2013 is flying by in a whirl and I can’t believe it is already May! I have been so lucky to get a lot of racing under my belt and, at the request of our beloved DJ, the fantastically fast, first-time father in a Fenn, it’s time for a little Surfski Northwest update.
I’ve got to be honest with you, this season of racing has not been what I expected. I have raced in four SoCal races, one Wavechaser’s Race, and Sprint Kayak US Team Trials. If I have anything to report at all, it’s that way more goes into Surfski racing than my previous experience could have prepared me for. The California races this year have been a roller coaster of incredible and dismal performances. Coming out here I assumed that racing would more or less a result of who has been training the hardest and in the surf the longest. In truth, I had an incredibly naïve concept of the complex strategy that is Surfski racing.
The take away message for most of my racing was race smart. Unfortunately, that has not been my strong suit this year and I made a number of race and training errors due to a combination of pride and simple stupidity.
In the first race of the season (Mission Bay, San Diego) I was acquainted with ocean weeds and they in turn were acquainted with my rudder. The race started well and I easily jumped to the lead group, but over the course of the next five minutes, I watched the lead boat slowly make ground on me. I felt sluggish and out of shape and I berated myself for not training hard enough. I slogged along, continually losing ground, refusing the check my rudder for weeds, convinced that I was merely underfed for the race. It took me about twenty minutes into the race before I decided that my sluggish progress was more than just physical inadequacy and stopped to clear my rudder. It was a huge relief to see and enormous piece of kelp float off my rudder, but my stubbornness had nearly cost me the race. Mercifully, the race was long enough for me to painfully, inch by inch, pull myself back up to the leader and barely edge him in a photo finish. That race was probably the most painful I have yet experienced and it was all because of my refusal to check my rudder.
The second race was the Newport Beach flat-water race. I was more confident in my fitness this time and I was ready to give it my all. This race was yet another learning experience for me. I learned the importance of tactics and good efficient wake riding. Rich Sprout and I rode the wake of a K-4 for the entire race, but I couldn’t quite find the sweet spot on the K-4 wake and at the end of the race, when Rich and I made our break for the finish, he had ten times the kick left in his system and he left me in the dust at the finish line. I am not saying that I had the finish kick to beat him, but I could certainly have leveled the playing field if I had done a better job of effortlessly riding the K-4 wake.
The third race was the San Fran Wavechaser’s double-header in. The first race was a flatwater race in Redwood City and the second was a classic, longer distance, Fort Baker race. Revved up and ready to put the hurt on Rich Sprout, I launched off the start. Again, hubris was my downfall and I led the race for the first thirty minutes pulling the pack and letting Rich draft off me. After that we traded washes for the rest of the race, but, like Newport, Rich had twice the kick I had and aced me across the line in the finish sprint. I wont deny that I was frustrated, but it was also a wake up call for my racing. Two times in a row proved that I was certainly doing something wrong. Luckily, the second race was quite choppy and I didn’t need to worry about wash riding. However, as one would expect from 2013 Austin, the race was not without its flaws. Rich and I made a pretty serious line error and headed up the eddy after the Golden Gate Bridge, expecting to shoot up the eddy while the people in the current would be battered back. Instead of checking for myself in the warm up, I just followed Rich. It only took 5 minutes for Pat and the others in the middle current to shoot ahead and put substantial distance on Rich and I. Luckily, I had been doing a lot of rough water training and I was able to grind away and make up for my mistake finishing first.
The third race was perhaps my best strategic race this year. Rich did not make an appearance, but Phillip was there. I raced much more intelligently and made sure not to pull when I didn’t need to. My strategy was simple: don’t pull Phillip, ever, don’t let him make a break and drop me, and in the last two turns to the finish make sure to be on the inside. I accomplished all three of my objectives and as a result I was able to out sprint him to the finish. Coming off that win against Phillip, I felt like I was ready for all comers. Gone where the days of stupid mistakes, right? Alas, I was wrong.
When I herd that Dorian Wolters, the guy who dominated the 2012 Blackburn in a record time, was coming to the Malibu to Marina, final race of the SoCal series, I was very excited for a long brutal race. I was so fired up about my training and progress that I decided to train through the race, paddling a lot and lifting heavy all week, including the day before the race. They say that “pride goes before a fall” and I guess that this season mine was determined to have me bouncing down a whole flight of stairs.
