Monthly Archives: May 2011
Ski to Sea is a couple days away and the excitement in town is growing. I went out yesterday and practiced the course and added a couple miles of distance at the end chasing some rolling waves. I met a first time racer who’s a new seakayaker in the parking lot and was immediately quizzed for beta. He was drooling over my Fenn Elite and asked if he should find a faster boat than his 25-inch wide seakayak. Learning this was going to be his third time in a boat and first time on saltwater, I basically tried to relay the wider the better (“phater the better” was the comment) and to stick with what he had. He put in next to me and was wearing next to nothing and was a little apprehensive about six inch choppy conditions. Not trying to be too mother goosey, I tried to relay that he needed to be within spitting distance of land and just to take it easy. When I returned he was psyched about his paddle, had decided to follow my advice and had not ventured past the marine headwall, and was already planning his next paddle. For me, this paddler encompassed why ski to sea is such a great event; it a venue for people from varied individual athletic backgrounds to compete as a team. Plus, paddlers get the glory leg of being the last event and get to sleep in, have time for plenty of smack talking as we wait for the teams to trickle in, and get to ring the finish bell at the race. Most surf ski races are comparatively lonely events and other racers are the only company (which is fine by me), so it’s impressive and somewhat comical to see all the hype that’s around this race.
An impressive field of fast surf ski paddlers are going to compete, and even though it’s a team event, everyone is going for individual leg placement. Wind and waves during different times of the race will most likely affect individual times, plus getting good placement in a chase pack will add some variables into the equation. The racecourse is approximately five miles long and on the mellow side of racing conditions. Most local racers compare individual results as yearly bragging rights and many stop competing all together after S2S. Most of the bigger races are closer to 15-20 miles in length and often have at least one leg of the race in downwind ripping surf conditions. It’s fun being on a competitive team and slapping high fives in our tight lycra, but super cool watching the majority of racers stream into the finish. I would love to get on the water with a fast racer to chase and gun it out with, but the last two years being on the MRSAnaries the race was spread out enough in the top pack that I had somewhat of a lonely paddle. Last year I had to remind myself I was racing at the halfway mark and tossed in a couple intervals which helped me have a good overall finish. The year before that I was about to miss a marker buoy that was hidden among sail boats till a sheriff escort boat chased to down directed me back on course via loudspeaker.
Ski to sea is more like a fast sprint for the more experiences racers, but more importantly, a great event for someone new to the sport to get a taste of going fast. I remember cheering on friends at the finish who were finishing 200th place and higher last year. It’s awesome watching waves of paddlers crank into the beach, some stumbling around in the mud from ‘dead-leg’ for sitting in their boat. It’s cool to talk with locals who do the race, get hooked, and immediately start thinking how they get faster for next year. Watching the ‘ringers’ rip up the racecourse is impressive, but watching the hundreds to follow is awesome and the true spirit of the race. Good luck at the races!!!
In the past three weeks I have doubled the number of “official” paddlesport races that I’ve competed in, ever. Three races in three weeks bumps my total race history up to seven, with four of those being in 2011. While this doesn’t count our Whatcom Paddler’s Wednesday nighters, they have all been races that are longer in distance and more of a challenge. I’ve had a few good races so far this year and a few I wish I could do over again. I keep telling myself that my mistakes and lack of racing tactics comes from my racing inexperience that many others out on the water have, whether it be from racing surfskis or other boats, collegiate rowing, or competitive biking.
As an beginner/intermediate level female paddler, I often end up being in limbo between packs… stronger packs ahead, slower packs behind, and me slogging away. The guys, with the sheer number’s difference between the two groups, always seem to have a pack to work with during races where drafting is more relevant than surfing. The women, with four or so competing as singles in any given local race, don’t seem to have that luxury for the most part. For myself at least, latching onto a wake and holding onto it for all you have seems to be the best tactic, otherwise it’s a solo endeavor for the next few hours. After the first half mile, things really thin out towards the middle and back and being in a pack at that point is crucial.
