A few minutes after posting that “Current Radar Picture” and declaring that I wasn’t going paddling, the skies brightened up, the sun broke through, and Jim phoned me to see if I was going. He said “Come on, it isn’t golf”. And so I went.
And since there is a race this weekend, I thought we were going to take Dan’s coaching advice and “paddle easy, work on surfing technique”. Instead, I get out to the beach, get launched, paddle out to where Mike, Doug, Bill and Stephen are waiting, and Mike says “Aim for the smoke stacks, go!” and off we went to paddle the same course that we’re probably going to race this weekend.
There was very little wave action. I’m sure the other guys thought it was flat, but there was a strong breeze from about 30 degrees off to the left of where we were going, and it was starting to whip up waves. There was a very subtle swell coming in from behind, small and very long wave length. Sometimes you could feel a bit of a ride from that. And there were a few boat wakes coming from all directions, although not very many because of the recently passed storm. I found it challenging. I’m still very twitchy in the boat, and it seemed like a double effort to paddle strongly and keep upright in the waves.
Because I had been expecting a surfing session, I hadn’t brought my camelbak, and I was very thirsty. I was also afraid to stop paddling for even a second so I couldn’t have asked anybody else for a sip of water, nor even scooped some out of the lake.
After not very long, the group sort of separated out with Mike way off ahead, Doug, Jim and Stephen paddling not very far ahead, and Bill just behind me. And not long after that Doug peeled off from the pack of three he was with and came back to shepherd Bill and I. I was afraid to look around, and so I don’t know if Bill was keeping with me or if he was falling behind, but I think he was falling behind. He’s a lot better boat handler than I am, but he hasn’t been working out all that much in the boat and he doesn’t have the fitness of the rest of us.
As we got closer to the jetty, the wind was getting stronger and stronger, and the hoped for rest in the wind shadow never happened. Instead, the jetty turned the waves from being 30 degrees off my left to coming almost directly down the jetty from my right to left, making it easy to use them to turn around in. Bill and Doug didn’t come in near to the jetty, so I couldn’t ask one of them for water, and by the time I got out to where they were and everybody was paddling the same direction, I was back in a “concentrate and try to stay upright” situation so I didn’t bother to ask.
As expected, the waves being whipped up by the wind, now behind us and angled more in towards shore, were growing. Bill and I paddled the entire distance back side by side, as he used his skill to catch waves and get a ride while I tried to do the same. We were mostly side by side but every now and then one of us would catch a good ride that the other one missed and surge ahead, only to be caught and passed as the other caught a ride. A couple of “linked runs” saw our speeds nudge up into the 7 mph and higher range, although mostly we were around 6.2 to 6.4 mph. For a while, I was really enjoying it. But then the fatigue and dehydration caught up with me and I was starting to struggle again.
Mike was miles ahead and way off to our left, well off shore. Stephen was a not as far ahead, and he was well into shore. If the waves had been any higher, he probably would have been in bad surf and been expending a lot of energy. I think Bill and I had a good line because the last mile or more was straight down wind. I have discovered that sometimes it seems better to be diagonal to the waves so you can surf faster than they are going, but I still think it’s good to have a relatively easy straight downwind surf at the end.
So it was probably too much effort this close to a major race, but on the other hand I really need more wave time and this definitely counted as that.