Saturday, April 22, 2017

SUP Race Report: Calusa Palooza 2017



Race: The second running of the Calusa Palooza, organized by the College of Life Foundation and sanctioned by the ACA

Date it happened: 22 April 2017

Location: Koreshan State Park on the Estero River in Estero, FL. It's an area with an interesting pre-european history, as a thoroughfare of the Calusa people, whose coastal empire centered around "Mound Key" in Estero Bay. (The Imperial River, where the CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards races are held, is also a tributary of Estero Bay and a former Calusa highway.) The more recent history of Koreshan State Park is also interesting, since it was the site of a bizarre religious compound in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Distance: There was a 12.3 km course, going downriver to the entrance to Estero Bay and back. There was also a 5.1 km race, and a very short race for the kids.

Conditions: It was grey and hazy; warm but not too hot. There was minimal current at the start of the race, but the incoming tide (reversing the river) got quite strong as we approached Estero Bay. The wind was from the east, and strong enough to be troublesome in some of the upwind sections. (It was better than last year, though.) A major x-factor was the shallow water depth, which increases drag through an interesting physical mechanism. Staying in the deepest part of the river was important, but tricky because sometimes there were shallow shoals in the middle.

Participants and Gear: There were 14 people in the long race, 32 people in the short race, and 10 kids in the kids race. A lot of the racers were on recreational kayaks, with a handful of fast "surfski" kayaks and outrigger canoes. There were 9 SUPs in the long race, 9 in the short race, and 1 in the kids race. Most of the SUP paddlers hailed from our CGT tribe. There were no gear-based subdivisions within the SUP category, so it was an advantage to be on a 14' and not a 12'6. For that reason Matt Kearney did this race on a borrowed 14x22 Riviera RP; the "Blue Streak" board that I used to paddle before I got my 14x23 Riviera RP. All the women were still on their usual 12'6 boards, but you wouldn't have known that by how fast some of them went.

Results: The full results should be posted later on PaddleGuru, so I'll just cover the major podium winners. Doug Lindsay on his Surfski Kayak was fastest overall in the long race. The second and third kayakers were George Knight and my FGCU colleague Dr. David Fugate, respectively. David just decided a few days ago to become a paddle racer. In the 18-49 year old SUP division I was first place SUP with a time of 1:21:46, Matt Kearney was second in 1:27:20, and John Weinberg was a ways back in third. First SUP in the 50+ age division was Devin Turetzkin in 1:28:24, just a bit slower overall than Matt. Next 50+ dude was Phil Trudgeon, and Murray Hunkin was the third 50+ SUP guy. Cindy Gibson won the womens' 50+ and womens' overall, and actually finished ahead of Murray. Next female finisher was Beth Schadd in the 18-49 division, followed by Damien Lin and Donna Catron in the 50+ division. In the short race, Justin DiGiorgio won and Jason Mastin was second in the 18-49 division. I'm not sure who the sup winners were for the short race in the 50+ division.

Play by play: I was confident going into this small race since there wasn't anybody else competing who I thought could beat me. (Mark Athanacio is still surfing in Costa Rica.) But I still wanted to do well, and improve on my time from last year. I also wanted to use the race as a last long-distance training session before next week's challenging Key West Classic. Before the start, I did some warming up, hydrating, dunking in the water to cool off, etc. The race committee started the 50+ age class SUPs first. It looked like Devin and Murray got the "hole shot" and the rest had to struggle with Murray's tsunami of a wake. In the second starting group I got off cleanly, with Matt Kearney on my tail. I was balancing a few different objectives in my mind at that point: 1) Go fast and catch up with those who had started in the first group, 2) Pace myself for the long race, 3) Keep Matt on my draft for a while and maybe let him lead for a bit later. Matt is usually on a 12'6 board that isn't fast enough for me to benefit from drafting, but with him on the 14x22 Riviera and me on the 14x23, I thought it might be mutually beneficial to work as a team. So I went fast but tried not to be too "surgey" to not shake Matt off prematurely. However, when we started to gain on Cindy and Phil, I got excited to catch up to their draft so I could rest a bit. In sprinting up to them I dropped Matt. Phil was going at a good clip on his 14x27 Riviera, and Cindy was really working hard to stay on his draft with her 12'6x25 Hovie ZXC. I caught my breath for just a minute with those two, then pushed around to get to Devin and Murray, who were leading at that time. Devin was making good time, and Murray was backseat driving the draft train with regards to what parts of the river looked faster. "Follow the bubbles!" I had some differing ideas about what route might be optimal, and I decided to leave the train to cut a corner and get in front. That split Devin (who followed me) from Murray (who followed the bubbles). It was the beginning of the end for Murray, who would soon wear himself out and get passed by Phil, Cindy, and Matt. Devin stayed on me for a bit, but I was increasing my effort to fight the current, and outpaced him before getting to the turn-around buoy.

It was a huge relief to get around that buoy and start paddling WITH the incoming tide instead of against it. I was happy to see >10 kph speeds on the GPS, and watch the "average speed" display inch up from the dismaying low levels it had fallen to while fighting the current. It was a long grind, though, especially through the spots where headwinds and shallow water slowed things down. My form deteriorated as I got more exhausted, reminding me that I ought to spend some time doing technique drills in practice to beat back bad habits. In the last km or two of the race the river was narrower and surrounded by taller trees, which blessedly reduced the headwind. Finally, I crossed the line, and instantly felt fantastic. It was great sitting and watching my friends finish, then hanging out at the post-race stuff. The lunch, raffle, and awards after the race were in a nice shady pine tree area and were run smoothly.

