Gorge Downwind Championships, Day 2

Early on Day 2, I got an email from the organization saying that the wind seemed to be arriving late, so they were extending the shuttle hours to 5pm. But they were still starting the shuttles at 11am. I contacted Hong, the guy I’d paddled with yesterday to see what his thoughts were – he said he was going to show up at the event site somewhere between 11:30 and 12:00, and we could play it by ear then.

I showed up at exactly 11:30. It was almost dead calm, except very suddenly at about 11:40, the wind started to pick up. Hong showed up, and we were going to go on the next shuttle and hope that it would build by the time we got to the put in, or at least would build as we paddled. But as we were discussing this, Carter came up and said to Hong that if he wanted to on that paddle with him in a double, he was available right at that moment but they’d have to go immediately, right after Carter patched a small problem with the rudder on his double. Ok, I can’t complain about that. so I needed to make alternate arrangements. Bob had already hooked up with another paddler, Jim from Rhode Island, but they agreed to let me tag along.

By the time we got to the put-in, the wind had actually picked up quite a bit. Maybe low by Gorge standards, but certainly conditions that in Rochester we’d be happy to do a downwinder in. And it was obviously building, so it would get bigger and better as we went along. As usual, I had problems with my video gear – the GoPro on my head had an odd display, and pressing the record button did nothing. I didn’t want to spend any time diagnosing the problem, so I just threw it back on my head. At least the GeekPro camera on the front of the boat would work, even if it sucked. As long as the suction mount didn’t wash away.

We started off, and we were catching some good runs. Bob was lagging behind, for some reason, but Jim was well ahead. Jim would wait at regular intervals and things seemed to be working fine. I wouldn’t stop when I caught up to Jim because it was obvious Jim could catch and pass me quite quickly after he started paddling again.

A few minutes after starting, I could see Carter and Hong heading almost perpendicular to the waves towards the nearest shore – I can only assume the patch hadn’t quite worked and they were heading to shore to fix it. Some time later they can charging through and I could hear Carter giving Hung some good instruction.

It was probably 45 minutes into it that Bob managed to work his way off to the left into the biggest stuff and was finally getting ahead of me like he had yesterday. Which means that Jim was waiting for me, not for both of us. I was trying to follow them out to the left, but it was getting to the limit of my ability.

It was about an hour into it that I’d decided that I was right on the edge of my ability, being past the point of fun and into the zone of “I can stay upright, but I’m not enjoying it this much”, and next time they waited for me I was going to ask them if they minded if I moved right into the gentler stuff. But instead, what happened was I ran into a HUGE mat of weeds – it practically stopped me dead. The waves stripped most of the weeds off the bow, but I think I had some on my rudder because suddenly I was broaching on everything. It was terrible, and I was out of control. I was wondering how you clear your rudder when every wave is throwing you sideways and making you brace for your life, when I suddenly fell in. That fixed that problem of the weeds on the rudder – the rudder cleared itself as it ended up out of the water.

But after I remounted, my two “buddies” were way ahead, and way off to the left. There was no way I was going even further into the big stuff just to be able to tell them than I was uncomfortable in that big stuff, so I headed to the smaller stuff on the right. After a bit of time in the smaller stuff, catching some rides and generally putting my mind and body back together, I could have headed into a bit bigger stuff towards the middle, but there’s no way I could do that without a buddy. So I stayed further right than I needed to, paddling in stuff that would have been a highlight on a Baycreek downwind but which seemed light by Gorge standards. I passed a guy and a girl in Think Eze boats who didn’t seem to be catching anything even though there were some waves to catch.

Rather than moving out far enough to go around the sandbar, I just portaged over it. That actually saved about a kilometer of paddling compared to yesterday.

So once again I’ve done only one run, but my muscles are sore. I’m not feeling up to doing a second.

While I was hanging around the finish area, I talked to somebody who said that the Wildeside Relay had finally gone off today, which means that Ryan’s schedule has finally cleared up. I’m hopeful that means we’re going to do our double run tomorrow (Wednesday). The same person said he thinks the actual World Cup race is going to happen on Thursday. I’m hoping that means I get my double run with Carter on Friday or Saturday. Whatever single runs I’m going to do in that time period, hopefully I can do them with Hong or a paddler of similar abilities rather than with buddies who are too fast for me.