Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Battle of the Paddle Race Report

I was invited to Battle of the Paddle at Dana Point, Ca. this year because I had a good race at Mercer Island. That's about it. A good friend put in a good word for me with board shaper Ron House, who agreed to pay my $250 entry fee and loan me one of his custom boards. Knowing what I know now, I never would have lined up in the Elite/Invite only race on a day that held those conditions. I was humbled every step of the way.

I first got a deep laceration on my wrist two hours before my race start. I was retrieving an open-racers loose board in the shore break and the board came in backwards and the fin laid me open.
Damn. I had a life guard bandage me up tight so that I could get through my race. Sutures would have to wait.

As the afternoon approached, the wind built as did the overhead surf. The elite race course brought us into and out through the crashing surf zone three times per lap. Ugh. It was total carnage from the start. My skills were not up to par with the true watermen from Hawaii & Australia. I was bleeding like a stuck pig right off the bat, and I think I fell off my race board 12 times in the first lap. On the second lap I was rounding the "Hammer Turn" & got taken out by a wave. My board got away from me (no leashes on race boards) and was heading for the beach without me. I decided to call it a day, before I really got in some ones way or bled to death.

As I watched the rest of the race, I was awe inspired. I'd never seen anything like this before. It was like a moto cross race in the water. 10 guys would be riding one wave into a buoy turn, where there was only room for maybe 3 guys. Not even the pros would make it through these turns up right. Boards would wash up on shore stacked three-high. There were broken boards, fins, fin boxes and paddles everywhere. Completely nuts. Race boards were not meant for these conditions, and the guys that made up the top 10 were truly the worlds elite.

The next day was the 10 mile distance race. 20 minutes before the race I had no board to ride. Ron had promised about 12 guys they could use his stuff, when he only had about 8 boards.
I paddled the 14' carbon board out to the start line for the first time. The morning brought 15 mph side winds and 8 foot swell. I lasted 2 miles and again called it a day. Oh well, what a great experience anyway!

Lessons learned:
1) Take your own boards. Racing on unfamiliar equipment sucks.
2) Elite means elite. Washington elite is different than Hawaii/Australian/Californian elite.
3) Fins are sharp. I have 4 monster sutures to prove it.
4) Kialoa Paddles are awesome. Dave Chun of Kialoa was super hospitable and we hung out in their tent a lot.
5) Ron House and Gerry Lopez are awesome too. Their tent had two leather couches that we sat on a lot!
6) Californians are friendly... even the cops (-:
7) Battle of the Paddle is Mecca for stand up paddlers. Everyone should go once in their lives
8) DNF'ing two races is something I never want to experience again!