Here's a facebook album with podium pictures.


Here's my speedcoach track and data from the race: You have to click into it to see the details.

What's Next: Next race is Key West. I'm going to try to get some practice in rough water this week, since I think being able to stay upright and paddle fast in upwind/downwind/crosswind situations is going to be really important for that race.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Spring Series #2 (Easter!)



Race: The second race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: Easter Sunday, 16 April, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was warm but not hot, with a moderate to strong East wind. The river current was 0.95 kph according to my paddling in current calculator; though that calculation is based on the difference in board speed upriver and downriver, which was also affected by the wind this time. The water level was about average, but as always it paid to avoid the shallower parts of the river.

Participants, Results and gear: There were some absences because of the holiday, but we still had a good crew; 12 SUPs plus Penny Kappler on her kayak. There was one new guy, Patrick Scheeler, who paddled a Fanatic Viper windsurfing board. Patrick did very well for a first time racer on a tubby 9'4" x 33" board. People are saying he's going to be the new me, because I also did my first few CGT races on a windsurf board back in Fall 2014. Other racers today included several men on 14' boards and three women on 12'6 boards. Conspicuously absent was Mark Athanacio, who is surfing in Costa Rica. Though he wasn't there, I felt like I was still competing with him because of the incredible 40 min flat course record he set last time. Below is a list of the participants and results. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:42
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 21 MHL Custom ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:54
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:35
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:48
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:48.9
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 ** 0:50:07
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:52:12
Damien Lin ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 km ** 0:53:57
Donna Catron ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Bark Vapor ** 6.4 km ** 0:53:57
Spencer Richardson ** 12'6 SUP ** 30 Bic Wing ** 6.4 km ** 0:57:53
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:54
Penny Kappler ** Kayak ** ? ** 2.9 km ** 0:26:51
Patrick Scheeler ** 9'4 SUP ** 33 Fanatic Viper ** 2.9 km 0:31:22

Play by play: I really wanted to improve my race time to get closer to Mark Athanacio's awesome course record of 40 minutes flat. I knew I would need to average 9.65 kph to do that. It's a lofty goal for me, because I still haven't cracked 9.5 kph on a full length course. However, in practice I've had sufficient speeds over distances about half the length of the course, so it's not completely ridiculous to think that I might some day be able to hold those speeds for longer. My strategy for getting a good speed was going to be starting fast and sprinting for a while before settling into a steady pace and trying not to let the "average speed" readout on my GPS drop below 9.7.

I was in the first starting group with Matt Kearney, Robert Norman, and Bryan Herrick. We were all on 14' boards and I expected young Matt and Robert to match my sprinting pace and form a draft train with me for the first part of the course. That is indeed what happened, with Robert behind me and Matt behind Robert. I went as fast as I felt I could handle, and gave a little extra push here and there, like when going around corners. About 800 m downriver I dropped Robert and Matt at one of those corners. I tried to paddle fast but efficiently, staying in the deepest, fastest flowing part of the river. When I could feel wind at my back I stood up a little straighter to be more like a sail. At the US 41 bridge turn-around I had 18:30 on the GPS, but I knew that the upriver & upwind leg would be much slower, so 40 minutes would be tough. I saw that Robert and Matt were still together but I had about 100 m on them, so I wasn't worried about them catching up. Going upriver I pushed hard, and tried to take the shortest, least-windy, slowest-current path. Sometimes there just weren't any good options. For example, in the "straightaway" sections of the river I had to paddle directly into the wind and watch my speed go down below 8 kph. It might have been wiser for me to have saved more energy for that upwind leg so that I could sprint faster through the slow bits. Anyway, my average speed dropped below 9.7 when I still had about 1.6 km to go, and I knew I wouldn't be able to break the 40 minute barrier this time. I still tried to paddle hard, hoping to at least beat my own speed from the previous race. I was tired and feeling disheartened but got a boost when I hit the spot of the river that I knew was just 800 m from the finish. From there I treated it like an 800 m sprint and I tried to spend all of my remaining energy. It helped that the river was narrower and curvier at that point, blocking most of the headwind. In the end I did beat my race #1 time, but only by two seconds.

This is my GPS track from the race.


Behind me it was apparently close between Matt and Robert until the upwind leg, when Robert used Matt's side draft to get around him then paddle away faster than Matt could pursue. Matt is tall and thin so he may be at some disadvantage going upwind relative to Robert who is short and muscular. The recessed deck in Robert's custom MHL board also lowers him more, which probably helps in the wind. Justin and Devin who started in the second wave stayed together for the entire race, sometime drafting each other. In the end they were both exhausted, and dead even entering the final stretch. Their boards were overlapped at the finish, but Justin was about half a length ahead, giving him the win. Devin was wearing a heartrate monitor and said his pulse reached 188 bpm at the end, which is impressively/frighteningly high for a 50 year old guy. Bill Mussenden had a good race on the white 14x25 Riviera that I used to paddle, and he showed that he is a force to be reckoned with by edging out dependable John Weinberg. Donna and Damien negotiated to finish in parallel, favoring friendship over competition this round. Whatever makes it fun, right?

