Friday, January 13, 2017

Cold Front Windsurfing, New Beginner Board

It has been fairly breezy in Florida this fall and winter, but the breeze has mostly been from the East, meaning the Gulf of Mexico has been more like a flat lake than a wavy ocean. That changed for a while last weekend when a cold front passed through and the wind briefly came from the West and the North, providing pumping winds and bumpy water at my local windsurf spot, Wiggins Pass State Park. I got a good afternoon of sailing with a 4.7 and an 83 liter board, though I felt so rusty that I wasn't able to take full advantage of what the conditions offered.

Wiggins Cold Front 1-7-17 from James Douglass on Vimeo.


The next day the wind gradually clocked back around to it's usually easterly direction, but as it did I still squeezed in a pretty good session with a 6.4 sail and windsup board in the fading wind and waves.

My newest windsurf mission is going to be to teach some of my local paddleboard racing friends how to windsurf, using an excellent beginner/all-around board that I picked up for cheap at the thrift store. The board is a Mistral Prodigy, in nearly-new condition, complete with the sail and the racing fin and daggerboard. I already taught my pal Matt Kearney, and he learned real quick. I figure I'll teach some people for a while, and if somebody gets hooked I'll sell them the board.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series Race #3



Race: Race #3 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 8 January 2016.

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 5.3 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was VERY COLD by Florida standards, about 9 degrees C, with a gusty North-Northeast wind. The wind, in combination with low tide, had pushed the water level extremely low, narrowing the river and exposing various shallow spots and sticks and logs. The current was about 0.3 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants and Gear: The cold kept lots of people away, but we still had the core group of CGT race team folks. Robert "Superman" Norman drove down from Inverness and raced his 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint Unlimited; the same board that he is going to use to challenge the 24 hour sup distance record in Sarasota on February 11th. Devin Turetzkin and I both used 14x23 Riviera RP raceboards and Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fins. I used a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle and Devin used the Riviera Bump 7.0 paddle. (I have ordered a Bump 7.0 for myself, because I think its smaller blade area may help me go faster without wearing out my muscles.) Matt Kearney used CGT's 14x25 RedPaddle inflatable race sup. I think it's my turn to paddle the inflatable next time; we're all going to paddle it at some point. Mark Athanacio was on his deadly black 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. Cindy Gibson paddled a 12'6x26 Hovie Comet ZXC, Donna Catron a 12'6x25 Hovie DelMar, and Justin DiGiorgio a 14x24 Hovie Comet GT. Jared Hamilton paddled a 14x27 Laird Hamilton sup, but just did one lap. At the other end of the board speed spectrum, Larissa Kinne paddled a 10'6x32 Riviera surf style board, but she still finished the whole two-lap distance.

Results: Jared was the first and only one-lap finisher in 25:28. I was the first two-lap finisher in 34:59, followed by Athanacio in 35:32, and Robert Norman in 36:16. Justin DiGiorgio did 38:15, edging out Devin Turetzkin (38:23) by just a few board lengths. Matt Kearney got too close to the edge of the river near the finish line and came to a dead stop on a submerged log just short of the finish line. He would have finished a little under 40 minutes, but ended up a little over 40 minutes after unsticking himself. Race director Nick Paeno had mercy and gave him 39:56 anyway. Cindy Gibson was the first woman with 41:30, followed by Donna in 46:50 and Larissa in 47:56. I thought it was very impressive that Larissa went that fast without a raceboard. Official results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.


