Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ocean Paddler Ultra PFD Product Review

Ocean Paddler PFDI was fortunate enough to receive one of the new Ocean Paddler Ultra PFDs last week.  I’ve been hearing and reading great reviews on this product and was excited to try a new PFD specifically for surf ski paddling.  After ripping the box open and walking around the house in the PFD, then chasing the dogs around the backyard filled with the hydration bladder filled (it does really fit 2 liters in the hydration bladder!), I decided it passed the dry land marks and have put it to test over the last week of paddling.
Description:  The Ocean Paddler Ultra PFD is a paddlesports PDF designed by 9 time Molokai Champion Dean Gardiner. Designed for purpose and comfort, the Ultra has adjustable shoulder and waist straps for unrestricted rotation as well as a rear pouch for hands free hydration. The Ultra PFD also provides large neck and arm areas that won’t inhibit stroke or rotation. Constructed in yellow and blue nylon polyester, the Ultra provides paddlers good visibility on open ocean and in high traffic areas alike.


  •     Adjustable shoulder & waist straps
  •     Rear pouch holds hydration bladders up to 2 Liters (bladder not included)
  •     Front zip pocket
  •     Yellow & Blue Nylon Polyester
  •     Australian standard AS4758 (Type 2 rating equivalent)
  •     Available in S-XL

 What I like about the Ultra:

Front View- Ocean Paddler Ultra

Front View- Ocean Paddler Ultra

Back View - Ocean Paddler Ultra

Back View - Ocean Paddler Ultra

It fits great! 

Hard to believe it, but feels like less bulk and a better paddling cut than any other PFD I’ve tried.  I even pulled out a couple of my old ‘almost guaranteed not to float’ slalom racing PFD’s and the Ultra’s cut felt better.

Superior construction/attention to detail

Well stitched, strong straps and buckles, very adjustable. Definitely made to last.

  • Front zip pocket has outer and inter D rings for attaching keys and other items you don’t want to lose in the water
  • Hydration pouch has mesh lining at bottom to allow for drainage and ensure you’re not carrying any extra water weight.

Detail: Bottom Mesh Panel on Hydration Pouch

Detail: Inner and Outer D Rings

It floats!!

  I guess a good quality of any PFD.  I went through the mother of all eelgrass gardens the other day and ended up jumping off my boat to untangle. I’m use to floating about two feet under the surface with no PFD on, so I enjoyed floating nice & high and did not notice any ‘bulk factor’ as I jumped back on the ski.

Best paddling hydration pouch I’ve tried. 

Side View with Hydration Pouch (Not Included)

Side View with Hydration Pouch (Not Included)

Back View with Hydration Bladder (Not Included)

Back View with Hydration Bladder (Not Included)

Easily fits up to two liter while sitting comfortably and securely and not flopping around while paddling.

Hydration tube can easily be threaded over your shoulder for hands free, worry free hydration.

Ocean Paddlesports received ten PFD’s in every size for the initial order.  More Ocean Paddler PFD’s are on the way seeing these are going fast, but don’t delay jumping on this initial order if you’ve been waiting a new surfski PFD.  I will have the demo PFD at the Wednesday race and feel free to order directly from OPS at and


Bowen Island Race =

Last weekend was the annual Round Bowen Challenge north of Vancouver, BC. The race was bumped back one month by race organizers in the hopes of better weather and more wind. I missed the memo that summer arrived and should have been clued into the relative heat as I kept finding shade during the pre-race meeting. The direction of the race was switched to counterclockwise at the pre-race meeting to better accommodate the predicted southerly winds that race organizers were banking on which never arrived. I was visualizing surfing cool Strait of Georgia waves during the second part of the race the spray whipping over my shoulders.

Within five minutes of the start I realized I was overdressed in long lycra tights and an insulated long sleeve shirt, at the two-mile mark I officially decided I was overheating. Instead to taking the minute or two to takes cloths off then, I decided to sit tight and paddle through it. The rest of the race kind of went like:
Mile 8: Bonked from the heat
Mile 12: asked the person I was barely drafting off of going 6 mph if we were almost #%* there.
Mile 14: Pulled into a beach, took cloths off & went swimming.
Mile 16: Repeated pulling into another beach, more cloths came off, another swim.


