The Jay was the longest distance flat water paddle I've ever made, but not the longest in duration. I've SUP surfed numerous four hour sessions and I figured that I could do the 12 miles in three hours or less if I could maintain my usual paddle/workout pace of 4 mph. The big difference between surfing and distance paddling in a "race" is that there are plenty of times to rest while surfing. But really, you can also rest when flat water paddling. My biggest concern was paddling from the start at Capitola to the turn around at Cowells almost six miles distant. I had to get there in 1.5 hours or risk begin disqualified. So, that was my personal race. I was glad when I got there with about ten minutes to spare. From Cowell's it was a challenging paddle in 8-14 mph crosswind and cross chop to the mile buoy and a then very forgiving downwind/calm wind paddle all the way back to Capitola.
Here are some personal observations: 1)Hydration is important. My usual flat water paddle workouts are in the 6-8 mile range. I usually don't bring water with me. But for the Jay I slung my full (1.5 liters) hydration pack on, and I nearly drained it during the course of the race. About three miles from the finish I started to feel like I was going to bonk and drank a healthy part of the hydration pack down. Minutes later I was invigorated and felt like I got a second wind. I will not neglect bringing water with me from now on for all my three mile+ flat water paddles and workouts.
2) Nutrition. I carbo loaded the night before with my usual servings of fat and protein while heaping on the calories from carbohydrates. This seems to work pretty well for me. I eat my usual light breakfast on race day, a balanced snack of crunchy peanut butter on low carb, high fiber toast with a single slice of turkey bacon in the middle, and a big cuppa coffee.
I don't like the high carbohydrate gel/goo packets. Instead I cut a Balance Bar (yogurt honey peanut and carmel nut blast are my two favorite flavors) into quarters and put them into a plastic zip lock bag that I keep in my boardshorts pocket. 20 minutes or so before race time I ate two quarters, and left two for later. I also drank half a bottle (4 fl. oz.) of Redline (highly) caffeinated sports drink for a little extra boost out the starting gate. This race day fueling regimen worked well until about four miles from the finish. As I stated under hydration, I started to hit a wall and the only thing that brought me out of it was a large infusion of water. What I should have done, and what I learned, is that at the halfway point (the mile buoy) when I took a short sit-down break to video, I should have eaten the remaining two Balance Bar quarters. The bars liquify pretty easily while chewing and I start to feel my blood sugar rise in about 20 minutes. Next time I'll eat.
3) Race Strategy. Honestly, I don't have a real race strategy, because the only person I'm racing against is myself. The only thing a paddler has to do in the Jay is to get to Cowell's buoy from Capitola in an hour and a half or less. So my first goal was to do that, and my second, and overarching goal was to finish the race in three hours or less. I tried to pay attention to my paddling technique; keep up a steady and consistent pace; set up a series of short distance, realizable goals; keep breathing and remind myself that I can rest at any time or keep going; and stay positive. "Yes! I can do this!" I also monitored my physical condition so I could stay on mission without injury and stay within my physical limitations for the entire event.
4) Mental perspective aka Attitude. I was in this thing to have fun, which at my age (65 y/o) is the only sane view one can really take. There is no reason to overdo it and get hurt because of misplaced, unrealistic or short-sighted priorities. Winning is finishing, participating and enjoying the company of our diverse and joyful community of paddlers.
5) Results. At right is a graphic I took from my Sports Tracker smartphone app. I was very happy to have this data which provided me with confirmation of some of the goals I was trying to accomplish and it also provided a couple surprises. First, I was very pleased that I averaged 4-5 mph overall. The second lap paddled into a headwind with white caps on a choppy, rolling sea was my slowest. That's really no surprise in hindsight and it kind of justifies all my grumping until I got into the smoother water. Next year I'll take a more inside line to Cowells sooner from the green buoy. That will put me out of the wind and into calmer water quicker. I was very gratified to see that my fastest lap was my last lap. Half of lap #4 and all of lap #5 from the mile buoy were downwind or in calm wind, but the Bark 12-6 is not a great downwind board. A better flat water paddler, the Bark and I both performed well on that last calm wind lap. I really tried to concentrate on form and consistency and I think the data proves that I did a pretty good job.