Play by play: None of us were quick to get on the water. We stayed bundled up on shore until peer pressure eventually coaxed us onto the river. I did more warm-up than usual for the simple reason that I literally needed to warm up. For the start, Robert Norman and I agreed to go in the first group, Devin and Justin in the second, and Athanacio in the third. I know I can keep up with Robert when we're both on 14' boards, but I wasn't sure if his 17'6 would give him a big advantage. I decided the safest thing would be to get in his draft, at least until I could see what pace he set. Robert started fast, and after about 100 meters I did get in his draft. It was a tricky to figure out the optimal spot to ride his wake, because his pointy-at-both-ends board didn't make much visible wake. Once the initial sprint phase wore off, I noticed that Robert's pace was NOT faster than his 14' board pace. I continued to draft him for the first 800 meters or so, then when I thought he might be slowing down I passed him. I think that shallow water with lots of turns more-or-less cancels out the speed advantage of an unlimited board. Anyway, Robert stayed pretty close on my tail as we approached the further downriver turn-around; the "Frankenbuoy". The water was so shallow there that we had to jump off our boards and portage (run carrying our boards) around the buoy. I don't think that slowed us down much, but since Robert's board was longer and more awkward I put a little gap on him there that he couldn't make up.

Heading upriver I saw that Athanacio had caught up with Devin and Justin, who had started before him. Matt was further back, doing his best to make the inflatable go fast. The rest of the race for me was just about keeping good form and staying on the gas. I knew that neither the river conditions nor my condition (recovering from a cold and not much paddling over the holidays) were optimal for setting a record time, but in a way that was good because I could just make the most of what there was. In the final 400 meters of the second lap I put in an extra hard effort, and that worked out pretty well for getting me to the finish line with not much energy left. Though my time was 45 seconds slower than last time, I'm OK with that. It was a bonus to finish faster than Athanacio, but not surprising this time since he has been sick and unable to train for ten days or so.

After the race Robert let several of us try his 17'6x23. It was quite tippy, but had a really neat feel. I'd like to try it again in deeper, open water. Given the room to run I definitely think it could be faster than a 14'.

What else is new: Yesterday as the cold front came in I got a great 4.7 sail / 83 liter board windsurfing session, and I plan to try sailing again today. Tomorrow is my first day of teaching for the spring semester at FGCU, so I figure I might as well maximize the watersports fun before I'm super busy again.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series Race #2



Race: Race #2 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 18 December 2016.

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 5.3 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was a warm, humid day with a SE wind. The river level was moderately high and the tide was ebbing, with the current at about 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator.

Participants: Though many of the local crew were tired from the previous day's race around Lovers' Key, most of us still showed up, and there were a few more besides. Robert Norman came down from Inverness to race again, and to test the speed of a 14' inflatable raceboard from RedPaddle Co. Justin DiGiorgio was fresh off the airplane from a snowboarding vacation in California and Nevada, but he still made it. Justin's pilot buddy Juan Pena raced for the first time, and there was at least one other first-timer, too. Some people came not to race but for a concurrent board-demo event from Jobe Watersports. It didn't look like my toughest competitor Mark Athanacio was going to race, but the rascal made a late appearance when the rest of us were already 2/3 done.

Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin.

Results: Mark Athanacio got first with 34:12 on his deadly black 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. I was second with 34:15. Phil Trudgeon was third in 38:23, followed closely by Bryan Herrick with a personal best 38:27. (2nd through 4th were all on Riviera RP raceboards.) Robert Norman got 38:47 on the RedPaddle inflatable board; only about 8% slower than he was on his conventional board two weeks ago. Fastest woman was Cindy Gibson in 39:33, followed by Damien Lin in 42:53 and Jen Hayes in 44:39. Of the people who just did one lap, Murray Hunkin was the fastest in 19:08, followed by Justin DiGiorgio in 20:50, and Jared Hamilton in 23:17. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.


Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Bryan Herrick, and Cindy Gibson. I sprinted into the lead and Murray, on his 14x27 Starboard Allstar, got in my draft. We had to weave through some unaware kayakers shortly after the start, but managed to do so without slowing down. I could definitely feel some cumulative fatigue from the previous day, so I paced myself carefully after the initial sprint. Murray stuck in my draft all the way to the further turn-around buoy, which is where he usually falls and I lose him. But this time we both had clean turns and Murray got back in my draft for the first upriver leg. He doggedly hung in there all the way back to the start/finish line, where I planned to try to sling him off with a quick turn + sprint combination. It turned out that wasn't necessary, though, because Murray bowed out after completing just that first lap.

