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2011 US Surfski Champs Race Report

US Surfski Championship

Top 10 Results Long Course
1. Dawid Mocke South Africa  Fenn Elite 1:54:35
2. Matt Bouman South Africa Epic V10 1:58:38
3. Sean Rice South Africa Think Uno Max 1:59:47
4. Barry Lewin South Africa Custom Kayak Bullet 2:02:34
5. Dan Sanchez Spain Fenn Elite 2:04:10
6. Robert Barry Australia Fenn Elite 2:05:46
7. Greg Barton Seattle, WA Epic V12 2:07:05
8. Tommy Karls Sweden Fenn 2:07:50
9. Dorian Wolter Delware, OH Fenn Elite 2:08:57
10. Phillipe Boccara Newport Beach, CA Fenn Elite 2:09:12

Full Race Results

August 13-14, 2011:  Wavechaser hosted the 9th annual US Surfski Championships in San Francisco Bay this past weekend, attracting both top national and international paddles due to the great venue and cash purse. Early week forecasts were looking for potentially small conditions, then race morning the forecast was rumored for the wind and waves to pick up. Winds were in the mid 20s around Angel Island once the race got underway but big water racing conditions never materialized. The long race course challenged racers with 17 miles of mixed conditions with the first half offering flat sprint racing to the buoy and the second half including classic San Francisco Bay slop and moderate surfing conditions to Berkeley marina. Short course racers left 45 minutes after the long course start, meaning racers would hit Angel Island and the finish at roughly the same time. Locals were rating the conditions as a 3-4 out of 10 on the wind-o-meter, though everyone was challenged by the current and rebound in the second half.

Dawid Mocke at the Fenn Hotspot

The long course race started at roughly 1:45 pm, with a thick marine layer and visibility to Angel Island. Racers got off to a fast start and sprinted towards the Golden Gate Bridge in a dense pack. At 2:30, with the marine layer breaking and visibility clearing, the short course race had their start. Roughly 15 minutes later, long course lead paddler Dawid Mocke came into sight from behind the bridge. Close on his tail were Matt Bouman and Sean Rice, making for a close race to the Fenn Hotspot. Mocke lengthened his lead from the two and reached the hotspot with time to spare. Minutes later the rest of the pack was close behind, with the top 20 paddlers rounding the corner and racing to the Fenn Hotspot to start their downwinder to Angel Island’s Point Blunt. Dawid pulled ahead in the downwind section and finished over 4 minutes ahead of the second place finisher Matt Bouman. After this point, racers from both course began crossing the finish line in rapid succession.

Long Course Highlights:

Dawid Mocke returned to reclaim his title from last year and dominated throughout the course in his Fenn Elite, claiming both the Fenn Hotspot as well as a first place finish. His skill in a surfski was apparent as always, as he seamlessly linked waves on the downwinder while other were struggling to catch them. Greg Barton rebounded from a second place finish at the Wildside relay last month in the Columbia Gorge and reclaimed is title as the fastest US surfski paddler with a 7th place finish. Gabe “The Hammer” Newton was as strong as ever and finished 13th despite just getting back stateside 3 days earlier from his 5th place finish in the Avon Descent in Australia. Patrick Hemmens, who had been giving a lesson in downwinders all week in the new Fenn Elite SL,  finished strong with a 14th place. Don Kielsing, right on Pat’s tail, finished 15th in the AllWave CX, a surfski out of Italy, edging out local favorite Carter Johnson who finished 16th.

DJ passing the Fenn Hotspot

The 22 year old slalom powerhouse, Austin Kieffer ripped up the course in a 22 lb Fenn Mako XT, claiming 19th place despite just starting surfski paddling two weeks earlier. Austin glided past his former slalom coach (that’s me) at Angel Island with a quick “What Up”. After a mild bonk at Angel island, I attempted to chase down Austin but was unable to close the gap at the finish, coming in 2 places behind the young gun in 21st place. The new Fenn Swordfish provided a stable and fast platform and allowed me to hang with a top pack in the first half of the race and provided ample stability and speed in the second half.