JACOBSON, David MHPK 146 (other #?)

It’s officially summer, even in the PNW,  and time to show some pasty skin and wear less clothing.


There were some great performances of note:
Overall Results

Don Kiesling and Gabe Newton pulled hard through the flats and set a new course record in their Fenn Elite Double and walking with some cash and a trophy. Be cool to see what kind of damage these guys can to at the US Champs….

Ian Mackenzie came close to the singles course record in his K-1. A couple prerace conversations I overheard consisted around ‘ballsy’ and ‘can he remount that boat’, but it was all a walk in the park for Ian. Wasn’t fast enough to hang with the top two doubles, but way ahead of all the other singles, kudos!

Morris and Debbie Arthur and have really taken off as the PNW’s top mixed double team. I’ve been told that Morris beat the heat and raced in his underwear, whatever their trick they smoked the competition. I heard Debbie warming up the going to US Champs after the race to give the new downwind course a try, maybe another repeat of the underwear performance is in store?

2011 US Surfski Championships

US Surfski Champs is less than two months away and hopefully we’ll have a strong Washington contingent representing this year in San Francisco!  There’s a couple exciting changes to the short and doubles race course that will make for fun downwind racing.

Long Course: 17.5 Miles

Same course as last year; start at Ft. Baker, around Point Bonita, tuck in for the Fenn hotspot, next to Angel Island, finish at the Berkeley Marina for a total distance of 17 miles.  The noon start coincides with max flood tide, so tucking in & eddy hopping out to Point Bonita may by key….

Short Course : 9.2 Miles

Big change to the short course making it a ripping downwinder.  Start at Fort Baker, hang a left to Angel Island and start surfing, finish at the Berkeley Marina after 9 miles of downwind action.

US Surfski Champs Race Course 2011

Doubles Course : 13 Miles

Another big change from the up and back course to a downwinder.  Start at Fort Baker, head out two miles to Point Diablo, turn and start surfing past Angel Island into finish at Berkeley Marina.  It will be awesome to have our PNW doubles represent!!

Ocean Paddle Sports will be at US Champs in force with a full line of ski rentals and demo’s.  Come check out the new FENN ELITE SL & SWORDFISH , plus a full line of wing paddles and accessories.

Ski to Sea Top Ten Wrap

Ski to Sea 201

Ski to Sea 2011

With Ski to Sea over, there’s been plenty of time to reflect on the race. Overall the weather lent for great racing conditions. The snow was good for the mountain legs, the road was dry for the run & road bike, and the river stayed at a medium level helping keep that canoe safe. The mountain bike added a couple extra miles of distance, but still remained mostly nontechnical and top bikers had modified their bikes to be improved aerodynamics while staying within the race rules.

The surfski/ seakayak leg started with little puffs of wind which continued to build throughout the afternoon. The race organizers made the wise decision to cancel the last third of teams as the wind increased to gusts of over twenty. This year it seemed that the conditions lent for better finish rankings for those who went early in the race due to less upwind paddling. Saying that, the top teams tended to be incredibly spread out and often the first twenty paddlers across the finish had lonely paddles. Also of note, only five of the overall top ten teams had paddlers ranked in the top ten of the paddling leg.

1 00:00:00 1 00:00:00 Zsolt Szadovszki 00:43:25 2 Barron Heating Competitive Open
2 00:00:47 2 00:00:47 Gabe Newton 00:44:12 436 R.B. Wick’s Warriors Competitive Open
3 00:01:22 3 00:01:22 Ian Mackenzie 00:44:47 5 Competitive Open
4 00:02:01 1 00:00:00 Brandon Nelson 00:45:26 355 BEAVERS TREE SERVICE Whatcom County Open
5 00:02:18 4 00:02:18 Gareth Tudor-Jones 00:45:43 387 Boss Construction II Competitive Open
6 00:02:20 2 00:00:19 david jacobson 00:45:45 273 MRSAnaries Whatcom County Open
7 00:02:40 5 00:02:40 Carter Johnson 00:46:05 417 Nooksackulous Competitive Open
8 00:02:55 1 00:00:00 Donald Kiesling 00:46:20 388 Win or Die Veterans
9 00:02:59 6 00:02:59 Jeff Hilburn 00:46:24 4 BAGELRY Competitive Open
10 00:03:25 1 00:00:00 Kirk Christensen 00:46:50 483 R.B. Wick’s Masters Gentlemen Masters
11 00:03:36 7 00:03:36 Andrew McEwan 00:47:01 331 Tony’s Demons Competitive Open

