Windy Wildside – US Champs Next!
Wildside morning greeted paddlers with gusty winds & good waves. Surfski racers have gravitated to the Columbia Gorge, shredding the quality waves created by the summertime inversion that funnels the cool coastal air east towards the desert. A competitive field of 100 racers partnered-up for the downwind relay. The field included the dream-team duo of last years champs, Newton/Kiesling, along with gold medalist Greg Barton and current 2013 Surfski World Champion Sean Rice, who came over to see what all the hype of the Gorge is about. Great to see several new entries stepping up to the challenge, including a strong group of Vancouver, BC-based paddlers, as well as Chris Hipgrave (fixture of the US Wildwater team, pioneer of extreme class V racing) from North Carolina, who was making finish-line promises to return next year with a group of East Coast paddlers.
I was lucky enough to be able to partner with whitewater-slalom-racer-turned-surfski-young-gun Austin Kieffer for this event, which is becoming the premier downwind race in the US. I knew it was going to be a battle for the top three spots, and our tactic was to keep in touch with the lead boat as the race developed. At the halfway mark the race became a two-team horse race between Austin & I and Don & Gabe. Don and I came into the final transition with inches separating our hand-off. Austin fought hard early in the last leg to jump a couple waves ahead of Gabe and was able to defend that position for the remainder of the race. End result: only 9 seconds separated Austin and Gabe at the finish of the 24-mile race course.
The Glide and Spark performed fantastically for us this weekend. Austin, whose race weight is 190 lb, has been making the Glide move all year & the boat has been on a big winning streak in the international circuit. At 160 lbs these days, I’ve been loving the new Spark, which truly is an elite boat for paddlers under 170 lbs. There are several new top-end designs that can seriously move on flatwater, and the Spark and the Glide are both able to post quick flatwater speeds. More importantly, they are untouchable going downwind.
What’s next? US Champs is next weekend in San Francisco! Look for us at the Ocean Paddlesports tent on Friday for the pre-race Demo Day & I’ll be returning to Bellingham with a trailer full of new boats. Looks like we have nearly a trailer full of pre-sold boats going to happy local paddlers. Let me know if we can add something on for you!