What's Next: Next Saturday is the "Calusa Palooza" on the Estero River. During the week the CGT team will probably do a warm-up paddle on the river to scope out the shallow spots and form a race strategy. I'll also want to be getting some rough water practice ahead of the April 29th "Key West Classic," which will be the longest and most challenging race I do this year. Woo hoo!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

SUP Race Report: Sharkbite Challenge

I was 4th SUP overall, but 3rd in the 18-49 year old class because Larry Cain is over 50. That I meant I got to stand on the podium with these studs; Chase Kosterlitz (center) and Brad Ward (left).


Race: The Sharkbite Challenge.

Date it happened: 8 April, 2017.

Host: Rob and Karen Mirlenbrink. The Shark Bite Challenge is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Island Parks - the citizen support organization that supports the financial efforts of Honeymoon and Caladesi Island State Parks. Proceeds from the Shark Bite Challenge go directly toward keeping Florida's most visited state park healthy, natural, and undeveloped.

Location: The Gulf of Mexico off of Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, Florida.

Course / Distance: There was a 4.5 km race (one lap around an upwind/downwind course), and a 13.5 km race (three laps around the same course). You could also do both races on different watercraft and have your total time counted in the "waterman's challenge" event. The course distance was slightly longer for the standup paddleboards, who started from shore, than for the canoes, kayaks, and prone paddleboards, who started about 100 m from shore at the downwind buoy

Conditions: It was the second day of a late cold front; sweatshirt weather in the morning but swimsuit weather by the afternoon. Small surfable swells were rolling into the beach, but the wind was side-offshore and mostly less than 10 knots, so the chop wasn't too bad.

Participants: There was a huge turnout, with 106 entries in the short race and 170 entries in the long race. That included the most sit-down paddlecraft (surfski kayaks and outrigger canoes) that I have ever seen at an event.

Some professionals / celebrities from both the sit-down and stand-up paddle worlds were there. On the men's SUP side we had legendary 54 year old Canadian Olympic canoe champion and Paddle Monster proprietor-coach Larry Cain. Larry was riding a 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar. Challenging Larry was tall, superhero-resembling, 30 year old professional SUP racer Chase Kosterlitz, riding a 14x24.5 JP Allwater. On the women's side we had pro SUPer Seychelle Hattingh, on a 12'6 SIC board. I don't know the names and backgrounds of the pros in the sit-down paddle divisions, but my CGT teammate Murray Hunkin pointed out international pro-level surfski kayak competitor Matt Bouman who he said trained with kayaking Olympian coach and competitor Hank McGregor in South Africa. It was easy to spot Matt Bouman since he was 6'8" tall. Among other impressive human beings in attendance was the women's outrigger canoe winner, who was extremely powerfully built. From my local CGT team we had Jen Hayes, Damien Lin, Saralane Harrer, and Donna Catron doing the short race, and for the long race we had Meg Bosi, Cindy Gibson, Devin Turetzkin, Justin DiGiorgio, Mark Athanacio, and me. Murray Hunkin did the waterman's challenge- short race on his sup and long race on a surfski kayak. A guy I went to grad school with, Reid Hyle, also did the waterman's challenge on sup and surfski. As far as who my close competitors would be, I had my eye on Brad Ward from Sarasota, who is definitely faster than me but might be possible to draft off of, and on Warren Heil from St. Augustine, who is similar to my speed but beat me in the Cocoa Beach Challenge last month. And of course I expected to be mixing it up with Mark Athanacio, as usual.

Gear: I used my 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a longish weed-shedding fin to add stability. For the paddle I used a Riviera Bump 7.0. A few months ago I switched from a larger bladed paddle to this paddle and I've noticed that it helps prevent me from burning out my muscles in longer races. Mark Athanacio used his salmon colored 14x23 Hovie Comet GTO; thankfully not the black 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT that he often beats me with.

Results: The results were complex because of the many classes of gear, age, gender, and race type. I'll only cover the main results of the SUP races. The full results should be posted on paddleguru. In the short race, Reid Hyle was the first paddleboarder to cross the line, having drafted young Will Marston upwind then blown him away by skillfully riding the swells downwind. Jen Hayes was the first woman. The 50+ women's podium in the short race was dominated by our CGT team, with Damien Lin, Donna Catron, and Saralane Harrer. In the long race the first paddler to finish was Matt Bouman on surfski, who averaged about ~13.3 kph to finish in 1:00:18. First 14' SUP was Chase Kosterlitz in 1:24:11 (9.61 kph average!), with Larry Cain not far behind him in 1:25:36. There was a gap separating those guys from 3rd place Brad Ward (1:31:23), and another gap between Brad Ward and me. My time was 1:33:56, reflecting an average speed of 8.61 kph. I was a bit ahead of Warren Heil (1:34:39) who was a bit ahead of Mark Athanacio (1:35:19). Because they divided things up by age class, I got 3rd in the 18-49 age class, and Larry Cain and Mark Athanacio were #1 and #2 in the 50+ age class. Seychelle was first female and first 12'6 SUP overall with (1:37:53). Cindy Gibson was 2nd 12'6 overall and first 50+ female with 1:46:58. Cindy finished ahead of Devin Turetzkin and Karl Eugster, who were first and second in the men's 50+ 12'6 class.

