Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Protesting Oil Drilling in Kayaks Made of Plastic - Ironic?

There's a kayak and paddleboard-based protest happening in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. The protest is a blockade of a giant Shell Oil drilling rig that is in the harbor being readied to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. A conservative political group called CFACT has started passing a picture around on social media calling out the irony of the fact that the anti-oil-drilling protestors are in plastic kayaks, and plastic is made from oil.

They came in automobiles fueled by oil, wearing clothing made from oil, to protest oil, in kayaks made from oil. Then they tweeted their photos on phones made from oil and drove home.Share the irony.

Posted by CFACT on Monday, May 18, 2015

Is the irony real? Yes. There is no denying that kayaks are made of plastic, and plastic is made of oil. HOWEVER, that does not mean the protestors are stupid, and it definitely does not mean that it's a good idea to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Here's why I SUPPORT THE PROTESTORS:

1. Although plastic is made from oil, only about 2% of the total oil that we drill is used to make plastic. Most of the rest is used for fuel or burned to generate electricity. If we cut down on the amount of oil used for fuel and electricity, which we can do through conservation, energy efficiency, and shifting to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, we will have plenty of oil left to supply the relatively small amount needed for making plastic stuff. No need to drill in the Arctic.

2. We're already extracting and burning way too much fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) for the planet to handle. The concentration of the main atmospheric pollutant from burning fossil fuel, carbon dioxide, has gone from 280 ppm up to 400+ ppm since we started burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution about 150 years ago. The high concentration of carbon dioxide is causing global warming and ocean acidification.

3. The Arctic is a really bad place to drill for oil because rough waters, icebergs, and rocks make it easy for oil spills to happen. Also, if/when oil spills do happen, they will have terrible consequences because of all the vulnerable endangered species that only live in the Arctic- species such as polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, walruses, etc.

4. Although it is somewhat hypocritical to do nature-loving activities on a plastic-based toy like a kayak, sup, or windsurf, the overall benefits of getting out and engaging with nature are worth the slight environmental cost if they help the watercraft users to be more environmental in their overall life choices and actions. I wrote an article about this kind of thing a couple years ago for some windsurfing magazines. It was called, "Green Windsurfing." I'm not sure if the article is available online anywhere. Can anyone find it?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Orange Bowl Paddle Championships (SUP race)

Saturday I got up early and went with Matt Kearney of the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards race team to the Orange Bowl Paddle Championships in Miami. The event was put on by the same people who put on the Orange Bowl football game, so there were lots of officials walking around in orange colored shirts, and there was a guy wearing the smiling orange mascot costume.

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The event was a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, so registration was about twice as expensive as a typical sup race. It was for a good cause, though, and it was nice to be at a big, well-produced event with lots of vendors and snacks and stuff. The venue was ideal- the "Marine Stadium" on Virginia Key, next door to the Miami Seaquarium. They had sprint races, recreational races, a "corporate challenge" relay race, kids stuff, and an 8.5 mile "elite" race all the way around Virginia Key (see GPS track). I did the long race, along with my official CGT teammates Matt Kearney, Kate Pagan, and Kevin Hill, and de facto teammates Brandon Gunderson and Mark Athanacio.

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Despite glassy calm conditions perfect for fast paddling, the race felt VERY long and hard. It went well for me, though. I rode the 404 v3 14' x 24" board and finished in 9th place; 1:31:17 with 8.45 miles on my GPS. That was a 5.55 mph average over the whole distance, which is really good for me since I usually struggle to get a 5.5 mph average over half that distance. Talk to the guys at the CGT shop if you want to get a good deal on a similar 404 v3 board.

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First place in 14' class Brennan Rose (pictured below) finished in 1:24:45 on a Riviera paddleboard, which is also a brand they sell at CGT.

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Second and third place Matt Arensman (Boga boards) and Josh Riccio (Rogue boards) were less than a minute behind the leader. In fact, the top 5 or 6 riders started close together at the beginning and stayed close for most of the race in one or more "drafting trains".

