Ski to Sea… A Special Race
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!!!