Play by play: I'd stayed overnight in Dunedin at an AirBnB so I was able to get to the race site early enough to relax and warm up. I felt in good spirits and in the good company of the CGT race team and the overall "tribe" of water people. I drank lots of water before the race and made sure my camelback was full. For the beach start, they mercifully allowed us to wade in up to our knees beforehand, instead of having to run in over the rocky eroded beach. Coach Athanacio had given me some tips on what part of the start line looked optimal based on the wind and current direction, so I found a good spot. There was a horn to announce that the starting siren could come at any time within the next 30 seconds. During that unknown span of time I got mentally PSYCHED, squinting my eyes and looking fiercely at the horizon. When the starting siren went off I got on the board cleanly and paddled clear of most of the other people in my section of the line. There were some small "set waves" coming through and I managed not to fall on those. I took a wide line at the first turn buoy and headed north, in the company of Mark Athanacio and Warren Heil. Chase Kosterlitz had gotten out ahead, and it was impressive to see how quickly he went from just a few board lengths ahead of me to way, way ahead. The water surface was quite disorganized by the wind chop and small swell combining with the wakes of about 100 canoes and kayaks further up the course. I stayed more on the inshore edge of the mess and tried to find a paddling rhythm in tune with the bumpy water.

During that initial part of the first upwind leg, Larry Cain (who had been caught in traffic at the start) surged up on my left side. I started to think, "Hmm, maybe I should slide over and get in his wake to try to draft for a bit..." but he was so fast that he was gone before I had even finished the thought. He was sprinting to catch up to Chase. Incredibly, I saw him successfully close the gap on the younger athlete, and I thought he did get in the draft. But Larry later told me that he'd been unable to cross the penultimate bump of Chase's wake to get in the drafting zone. So he had done all that exhausting catch-up work without reaping the reward of catching a draft. Dang!

I don't remember all the things that happened on my own way upwind, but I do remember I had one fall, that I did some drafting of Warren Heil, and that I switched to drafting Brad Ward for a little bit when Brad came up from behind and had a faster pace than Warren. Despite his fast pace, Brad seemed to be having a little balance trouble on his 14x23 Hovie Comet GT. At one point he fell and I went around him, but right after that he was re-invigorated and blasted past me and permanently out of reach. On the first downwind I went hard but I was challenged by the wakes, crowds, and complex state of the water, and I was anxious about my position relative to Warren, Brad, and Mark Athanacio. I had one fall, and made it to the downwind buoy several board lengths behind Warren. On the upwind I got back in the swing of things and set a pace that was ambitious but doable. It looked like I might be able to catch up to Warren, so I made an extra effort to hasten that. Drafting him on that second upwind leg felt great, and I recharged enough energy to ask to take the lead for a bit. Warren let me around and I went at a good pace. After a bit it got quieter behind me and I realized I had dropped him. I tried to maintain my quick pace as I rounded the upwind buoy. This time on the downwind I went a little more carefully and strategically, trying to catch all the "bumps" that I could but also trying to rest and take sips of water when I was on a bump. Nobody passed me, so I was in a good position heading into the third and final upwind leg. I just had to not screw up, and not give Warren or Mark Athanacio any opportunities to pass. I did a lot of counting strokes in my mind to keep my pace up, and I focused on how fun the final downwind run would be. On the final downwind run I thought of it as an escape, running down the waves fleeing the enemies behind me. Rounding the downwind buoy I semi-sprinted the final 100 meters towards the beach finish, inspired by the music blaring from the Red Bull truck PA system. I ungracefully rode a small wave into the shallow water, where I jumped off and carried my board through the finish. Woo hoo!

This is my track from the race. You have to go into Strava to see all the details.


After the race I felt great, except for sore quadriceps from balancing in the chop. I think the cooler weather and the alternation of upwind and downwind sections had kept any one part of the race from being too crushing. I was happy with 4th place overall and didn't have any major "woulda coulda shoulda" feelings about how the race had gone. Although I do think I should try more seriously to take advantage of drafting faster-than-me guys when I have the opportunity. Also, the more practice I can get in rough water upwind/downwind conditions, the better.

What's Next: This is high season for SUP in Florida, and there is a race every weekend for the foreseeable future. Next weekend it's the local CGT race where I face the daunting task of raising my level to match Mark Athanacio's insane sustained flatwater pace. The weekend after that is a the Calusa Palooza on the Estero River. After THAT is the biggest Florida SUP race of the year, the Key West Classic, where we'll see the return of Larry Cain and some other pros.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Spring Series #1



Race: The first race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 2 April, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was warm, humid, and hazy, with only a light breeze. The river was flowing at 0.65 kph according to my paddling in current calculator; enough to make a significant difference in speed between the upriver and downriver portions. The water level was moderately high, but as always it paid to avoid the shallower parts of the river.

Participants, Results and gear:

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie Comet GT ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:40:00
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:40:44
Murray Hunkin ** 14' SUP ** 27 Starboard AllStar ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:43:42
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:43:48
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:44:34
Cindy Gibson ** 12'6" SUP ** 25 Hovie Comet ZXC ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:47:49
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:50:00
Ellery Winghart ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Bote Darkroom ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:50:23
Aaron Wright ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:51:10
Jen Hayes ** 12'6" SUP ** 22 Hovie Comet GT ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:52:28
Donna Catron ** 12'6" SUP ** 25 Hovie DelMar ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 0:53:50
Saralane Harrer ** 12'6" SUP ** 26 Riviera RP ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 1:04:28
Marlene ** Kayak ** ? ** CGT to 41 Bridge ** 1:04:28
Brian Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** Frankenbouy ** 0:21:32
Rudy Ambrosi ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** Frankenbouy ** 0:22:03
Annika Estelle ** 12'6" SUP ** 25 Starboard AllStar ** Frankenbouy ** 0:26:48

Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: We got on the water around 9 am and formed groups for the staggered start. Mark Athanacio and I both wanted to start after the first group, but neither of wanted to start at the same time. I could tell Mark was fired up to kick butt, especially after I'd stolen his spot on the podium at the previous day's race in Miami. For this race he had chosen the very fast 21.5" wide Hovie that he often beats me with. The first starting group ended up being three evenly-matched 14' guys: Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Justin DiGiorgio, plus new guy Aaron Wright. I went in the second group with Cindy Gibson, Bryan Herrick, and I forget who else. Mark Athanacio went in the third group, which mean he'd be chasing me down.

