Thursday, April 9, 2015

Florida State Paddleboard Championship 2015

Last weekend I drove up to Cocoa Beach with some buddies from the CGT sup team to do a big paddleboard race- the "Florida State Paddleboard Championships."

Buddy Damon by the van before we drove up.
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Running start.
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Apparently the FSPC is the longest running paddleboard race in Florida, dating back to around the year 2000. Interestingly, in the year 2000 "paddleboard" meant the kind that you paddle with your hands while lying prone like a surfer. But at some point in the last 15 years the popularity of standup paddleboards (SUPS) eclipsed that of lie-down paddleboards, such that "paddleboard" is now synonymous with SUP, and we call the earlier thing "prone" or "traditional" paddleboarding. There were still a few prone paddleboards in the race this year, along with other unusual human-powered craft like outrigger canoes and super-long narrow kayaks called "surf skis." You can see how fast the different craft were in the race results. (The race was 5 miles long.)

Ranking ,NAME, TIME
1, Jens Hoffman, 0:53:57
2, Daniel Prosser, 0:55:46
3, Michael O'Shaughnessy, 0:59:44
4, Jason Geiger, 1:10:57

1, Cynthia Aguilar, 1:02:59

SUP - MEN 18-49, 12'6’ & UNDER
1, Connor Bonham, 0:55:15
2, Jamie Twigg, 0:55:27
3, Abraham Wilson, 0:55:37
4, Andres Pombo, 1:00:11
5, Zach Rounsaville, 1:00:12
6, Jeffrey Berry, 1:02:01
7, Grant Begley, 1:05:40
8, Darryl Austin, 1:10:40
9, Damon Cooper, 1:16:53
10, Erik Thomas, DNC
11, Ryan Findley DNC

SUP - MEN 18-49, 14'
1, Kieran Grant, 0:51:03
2, Garrett Fletcher, 0:51:42
3, Michael Tavares, 0:51:44
4, Brad Ward, 0:52:38
5, James Douglass, 0:55:17
6, Cristian Prado, 0:55:57
7, Barrett Hoard, 0:58:30
8, Chip Bock, 1:00:58
9, Kevin Hill, 1:01:02
10, John Beausang, 1:04:01
11, Christian Grause, 1:06:05

1, Patrick Klemawesch, 0:51:54
2, Zach Bankhead, 0:59:09

SUP - MEN 50-59 12’6”& UNDER"
1, Mark Athanacio, 0:56:20
2, Mark Preece, 1:18:54
DNC, Bruce Wall
DNC, Walter Bunso
DNC, Hal Atzingen

SUP - MEN 50-59 14'
1, Brian Hovnanian, 0:57:12
2, Danny Smith, 1:01:18
3, Keith Cook, 1:05:59
4, David Rush, 1:14:41

SUP - MEN 60+, 12’6” & UNDER
1, Albert Chicra, 1:14:46

SUP - MEN 60+, 14'
1, Rand Perkins, 0:53:39
2, Rick Dean, 1:04:05
3, Alan Montgomery, 1:07:02

SUP - WOMEN 18-49, 12’6”& UNDER
1, Victoria Burgess, 0:59:32
2, Kristin Apotsos, 0:59:45
3, Francesca Morrow, 1:04:17
4, Meg Bosi, 1:07:33
5, Corrine Banks, 1:08:01
6, Monica Arche, 1:09:26

SUP - WOMEN 60+, 12’6”& UNDER
1, Beth Winkler, 1:16:18

1, Kate Pagan, 1:08:28
2, Laura Siljestrom, 1:17:38

1, Connor Rush, 0:56:51
2, Conrad Garcia Jr., 1:04:25
3, Peyton Thomas, 1:14:45

1, Annette Garcia ,1:05:38

OC-1 Men Open
1,Wendell Martin, 0:53:03
2,Conrad Garcia Sr., 0:55:36

Surfski Men Open,
1, Reid Hyle, 0:39:26
2, Josh Ashley, 0:47:45
3, Brent Robitzsch, 0:49:01

I paddled hard and I was very happy to get 5th place in the 18-49 age 14' sup class. Seeing the really good paddlers at work was inspiring, too. Two fast people from "slower" classes finished ahead me- Rand Perkins in the 60+ year old class, and Connor Bonham in the 12'6" board class. Rand got a slow start but passed me on the downwind leg of the race. I briefly caught up with him at the halfway buoy turn and tried to draft him on the upwind leg. It sort of worked for a little while, but then he turned the speed up and I couldn't stay in his wake. After that I just tried to keep a steady pace.