6) Equipment. It all worked well. I have a 12-6 Bark Competitor, and a QB Kanaha FG/Carbon (90) paddle (Covewater has an excellent selection of QB paddles in stock). This set-up is "one-size-fits-all" for all my flat water paddling/racing/training activities. I have two hydration packs, both from Nathan. I used the Nathan backpack " race vest" for the Jay. It hold 1.5 liters of water and has two compact zipper front pockets that hold all my stuff, ear buds, video camera, energy drink, etc. There is also a nice and secure pocket with button down flap on the back where I put my waterproof DryCase smartphone accessory. The second hydration pack is smaller and worn around the waist. It holds a smaller water bottle (20 fl. oz.) and has a gel pack pocket with velcroed flap. (Check with Covewater for availability.) The backpack is heavier (water weight) but comfortable. It is made from very light weight material and has held up well with light use. The waist pack is super comfortable and I hardly even know it's on. I can wear my DryCase and phone on the waist pack belt by sliding it through the built-in belt loop on the DryCase. I'm on my third DryCase, the other two have failed and fortunately my phone wasn't damaged. But the company made it right both times and sent me a replacement "free" covered under warranty. Fortunately the DryCase is made to pull a vacuum on it prior to use. This "seals" the phone in. If you can't get a seal, it's not waterproof so the user has a fail safe.
7) Clothes. Why would anyone mention clothes? Cuz it seems like everyone wonders what to wear, especially in Santa Cruz where it can be downright cold and foggy with drizzle, or so warm and toasty you almost think you're in the tropics. All in the same morning. Oh yeah, the water in NorCal is always cold. For flat water paddling, ensemble is less a mystery that downwinding or surfing though. I run cold so I usually need more insulation than less. Usually. Flat water paddling is the exception. As long as I don't fall in too much (and I rarely do in flat water) I maintain body heat and need to shed it, not keep it. So t-shirt and boardshorts are good. I wear a visor, not a hat, to keep the sun off my forehead and face while allowing head heat to ventilate out the top. This paddling wardrobe is usually good for all conditions during the race paddling season. I keep three different types of t-shirts with me in my paddling bag. Cotton, Quiksilver synthetic polyester "bamboo" weave and Kore-Dry synthetic. I like the feel of cotton but it gets wet (from sweat or falling in) and stays wet. The bamboo weave is really nice and I scored one in the Quiksilver Jay Race swag bag. I wore it for the race and it was an immediate favorite. Unfortunately it looks like Quik may be fazing out the bamboo weave product from their website. Other vendors sell it though. The Kore-Dry is the warmest of the three and tends to be a wee bit hot in flat water with little to no wind. But for downwinders and cool mornings, it is perfect.
My goal in writing this post is to provide a journal entry for myself which I can read and refer to. Also, since I am a fairly voracious internet researcher, I hope that some of what I've written and learned can be of value to others.
Saturday June 23, 2012 - I tried to capture the feel and the spirit of the 2012 Jay Race in the video. The Jay Race is more than a competition, it is a celebration and is inspired and informed by love, passion and commitment. Yes, there are a lot of big names, well known names that plan, implement and compete in and for the Jay. In my mind there is no one bigger, nor more inspirational than Kim Moriarty, Jay's wife and widow. She is front and center for all the months of planning that go into this event and without her inspiration, love and passion the Jay would be fun, but not an experience that moves into and infiltrates the heart and soul with so much goodness and completion. I hope you can join us next year, you won't regret it, you'll be inspired.
Thursday June 28, 2012 - In an effort to re-create some of the nearly perfect POV downwind videos that Jeremy Riggs is creating, I purchased a GoPro headband and used it for the first time today on the 4-Mile to Mitchells run. The run was fun in good wind with a lot of small short duration runners, many of which linked up for longer rides on multiple bumps. The weather was drop dead perfect. And we have a solid group of people in our nascent and growing downwind paddlers community. We are all blessed to be in this place, at this time, with each other.
The video results with the GoPro set at N (for "Narrow" field of vision (FOV) were mixed. I don't think I captured the reality of catching and riding the runners from the riders perspective. The FOV was too narrow and the viewer just can't see enough. Next time I'll set the FOV to "Medium" which should provide a better look. The narrow setting on the camera was good though for looking at others.