I didn't doing anything special on the paddle downriver; just tried to paddle hard but efficiently. I was getting good GPS speeds because of the river current, and I hoped to build up a fast average speed that would keep my overall average high during the tougher second half of the race. After a few river bends I got in sight of Aaron and chased him down. He has good balance from surfing but he hasn't had enough time doing sup racing yet to dial in his technique and fitness to the level of the other guys. Next I started closing the gap on Murray, Devin, and Justin, who were working together in a nice draft train. I got near them as we were reaching the US 41 bridge at the bottom of the course. Their turns around the bridge piling were on the slow side, which helped me catch their train right after the bridge. It was nice resting in the draft train, and I probably stayed there longer than I should have, helping Athanacio creep up on me. Eventually I saw a good opportunity and busted past the draft train, picking up Murray Hunkin as a follower but not Devin and Justin. Murray stayed with me for a few hundred meters, but dropped off when I sprinted over a shallow area.

A little after losing Murray I noticed a funny "schlurp" "schlurp" noise coming from the tail of my board and saw my speed dropping a bit. I didn't want my race to be screwed by dragging something on my fin, but I didn't want to screw myself by stopping, either. I debated then decided to go ahead and stop. Sure enough, a mangrove leaf drifted loose when I crawled to the back of the board. I saw that Mark Athanacio was real close behind me then, though, which was frustrating. He asked if I was OK because it looked like I had collapsed. I just shouted, "WEEDS!" then got back up and tried to get quickly back to speed. I made OK speed for the rest of the race, but I knew Mark was closing in on me; that he was almost sure to get a faster time and might even pass me despite having started later. I was too tired to fend him off, so he did get around me about 400 meters from the finish. I got in his draft and stayed there so I at least didn't lose any more ground on him after he passed me. My pace during the race was 9.47 kph, which is among my best averages, but Mark's was an incredible 9.64 kph, the fastest pace either of us has ever done in a CGT race. Looks like the bar has been raised!

This is my GPS track from the race.


Murray, Justin, Devin, Cindy, and Ellery also raced very well today, and look to be in great form heading into the busy Florida spring / summer race season. :) Woo hoo!

SUP Race Report: Miami River Rally


Race: The 2017 Miami River Rally.

Date it happened: 1 April 2017.

Host: Virginia Key Outdoor Center and Race South Florida

Location: The races started at Lummus Park on the Miami River in downtown Miami, Florida, and went out into Biscayne Bay and back. Getting into downtown Miami was rough. Google said it was a 2 hour drive from Bonita Springs, but I got stuck in bad traffic on I-95 in Miami, so what should have been the last 15 minutes of the trip was more like an hour. There was a similarly long traffic nightmare on the way home. Fortunately I had my teammate and carpool buddy Cindy Gibson to talk to while we were stuck.

Distance: There was a 20 km, 11 km, and 5 km race. I did the 11 km (see route).

Conditions: It was sunny, hot and humid with 5-10 knots of wind from the East. Concrete seawalls along the banks reflected boat wakes and wind chop and made it a bit challenging to balance and to draft effectively. There was some floating Sargassum, seagrass, and garbage, so weed-shedding fins were necessary.

Participants and Gear: 44 people participated; mostly SUP racers but also some kayaks and outrigger canoes. Most of the 14' SUPs and about half of the 12'6 SUPs did the 11 km race. The full list of how many of each class were in each race is up on webscorer . From the CGT race team we had: coach Mark Athanacio on a salmon-colored 14x23.5 Hovie Comet GTO, me on a 14x23 Riviera RP, Cindy Gibson on a 12'6x25 Hovie Comet ZXC, Donna Catron on a 12'6x25 Hovie DelMar, and Annika Estelle on a 12'6x25 StarBoard AllStar. (Donna and Annika did the short race.) There were some other familiar faces from the South Florida sup scene, including the two Jakes (Portwood and Graham) on 14x25 JP Flatwater and 14x24 Rogue boards, respectively. Windsurfer-biker-paddler Joey Kolisch was there with a 14' StarBoard Allstar, exercise physiologist Dr. Jose Antonio was there, and kiteboarding water photographer Rick Iossi was there taking pictures with his spouse. Fast women racers included Mary Ann Boyer and Karen Kennedy on Indigo SUPs, and Victoria Burgess on a Starboard AllStar, among others.

Results: I don't know what everyone's times were, but I know the approximate finishing order, so I can guesstimate based on my on time and how far ahead or behind the others were. Jake Portwood was first place in about 1:12:00, Jake Graham was 2nd in about 1:12:30, and I was third in 1:13:35. Mark Athanacio wasn't up to his usual high standard and was a couple minutes behind me. Cindy Gibson was the first female by a wide margin in the 11 km race, finishing just behind the first 12'6 men.

Jake Portwood leads the way to the finish.