Gareth Tudor-Jones was Canada’s top finish with a 22nd place finish and, as always, it was a pleasure to be on the water with such a powerhouse. South African powerhouse Michelle Eray slid into the top 30 and was top female with a strong 29th place finish. Bellingham’s own Lycra model Morris Arthur rebounded from a slower than normal first half with a strong finish, 31st place. Kenny Howell showed some local knowledge in the course, placing 33rd and commented over a beer at the finish how he wished the waves were more like in the Columbia Gorge. DeAnne Hemmens, 2010 US Champs Womens Winner,  was nothing but smiles as she comfortably glided across the finish line in her new Fenn Swordfish, taking 2nd place for the women’s long course.  Deep Cove Outdoor’s Bob Putnam has a great race with a 39th place finish

Also of note: Bellingham’s own legendary Mike Gregory had solid race and was able to recover from a remount practice opportunity off Angel Island (no, he did not win the raffle this time) First time US Champs racer and Bellingham local, Roger Lam had the biggest smile at the finish but we weren’t sure if it was from the race itself or the fact that he was back on land.

Short Course racers heading towards Angel Island

Short Course Highlights

The new US Champs Short Course offered the most enticing course of the weekend with an immediate left turn out of Fort Baker with downwind all the way to the Berkeley Marina. Racers found the mixed conditions challenging with a wide range of ability level on the water. Local downwind specialist Craig Tanner opted for the short course and finished a strong 2nd behind Tony Hansen. Kim Cantrell of Bellingham, fresh off a week long Gorge trip, finessed the waves and had fun out on the water claiming a 7th place finish. Larry Bussinger won the Golden Masters division and battled across the finish line in 13th.  The story of the day was Bellingham’s own Gwyn Howatt, surfing her way to a commanding 1st place finish in the women’s division and 16th place overall, beating out her dad by two spots. Bellingham legend Duncan Howatt was green with a  flu at the start but still managed to link waves on the race course and finish 18th, heading straight to the Team Howatt van afterwards to nurse his illness. Look for Duncan to be putting the new Fenn Swordfish through it’s paces, as he heads back to Bellingham with a brand new carbon Swordfish. Bellingham’s “Paddler of the Year” Debbie Arthur stepped up her game this year, taking on the new short course and its mixed conditions, feeling a little queasy at the finish but still smiling. Dan Wakeland, also fresh from the Gorge, ate up the San Francisco with a smile from start to finish.

DJ & Austin at the finish

Doubles Course Highlights

The field was smaller than normal this year for the Sunday doubles race but stacked deep with competition between some of the top international paddlers. Conditions were choppy and flat, with a strong current under the bridge and little to no surfing from the Golden Gate to Berkeley Marina. Despite the flat conditions, times were fast due to a strong flood tide. Dawid Mocke and Sean Rice claimed 1st place with a time of 1:07:01. Breathing down their necks where Barry Lewin and Dave Jensen coming in just 5 seconds behind at 1:07:06. Roughly one minute later, Don Kiesling and Robert Barry claimed 3rd place with a time of 1:08:12. There were 3 mixed teams this year, all married couples, including Patrick and Deanne Hemmes (1st- 1:11:18), Morris and Debbie Arthur (2nd- 1:15:09), and DJ and Kristen Jacobson (3rd 1:16:55). For having not done much of any doubles paddling together this summer, Kristen and I were happy to be out paddling and took in the fun.

Overall, a great two days of racing and big thanks to the race directors and all the volunteers who make this amazing even possible. Can’t wait to next year.

Wavechaser Ft Baker to Berkeley Race Report

DJ racing the new Fenn Swordfish

Yesterday was the Wavechaser’s warm-up race from Fort Baker to the Berkeley Marina prior to US Champs next weekend. International paddlers Dawid Mocke and Barry Lewin raced as ringers from SA as warm-up for US Champs. Local paddles Carter and Robin teamed up in a double to prepare for next weeks doubles race and DeAnne & Patrick Hemmens made the trip up to represent their new skis. Yesterday was the first ski race for Austin Kieffer after a week of double workout training sessions in Bellingham,WA.

