Paddle With The Stars

I’m in British Columbia to participate in the Canadian Surfski Championships. On Tuesday, I picked up my rented V10 Sport Ultra (just like the boat I have at home) at Deep Cove Outdoors. Bob Putnam, the owner of the shop didn’t like the look of my jury rigged pool noodle “rack” and convinced me to buy an inflatable kayak rack (mostly by telling me that the cost of getting it wrong would be “you break it, you bought it”). I got the boat tied down and then headed to Deep Cove’s kayak center on the water for the Tuesday Night Race, billed as the “Paddle With the Stars” because several of the pros who are coming to the champs were going to be there.

While warming up before the race, I introduced myself to Sean Rice, and he suggested I move my foot plate forward a notch – I’d been experimenting with different distances and I thought I’d found the right position, but evidently not. I’m looking forward to my clinic with him on Sunday. I also introduced myself to Jasper Mocke – I’d signed up for a clinic with him on Wednesday, but it got cancelled because I was the only person to sign up.

The race was a mass start, and there were a ton of boats there. They started amateur surfskis in the first wave, then the SUPs, then the pros. I’ve never seen such a tight group of skis at the start of a race – at Adirondack races there is usually a wider start line and at Lighthouse to Lighthouse Mike and I deliberately lined up outside of the main pack to take advantage of a better line. But here it was such a narrow line that just before the start I actually pushed another guy’s boat forward so I’d have some place to put my paddle for the first stroke.

In the first mad rush, the wakes from the other skis as well as the various boat wakes and waves in the cove were challenging, but I think I did a good job of using what I could and not getting thrown off by the ones I couldn’t. Better than some of the locals, I think. After a bit, I was trying to get on this guy’s side wake, but couldn’t quite get up to it so I tried for his stern wake, but there was a woman there already. She and I paddled side by side for a while, both of us not quite locked into this guy’s wake but getting some benefit from it. After a wave from the rear quarter shoved us all to one side, I found myself on this other guy’s stern wake just as the first pack of pros came through. A minute later, another big wave hit us from the same quarter just as another one of the pros came through, and I was handling it better than the guy whose wake I was on so I passed him. I then tried to chase back to the guy whose stern wake I’d been trying for earlier, but I lost him in the big knot of people rounding the first island. It was nice back there, shady and sheltered from most of the waves, but there were also big rocks lurking just below the surface, and a couple of people hit them with their paddles and disrupted their strokes. And I was here to race, not enjoy the scenery so I pushed on.

Out from behind the island, it was into the wind and I used my size and power to grind my way back up. I found what I thought was the guy from before, paddling beside the woman from before. It’s only reviewing the video afterwards that I realized that it was a different guy. But I’m 90% sure it was the same woman. Anyway, I paddled beside and behind and beside this guy under a bridge, around the island, across the little strait, and along a shoreline. As we rounded behind the island, the woman who was still neck and neck with me hit a submerged rock and dropped behind me. We passed a pack of paddlers, some of whom I had to wonder how they got ahead of me in the first place – there was one woman in a green top with big numbers on the back who was holding her paddle with her hands way too close together, but somehow getting decent speed out of it, for instance. I think the guy was trying to scrape me off, because twice he passed a SUP very close on the side that I was on, forcing me to go all the way around the SUP. But we had a tiny bit of swell from behind and I was using it, which is why I had managed to get up beside him in the first place. Somebody, I don’t know who, was on my stern wake and tapped my stern three times in quick succession. Possibly the yellow Think ski which shows up in the video. With about a kilometer to go, I don’t know if he sped up or I slowed down but he dropped me in the finish “sprint”.

I’m not sure who the guy I was chasing is because there are a couple who finished a few seconds ahead of me. However I did identify the woman I’ve referenced several times here as Cynthia Wonham because she has a distinctive boat and I got introduced to her in the pub afterwards. Oh, did I mention that after the race, everybody went to The Raven pub to drink, eat and watch a video of the race? Also, did I mention that one of the large boat wakes that was interfering with us all the way around the course was Bob Putnam on a power boat attempting to film us? He referred to his boat as the “unsafety boat”. Unfortunately he hasn’t published much of the video he shot online, I suspect because what I saw at the pub was pretty shaky.

At the pub, I was sitting pretty close to Jasper Mocke and I repeated the joke that Joe Glickman had put on my Facebook page about how after Joe’s show about the 2012 US Champs had aired, Jasper had had a bunch of contracts with major record companies offering him big bucks if he’d just promise never to sing in public again. Jasper said that Joe had goaded him into singing. And then he turned to his other side and talked to Sean Rice and a woman who came in with Sean for the rest of the evening. I hope I didn’t annoy him.

I’m happy with my results, coming 29th out of 77. Considering how much more experience these people have in these exact conditions than I do, I think that’s respectable. Only time will tell if I do as respectably this weekend.

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