Monday May 28, 2012 - Today was only my fifth downwind session, second solely on the Angulo Shaka 14. An unshakable confidence is starting to build in with this board that can't be based on chance or circumstance. This board is flat out a performer in the downwind venue.
At 65 years old I am usually the oldest and slowest paddler of all the others in any group I'm with. Today was no exception and Mike, Carter and Ryan are all experienced and strong paddlers. Olivier joined us for the first time today and he is a former pro bicycle racer and loves to paddle fast. In his 30's I would guess, he's an athlete with what I call a high physical IQ. (That doesn't mean he isn't smart too, he takes to physical things quickly.) But I soon found out that the Shaka is a great equalizer.
After I got through the last kelp bed and into the stronger winds, I quickly developed a rhythm and picked up wave after wave after wave. This actually put me in the front of the pack, playing leapfrog for the lead with Olivier. The waves today weren't big, but they were plentiful and the Shaka wanted to catch them all. On this run I didn't fall off one time because of the Shaka's innate, designed-in stability. This puts the paddler/rider at a huge advantage in a race because one can lose so much time falling off and getting going again. While Olivier clearly is a far superior paddler than I, he fell a couple times and I shot right by him each time. This enabled a far slower paddler, on a superior wave catching board, to keep up with a fast and fit paddler on a very good board built for racing.
I didn't want to lose my momentum and I was motivated by my "race" with Olivier (even if it was only in my mind). I brought my Droid X2 in the Dry Case on this trip and was trying out a new tracking program Sports Tracker. I wanted to know 1) how far is the paddle from Four Mile to Mitchell's 2) how long does it take 3) what was the average and the fastest speed I achieved. The chart is to the right. I paddled hard the entire trip. There were times I wanted to stop and rest, but I didn't want to break the momentum of what turned out to be a strenuous anaerobic, sprinting workout. The run was more like a continuous surf, than a paddle (although I never stopped paddling) and as I write this today I am muscle fatigued and sore, and I realize how out of shape I am to do these events comfortably without further training.
I wore my usual ensemble for open ocean downwind paddling, a full 4/3 wetsuit, tropical ankle cut booties and my goofy little hat. Because I didn't fall in, I was way overdressed and therefore overheated as I paddled into the calmer water near Mitchell's. Without the wind assist and the now much smaller swells I had to work harder to propel the board. This is where Mike caught me and passed me up, he being first to the beach. (Olivier opted to paddled to the harbor, four miles further.) I suspected that Mike would catch me, as his board is faster in the flat water and again, he is a better and more fit paddler than I.
One again I learned a lot from this run. Downwinding is so much FUN. Imagine riding what seems to be one long continuous wave (or series of waves) for four miles! It truly is surfing. I didn't stop to take video of the wind and wave conditions because of my pedal to the metal mind set and future videos may not have much open ocean wave action. The story is more in the padding stats and the experiences of the paddlers/riders. It's also difficult to video and get the pics that illustrate what it's really like out there. Other people are doing a good job in that area (see Jeremy Riggs vids on You Tube). But who knows, maybe I'll get creative and set up multiple cameras. That could be interesting.