On the second downriver leg is when I saw Mark Athanacio paddling upriver to start the race late, shattering my hopes for getting an easy first place by default. Would I have paddled harder on the first lap if I'd known Athanacio would be racing? Maybe. But to be honest, I think I was already pushing myself about as hard as my mind and body could stand. So it's tough to say if earlier awareness of my competitor would have pushed me faster or just psyched me out. Anyway, my strategy for the last part of the race stayed the same as before: paddle as hard as possible without blowing up. It's tough to judge how much energy I have left, and it's tough to recover if I burn out my muscles with too much sprinting, but when I got to the final few hundred meters of the race I upped the suffer factor to make sure I was fully spent by the finish. Regardless of whether I placed first or second, I'm happy with my time, which is slightly faster than my time in the first superlap race.

What else is new: This may have been my last SUP session of 2016, since I'm heading to North Carolina for Christmas on the 21st, and then heading to visit inlaws in New Hampshire after that. I'll try to still do some exercise stuff up there so I don't get totally out of shape.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lovers Key No-Name-Race



Race: Lovers' Key No-Name Race.

Date it happened: 17 Dec 2016

Host: Naples area fitness trainer and CGT Race Team coach Mark Athanacio organizes these free "no name races" a few times a year.

Location: Lovers Key State Park, North Parking lot next to the Big Carlos Pass bridge.

Distance: It's about 9 km / 5.6 miles around the island, but the exact distance can vary depending on how much you cut corners or follow the channel.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, warm December day, with an ESE wind around 10 knots. The tide was very low and still ebbing, so optimizing the route to avoid shallows and strong current was important. We rounded the island clockwise, so the wind and small chop were in our faces for the first leg, on the bay side of the island. In the second leg, on the ocean side of the island, the wind was at our backs and there were some opportunities to ride bumps.

Participants: There was a good turnout of about 20 racers. Racers included the usual CGT paddle tribe, plus some of Athanacio's friends from other sports who don't usually SUP race, plus a SUP racer or two from the East Coast of Florida, such as Mary Ann Boyer Willis.



Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin. Devin Turetzkin and Mark Hourigan used 14x23 RPs, as well. Mark Athanacio used his 14x21.5 Hovie Comet GT. Matt Kearney used a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC. Tadem Stewart used a new 14' Naish Javelin and Steve Fleming used a 14' Naish Maliko. All the women were on 12'6 SUPs- Mary Ann Boyer on an Indigo, Cindy Gibson, Damien Lin, and Donna Catron on Hovies, Meg Bosi on a Bark, and some of the other ladies on MHL custom boards.

Results: Mark Athanacio won first place, finishing in just over 59 minutes, while I was about a minute behind in 1 hour even. Matt Kearney was impressively 3rd overall and 1st 12'6, just edging out Tadem Stewart in 1:04:18. Mary Ann Boyer was the first woman, but looked to have been seriously challenged by rookie racer Cindy Gibson, who was only about two board lengths behind at the finish.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.


Play by play: We started and finished from the beach. It was a little awkward because we had to launch out, but then immediately turn to the right to begin rounding the island. So the right side of the starting line was favored. Mark Athanacio had a great start that immediately put him a few board lengths in front of the rest of us. Matt Kearney, Tadem Stewart, and I also started aggressively, and for a while the three of us were about even with each other, behind Mark. Devin Turetzkin was in the mix, too. Tadem fell where some strong current was creating weird ripples, and I gradually outpaced Matt with my board length advantage, so it was soon just me behind Mark. I considered making an all-out effort to sprint up into his draft, but decided to set my own pace instead, and hopefully maybe catch him later if he tired out or ran into choppy water trouble with his ultra narrow board. As it turned out I had no luck catching Mark. Though I paddled hard, he set a blazing pace that I simply couldn't match, and he gradually extended his lead.

