's next: Next race is the Ocean Warrior Challenge, 11 September in Jupiter, FL. I need to get some rough ocean practice in before then. This week looks good for that, with the Invest 99L tropical disturbance entering the Gulf of Mexico.