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Ski to Sea 2016

Aggressive Progression

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Aggressive Progression

I am not a natural paddler, but I am learning to paddle naturally.

If you had the comedic opportunity to see my first day in a surfski, you would know just how much of a non-paddler I really was. I couldn't make it twenty feet without an unexplained swim. It was like Poseidon had a quirky and mean spirited sense of humor, and would randomly yank me from my rented V10sport without warning. Either that or it was Davy Jones hoping to score some easy company. Either way, it was hard, and I loved it and still love it for that reason. 

Part of the joy of learning new things and tackling hard challenges is learning from the best around you, as well as past experiences. This is often referred to this as "progression" competitive sport circles, and it's a big reason why I love paddling. It's also why I have tried to paddle conditions, skis and with fast paddlers that both push me and help me learn new things (safely!). 

In terms of racing progression, this year's Ski to Sea went much better for me then last. If you're not from Bellingham, you might not know that Ski to Sea is a hundred year old multi-discipline adventure race that consistently attracts Olympic level talent, which leads us locals to lovingly refer to it as the Bellingham Olympics. This year will mark my third full year of racing surfskis, and I was able to sneak into the top five for the kayak leg with a 4th place finish and missed out on third place by a mere seven seconds behind whitewater strongman turned surfski paddler Jamie Klein (what I would give to have known I was just 7 seconds back!). Jamie, like me is relatively new to the growing sport of surfski. It's fun to be a part of a new group of paddlers who are still developing and shaking up our local race results at the same time. Finish line honors went to U23 World Champion Macca Hynard, followed by the top ranked US athlete and rising star Austin Kieffer, who also managed to secure a top three overall ranking for his team, Boomer's Drive-In. Local legend Brandon Nelson showed his class and managed to bring home the overall ski to sea title for his team, and our team (Boomer's Coed) was stoked to win our division. 

But my real prize was running a decent race with no mistakes or missteps. I have recently started to focus on not making small but costly mistakes as I seek to move past the fundamentals of surfski paddling into the finer points of being a consistent and capable athlete. In last year's Ski to Sea, I managed to nearly blow my start, get lost on the course and go for an awkward swim while rounding the final buoy and getting tangled with another paddler. Not exactly material for the highlight reel, but it is fun to look back and see progress.  

Progression can take many forms... including not going for a swim around the final buoy in front of a beach full of race spectators. Seeking out messy, rebounding water has made a big difference in my development. 

Just two days after Ski to Sea, I headed up to Deep Cove, BC for the Tuesday Night Race series. This race was called a "surprise race". Racers had to find three buoys (Easter Eggs) hidden within a geographic area and round or touch them, then race back to the line. Macca Hynard showed his racing class after making a wrong turn and chasing us down. He and Wes Hammer then duked it out in a fantastic sprint finish at the end. Total distance raced was a smidgen over 8km, and my pace for a 3rd place finish was 8.3mph (I lost :30 seconds in the last kilometer!)

Finally, another area I am excited to develop in is going downwind. I've noticed that while the fundamentals of downwind are very important, the nuances are perhaps more important in unlocking the true speed that surfskis are capable of that embody the essence of our wonderful sport.

Surfing downwind in gale winds in a kayak that's 17" wide is a bit like trying to land an airplane in rough weather...  without wings or landing gear. It takes a series of subtle but intentional adjustments to keep the ski and paddler in perfect position to either surf or climb over the wave in front of you.  Like an airplane, glide is good and stalling is very very bad. I have also noticed that while every wave has its own personality, it will tell you what it is up to pretty quickly once it's formed - so there isn't much point in focusing on it. This allows me to instead to think ahead and try to anticipate finding the next wave as it forms in forms underneath and in front of me. I like to think of it as a big game of aggressive progression. 

 

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2016 PNW ORCA Sand Point Championship Race Report

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2016 PNW ORCA Sand Point Championship Race Report

Good outrigger turnout and mild conditions, although just a handful of surfski racers as there was a schedule conflict with two other local races. Kevin Olney, Brendan Donahue, myself, some guy named Greg Barton and a couple other ski paddlers who I didn't know prior to the race. More on that Greg guy later...

Weather was quirky per the typical PNW spring day. The start was shall we say "brisk"... into a stiff southern breeze, and Greg paddled out to show the rest of us the course while I tagged along. Very nice of him. On the return trip we had the pleasure of a wind shift with clearing skies, and a headwind and sloshy water to keep us from sweating too much. Nice touch weather Goddesses, you ladies have a terrific sense of humor!

Greg noticed me on his wash with about a mile to go and said something about being late for a race win and off he went. I did my best to wish him luck, but by the finish he was a minute away and probably couldn't hear me in between gasps. I think maybe he wanted first shot at the incredible buffet at the finish, or maybe he didn't want any more questions about graphene surfskis, hydrophobic laminar boundary layers or hydrofoils. Kevin Olney was in the mix and rounded out the first three a few minutes back. I think we had 60 or so racers in attendance, a great event that erased the memory of last years rebound debacle. For me at least. 

JCG FTW... 

JCG FTW... 

In a strange twist they kept score of the ski racing totals through the series and I shamelessly snagged a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold for the winter series win. I guess good racing can be bad for your health. 

Hats off to all of those who clearly went to great lengths to make the PNWORCA Winter Race series an awesome time for all involved. It's going to be a jam packed racing schedule this spring with the upcoming Dan Harris Challenge2016 Lake Whatcom Classic, Tour De Indian Arm in Deep Cove, BC and of course Ski to Sea 2016 (aka "the Bellingham Olympics").

In other news, the New Epic V8 Pro should be in the hornet's nest soon and available for demo. We'll also have the new V5 in too for those of you looking share the love of ski paddling with friends and family or try it for the first time. 

 

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Epic V14 Ultra For Sale!

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Epic V14 Ultra For Sale!

I am racing a new V14GT this year, so it's time to sell my current race ski.

This is a very nice ski, in excellent condition and weighs in just under 26 pounds. No, this is not a beginner surfski, but for a serious paddler who wants to become an even better paddler with a competitive edge at your next race, this is a proven race-winning machine. 

If you paddle an Epic V10 / V12, Think Uno Max, Fenn Elite or similar ski well, you might be surprised how easy it is make the jump to the K1 like performance of the V14. 

The V14 Ultra is a low volume ski with a very narrow catch. The seat is very comfortable, and a touch higher than most skis, which makes for a very powerful paddling position (hips tilted slightly forward, paddle entry past the foot brace). I find the ski particularly fast going upwind in small chop as well, as there is very little bow slap. The seating position does raise the CG, making the ski very responsive with a fast rate of roll (aka tippy!). As with most ski's, the more you paddle it the more natural and predictable it will feel. Remounting is straightforward with good technique, as the ski has low sides. 

Going downwind, the low volume makes it a ski that is very good at transitioning from one wave to the next. It just punches through the slop and is a great "hill climber" if you're late getting on a wave. Below is a demo of the V14 downwind, by Matthew Bouman: 


Asking $2500 USD with your choice of rudder (surf or flat-water). Located in Bellingham.

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