At the half-way point of the rounding we went through a tidal inlet called New Pass. There were some tricky shallow areas entering and exiting the inlet that frustrated me. Shallow water slows the board down and also prevents me from sticking the paddle all the way in the water, because it hits the sand below. One in the Gulf of Mexico we were going downwind, which was nice. Downwind with the assistance of following seas sometimes allows for speeds higher than can be achieved in flat water. Although I was getting occasional surges of speed, I was slowing down running into the backs of the waves at other times, so my average speed was breaking even with about what it would be in flat water. Heading into Big Carlos Pass was upcurrent and upwind again, so that final leg of the race was a draining grind.

Though my finishing time of 1 hour even was pretty good given the conditions, I'd like to find some more tricks or another level of fitness to catch up with Mark again. Including this time he has beaten me by a significant distance 3 of the last 4 times we paddled around Lovers Key. The one time I got him was a week ago when it was really windy and choppy and both of our times were slower than usual. I think my board may have better stability and handle ugly side-chop better, but when the chop is relatively small, Mark just makes his ultra light and narrow Hovie fly in a way that I can't keep up with. I'll keep at in the gym, work on my stroke technique, and experiment with a smaller paddle blade. I might also try to eat healthier, since that's one area where I have considerable room for improvement. I burn enough calories to not get fat, but I probably eat too much sugary fatty processed food, like cookies, hot dogs, pizza, and mac & cheese.

What else is new: There's another SUP race tomorrow morning, hosted by CGT. It's only about half the distance of the Lovers' Key rounding, but it's challenging in a different way because it's more of a sprint.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Superlap Series #1



Race: Race #1 in the CGT Winter Time Trial series, aka the "Superlap Series" because of a new race format.

Date it happened: 4 December 2016.

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 5.34 km / 3.3 miles. The course goes downriver, around a buoy, back upriver to the start, then downriver and back a second time. There's a twist, though: There are two possible turn-around buoys downriver; one further and one closer. You have to do the long route for one lap and the short route for the other lap. It's your choice if you want to do the long or the short lap first, so interesting strategies come into play in competition.

Conditions: It was a beautiful, blue sky day with typical warm Florida fall weather. The river level was low and the tide ebbing, with the current at about 0.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. There was a moderate wind from the East that added to the challenge of paddling upriver.

Participants: We had 16 wonderful people, including most of the race team regulars. Coach Mark Athanacio couldn't make it because he's in Miami renewing his cross-fit trainer certification, but his girlfriend Jen paddled one of his cool custom Hovie SUPs- 12'6x22 -and tested out her new Apple Smart-Watch. "Superman" Robert Norman drove down from Inverness and raced his 14x21 custom MHL board. Most of us were racing as fast as we could, but there were several people this time who took a more relaxed approach and paddled the course with their dogs onboard. After the race it seemed like there were more dogs than people at the buffet in the shop. I like dogs, so I thought that was cool.



Gear: I used a 14x23 Riviera RP raceboard with a Riviera Bump 8.0 paddle, and a Fins Unlimited 6" Keel fin.

Results: I had the fastest time in the 14' sup class, with 34:18, followed by Robert Norman in 36:20. Third 14' man was Murray Hunkin with 37:11. Matt Kearney was the first 12'6 paddler, getting 37:46 on his 24" wide Hovie Comet ZXC. The top three women (all on 12'6 boards) were Damien Lin in 43:19, Jen Hayes in 44:53, and Donna Catron in 46:31. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.


Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Robert Norman. I was in the faster-flowing middle of the river, which helped me nose ahead in the initial sprint and find an open path in undisturbed water. Meanwhile the other guys had to struggle with each others' wakes as we formed a draft train. Though I was confident that I could eventually tire out and drop Murray and Devin (those guys are 14 years older than me and not as ultra fit as Mark Athanacio), I was worried that Robert (14 years younger than me and very fit) might be able to stay in my draft indefinitely and then pass me later when I got tired. Fortunately for me / unfortunately for Robert, his start put him in 4th position in the draft train. So when Devin and Murray couldn't stay on my tail, Robert got dropped, too. I knew I wasn't totally out of the woods, though. I'd still have to maintain a fast pace to hold the initial lead.