Come race day, Dorian absolutely clobbered me. Dorian came to race and after my idiot week of training, I came to lose. To use one of my favorite surfski racing quotes by Matt Bowman, Dorian “had me today, he handled me like a small child with feathers in my hair”. For the entire two hours of the race, I watched Dorian shrink away while I barely plodded along, feeling weak and pathetic. And so I finished the race, ending a hardly auspicious SoCal racing series to start my 2013 season.
Luckily, there is nothing quite like a challenge, and instead of leaving me disheartened, my inconsistent racing fired me up for Surfski Champs this August! There were a few things I wanted to do. First, I wanted to work on that confounded finish sprint that Rich kept beating me on. So I decided to take a few weeks out of the ski and put time in a sprint boat, and what better motivation than US Team Trials to fire up my sprinting? I ended up finishing 2nd in the 1000m final and 5th in the 200m final. I wasn’t particularly pleased with either result’s time, but one thing was certain, I had learned a lot about sprinting and I was ready to take that edge back to my Surfski training.
So here I am, 12 weeks out from Surfski Champs, not exactly where I need to be, but paddling a Fenn Elite Glide (one of, if not THE best boat on the market) and excited about the challenges ahead!
I also realized that this SoCal racing season would be a complete waste if I didn’t capitalize on the wisdom I have learned: surfskiing is a complex sport and there is a lot of wisdom out there that I have yet to glean. The Bellingham Surfski Community is one of my favorites and a lot of you have been racing for much longer than I have, so I hope to make it back to WA soon to race with the seasoned pro’s.
In the meantime, please look me up if you are in San Diego and we’ll go chase some warm waves. I’m on the 12 week count down to US Champs and looking forward to seeing everyone at the Gorge this summer.
Austin (Bellingham Racer at heart)
Ocean Paddlesports is pleased to present the entire Fenn fleet at the upcoming Dirty Dan Harris Race and Lake Whatcom Classic. The new designs, Fenn Spark, Fenn Gide, & Fenn Blue-Fin, have been getting rave reviews by local paddlers as well as from the international surf ski audience. Please feel free to test drive one of these new boats, as well as the proven designs – Fenn XT, Fenn Elite SL, and the extremely popular Fenn Swordfish at one the these upcoming events.
We are confident that the Fenn quality construction, innovative designs, and value is unmatched. Do the comparison and see for yourself, or better yet – take one of these boats for a spin to see what all the hype is about!
Vac Glass lay-up – 30-31 lbs $2500
Vac Hybrid lay-up – 25-26lbs $2900
Vac Carbon lay-up – 22-23 lbs $3900
Please feel free to check out these boats for yourself at the upcoming races, or feel free to set-up an individual demo opportunity.
See you at the races!
It’s been fun jumping in the new Fenn Spark & Glide and I’ve been blown away by their performance as elite surfskis, but another new Fenn design has been getting rave reviews….
Fenn Blue Fin
Yes, I’ll admit it, my first thought when I got this boat was, ‘oh great, a 20 -some inch barge, get ready for resistance training’. But, I’m happy to report after putting this boat through the ringer, the Blue Fin design is HOT. Most importantly, it still feels & paddles like a surfski – and yes, oh so stable and easy to remount. It has all the Fenn features – quality construction, fully adjustable single carbon foot plate, easy to adjust reliable steering, and the concave deck cut-outs for smooth paddle catch. This boat is simply beautiful!
The comparison -
Fenn Blue Fin
Length – 19.35 feet
Width – 20.9 inches
Vac Glass – 30lbs – $2500
Vac Hybrid – 25lbs – $2900
Length – 18 feet
Width – 22 inches
Performance – 35lbs – $2695
Ultra – 27.5lbs – $3695
Ocean Paddlesports wants to get this new entry-level design out on the water; it’s no fun surfing wall space when there are waves to chase!
Buy a Vac Hybrid Blue Fin & OPS will kick in a free one piece Fenn Wing Paddle ($275 value) plus a 90-minute flatwater introductory paddling lesson in Bellingham. This deal is for a limited time only, so act quickly!