Play by play: The start was jumbled with SUP wakes combining with reflected chop, boat wakes, etc., but the initial sprint wasn't too fierce. I.e., it was easy to attach to the lead draft train that formed with Portwood, Graham, Athanacio, and me. As 4th person in the train I got a big draft effect and didn't have to work hard to keep up. Portwood was going at a relatively relaxed pace at first, but seemed to put on more speed when we got to a choppy water fork in the river near Brickell Key. Athanacio and I separated from the Jakes and each other at that point, and somewhere around then I fell and had to get back on quick. I didn't get TOO far behind the Jakes, but I basically gave up on drafting at that point and started just trying to find a sustainable rhythm through the uneven water. The chop got more organized and manageable after we rounded Brickell Key and entered Biscayne Bay proper. I put a gap on Athanacio there and might have gotten a bit closer to Jake Graham. There was some tidal current that boosted our speed on the way south, making up for the slow-down effect of the chop. We rounded a buoy near the Rickenbacker Causeway and turned east, putting the wind at our backs. That was the most efficient feeling part of the race for me, because I was able to catch some "glides" on the small chop. It was hot, though, and I could feel my heart and lungs complaining. Athanacio said he was feeling major heat effects at that point, too, and had to back off the pace. After the downwind section we turned and started the unpleasant side-upwind run back towards Brickell Key. Jake Portwood stayed more to the East, while Graham and I went inshore, hoping to find more favorable wind and currents. All we found was ugly seawall-reflected chop, which made the going tough. The Jakes dealt with the upwind better than I did, and my hopes of catching Jake Graham diminished as he pulled further away. One of the outrigger canoes inched up on me during the upwind, briefly passed me, then gave up her position again once we neared the Miami River entrance where the wind was blocked. The boat wakes were dicey again in the Miami River, and we also had some fishing lines to contend with. The outrigger canoeist yelled at the fishermen. I ducked one line and went over another, but emerged OK. The river part of the paddle seemed longer on the way in because I was really tired and wasn't drafting. Each time I passed under a bridge or rounded a bend I thought we were coming up on the finish line, and I was repeatedly disappointed to see that we still weren't there. Finally the finish line arrived, with the Jakes sitting on their boards resting at it. As soon as I passed it I stopped my speedcoach GPS then rolled into the water to cool off.

This is my GPS track from the race.


We hung out at Lummus Park for quite a while, socializing and slowly packing up as people trickled in from the various races, but ultimately we weren't patient enough to wait for the organizers to get the awards ready.

Closing thoughts: I need to work more on figuring out where to strategically put in bursts of extra effort in races, like when deciding whether it's worth it or not to try to sprint to get/stay in someone's draft. (It sure would have been nice to have been able to draft one of the Jakes on the upwind leg of this race.) Also, I think some more leg strength and aerobic endurance could help me with the long-distance, choppy-water races, so I might incorporate more running into my training. Jake Graham says he runs a lot, and it sure seems to work for him.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Series #7, on a 12'6x22

Clip from the midpoint of the race.

Race: Race #7 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series. This was the final race in this series, and the new series with a different race course will begin on April 2nd.

Date it happened: 19 March 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: Approximately 6 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time.

Conditions: It was gorgeous "Oregon Summer" weather, which of course we get in March in Florida. The current was minimal (0.15 kph according to my paddling in current calculator). However, there was a rising breeze from the West that was sometimes a nuisance. The tide level was moderate, but it still paid to avoid the shallow parts of the river.

Participants and Gear: There was a nice group of regulars and newer racers. Ladies included Cindy Gibson (riding Matt Kearney's 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC), Donna Catron (riding CGT's 12'6x26 BlkBox UNO), Meg Bosi (riding a 12'6x25 Bark), and new girl Ellery Winghart (riding a 12'6 Starboard AllStar that looked pretty wide). Men on 14' boards included John Weinberg and Rudy Ambrosi on 14x25 Rivieras, Devin Turetzkin on a 14x23 Riviera, Steve Fleming on a 14x24 Naish Maliko, and Justin DiGiorgio on a 14x23 flatwater-special Hovie custom. >70 year old Will Compton was on an interesting looking home-built board that I think was a 12'6. I broke tradition for this race and used CGT's 12'6x22 Riviera RP instead of my usual 14x23 RP. Matt Kearney used CGT's 12'6x24.5 StarBoard AllStar, Robert Norman used Devin's 12'6x25 Hovie Comet GT, and Mark Athanacio used his 12'6x22 Hovie Comet GT.

Results: I was first 12'6 and overall with 39:11, followed closely by Mark Athanacio's 39:28. Mark probably would have beaten me if he hadn't been tired from a 10 km race on the other side of the state yesterday. Robert Norman edged out Matt Kearney with 41:02 to 41:07. Justin DiGiorgio set a personal record of 41:26, making him the fastest 14' board ahead of Devin Turetzkin's 42:10. Cindy Gibson was the fastest woman by a lot with 42:35, followed by Meg Bosi 46:17, Ellery Winghart 47:40, and Donna Catron (49:01). Will Compton was 3rd 14' board with 45:37, just edging out younger John Weinberg's 45:41. Rudy Ambrosi made a solid return from a long time off paddling with 46:24. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: The first starting group was the fast 14s; Justin and Devin. Next to line up were the fired-up 12'6s; Cindy, Matt, Robert, and me. The boys all charged hard and we kind buried poor Cindy in our overlapping wakes, such that she didn't have much chance to join our draft train. I was really worried about staying clear of the wakes myself, since on my small narrow board they would mess me up more than usual. I had put my own, big, weed-shedding fin on the board, though, which was my secret weapon to stabilize it and allow me to paddle in a straighter line with less nervous stability. I.e., with the big fin the 12'6 handled more like the 14 that I'm used to. I managed to get in first position in the draft train of me, Robert, and Matt, and transitioned from sprinting to just fast race pace. Mentally I was fired up by the challenge and excitement of trying the new board, and I wanted to really kick Robert and Matt's butts to show them that my brand of Riviera boards is superior in all board sizes. I do think the 2.5-3" narrower width of my 12'6 gave me an advantage over Matt and Robert, allowing the board to knife through the water with less resistance.