On the first downriver leg I opted to go to the more distant buoy, to get my long lap over with first. Of our starting group, only Murray chose to do the short lap first. At the turn I was nervous and almost fell, but was reassured to see that I had a safe gap on Robert and Devin. The wind and current were annoying on the upriver leg, but I tried to paddle especially hard in the worst patches to get through them quicker. Back at the start/finish line I rounded the halfway buoy without incident, though I think I took it wider than necessary. Devin's girlfriend Larissa took a lot of good pictures of people rounding the buoy.

Me on the 14x23 Riviera RP.


Robert Norman on the 14x21 MHL custom.


Matt Kearney on a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC.


Justin DiGiorgio on 14x24 Hovie Comet GT.


Bryan Herrick on 14x23.75 Riviera RP custom.


On the second, shorter lap I was feeling pretty tired but tried to think fast, peppy thoughts to continue paddling effectively. I wasn't wearing my heartrate monitor, which died the other day, so I gauged my effort level just by how I felt. A couple hundred meters from the end I picked up the pace to make sure I used up all my remaining energy. It sure felt good to cross the line and be done. Then it was fun watching everybody finish and hanging out on the water. I can't wait for the next race two weeks from now. :)

What else is new: CGT recently became a Starboard dealer (Starboard is the #1 sup and windsurf board brand in the world), and they're getting their first shipment of race boards in early January. They will keep selling Riviera boards, which is good because I am a Riviera brand ambassador and plan to stick with them for the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell the Riviera boards are at least as fast, and cheaper.

Later this winter Robert Norman is going to try to break the world record for the longest distance sup paddled in 24 hours. The current record is held by Seychelle Hattingh, who set it earlier this year at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL. Robert is going to make his attempt at the same park, which is a big artificial lake used for rowing competitions and such. Whereas Seychelle set her record on a 14' Mistral sup, Robert is going to use an unlimited length sup; a 17'6x23 Starboard Sprint. The very long board should make it a little easier to maintain a high average pace for a long time, but I still think it will be very difficult for Robert to beat Seychelle's incredible record of 177 km. It will be neat to see him try, though.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Series 2016 Final



Race: Race #9 (the last one) in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 20 November 2016.

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 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and several people took that option this time.

Conditions: The morning was cold by Florida standards, long-pants weather, with a North wind blowing. The river current was moderate, about 0.7 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. Is hasn't rained for about a month, so the freshwater input to the river has gone way down.

Participants: There was a great turnout with a mix of the regular racers and some first-time racers. On the womens' side, Beth Schadd was back from her summer in Idaho and paddling a new 12'6x24 Riviera RP. Donna Catron and Jen Hayes were on 12'6 Hovies, Meg Bosi on a 12'6 Bark, and Cindy Gibson on the 14x22 "Blue Streak" Riviera that I sold her a while back. Saralane Harrer paddled with one large dog on her board, and Damien Lin with two dachsunds on hers. (Damien had done a 12 km race in Miami the previous day.) Patricia tried out her new BOTE board for the first time. On the men's side, "Superman" Robert Norman drove down from central Florida with his 14x21 MHL custom board and his charming beau Carigon. A guy who was visiting from New Jersey raced on a rented Riviera. Two dudes were on Naish raceboards- Steve Fleming and teenage Tadem Stewart. Mark Athanacio had done the Miami race the day before, so he wasn't in full competitive mode, but he used opportunity to test out his new 12'6x23 custom Hovie, which has rough-water / all-around design with a concave hull similar to the Starboard Allstar. Mark Payne showed up with his 18' long unlimited SUP, but ended up swapping boards with Justin DiGiorgio and paddling Justin's 14x24 Hovie Comet GT. Matt Kearney was on a 12'6x24 Hovie Comet ZXC, Mark Nicoletti on a 12'6 Boga. Devin Turetzkin and I were both on 14x23 Riviera RP boards, and Bryan Herrick was on a custom 14x23.75 Riviera. Murray Hunkin was on his 14x27 Starboard Allstar.