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Drafting is really important, but tricky. When you're riding in the wash behind another board you can match the leader's speed with significantly less effort than the leader is putting out- maybe 10-20% less effort. Then when the leader gets tired you can take a turn leading, or try to pass. I thought I might be doing lots of drafting in this race, but I wasn't quite fast enough in the first minutes to attach myself to anyone in front. It would help to know beforehand who one's closely-matched competitors would be so you could stick with them. You could even make a civilized agreement with your training buddies beforehand to stick together and trade-off who had to sprint at the front of the draft train every mile or so. Speaking of buddies, I want to do some shout-outs to mine who did well at this race.

Matt Kearney had one of his best races ever.
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"Team Death Metal" Kevin Hill (shirtless) and Brandon Gunderson (tattoos) did well, as usual, in the 12'6" class.
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Kate Pagan made it look easy with her smooth style.
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Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was by SW Florida badass Mark Athanacio, who finished first in the 12'6 board class with a time of 1:33:31. At the end of the race he was locked up with with second place 12'6 guy Jeremy Whitted, and the two competitors had an epic battle around the buoy and through the last sprint to the finish. Jen Hayes got the action on camera. It's especially cool to watch it as a slideshow, but I'm just showing one of the most action-packed pictures here.

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Although I was really hurting after the race, with sore everything, my mood got better and better as I recuperated and the festive mood of the event soaked in. It was great to see the smiling crowds of adults and children out on the water, delightedly playing with toys and socializing with each other, which is what this whole thing (windsurf, sup, kite, surf, etc.) is really about.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Testing & Racing New SUP - 404 v3 14' x 24"

Yes, I'm crazy. Although I already own one very nice race paddleboard, a 14' x 27.25" Fanatic Falcon, I decided to buy myself another one, which might be a little faster, in some conditions. The new board is a 14' x 24" 404 v3 - the same kind that superstar Danny Ching uses. Here's how the two boards compare:

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Length- Same

Width- The 404 v3 is 3" narrower than the Fanatic Falcon. In theory, this should make the v3 a couple tenths of a mph faster, but it will be challenging to test that empirically. Pushing my hardest on the Falcon for ~4 miles I would usually average 5.5 mph. But a week before getting the v3 I had a 5.74 mph run on the Falcon, setting the bar for comparison high. My first training run on the v3 I got 5.72, which is better than I usually did on the Falcon but not better than the best I ever did. Since then I've had some more sessions on the 404 but not with comparable conditions. Winds and currents, fins, how hot it is, and the "human element" (like what I had for lunch, and my mood and focus) all make a big difference.

Volume- The Falcon is 294 liters, the v3 is 224 liters.

Weight- The Falcon is about 29 pounds, the v3 is about 21 pounds.

Outline shape- The Falcon is a teardrop shape with a wide and bulbous nose tapering to a very narrow pointy tail. The v3 is more of a bullet shape; pointy in the front and squared off at the back. The Falcon mostly bobs over waves whereas the v3 pokes into them more. The Falcon is more user-friendly in choppy water, with the possible exception of when you're going broadsides to the wind and the bulbous nose is getting pushed downwind.

Deck shape- Both boards have a peaked deck on the nose to shed water after hitting a wave, but the decks differ in the standing area. On the Falcon the deck is flat; flush with the rails. On the v3 the deck is recessed, so your center of gravity is slightly lower but you sometimes get water sloshing around your feet.

Bottom shape- The Falcon has a rounded bottom at the nose becoming flat in the mid section, with slight vee towards the tail. The v3 has a slightly rounded vee in the nose, becoming flat then concave in the mid section and carrying the concave all the way to the tail.

Rail shape- Both boards have rounded rails near the nose, becoming more square in the mid section of the board. But on the Falcon the rails get more rounded again near the tail, whereas on the v3 they get sharper near the tail. The Falcon definitely has a more "displacement" design to the tail whereas tail on the v3 is meant to have a sharper release from the water

Rocker- The Falcon swoops up at the nose, then has a gradual rocker from nose to tail. The v3 has just a slight lift in the nose section, has a long flat mid-section, and then has a pronounced tail rocker from the fin to the rear. Both boards can ride waves and can glide with the wind-swell ("bumps") when going downwind. However, the Falcon catches bumps more automatically and is more forgiving of how far forward or back on the board you're standing when riding them.

The only race I've done on the new board so far was the Noodles Cafe SUP Luau Races in Naples last Saturday. (Picture shows racers lining up before the start.)

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The event was part of a benefit for the Special Olympics of Collier County. They started it with a 5.6 mile competitive race, then later in the day they had family fun races and races for the Special Olympics athletes with learning disabilities.