Call DJ to arrange a demo opportunity – 360.305.9517
With a healthy small craft advisory in effect, temps in the low 40’s & surrounded in three directions by snowcapped mountains, I was lucky enough to be dropped off yesterday at Wildcat Cove for a eight mile downwinder. I’m also lucky to have a good quiver of boats these days and was bouncing back & forth between loading the Fenn SL or the Fenn Spark as I headed out the door. I became a true believer in the SL last year as an incredibly quick all around elite boat which truly shines in downwind conditions, also have been fortunate enough the put the Spark to the test in a variety of paddling conditions & first impression(s) is that the design is pure & simple a speed machine, simply mind-blowing! But, the sting of winter, added to the mixed conditions and solo nature of the paddle, made me toss the ever trusted & much admired Swordfish onto the rig for the downwind session.
As I paddled away the launch at Wildcat Cove, I did the quick leash check as the wind and spray started to pick-up. The small little waves inside the cove soon built into good sized 3-4 foot whitecaps & after 10 minutes of paddling out to the middle of the bay I hit ‘start’ on the GPS and cut North on the waves. The feeling that comes up from the gut gave me a notion it was going to be a good run.
The first thought after turning downwind ‘I’m glad to be on the Swordfish’. My 5min on/ 5 min easy surf session ended up being rock & roll with a surprising amount of bouncing around and weaving in what seemed a higher than usual ‘slop factor’ for Bellingham Bay. Pulling into Squalicum Harbor 55 minutes after hitting ‘go’, all I could think was – lucky to live with these conditions in our backyard and the Swordfish is my boat of choice for sloppy winter downwinders. Let’s hope for more winter waves!
Review by DeAnne Hemmens – “The BEST boat for me…the Elite Spark”
I haven’t written in such a long time, but mostly for me, there hasn’t been any really exciting news to share until NOW!!! I finally got MY ski from FENN. For years Keith Fenn has heard from me about making a low volume, elite ski..mostly for me (and the other smaller paddlers) in the world that love a fast ski, but lack the bulk and braun to handle the big boats in the ocean, wind and waves.
Here’s a quick review of what I think of the Spark, 15km today in the flat ocean.
The fit is fantastic..the seat is snug, but not uncomfortable. I paddled without a seat pad and don’t need one to be comfy..I put a Lincke pad in at the end and it works too if you want.
I’m 5’9″, 150lbs. The foot pedals are right in the middle of the track for my size. It fits my friends at 6’2″ and 5′….
The hump is finally a non issue. I can get full leg drive and proper rotation. My feet, size 10, fit perfectly in the footwell and the foot strap can adjust tight against them.
My favorite part about this ski is the narrow catch. It feels like a K1 to me….I didn’t hit the side of the ski once. And when you carry it, it feels like a K1 on your shoulder or it’s skinny enough to wrap your arm around it and when your hands grab the rails,its narrow,not rounded, so you can grip it tight..good for windy days!!
Ok, speed and stablity…this part is so subjective, but I really found it to be quite a bit more stable than my elite…it’s not swordfish stable, but more than one person the other day thought it was. I did not get any wind or waves, but rode some wake, went in the ocean up and around the jetty, in through the surf and had some swirly boat stuff. It’s gift that its doesn’t bob and weave like the elite does when you don’t sink it enough. I can only imagine that it will be easier to control in high wind and big swells.
The ski gets up to sprint (run catching speed) in a few strokes and Rich Sprout got it to 20km/hour the other day in a quick sprint. It moves along well for me at about 12km/hour for an 80% piece…I can’t judge the speed compared to my elite just yet, but its not dragging along..its spirited and feels lively and light..the swordfish is a Cadillac, the SPARK is a Ferrari. (hey Glickman, like my analogies…?)
I’d like to update this information as soon as I take the ski downwind, because really thats what we all want anyway.. but if the ski fits, you are on the right track.
By the way..Hybrid $2900 and it weighs 24.5lbs.
Carbon vacum $3900 and its weighs 21.5 lbs.
Oh and we sold them all already and have ordered another container..Hurry FENN, USA champs is Aug 3-4
The Elite Glide – a quick review by Austin Kieffer
When I first unwrapped Fenn’s newest elite racing boat, the Glide, I was once again impressed by the simple beauty and elegant craftsmanship of Fenn’s boats. All white, sleek design, tasteful stickers and even on dry land it looked like a shark, begging for the Ocean.