Results: I had the fastest time in the 14' sup class, with 38:23, followed by Robert Norman in 40:06. Mark Athanacio was fastest 12'6 with 40:20. Cindy Gibson was the fastest woman, and set a personal best time of 43. something. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.


Play by play: I started in the first group, with Murray Hunkin, Devin Turetzkin, and Tadem Stewart. We were all about the same speed off the line, but I stayed in clear water and angled into the lead after 100 meters or so. Murray got in my draft, and I think the other guys got behind him. I did my best to set a fast-but-sustainable pace, but I felt slightly out of tune physically. I had lingering symptoms from a cold earlier in the week, and sore muscles from doing an awkward bench press test on Friday at Dr. Jose Antonio's sports physiology lab in Ft. Lauderdale. (Matt Kearney and I were both there participating in a new study. More on that later.) My pace wasn't fast enough to drop Murray. He stayed on me all the way downriver to the turn-around buoy, but he fell rounding the buoy so I dropped him that way. Heading upriver I didn't doing anything super special, but I did try to strategically pick the parts of the river offering the best shelter from headwinds and currents, or if that wasn't possible, the deepest water and the most direct path.

Race director Nick Paeno announced my split time as 19 minutes when I reached the start/finish line at the end of the first lap. I knew I'd need to maintain that pace for the second half in order to get an overall time on par with my 38.something average for the series. Seeing Robert Norman charging hard at the lead of the second group of starters also helped me stay motivated. That guy is only 23, and strong and agile as Bruce Lee, so I reckon it's just a matter of time before he starts beating everyone. Anyway, to go fast on the second downriver part I thought fast thoughts. I tried to "feel" my paddle grabbing the water and my board sliding forward, and I willed the wind to push at my back. On the final upriver leg I focused more on forcing my body to work harder, knowing that the end was coming and that I should use up every drop of energy remaining. It seemed to work OK, and I was happy to finish with the time I got. Murray was next to cross the line, and he looked like he was still paddling well. I think he had a good race despite the one fall. Robert Norman seemed to have pulled ahead of the guys who had been near him before the second lap, and he was really flying at the finish. Beth Schadd also had a charging sprint finish, with a rapid cadence and more effective looking paddling style than I remember her having last season. Maybe she practiced in Idaho. Bryan Herrick, who has changed up his training to focus more on injury-reducing recovery and developing a strong endurance base, reaped the rewards of his training by improving on his previous best time by nearly a minute, and averaging a very respectable 8.4 kph over the entire race.

After the race we tried out some of each others' toys. I got a kick out of paddling Mark Payne's long unlimited board. It didn't accelerate very well, but it could cruise at high speed with a little less effort than would be required on a 14' board. I also got on Mark Athanacio's 12'6x23 custom all-water Hovie, and I really liked the feel of it. Light and efficient feeling but remarkably stable, perhaps because of the very wide tail and concave hull design. It will be interesting to see how Mark does on it at the next rough water race. Robert Norman bought a 12'x19 Riviera prone paddleboard from CGT and tried it out while we all watched and commented. His first move was tip it over and immediately fall off, then he ran it into the bushes, but pretty soon he had it going like he sort of knew what he was doing. Then he impressed us by standing up on it and using a paddle like it was a standup paddleboard. It was obviously very tippy, but just the fact that he could stand up on it at all was pretty impressive. Since Robert doesn't live near the ocean, we're speculating that he could use the prone paddleboard as a rough water simulator sup, since it's as hard to balance on in flat water as a normal board would be in very rough seas.

When we got off the water we had the great buffet at CGT, enhanced by some exotic dishes brought in by healthy chefs Bryan Herrick and Cindy Gibson. Never heard of avocado pudding before. Good times.