I chased Mark Athanacio for the whole race, but he gradually pulled away and finished about two minutes ahead. It could have been interesting if I'd positioned myself well and sprinted better at the start so I could draft him. Mark is the guy with the bulging muscles on the blue and green 14' Boga Board in this picture of the race start.

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This picture shows my GPS track from the race.
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Third place was Kevin Hill, one of my teammates on the CGT sup race team. Kevin was riding a 12'6 board and still beat most of the 14' board riders, which is very impressive. This picture shows Kevin, Mark, and I on the podium with the race organizer and one of the Special Olympics athletes.

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Next race is Saturday in Miami. It's an 8.6 mile race around Virginia Key. I'll probably do it on the new 404.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grad Student Shannan Defends her Thesis

I want to give a proud congratulations to my first graduate student, Shannan McAskill, for successfully defending her masters thesis last month and graduating today from FGCU. Shannan studied the island apple snail; a very large invasive snail that is gobbling aquatic plants and disrupting ecosystems in Florida and elsewhere in the southeastern US. Shannan's work investigated the snail's potential to damage tapegrass beds in brackish waters. (Tapegrass is an important food for manatees, turtles, and birds and an important habitat for fish, crabs, and shrimp.) Interestingly, though both tapegrass and apple snails prefer freshwater, Shannan found that slightly brackish water may provide a safe haven for tapegrass by hurting the snails more than it hurts the tapegrass.

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Keep up the good work, Shannan! Let's get those publications out this summer.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Don Wagner Formula Board for Sale for $100


I'm selling the Don Wagner formula board that I bought two years ago. You can see the ad I posted on iwindsurf.

The board was basically given to me for $100, so that's what I'm selling it for, although I'm also throwing in a 70 cm fin, so it's a real steal. The only catch is that you have to pick it up from my house in Florida. I won't ship it.

People might be interested in the reasons I'm selling the board, so here they are:

1. The board's wind range and sail range overlap quite a bit with my Exocet Windsup 11'8", which I am keeping. Though the formula planes about 2 knots earlier and is faster and more powerful upwind and downwind when planing, the windsup handles on-off planing conditions with less frustration. This formula board in particular has such a boxy shape and low-volume (albeit very wide) tail that you really notice the all-or-nothing aspect of planing/schlogging. It's a greyhound when planing, a basset hound when not planing.
2. I haven't been windsurfing in barely-maybe-planing conditions much lately since I've been putting more effort into race sup training.
3. It will free up a spot in the shed for an as-yet-undecided possible new board addition.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Long, tough SUP race with Danny Ching and other hotshots

Danny Ching is a famous SUP and outrigger canoe racer from California. Right now he's ranked #3 in the world and he has lots of first-place wins in super competitive races like the "Battle of the Paddle". That's Danny on the right, next to a top Florida racer named Brad Ward.

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Mr. Ching has two signature brands: "404" (paddleboards) and "Hippo Stick" (paddles).

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My local SUP shop, CGT Kayaks, sells a lot of his stuff, and my buddies on the CGT Race Team really idolize Danny because he's such a badass. Naturally, we were stoked to hear that he would make an appearance at a SUP event in our area, the "Fort Desoto Paddle Roundup," which was held April 17th - 19th.

The first two days of the roundup were social events, clinics, gear demos, and short-length recreational races. I only made it up for the last day, which was a 9.5 mile "Elite Race" around Mullet Key, the island at the mouth of Tampa Bay that Fort Desoto sits on. (See my GPS track from the race.)

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So I wouldn't have to get up too early on race day, I stayed Saturday night at the aptly named "Budget Inn" in St. Petersburg. I was thankful to get a ground-floor room to put my board in at night, and a mini-fridge to pre-chill my camelback. Some other folks from the CGT race team were up for the whole weekend, camping on Mullet Key. They invited me to see a Tampa Bay Rays vs. NY Yankees baseball game on Saturday night. The Rays lost 0-9 but it was still fun to watch. The Rays have a cool aquarium at the stadium with real stingrays and cownosed rays that you can pet. There's also a sign at the back wall of center field that says "404," which we thought was apropos to the weekend's event.