63 year old Rand Perkins at the finish line. Wow.
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I wasn't paying attention to who was behind me in the latter part of the race, but right when I rounded the buoy to head for the beach finish I noticed that one of the 12'6" sup racers, Connor Bonham, was catching me. I didn't have the wherewithal to put on a final sprint, what with being really tired and having to undo my leash and concentrate on surfing a wave in. I got to shallow water and jumped off my board around the same time as Connor, but my legs were crampy jello sticks when they hit the sand, and Connor zoomed ahead of me, finishing in 0:55:15 to my 0:55:17. I'll have to practice those running dismounts before the next ocean race.

Surfing a wave in.
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Far outclassed in the footrace.
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It was fun to be there with my new friends from the CGT Race Team. I drove up with Damon Cooper, who put in a very impressive performance for a novice by finishing the course on a heavy 12'6" x 32" non-racing SUP. Also he won a $429 carbon fiber paddle in the raffle. Lucky! Kevin Hill was just a few minutes behind me on his Laird Hamilton 14' race sup. Kate Pagan got first place in the womens' 14' class. Meg Bosi went even faster on her 12'6" sup but got 4th place in her class because there were some other very fast women racing 12'6" boards.

Meg and Kevin.
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Besides the racing, we did some surfing with our raceboards. The first surfing stop was actually on the drive up on Friday afternoon. Damon and I stopped at my old haunt of Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. I caught a few on my 14' Fanatic Falcon, but actually had the most fun borrowing Damon's 12'6" Riviera Voyager. Damon got some good pictures like the ones below.

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The surfing after the race on Saturday was a different experience. The waves were even better- glassy with no wind on them, but the beach was quite crowded with everyday beachgoers and surfers plus folks watching a surf contest. You had to weave around people, which is tricky on a 14' board. I was actually really pleased with how my 14' Fanatic Falcon surfed, though. My previous attempts to surf it in, in choppy short-period in the Gulf of Mexico, were pretty challenging and frustrating. But the bigger, smoother, longer-period waves on the Atlantic side actually made it easier. The board has "reverse steering" until it gets up to speed, but once your going, and you get back on the tail of the board, it handles more like a normal, albeit huge, surfboard. The song in the video is by the Chemical Brothers.

Cocoa Beach SUP 4-4-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Exocet WindSUP 11'8 and Cross 106 session

Saturday March 30th had some pretty good North / Northwest winds with small waves at Wiggins Pass State Park. I rigged a 6.4 sail and started out riding the Exocet WindSUP 11'8". When the wind picked up I switched to a smaller board, the Exocet Cross 106. The other windsurfer is Dr. Alex Owens. The music in the video is by The Qemists.

Cold Front 3-28-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SUP Racing, Jesus Lizards

I've really been having fun lately, albeit a masochistic variety of fun, with SUP racing and training. Yesterday I won another of the local Imperial River races put on by CGT Kayaks. A couple of the differences between this race and the last race were:

1) I'm now officially on the CGT "Race Team" so I have a cool blue jersey with the Caloosa tribal design on it. Being on the race team means that we're expected to do some out of town races this year, so I'll be reporting on that later.

2) We started in groups of four this time rather than being released individually, which made for tighter and more strategic competition. It definitely gets choppy with four people side by side all paddling as hard as they can. My fiercest competitor Ben Walker fell off in the cross chop and that helped me out early on. Of course later I fell, too, trying to weave through several German tourist kayakers blocking the upriver turn-around buoy.

After the race we did a Hawaii longboard surfer style photoshoot with some of the race team.

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Also, after the race we got to see a Jesus Lizard that shop owner "Caloosa" John had adopted. These are the famous water-walking lizards that can escape their predators by running so fast across the water that they don't sink in. Like many other tropical reptile species, they have been released into the wild and become a pest in Florida.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Pics of Windsurfing the 14' Fanatic Race SUP

The other day my wife Rhonda graciously came to the beach with me after work to take some pictures of me windsurfing the 14' Fanatic Falcon SUP that I recently converted into a windsurf. I would have gotten some onboard video, too, but I loaned my GoPro to my graduate student a couple months ago and haven't gotten it back yet. Anyway, the pics are below. It was a day with disorganized knee-high waves and 5-10 knot side-offshore winds, fading to 0-5 knots. I used a 6.4 sail.

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When the wind got to too light to get around with the sail I paddled for a bit. Man, trying to surf a race sup is hard. It's really tippy, it takes a long time to turn around, and when you do catch a wave it's hard not to crash. But it's fun.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Empress Game cover art- Deadly beautiful space woman

My wife Rhonda is a writer. Her latest book is called Empress Game. It's the first in a space opera trilogy that will be published by Titan Books. The book will be available in July, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The cover art has just been released and it looks like this.

I think it captures the badass spirit of the protagonist quite well. I'm not an unbiased reviewer, but I've read the book and I think it's awesome; fast-paced action and science-fiction intrigue with an unforgettable heroine. Needless to say I'm extremely proud of Rhonda.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SUP Race Results + Consecutive Days of Wind Awesomeness

While the weather gods have been smiting the Northeastern USA with blizzards, they have been blessing Southwest Florida with great wind and waves.