But if I'm going to get good shots of other folks riding it will have to be a coordinated effort. Rider and photographer will have to stay together and work together to maintain position and camera angle and distance to subject. Two cameras would be better, with one mounted on the tail of the photographers board. I don't have two cameras but John just won a GP Hero2 at the Jay so I might be able to use his. Tail mounted camera FOV and angle will need to be explored, as will changing FOV settings on the fly and then remounting the headband so that it's secure and isn't pointing askew.
Any new venture needs pre-event research and in-water application to get it right. The adventure begins.
Jeremy Riggs is producing what I think are the best downwind videos out there, from an instructional point of view, as well as entertainment. What I've found in learning this new SUP niche, is that the look and feel of a downwind run are very unique, especially when it comes to hooking into a glide or wave. In conventional surfing and wave riding, the rider always looks back at the wave when paddling for, and catching the wave. In downwinding, it doesn't help to look back. That's not how you catch the glides. You feel your way in and watch what's going on in front of you and to your right and left side...but mostly in front. You feel the tail lift under a bump and you watch as the nose drops down into the wave face and trough. Paddle to catch the wave. Ride it, watching the nose do it's thing either staying clear of the water in front or plowing into the next little bump in front of you, or turning your board to go left or right. Feel the loss of momentum as you lose the glide and wallow in the trough. Regain your forward motion by paddling a little and then getting into the next glide. Ironically I've had my best runs when I am most relaxed and not paddling like a mad man to catch the bumps.
Of course my comments are those of a neophyte downwinder so all I can say it get out there and do it! You'll be glad you did.
Saturday June 9, 2012 - I thought today's dw-er was going to get canceled like Thursdays until at the last moment Jean-Michel said he was "in" and we were good to go. I met he and his lovely wife Isabel at Mitchells to load the boards when all of a sudden who shows up? Another Frenchie. Only in Santa Cruz could I go from an almost "no go", to downwinding with a small part of the French world in America. Gotta love it.
Olivier had his F-One with him again, and Jean-Michel was on his brand new (we just picked it up from Covewater) Naish Glide 14 and he was super stoked. I was on the Covewater rental Glide as my new Angulo Shaka won't be here until July now.
It was an incredibly beautiful day with a moderate northwest wind which would later turn offshore as the high pressure system moved in to stay for a few days. Already the air temp was hinting at warm days to come. A decent northwest wind swell was in the water to top things off and all this in combination was the makings for a fun downwinder.
Since it was the weekend Four Mile beach was being put to good use by sun worshipers and surfers. Waist/shoulder high surf was pushing through the surf zone but the channel was calm and the paddle out into the wind line looked routine. This was Jean-Michel's first "real" downwind run so he was excited to try out his new board and get into the game. We had a short safety meeting and route orientation, agreeing to stay together and wait if anyone got too far ahead.
Jean Michel and I elected to take a line that necessitated a hard paddle straight out from the beach, skirting the surfers and the kelp bed upwind of us, hoping to make as much progress out towards the open ocean as possible. Olivier took a more angled track which put him into the kelp beds downwind of the channel sooner, but as he said you've got to paddle through the kelp anyway.
The more experience you rack up doing downwinders the better you get. That is just the axiomatic truth of the matter. I felt pretty comfortable in the wind today, and put together quite a few bumps, even hooking into a number of multiple bumps aka "railroading". You can talk about how to paddle downwind all you want, and it's probably not a bad idea to know what you're getting into, but when it comes to learning how to do it, you just have to go do it. But it is so much fun it is definitley addictive. It also adds another event into the SUP surfing/paddling/downwinding quiver. I suppose the only downside to downwinding is that you need two people to do it because of the shuttle aspect. It's also safer and more prudent to have a buddy with you out in the water.
At 27 3/4 inches wide, the Glide is tippier than the Shaka which has 30" of width. But the real problem I have with the Glide is the tall rails and hard edges. The board just seems to want to flip over more easily, especially in a side chop which is where I took my first of four falls. The other three came because the board wants to "rail-up" and turn sideways in the trough when pushed around by several swells at once. The Shaka just doesn't want to do this and the Shaka also wants to run on the bumps. I felt like the Glide needed to be paddled into the wave more than the Shaka. But Jean-Michel was having no problems and although he may have fallen, I didn't see him fall once during the paddle. As a matter of fact, he took to downwinding naturally. Between JM and Olivier I had my work cut out trying to keep up, but I did and this was a way to measure my own personal progress.