At some point on the way to the first downriver turn-around the splashing sounds behind me diminished and I knew I'd dropped the young dudes. Matt says it happened going around a turn when Robert was looking at the nose of his own board and didn't manage to match the arc of his turn to mine. The dudes were still close behind me when I saw them after making my buoy turn, so I knew I wasn't out of the woods. I made a point to sprint hard out the turn to get back to race speed as quickly as possible, not wanting to let the "average speed" readout on my GPS drop below 9.something kph. On the way upriver I stayed motivated working to catch up with Devin and Justin, which I eventually did. I got in Devin's wake, which provided a chance to partially recover from the hard pace of the first leg. Devin was falling out of Justin's draft, though, so I passed him and with some difficulty caught up with Justin. Justin was going pretty fast and making a really nice wake, so I got another little rest there. I wanted to push for the fastest possible time, though, to try to match Mark Athanacio, who I knew would be starting later on his own fast 12'6x22.

When I passed Justin heading upriver to the midpoint/startline, he got in my draft and stayed with me until the midpoint turn-around. My short 12'6 board helped me do a tighter turn than him at the buoy, and I sprinted to drop him from my draft. I didn't feel good starting the second lap, so I used the trick of concentrating on technique to forget how tired I was. Though I couldn't keep up a super fast pace the whole time, I made a point of briefly "spurting" at key points that might have otherwise slowed me down, for example corners, shallow spots, and windy patches. My second downriver buoy turn was on the ugly side, but I stayed dry and endeavored to empty the tank on the way upriver. The going felt slow, but I continued my spurting strategy, and in the last ~500 meters went up to an unsustainably hard pace. I was happy to finish with an average speed of 9.07 kph, which is good for a 12'6.

This is my GPS track from the race.


Justin was next over the line and I was stoked that he'd gotten a personal best and stayed ahead of the Robert-Matt duo. Robert and Matt were drafting each other until near the end, when they broke into a fierce sprint battle. Robert, who is like a rubberband-ball of muscle got the edge on Matt, who is also no slouch at sprinting but may have been tired from leading the draft train more. Cindy wasn't too far behind Matt and Robert, and her time was an incredible 2 minutes faster than her previous race record, probably because of her newly practiced buoy turning skills and finally being on a board close to narrow enough to proportionally suit her. Well done, Cindy.

After the race we did some playing around on the water, and I encouraged Cindy to try the 12'6x22 Riviera. She did, and I could hardly keep up with her.

What else is new: I got a new windsurf sail that I'm going to go try this afternoon. It's a nice 6.8 Aerotech Phantom, which replaces a 6.4 that Bryan Herrick pierced with his body during a catapulting wipeout in overpowered conditions two weeks ago. (Bryan generously compensated me for the value of the sail so I could buy a new one. Also, it looks like he's about to buy a 122 liter JP Xcite Ride board for his reintroduction to windsurfing, so I'll have another buddy on the water for the windy days. Woo hoo!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SUP Race Report: O'Neil Cocoa Beach Challenge



Race: The O'Neill Cocoa Beach Challenge.

Date it happened: 11 March 2017.

Host: Paddling Paradise, a SUP rental and retail outlet in Melbourne, FL. There were lots of other sponsors and volunteer organizers, too.

Location: The staging area was a grassy lot along the Banana River Lagoon at the East end of the 520 Causeway in Cocoa Beach, FL.

Distance: There were 1.6 km, 4.8 km, and 12.9 km races. The shorter races were one or three laps around an "M" shaped course. The longer race started and ended with the "M" course, but added a long, straight North - South sojourn in the middle. I thought it was a good, challenging format. For the 12.9 km race they started the "elite" prize money division separately from the non-prize money division. That was fine with me, except that it made registration unnecessarily confusing and stressful. I initially registered for the non prize division by mistake and had to get a special code to upgrade to the prize money division. My track from the race is below. If you have a Strava account you can click into it and see the details.



Conditions: It was sunny and pleasant with a mix of North and East wind in the 6-10 knot range. The sea state varied between ripples and small chop. The biggest factor affecting speed was neither the wind nor the small chop, but the water depth, which was shallow enough to bump your paddle on the bottom for much of the course.

Participants: 30 people did the "elite" 12.9 km race. 11 people did the non-elite 12.9 km race, 32 people did the 4.8 km, and 8 people did the 1.6 km. Heavy hitters in the elite division included professionals Garrett Fletcher (Yolo), Brad Ward (Hovie SUP), Kieran Grant (sponsored by Hovie in the past but used a borrowed Starboard AllStar for this race), and Seychelle Hattingh (SIC). There were also a surprising number of veteran and up-and-coming non-professional racers who were nearly on par with the pros and were able to hang on with the lead draft trains. I was not one of those first draft train people this time, but I was plenty challenged trying to hang with the second draft train. From my local CGT race team we had a good crew: Mark Athanacio, Jen Hayes, Cindy Gibson, Matt Kearney, Robert Norman, Annika Estelle, and me. Jen and Annika did the 4.8 km, and everybody else did the 12.9 km. Cindy Gibson did the non-money version, and was kicking herself because her time was fast enough to have put her in the money.



Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 7.0 paddle. I used a longer fin than usual (23 cm MFC Weed Fin) to make the board more stable in the chop. The longer fin might make it harder to do buoy turns, but I hoped the trade-off was worth it. Another Riviera ambassador, Sam English from Jupiter, FL, used the same board.

Results: Top 5 in 14' elite were Garrett Fletcher (1:28:01), Brad Ward (1:29:14), Tim Warner (1:29:23), Steve Miller (1:29:30), and Sam English (1:29:42). There was a gap between them and the 2nd tier draft train which was Warren Heil in 6th (1:31:43), Kodie Peekstok 7th (1:31:52), and me 8th (1:31:56). The 12'6 elite winners were very closely spaced: Kieran Grant (1:35:34), Mark Athanacio (1:35:48), Jamie Twigg (1:35:50.5), and Will Marston (1:35:50.7). Seychelle was a minute or two behind the top 12'6 men, but for some reason her time is not listed in the official results. The next 12'6 women were Maddie Miller (1:40:01) and Stephanie Shideler (1:40:33). Cindy Gibson was the 4th fastest female with 1:43:06, and first 12'6 overall in the non-money race. Impressively, Cindy beat Matt Kearney's time of 1:44:18, and wasn't too far off Robert Norman's 1:40:16.

Play by play: The race started between two buoys on the water since there was no beach (only a bulkhead with a floating platform) at the launch. I decided to go from the north end of the starting line, based on the wind coming from the north, and on some misleading reports that the water got shallow near the causeway on the south end of the line. That turned out to be a big mistake, because there was actually a deep channel along the causeway. The racers who started at that end were able to go full sprint speed (10+ kph) while those of us who weren't in the channel were slowed to ~8 kph by the shallow water effect. In the future I should always look at Google Earth images of new race venues to get an idea of where the deep channels and shallow spots are. After the first buoy turn of the "M" part of the course I was back on proper track, but with much diminished chances of catching up with the lead 14' draft train. Nevertheless, like Elizabeth Warren, I persisted. On one of the diagonals of the M I was able to get around the lead 12'6 guy Kieran Grant. I was doing my best to try to reach the back end of the lead train, which was beginning to break up a little as Garrett Fletcher and Timothy Warner pulled ahead and Canadian Chris Stringer fell back. I had a minor setback when I fell off in shallow water, but I got back on fast enough that it didn't make much difference. I don't remember now if was during the M or just after the M that I caught up with Chris Stringer, then passed him and made a big push to catch up with Warren Heil.

I'm glad I caught up with Warren when I did, because it turned out he was just easing up briefly to recovery from his initial sprint before cranking up the speed again and keeping it high for the duration of the race. Drafting his 14x24 Hovie Comet GT was not restful, but it was better than trying to go that speed upwind on my own, especially with the troublesome shallow water effect. In retrospect, we might have avoided some of the shallow sand flats if we had veered significantly more offshore or inshore, but without any a priori knowledge of the bathymetry we were just following the bright orange shorts of leader Garrett Fletcher. On the way north we closed in on 17 year old Canadian Kodie Peekstok, paddling a 14x23 Starboard AllStar. I can't remember when Warren caught up with him, but I don't think it was until after we turned around and started heading back south. My turn at that upwind buoy was really ugly, btw. I kind of stuck the nose of my board in front of Warren's legs and he had to drag my board through the turn as he did his. It worked, though. Anyway, after a short time as a three-person train behind Kodie, Kodie deliberately rescinded the lead so he could draft. I thought he would go all the way to the back of our group, but he smartly got in the side draft to my left. Around that time I started having difficulty staying in Warren's draft. The wind had shifted to the east, and awkward little chop was breaking up my contact with Warren's wake. Also, I think the brief rest that Warren got in Kodie's draft was allowing him to put on some extra speed that I couldn't match. I broke off and took a more inside path, just going on my own and trying to paddle efficiently. At this point I had been paddling hard for 70 minutes and was very tired; starting to lose some of my will. I gradually got a little behind. Entering a deep boat channel in the southern part of the course perked me up a bit, as I saw higher speed number on my Speedcoach GPS again.

When we got to the M again I made up a little distance on Kodie, whose buoy turns were a bit too careful. One cool thing about that final M was that it allowed me to see what was going on with the leaders as they crossed going the opposite direction. Garret Fletcher was on his own, solidly in first, but Brad Ward had leapfrogged up from his 5th place position in the draft train to a solid looking second. Third through fifth looked like they could still be up in the air, so I shouted some encouragement to Sam English, my fellow Riviera dude. In the last bits of the M, young Kodie picked up the pace and started doing a "choke down" hold on the paddle. I paddled harder to keep up with him, but couldn't summon the will or the energy to make a serious effort to pass. In the end I was a little bummed that I hadn't made the top 5, but I felt like I had put forth a respectable effort and made some progress in sprinting, drafting, and pacing skills.

What else is new: There's a CGT race in Bonita Springs on the 19th, then a race almost every weekend in April, culminating in the Key West Paddle Classic at the end of that month. I don't reckon I'll go to all of them, but I'll definitely do the Key West.