This past Sunday at the Tour de Indian Arm in Deep Cove, I managed to hang onto a draft for the first 5 miles that kept me cruising along between 6.7 and 7.3 mph. Once getting dropped, I made some navigational decisions, bee lined it towards the next buoy working through eddies, and threw in some 60 second on 60 second off intervals until I caught back up with said draft, 2 miles later. At this point a deluxe draft from a sea kayak came cranking along and I made that my home until the finish line. Conversely, at Dirty Dan Harris Challenge in early May, I lost my draft at the turn around point when they took a riskier line through some shallows and I didn’t. I got dropped in the blink of an eye. While getting dropped off a draft seems to happen before you realize it, catching up is much harder. A few boat lengths can grow to 1/8 mile pretty quickly.
After talking with other racers and having a few more surfski races under my belt this season, I’ve learned that being able to get in a group and stay with the pack is essential for flat water races. Being that the last four local races have all been flat water conditions, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the top pack, middle, or back, your racing time and experience will improve if you have others to draft.
Here’s a write up on the Fenn Swordfish, the new intermediate surfski from Fenn. The Swordfish is a hybrid between the new Fenn XT design and the Fenn Elite. Looks like this will be a great boat for folks looking to increase speed while keeping stability in the waves. Looking forward to getting the Pacific Northwest demo boat soon and testing it out on the bay and down in the Columbia Gorge this summer. More info to come, but based on reviews this looks to be the boat of choice for surfski champs in San Fran this summer.
Big thanks for the tremendous support for the raffle to support Marshall Seaman. We had great raffle ticket sales last weekend at the Dirty Dan Harris Challenge – a big thanks to everyone who made bought a ticket and made a donation.
I will be selling raffle tickets for a Fenn Kayak Paddle at the Lake Whatcom Classic this Saturday. A Mocke Paddling Vest will be donated as a prize to the individual who buys the most tickets on Saturday at the race. All proceeds go directly to help cover Marshall’s recent medical expenses as he undergoes treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome. Drawing on May 29th, need not be present to win. Tickets also available throughout the month of May at the Mt. Baker business office.
Thanks for your support!
Surfski training in the Pacific Northwest is a challenge when spring feels bipolar– warm & sunny one day, back to winter conditions the next.
Trying to fit in quality paddling sessions as we progress through the local spring race series has been a challenge for everyone. After last weeks ‘draft to hang-on’ race at the Dirty Dan Harris Challenge, I’m trying to get excited about another slog coming up at Lake Whatcom Classic. Don’t get me wrong, I spend plenty of time on the lake for winter training and log most my base miles there in a surf ski or K-1, but a 12 mile slog out to the island and back just sounds painful. Last year, I lost a double ski draft near the mid point of the race while trying to eat a power gel. It’s a long enough race that eating some gel is worthwhile, but at the same time it’s usually flat enough that single surfskis are best off hanging with the double surfskis for drafting opportunities. While I lost my draft mid-Gu at last year’s LWC, I had good luck gelling at Round Bowen Island last summer. My end score was 6 double shot gels while holding onto the lead pack draft – but I decided I might of overdone it a bit as I felt like my skin was walking off my crashing body as I was driven home by Kristen.
The competition in the PNW is looking deep for the 2011 season. Looks like Don is stepping it up and spending more time on a ski this spring, as he took top honors last weekend at the Dan Harris Challenge. Gabe is as fast as always and my front-runner pick for the Bellingham S2S Special Olympics top gun (as long as his Epic rudder system works!). Kirk did a good defending his drafting spot last week at the Dan Harris Challenge. It was the first time I’ve seen Kirk get fired up as I tried to rob his drafting position at the start at the race. He held onto it and ended up having a great race. Maybe someone needs to ‘fire him up’ with a little hostility before a race and he’ll be untouchable, but I’ll leave that for someone bigger than me. Seeing as he’s my Wildside Relay partner, I’m psyched he’s paddling well right now. We tried to get an Elite double to paddle at the Whatcom Classic, but that fell through, so it looks like it’s time to scrap it out with all the singles and hang onto the double drafts. I kind of liked the idea of a nice relaxing doubles paddle with a couple intervals thrown in there, but looks like it’ll be another singles shoot-out on Saturday morning.