In the end we were all stoked and fired up to do more runs in the future. And the comparison between the Glide and the Shaka may just be personal preference. Jean-Michel loves the Glide, I love the Shaka. Vive la difference!
Tuesday June 5, 2012 - A decent south swell finally pushed into the Bay last night. By this morning the mid-period, waist-chest high waves were rolling in nicely albeit somewhat inconsistently. It was crowded and it seemed like everyone was on it. Andy and Ron probably got the best of it overall by surfing late yesterday when the swell was filling in, putting up some fun, clean walls in good and crowdless conditions.
I surfed the Simmy 3 (OSX3) and ranged all over my usual spots in the L41. As is the case with south swells, the waves tended to line up a bit and section out, but there were some real gems to be taken and I got a couple. Conditions were about as perfect as it can get. Clear blue skies dotted with plump back lighted cumulus clouds and a brisk offshore wind that blew the tops right off the waves, holding up that occassional wall morphing into a classic ride for more than a few surfers.
It was good to be back on the Simmy as I hadn't surfed it in a little over a month! I was surprised to see that in my surf diary but the waves have been so small I've either been SUP longboarding on my Angulo or paddling the Bark Competitor or doing downwinders on the Naish Glide 14, or the Angulo Shaka 14. I think I'm having too much fun. No surf? Paddle a flatwater run or do a downwinder. Simple.
Pono Bill Babcock at KeNalu has posted the first of four in a series of informative and interesting articles on SUP racing. The first article covers the basics and will be followed by articles on: Prep–things to do to your board, your gear, yourself. What to bring, what to expect; Race Day–Checking in, checking out the competition, nutrition and hydration. Getting a good start, setting a pace, finishing strong: Day After–Gear check, figuring out how to get better.
If you're interested in getting into racing either competitively or socially, you'll be sure to benefit from this informed series.
Launched from New Brighton and made a "speed" run (I use the term loosely) up to the Sewer Peak channel. I tried to paddle hard the entire way, no resting and keeping my breathing going. The idea is to do a "sprint" (again, the term used loosely) for half the total distance (about 3.25 miles) and then a more leisurely but paced paddle back to the state park. But essential in the second leg of the paddle is a stop at Sarges to practice surfing the big Bark in the waves which are useful as "simulated" open ocean bumps as well as real surf if the race course happens to come in or go out through a shore break. When the surf is really small, about one to two feet, the waves just roll in and break gently over the reefs before reforming and backing way off near shore. It's perfect of practice surfs on the Bark.
The challenge is to stay dry. My first attempt, several paddles ago, yielded an almost instant dunking in the cold water. My second and third days at it proved much more successful and I'm starting to feel almost comfortable on the difficult to control 12-6 Bark Competitor. The secret is to keep the nose up and out of the water. As soon as the nose digs in it wants to go where ever it wants to go and it ain't tellin' where that is. Learning the hard way seems to be my forte, therefore the early attempt dunkings. But now I've got it a lot more wired.
The Bark does not turn like a surfboard. Don't lean it over on rail, it's not gonna work. Rather keep it straight, or at least if your angling across the wave keep that in a straight line and ever so gently weight the rail in the direction you want to go and use the paddle to set some drag. I haven't figured kicking out yet, preferring to straighten out into the white water while paddling furiously to maintain some speed so as to not bog down. When the surf is like it was today the wave hits deeper water between the rock reefs and just drops out from under you. Then it's easy to paddle in a nice long arc and head back out to the line-up.
I'm trying out Sports Tracker as an alternative to EveryTrail for a while. It puts up some simple to read data and gives me a rough guide on how I'm doing. But I think the best measure would be respiration and heart rate, which they sell as an accessory. Well, heart rate anyway. Monitoring that and having it to look back on would be a clear indicator of how hard I was working. I logged two workouts today, but for some reason (probably operator error) it didn't upload the first workout, only the second. Of most interest to me was the maximum speed attained, presumably while I was riding a wave. It posted 19.6 mph. I'm not sure I actually believe that though.
Beautiful day today. Nights have been chilly and because I track weather data I know that our nights in June are averaging six degrees below normal so far. They averaged two degrees below normal for the month of May. But the good news is that May was a half degree warmer than normal. Not true for June so far, but I think it's going to be a clear and sunny month with plenty of warm afternoons. I hope so.