Ski to Sea Top Ten Wrap
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||clippercanoes.com||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.