What's next: It looks like the next big SUP race won't be until after the holidays, but I'll keep up with the thrice-weekly workouts that coach Mark Athanacio assigns, and try to do some race-length paddles like more Lovers' Key roundings. Hopefully we'll get some good wind and waves for surfing and windsurfing, too.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

SUP Race Report: Englewood Beach PaddleFest



Race: Englewood Beach PaddleFest

Date it happened: 12 November 2016.

Host/Sponsors: Hosted by "Hooked on SUP Paddlesports" and a bunch of other sponsors and volunteers listed on the race's paddleguru page.

Location: The Gulf of Mexico off Englewood Beach, Florida, and into Stump Pass inlet.

Distance: There were three race courses- a 9.2 km one, a 4.8 km one, and a 2.4 km one. The long one went south along the beach and briefly into Stump Pass inlet, before coming back out and going north along to the beach to the start / finish. (See my GPS track.) The 4.8 and 2.4 km courses were 2 and 1 laps, respectively, around a triangle course in the ocean centered around the start / finish. I did the long race and my awesome wife Rhonda Mason did the short race.



Conditions: The weather was perfect for a race on the ocean- light offshore breezes with virtually no waves or chop on the clear, blue-green water. It was cool enough for sweatpants and long sleeves in the early morning, but became pleasantly summery as the day went on. An incoming tide added technicality to the inlet entrance / exit at the halfway point of the long race, with strong localized currents of varying directions sweeping over shallow sandbars.

Participants: There were 48 in the long race, 57 in the medium race, 38 in a short race, and a some in a kids race. Most people were on SUPs, but there were a handful of outrigger canoeists including John Beausang of the Distressed Mullet paddle website, plus a prone paddleboard and a kayak. In the shorter races many of the competitors were on surf-style sups, which were scored in their own division separate from 12'6 and 14' race sups. Though there were some tough competitors, the event had an overall friendly, "family" vibe. Since Englewood is relatively close to my town, lots of people from my local club/team, the CGT Tribe, were there. In the 14' class in the long race we had coach Mark Athanacio, Murray Hunkin, Mark Hourigan, Justin DiGiorgio, Jim McIntyre, and me. In 12'6 class we had Cindy Gibson, Meg Bosi, Matt Kearney, and Devin Turetzkin. Jason Mastin and Jen Hayes did the medium race on 12'6s. Justin's spouse Jessica DiGiorgio and my spouse Rhonda Mason did the short race on 12'6 race and 11'8 surf style boards, respectively.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. Rhonda used my 11'8" Exocet WindSUP, which qualifies as a surf-style board. Mark Athanacio used a 14x21.5" custom Hovie Comet GT, Matt Kearney used a 12'6x24" Hovie Comet ZXC (a little narrower than his usual board), Meg Bosi used a new 12'6x25 Bark Contender, and Murray Hunkin used his new 14x27 Starboard Allstar.

Results: The results were a little goofy because they gave awards based on age classes (under 18, 18-49, and 50+), but some of the teenagers and 50 plussers were faster overall than the 18-49 year olds. The overall fastest sup in the long race was 50+ Mark Athanacio, who finished in just under an hour, followed about a minute and half later by me. The next two finishers were also very-fit 50-plussers; Bruce Day and Jim Valenti. Teenage Will Marston was the first 12'6 finisher, with millennial Matt Kearney just a few seconds behind him, and 50+ Devin Turetzkin a few minutes back in third overall but first for his class. 50+ Cindy Gibson was the first woman to cross the line on 12'6, a bit ahead of younger Meg Bosi and Amy Carden. In the mid-length race, a tiny young boy named Dylan Geiger impressed everyone by getting first place overall, ahead of 50+ Kevin Glatfelter, who was ahead of 18-49 class Jason Mastin! Young Hailey Marsten was first female in the mid-length race, ahead of Jen Hayes. In the short race, I was overjoyed to see Rhonda get FIRST in the 18-49 year old surf sup class. Jessica DiGiorgio also had a stunningly great first race, getting second overall on her 12'6 sup. I'm not sure if Rhonda and Jessica's victories were because of or in spite of incessant advice and goading from paddling obsessed husbands. Probably in spite of. The full, complicated results and times are posted on PaddleGuru.

