Today was the first downwind of spring, and it was LEGIT. Sunshine. Warmish Air. Wind. Ripping rides. Face shot after face shot. Barrels. Just another day in paddlers paradise. Baby I'm down...
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Sometimes paddling in the PNW in the winter is like trying to dance with a silverback and getting punched in the face. But we like it that way.
But sometimes, it all comes together.
We've had a stiff does of winter this year (2017) in Bellingham, and it's all the locals can talk about. The last few winters have been quite warm, dry - so this one comes as quite the stiff reality check on an account that's been a bit overdrawn.
I've personally never paddled in so much wind in such frosty conditions (32º F is now considered warm for a downwind run). Even in the grand age of neoprene and drysuits, one must be careful not to be out too long as the rudder lines start to freeze up and so do the toes. I've come back to shore more than a few times with blue feet and uh, ...other appendages. Hang in there boys.
The upside to this is subtle, but remarkable. Like the initial shock of falling in, winter hit hard and my summer time Gorge spoiled brain just wasn't on board. It whined A LOT.
"Are you done yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"This is dumb. We should go in. And drink a beer. Mmmm... Beer!"
All of those phrases have oozed from my frost bitten frontal cortex like a steady drip from a melting icicle. While I can concede that the whining was relentless, it wasn't fruitless either.
At some point my inner sniveling wimp just decided that misery is the new normal, and my brain just let it go and got back to focusing on how much fun all this nonsense is. Either that, or the poor bastard froze to death in the process of being choked out by the inner viking whose taken up residence in my subconscious will. Yes, this winter is indeed hard. But we're becoming harder. And that's the great thing as I type this lusting after temps in the high 40's, and water to match.
The hardened mind begets a hardened hide. It's not that I am blasé about the perils of cold water... quite the opposite. But I am not afraid either. And that for me is the best part. Heading out into the wind, waves and big blue frosty sea is liberating and joyous... just like surfski paddling is meant to be.
Warmer days will surely come. But why rush such a good thing?
Hooked up for a downwind clinic with Dawid Mocke during the week of Gorge Downwind Champs on a typical, medium sized day that got bigger as the run progressed. Dawid does clinics for paddlers, and shares an absolute treasure trove of downwind knowledge that will benefit everyone from new to elite paddlers. There simply isn't a better place, or event to take your downwind skills to a new level and hang out with tons of like minded people then the Gorge Downwind Champs.
Classic day on the bay; A nice blow that steamed into town well over forecast with wind close to 20mph gusting into the low 30's. So I took my new race horse out for a few steeplechase laps in Bellingham Bay, and the new Epic V14 GT did not disappoint. Superb handling, responsive but not twitchy and it lets me get away with bloody murder when sprinting through and over waves. Incredibly fast; max speed was 14.8 mph on an otherwise average downwind day. It really is a game changer for me.