As for visually, the new Glide differs a bit from the SL and Elite. To begin with, it is the most narrow of the boats, measuring 16.75 inches at its widest point, and built like an arrow. Secondly, the bow tip is much smaller than the previous two elite designs. The Glide maintains the shape of its bow to the tip instead of flaring out like the crescent edge of an ax. Thirdly, there appears to be much less rocker in the length of the boat. And finally, the cockpit is much tighter and more form fitting. As a result, getting into the glide feels like sliding “into” a mold fitted for speed and control, versus merely sitting “on” a kayak. I am sure there were many nuance changes and adaptations Fenn included to the new design that I completely missed during my initial inspection, but at the end of the day, what really matters is how it feels in the water.
I barely had time to put on the rudder before I was barreling down the road (whilst adhering to all the rules of the road, of course) to the Newport Aquaitic Center. When I first got in the boat, I was expecting instability. I had read a review by Dawid Mocke, in which he described the boat as more tippy than the Elite, but nothing a paddler couldn’t get used to, and given the narrow design I was expecting it to be dangerously tippy for a mere mortal of the surfski world like me. However, I was blown away by how solid and stable the boat was for an elite racing design. Starting in the flat and feeling completely stable, I was actually nervous for a moment that I had gotten the wrong boat and that the Glide sticker had been put on another white Fenn. But as I warmed up and kept checking my GPS for speed, it was clear that despite the increased stability, the Glide had lost nothing in speed. Early on in my paddle I was hitting all the usual speeds I would in the Elite or the SL, and it seemed that the decreased rocker had given it perhaps a little more speed than the previous models. I even took a few extra minutes to work on more extreme stability drills and continued to marvel at the enhanced balance of the Glide.
Enough about the flat though, what about the chop?! Luckily for Patrick and I, both trying out the new Glide, the ocean had been coaxed out of its usual placid state and perfect 2-foot small condition waves were being kicked up by the wind. We paddled out for the first few minutes, with the wind and chop at our beam, to get a feel for the boat in small conditions. Within minutes Patrick turned to me grinning and said, “this is the best boat I have ever paddled!” And I couldn’t help agreeing with him.
The Glide had everything the other elite boats had in the flat, plus a little extra, yet where it truly shown was in the chop. The Glide maintained its stability from the flat and seemed to be connected to the water. Instead of riding on the water, at the mercy of every ocean undulation, boat felt the water. That seems a little foolish to say now that I am reading my words out loud, but that is truly how it felt. The Glide seemed to be a part of the water, receptive to the water instead of being bashed around by it. As a result, I paddled comfortably, without even thinking much about the chop and kept up good speed easily.
And finally, once we had made it far enough out to sea, Patrick and I turned downwind for the most important test of any true surfski: surfing.
The boat was great! It carved, surfed, surged, and, true to its name, glided across the waves. It was, like all Fenn boats, a true surfing machine. The Glide was comfortable and stable in the downwind, keeping the runs easily and wanting to chase the next runner almost on its own. Prior to the paddle, I had been curious to see if the Glide would maintain the sharp receptive steering on the waves that had been one of the greatest strengths of the SL. Immediately, I was able to feel that the Glide possessed the same great steering and enhanced control that set the SL apart.
All in all, I would be remiss not to recommend the Glide to anyone looking for the very best in high-end surfski racing. The boat is stable and quick in the flat and out in the smaller conditions it truly shines. I have yet to take the boat out in any big conditions, but after feeling the boat in the chop and on the waves, I am confident that the Glide will perform formidably in all race conditions. I look forward to training and racing in the Glide this season. I am excited to test its potential, as well as see it continue to dominate on an international scale as it has already in Cape Town and at the Doctor.
Ocean Paddlesports is pleased to announce that a new contain of 70 skis arrives this week. Included in this shipment are the three new designs – Spark, Glide & Blue-Fin. We will be getting demos up next week and please contact http://www.oceanpaddlesports.com ASAP if you like a boat shipped up. This container in nearly sold out (yikes!) and orders for the next container are already being taken – needless to say the three new designs join the ranks of the Fenn SL and Fenn Swordfish as HOT designs. The new lighter & stronger carbon lay-up has been getting rave reviews along with the all new hybrid lay-up as an all around bomber lay-up while keeping the ski light enough to fire-up on the waves & race course. Look for demo opportunities in Bellingham coming soon!