Here’s a quick recap of the top ten paddles;
1. Zsolt Szadovszki – imported ringer talent who was great to have at the race. Zsolt now calls Hawaii home and comes from a long flat water racing background on the Hungarian flatwater team. Several Bellingham paddlers have been fortunate enough to hook-up with him for amazing Hawaiian surf experiences. Zsolt was very impressed with the strong surfski community in Bellingham and guaranteed me he will be back.
2. Gabe Newton – less than a minute off the leader, this Seattle based paddler is relatively new to the sport and has huge potential. A well known whitewater and freestyle paddler, Gabe is going to make serious waves in the surfski racing scene. During a training paddle of the course several weeks prior to the race, Gabe jumped out of his boat at the starting point and practiced running down the boardwalk. While watching this, I thought “uh oh, he looks like he’s taking the is race seriously, I’ll put my money on him for top gun”.
3. Ian Mackenzie – longtime powerhouse of kayak racing in the PNW, Ian comes from long history of international marathon kayak racing. Many local races trophies are shrines to his racing record with his name stenciled on all sides. Ian especially excels at long distance races and s2s is probably not even a warm-up for him.
4. Brandon Nelson – Bellingham’s powerhouse, last year’s top gun at this race, Brandon continues to bring the heat at this race after winning the paddling leg last year. He evolved from a whitewater paddling background, progressed to a top ultra distance racer, and now is excelling on the surf ski. Fast in both flat and ripping surf conditions, he always takes S2S seriously.
5. Gareth Tudor-Jones – South African born racer who now calls Vancouver Island home, Gareth is really helping to improve the standard of surf ski racing in the PNW. With a background as a former rugby player, he is an aggressive powerful paddler. Especially fast in the bumps and quick on the chase. If you don’t see him during a race it means he’s miles ahead of you.
6. DJ – hey, that’s me. I knew the top ten would be packed this year and happy to be part of it. I’m continued to be blown away with the depth of this growing sport in the PNW. Coming from a whitewater slalom racing background which races are less then two minutes in length, I’m working (& struggling at times) to find my speed at the end of a 90-120 minute surfski race. Really trying this year to dedicate my training to a couple of the longer races which I’ve been challenged with in the past. I’m continued to be blown away with how fun paddling a ski is in all conditions, Bellingham truly is a GREAT place to live for this sport!
7. Carter Johnson – hailing from California, Carter is one of the top US surfski racers. Known for winning long distance races throughout the country, he got some attention when he decided to put S2S on his calendar. Carter was switching in and out of boats trying to decide with which boat to paddle just prior to the race. Next time I’ll save him the hassle and more than happily to lend him a Fenn Elite– guaranteed to be quick on the bay!
8. Don Kiesling – It was blowing just a little for most of the top ten racers, but it was starting to gust when Don hit the water. Don has been at the top of the PNW racing scene for several years now, truly an incredible downwind paddler who came to surfski racing after competitive college rowing career. On downwind runs Don will be right next to you, then way off to the side, then a spec in the distance. He makes custom rudders of all lengths which are excellent for shedding eelgrass and holding a line on the waves, I never leave home without a couple of his rudders.
9. Jeff Hilburn – Bellingham based racer, and of special note, the first local racer to cross the finish line. Best known for chasing the big waves on ‘small craft advisory days’, Jeff continues to organize and compete as team caption of one of the fastest teams. A top finisher in all local races and a local favorite for this race. Awesome to see a local racers finish on the podium(again!).
10. Kirk Christensen – another Bellingham local who is a fixture on the bay chasing waves. Coming from competitive rowing, he thrives at long open water events. Well known for paddling unsupported around all the San Juan Islands in one day (he’s done in twice now with Morris). Always up for outdoor adventure, I’m psyched to once again to be partnering up with him again for the Wildside Downwind Relay this summer.