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The race venue was a beautiful beach with clear, blue water. The race itself was fun, but very challenging. (More so because I forgot my gatorade-filled camelback in the hotel fridge and had to tuck a borrowed water bottle in my fannypack lifevest instead.) I paddled hard, struggled a lot, learned a lot, and managed to get 3rd place in the 14' sup division with a time of 2:00:50. Danny Ching did it in 1:43:15 and Brad Ward did it in 1:54:27. Full race results including times are posted on Distressed Mullet.

The race start was from the beach, around a buoy near shore, then clockwise around the island. I was a little more thoughtful about the start than I had been at the Cocoa Beach race. I positioned myself upwind of the buoy, and though I didn't dash into the water and pop up on the board as fast as some of the competition, I had a safe, wide line that got me offshore and ahead of the slower folks early on.

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The early part of the race was cool because I could still see Brad Ward and Danny Ching not that far ahead. For about half a mile I drafted behind two guys on JP boards. The drafting definitely made it easier and helped me save some energy for later. Then I got ahead but the JP guys drafted me for a mile or two. Doh! Eventually they wore out and I dropped them, and the rest of the race was just me competing with myself, because Brad Ward was too fast to catch up with, and Danny Ching was of course long gone.

The middle part of the race was very challenging because of a strong sidewind. As you can see from this graph from Egmont Channel near the race site, the south wind rose steadily through the morning.

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The incessant choppy waves and wind forced me to paddle only on one side, and even then I had a hard time maintaining course. My speed dropped from about 5.4 to 3.3 mph and I struggled to find a rhythm. The usual tricks weren't working, but I had some success with adopting a weaker but higher cadence stroke and standing farther forward on the board to weigh my Fanatic Falcon's nose down and prevent it from getting knocked downwind by each wave. In retrospect I think a smaller fin might have helped me make course corrections more easily. I'll have to experiment with that in the future.

The coolest part of the race was going under the large pier at the southwest end of the island, and finally getting to go downwind and paddle on both sides again. The wind and waves really gave a great push to the finish line.

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By the time I got there, though, the wind was so strong that I had trouble turning the board to face the beach for the final paddle in. I could hear the race mc talking me up on the bullhorn as I came around the buoy so I wanted to look cool, but I was awkwardly paddle-steering to stay on course for beach.

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It sure felt good to run through the finish line in 3rd place, though.

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About 13 people had to drop out of the race before the end, but most of my CGT teammates finished it in good time, too. I was really proud of everyone who even attempted the course.

Here's CGT racer Kevin Hill winning first in the male 18-39 12'6 board division (2:23:34). Interestingly Kevin was beaten by Mark Athanacio in the 40-59 12'6 class (green trunks, 2:10:38), and Mark was beaten by Kelsa Gabeheart in the female 18-39 12'6 class (pink tanktop, 2:09:46), showing that age and gender divisions don't always stack like you might expect.

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CGT team captain Matt Kearney showed he had recovered from a nasty falling-on-his-fin-while-surfing injury by finishing strong in 2:41:47.

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And CGT team motivator Justin DiGiorgio made it in 2:49:43.

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It was interesting to see all the different types of athletes completing the challenging course. Folks of all ages, genders, and body types seem to be able to draw on diverse individual strengths to get their SUPs and other paddlecraft moving fast. Outrigger canoeist Wendell Martin (goatee) doesn't look like the typical athlete, but he wasn't far behind spandex beefcake Mark Wienzierl (cowbow hat).

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And here’s an outrageously muscular guy contrasted against a striking slender 56 year old woman and an average looking younger dude. Anybody with the right attitude can do well at this sport.

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PS- That’s me windsurfing in the background of the above photo. I put a 5.5 sail on my SUP raceboard after the race and blasted around for a while on that. It planes but not super fast. My top speed was about 19 mph according to the GPS. I switched to my 106 liter shortboard for a bit after that and had a good sesh up until the lunch and awards ceremony. Lunch was traditional “old Florida” cuisine, with cornbread and smoked mullet. Everything was on biodegradable or reusable kitchenware in keeping with the environmental awareness theme of the event. Very cool, in a scaly, boney, fishy sort of way.

Next race is much closer to home; the CGT winter race #4 this Sunday. I’m hoping I can get first place in that, but you never know what tough competitors might show up, or when Mark Athanacio might decide to race a 14’ board instead of his usual 12’6. I’ll paddle hard regardless.

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.