Rhonda with her TROPHY.


Play by play: I felt weird before the start of the race. I wasn't sure if it was just nerves or maybe something physical, but as I write this I've come down with a major cold, so my funny feelings may have been the beginnings of that. Despite feeling off, I started the race pretty well, with only hard-charging Mark Athanacio and wirey Will Marston out-sprinting me from the beach to the first buoy. I passed Will shortly after the buoy and found myself a few board lengths behind Mark. I wasn't close enough to be fully in his draft, but I think I got some benefit from being on about the 4th "wave" of his draft. I debated trying to sprint right up behind him, but the pace we were going was already close to my full sprint and I was worried that going too hard at that point would ruin me for the rest of the race. Nobody else was matching our pace, so it was clear that, barring disaster, Mark and I would be the only ones in contention for first and second.

After a while I moved out of Mark's wake and took a line more inshore of his, working my way up to about parallel with him. In retrospect, that would have been a good time for me to cross back into his draft and really stick there, but I assumed (wrongly) that I'd have another opportunity later. I didn't have that opportunity because Mark put on some more speed and stayed just out of reach as we moved into Stump Pass inlet. The gap increased after we rounded the buoy in the inlet and headed back towards the Gulf of Mexico. That was partly because I got too shallow hugging one side of the channel in my efforts to avoid the incoming tidal current. Something I should have learned from our practice paddles around Lovers' Key is that Mark somehow sneaks over shallows without losing as much speed as I do, so I'm better off staying deeper and not following his exact path.

I briefly regained some distance on Mark when he got caught paddling in place in a river-like tidal current exiting the inlet. I thought I'd try crossing over the strongest part of the current before turning against it, but I ended up falling off when the currently suddenly caught the nose of my board. Though I recovered quickly, Mark put more distance on me as I struggled through the sucking region near the inlet. At this point in the race I was feeling physically enervated and now demoralized with the realization that I probably wouldn't catch up to Mark again. Though my heart rate wasn't quite at it's maximum, and I wasn't having any particular muscular failures, I nevertheless found it impossible to squeeze any more speed out of myself. That might have had something to do with my oncoming cold, or with over-training in the gym and on the water this week. Or it might have been entirely a mental thing. I'm not sure. Anyway, though Mark continued to slip further ahead, I at least didn't let anyone sneak up behind me, and I held onto that second place. My average speed for the race was 9.12 kph, which is not much worse than my best-ever speed for an hour-long paddle (9.32 kph for a Lovers' Key rounding on August 20th). With Mark paddling really well lately, it looks like nothing short of my all-time best performance, or something even better than that, is going to match him.

After the long race the team hung out on the beach, and cheered Rhonda and Jessica in the short race. As is typical of big SUP events, it was a while after the races were over before we got through all the lunch and awards and stuff. I spent part of the time trying out some QuickBlade paddles that were available for demo. The awards and raffle were run efficiently, but the awards still took a while because there were an outrageous number of divisions. 3 age classes x 3 board classes x 3 races x 2 genders x 1st through 3rd place in each = 162 trophies just for the SUPs! Both Rhonda and I were happy to get our first place plaques, though, and we felt pretty boss driving home with them. Go team CGT!

What's next: There's going to be one final race in the season's CGT Race series on November 20th. In the meantime I'll continue my training with coach Athanacio and the team. I'm not planning any major changes to gear or training strategies, other than maybe going to a smaller paddle blade. The Riviera R8 I've been using is 106 in^2, but a lot of of people are switching over to 80 - 90 in^2 blades with good success. For example, Athanacio's strong second-half performance may have something to do with his switching to an 86 in^2 QuickBlade Trifecta paddle. (The smaller blades are supposed to reduce skeletal muscle fatigue and increase endurance.) Riviera makes a 93 in^2 blade on a paddle called the "Bump 7.0," which I have tried and which is likely to be my next paddle.