Friday 23 Jan- Caught the tail end of a warm SSW wind with a 6.4 sail and 106 liter board at Bonita Beach.

Saturday 24 Jan- Big NW wind and waves arrived at Wiggins Pass State Park. I sailed a 4.5 on my 83 liter Starboard Evo, keeping it conservative since I was out of tune after months with no high wind practice. Alex Owens and another windsurfer whose name I can't remember were there on 4.7 and 5.2, respectively.

Sunday 25 Jan- Did the CGT Paddleboard race in the morning. After that I was tired and the wind was light, but I knew the swell was good so I rallied and went to Wiggins to sup beautiful waves on the 10'4" Angulo Surfa. The only thing that was annoying was three @#$%@#$% jet-ski bozos bashing around in the best part of the break the whole time. Unfortunately with just two paddleboarders and no surfers in the water we couldn't really vote them out.

Monday 26 Jan- Big NW winds returned to Wiggins. Sailed late afternoon until sunset with a 4.2 on an 83 liter board. Yeehaw! I probably should have been on my 4.5 for a little more power, but the 4.2 is a newer sail with a much better feel than the 4.5. At some point I'll get rid of the 4.5 and get a quality 4.7 for better spacing- 4.2, 4.7, 5.5

Tuesday 27 Jan- Sailed 5pm until sunset on a 6.4 and 106 liter board in onshore wind and smallish waves. Good times.

I want to say a little more about the CGT paddle race because it actually went really well for me. There was a big turnout, with 30 people racing and a good bunch of spectators and supporters. I got second place overall, finishing in 0:45:00.

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The race committee ran the show in a "time trial" format, releasing one paddler at a time and keeping track of both start and finish times to calculate time elapsed. It was fun passing the paddlers who had started ahead of me, especially a few athletic-looking dudes on raceboards who had seemed intimidatingly fast at the starting line.

The winner and fastest racer by far was a 63 year old triathlete named Rand Perkins, who I figured averaged 5.83 mph to my 5.47 mph. We never passed each other going the same direction, but from what I saw he seemed to have an extremely rapid "cadence," meaning he was doing many strokes per minute but the length of each stroke was fairly short. I'm not sure if that's a technique than can work for anyone, or if you need to have triathlete level quickness and cardiovascular fitness, but I'll give it a try. Of course I also checked out Rand's board and asked him about it after the race. He said it's 23" wide, which is a definite speed advantage IF you can manage not to tip it over. To make it more stable the standing area is deeply recessed like in a canoe, with some vent holes in the side to let out any water that splashes in. Rand had custom-dug even deeper holes right under his feet to maximize the low-center-of-gravity effect. As cool as that looked, I'm inclined to stick with my current board and try to make some gains with more fitness and technique development.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Practicing for a race, weighing in on Butt Buoys

It has been a long time since the last CGT paddleboard race I did, which was in September. There was another in October but I missed it because I was out of town. Anyway, the races are starting up again on Sunday. I think they're going to be a different kind of experience this go-around, for a couple of reasons:

1. The race course is actually different. It's still on the Imperial River, and it's still 4.5 miles. However, instead of going way downriver then back up to Riverside Park, we'll go upriver, turn, go downriver, turn, and then come back to the start. That should make for more variety of scenery, more time under the shade of the trees, and more strategically challenging curves and turns. Hopefully CGT won't use "butt buoys" again to mark the turns and finish lines. Don't get me wrong- I like butts. Butts are a beautiful and useful part of the body. But in my opinion butt-shaped plastic buoys wearing bikini bottoms are in the same a-little-bit-funny-but-quite-a-bit-offensive category as the plastic testicles that people hang from their truck trailer hitches. It's not worth alienating any prospective sup race participants over something like that.

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2. I'm going to use a different board. Since September I've actually tried out two different 14' racing SUPs and settled on a Fanatic Falcon 27.25" wide model. It's not the absolute fastest flat-water SUP out there, and it may actually be a little slower than the 404 Zeedonk Pintail that I traded back to CGT, but it's definitely faster than the 11'8" Exocet WindSUP that I used in the summer races. My best average speed over 4.5 miles on the WindSUP is 4.96 mph, whereas it's 5.58 mph on the Falcon.

3. I've been practicing pretty hard and getting in better shape. I've gained about 0.6 mph from practicing, which is about equal to what I gained from getting the new board. My times have kind of plateaued recently, but I still think there's room for improvement in my technique and conditioning that could help me go faster. The folks who raced last year have been practicing even harder than me, but I'm cautiously optimistic that between my fancy board and training I'll be close to keeping up.

Below are some pictures my dad took of the current SUP setup in action:

This is the little creek near my house where I walk the board to launch it and paddle to the Imperial River.
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This is the bridge that was the starting line for the course last summer.
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This is me looking cool.
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This is paddling pretty hard.
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