There was a significant race delay due to low wind conditions, and though the the nervous prerace tension increased during the delay period, the wind remained weak at 11 mph. At 3pm the race started and the race was off with quality bumper boats as paddlers sprinted under the Golden Gate and up to the first turn point. With minutes of the start, the double team of Carter/ Robin and Mocke & Lewin in singles split from the rest of the wolf pack with Patrick Hemmens hot on their heals. The downwind portion of the race consisted of long 3 footers with a bit of San Francisco Bay slop, barge traffic, and threading the needle between sail boats which were clustered between Angel Island and Berkeley. All is all, the conditions for the bay was a two on the scale of ten, but hopefully mother nature was taking the day off and will wake-up less hungover next weekend and unleash her furry for US Champs.

Brief Race results…

Dawid Mocke. 1st Place Finish

1.Dawid Mocke – 1:16:20 – Fenn Elite – though it’s questionable how hard he was racing (he was seen taking pictures with his paddle on his lap on the long runners), Dawid set the standard that he’s the man to beat, but we all know that already.
2.Carter/Robin – 1:16:30 – Fenn Elite Double – the local doubles team to beat just on the heals of Mocke, a team to watch in the doubles race next Sunday.
3.Barry Lewin – 1:16:50 – Customkayak Bullet – Barry was within spitting distance of the lead two boats paddling the new Bullet, definitely a boat to check out.
4.Patrick Hemmens -1:22:35 – Fenn Elite SL – Pat was off with the lead group and held his ground all race, a spec in the distance to most of the following racers. He’s starting to dial in the new Elite SL and is spending the week in the Bay Area preparing for US Champs.
5.Dave Jenson -1:22:43- Special – Dave is well known for his uncanny ability to find the swift waves and current, esp here on his homecourse. Big thanks goes out to him for all his volunteer time/energy for putting on the Wavechaser races

3rd Place Finish in Division

6. DJ -1:24:17- Fenn Swordfish – Very impressed with this race being the second time in this new boat, both fast and stable, can’t wait to get the boat boat to Bellingham for others to try. I’m hoping for big & bad conditions next weekend since I didn’t come here for flatwater!
7.Brent Reitz – 1:24:37- Special – I paddled up to Brent and asked him if his cardiologist knew what he was doing. Brent was keeping the power on during the entire race and had the biggest ear to ear grin throughout.
8. Craig Tanner – 1:25:45- Fenn Elite – Local racer who loves downwinders. He’s been doing more tri training this year, but he’s always dialed into going fast in the bay.
9. Austin Kieffer -1:26:12- Fenn XT – this was his first ski race and second paddle in non Lake Whatcom conditions. With a background as a current top US slalom racer, Austin hit the water after the awards ceremony for another ten mile cruise while most other racers hit the beer and Motrin. Everyone was very impressed with his speed on the flats, now he just needs to figure out how to surf in the next week. Ah, to be 22 and unstoppable….
*18. DeAnn Hemmens -1:29:22 – Fenn Swordfish – top female finisher in her new Swordfish. She walked away from the pack of guys around her and is paddling very well right now, looking for a repeat win next weekend at US Champs. She’s loving the new boat!!

Of note, Bellingham’s own Mike G. won top prize at the raffle (again) this week, is this guy lucky or what???… Patrick has decided to stay in town all week and Austin and I are going to be chasing waves with him all week. We’re headed out to the open ocean today in search of a little excitement. Ocean Paddlesports boats are available for demo all week and will be representing in force at the Friday demo day and I will be bringing the new Fenn Swordfish and Elite SL home to Bellingham with me.

Wildside Wind Forecast Looking Better….

Wind report have varied slightly for this coming weekend, but latest predictions are looking better.  Fears of a slog may be alleviated, but it may not be the gusting ripper that keeps us coming begging to more.  Afternoon on Saturday may be the best wind with speeds around 15mph around the hatch.   Race organizer JD is tuned into Gorge wind- the ticket may be wait for PM wind to kick-in for best conditions.

Current Gorge Wind Reports


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.

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!!!