This fall I wanted to try something new during the winter months that tend to be my off-season. I still get out in a boat 3-4 times most weeks and increase the number of dry land runs & gym sessions. Though ideally the best way if get quicker is to prioritize increasing the number of quality paddling sessions, but between work, family obligations, and other winter activities, I’ve been focusing my training efforts around the one hour challenge.
The basics of the challenge
I was introduced to this idea last summer as a way to gauge base fitness over an hour period. I’ve mixed up paddling workouts since jumping in a ski between super intense interval sessions and long slow distance paddles (LSD), all which have a purpose depending on type of race (waves vs. flat) & target distance. Over the past two years I’ve felt that my top speed is OK and I can go the distance with proper hydration/fueling, but had room for improvement on an hour all out threshold test – thus the hour of power challenge sounded like a perfect fit.
The hour challenge needs to be done on flat calm water with no current or waves. No drafting, taking turns pulling, or chasing a faster boat – just you against the gps watch! In doing a couple test time trials I found it useful to have target distance markers within the hour distance and focusing on the separate interval markers made the hour test more manageable.
Preliminary Results –
Because I wanted to have a before & after winter comparison, I did a test of the hour of power in October and since then have done a couple 40 minute time trials. Going into this challenge my goal is to be in the 8-mile club & I knew this would be a challenge. My test run in perfect conditions (good temp, glassy flat water, no wind) resulted in 7.8 miles over the hour – which left me a bit off my mark and I’ve been discovering the 0.2 mile distance gap is as big of a physical challenge as a mental barrier. Interestingly, I can bang out a 40 min test holding an 8.15 mph pace fairly consistently, but it’s that last 20 minutes that kills me.
What others can do –
Probably what turned me on most about this test is what the top international surf ski racers can pull – we’re talking being in the 9-mile plus club. I seriously know that it will be a good milestone to hit the 8 mile mark, but knowing that folks out there pull a full additional mile in mind numbing.
Here’s what several other ski paddlers responded when asked what they thought their hour of power results would be;
Don Kiesling – 7.7 miles
Carter Johnson – 7.98 ski/ 8.16 K-1
Austin Kieffer – ‘think I could do an 8.0, but would be hard’
Gabe Newton – did not respond, too busy cooking moonshine
Larry Goolsby – ‘probably 7.8 at best’
Dylan Thomas – ‘I have never been gutsy enough to measure this quantity since I am truly a lazy ass paddlers trying to hitch a ride on swell’
DeAnne Hemmens – ‘probably 7.1-7.2’
Joost Zeegers – ‘somewhere in low to mid 8’s’
Brandon Nelson – ‘my best on this test is 7.82’
Eric Mull – ‘I can average 7.8 on the cold water’
Duncan Howat – ‘late summer 7.2-.3 or so, right now after working all winter, and another year older, no time to paddle, hard to say’
Time to get cranking team, I’ll post looking for hour o’power results in May and again in September, it will be interesting to see people improve.
We would like to briefly thank the local & PNW surfski community for making 2012 a great year for Surfski Northwest. We’ve enjoyed partnering with Ocean Paddlesports to provide top quality surf ski equipment and support. We look forward to continuing to support our surf ski community in 2013!
One highlights of this past year was getting the time to test the new designs – FENN SL and surfing machine FENN SWORDFISH. These boats are truly exceptional designs and have done well in the local and global surfski community. Fenn continues to offer top craftsmanship from their company owned and operated factory based in South Africa. The overall quality of their product is unmatched and it’s exciting to be involved with a quality driven surfski manufacture. Finally, working with the owners of Ocean Paddlesports, Patrick & DeAnne, has been a fantastic opportunity to be associated with strong ambassadors to our sport who stand behind their products – truly of business run by avid surfski paddlers for surfski paddlers.
Next year holds many exciting opportunities. We are weeks away from the new Fenn designs (Blue Fin, Spark, Glide) reaching our doorstep and putting them to the test in local waters. The local and national surfski race continues to grow stronger and people are continually getting faster, discovering new venues to explore in surfskis, and stepping up training & downwind surf ski paddling!
We look forward to seeing everyone on the water!
DJ & Kristen
Not surprised to see several locals pounding out laps in the whitecaps when I arrived at the bay this afternoon. Days like today solidify why Bellingham is a premier paddling town with an ever growing group of surfski paddlers. Not many places in the world where you can track fresh powder in the morning followed by surfing whitecaps on the bay in the afternoon! Bring on winter!
Duncan making the Swordfish proud!