Normally I don't write about races too much, because they aren't very interesting, but this one was different. This race was slated to be the usual 13 miler around Mercer Island. I've won it once and either placed 2nd, 3rd or 4th for 7 years. This year it started in Bellevue at Newcastle Beach Park and went south clock-wise around the island. The wind was relatively mild at 10-15 out of the south. The forecast was for building wind, but not until the afternoon, the race started at 9 and most would be done by noon. 150ish started. I led the race on a 19'7" unlimited sup (with no rudder, just a fixed fin). It does fantastic in all conditions except quartering headwind (which I found out later). At the south end of the island I was in the lead and as we finally pointed our boards north and downwind, I realized that the wind had come early. Between Seward Park and the I-90 bridge, it was starting to blow real nice… like a decent day on Bellingham Bay. Lots of nice long glides pointed exactly the right direction. Still I knew several of the best SUP racers in the US & Canada were hot on my heels, so I could not make a single mistake. I kept it pretty much red-lined the whole west side. As we stared to round the north end of the island, I knew we were in trouble, because now the south wind was blowing so hard there wasn't even shelter from the island. No lee to hide in. At this point San Diego pro Chase Kosterlitz passed me. I should have let him go. But ego took over and I dug way too deep to stay with him. Plus, first place got several thousand dollars! I had to paddle 90% on the left side, due to the wind from the right. I could feel my 47 year old back and shoulder starting to seize. Not good at all. As we came around under the east channel I-90 bridge, we were met with what I call pure-up-wind-hell. It had now built to 25-35 knots. White caps were thigh-high. At this point we only had one mile to go. But with that nukin quartering head-wind, I literally could not make my giant board move. I tried for 5 minutes to make it, fell-in a few times, cramped-up full-body style, and reluctantly called it a day… within sight of the finish line. I could have knee paddled across, but did not want to be "that guy." I gladly accepted a ride to the finish in a Mercer Island Police boat that plucked me off a dock under the bridge. Pride crushed!
Anyway, Chase from San Diego won in about 2:20. We usually do it in about 2:05. He said at one point his GPS showed him going 14mph downwind & then 0.4mph upwind. 70 paddlers finished out of the 150. Most knee paddling across the east channel. Brutal.
Hats off also to fellow old guy and Starboard Team Leader Dan Gavere, who got 2nd place!
The other Bellingham boys kicked ass, all finishing around 2:50-3:10 in 18th to 30th place. Mike Hammer, John Misasi, Dale Plant and Tiger-Man Romo.
The main thing I learned, was that when a 30 year old professional paddler passes you… let him go!!!
Great job everyone, that one will produce stories for awhile.
Pics by Destination360:
Leading for now, around mile 3.
Me, center, Gavere & Kosterlitz hiding far left.
Downwind section approaching I-90. Me left, Chase right.
Thats a long board.
Safety boat was busy picking folks out of the water.