Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Everyman Racer: "Not particularly lean, not particularly smart"

I'm not winning races but I'm improving. And that, to me, is pretty satisfying. In fact, it's been enough to keep me out paddling, practicing and planning for the next race, the next challenge (which just happens to be the Kings Race in La Jolla this Saturday). Now all this is very strange, especially if you know anything about me because, at heart, I'm a surfer. I LOVE riding waves. I'm finding, however, that all of the training I'm doing on the race board is making me a stronger, fitter wave rider. I've even dropped a couple pounds; making my trunks a little looser and my cutbacks a little tighter. I'm finding that surfing's good and racing's good, in the words of the ghetto-poet, MC Hammer, "(Hey) It's all good". Man, I totally agree.

I call myself the "everyman racer" because- in this game, I'm nothing special. No super genetics (no former Olympians or Mr. Universes in my family tree), not particularly lean, not particularly smart and definitely not able to focus a hundred percent of my time on training (full time job, full time mortgage... just like you). But I'm still having a blast and I've realized one thing- there's tremendous room for improvement. Even more, if you've got the will to practice and you take a minute to analyze your performances- you will get better- and that's fun.

Here's the first part of a quick little hit list of changes I've made that have helped me improve my racing results.

My first race, The Chainsaw Massacre, was a six mile run out to a channel marker and back. I'd borrowed a race board from Tim Stamps, practiced with it a grand total of four times and figured I'd give it a shot. Wow- what an eye opener. I was pretty slow finishing the course in 1:33. I had fun and I also had time to look around and check out what everybody else was doing that I wasn't. That brought about my first equipment change.

The Change: Longer paddle and bigger blade. I'd used my Kialoa Methane cut at 76". That short paddle, sweet as it is for surfing, wasn't letting me get the reach that I needed. I also noticed that faster paddlers were able to apply a whole lot more power to the blade than I was. I could turn that blade over quickly but I wasn't powering up to my full potential.

Photo: Kialoa Shaka Pu'u... one sweet paddle.

A quick trip to Emerald City (those guys are fully stocked with almost every paddle make you could imagine) corrected both problems. I picked up a full length Kialoa Shaka Pu'u. I chose the Shaka for a couple of reasons- the biggest being the shape and feel of the smaller diameter, oval shaft that Kialoa puts on their paddles. That shaft fits my hand perfect, feels silky smooth and is super strong. Plus, my surf paddle is a Kialoa Methane so grabbing the Pu'u (is that wrong?) felt like coming home. The second being that if Chuck can win on them- so can..... well, maybe I'll finish closer to the middle of the pack.

Photo: Kind of a strange angle- Kialoa Methane on the left and Shaka Pu'u on the right. The Methane blade is about ten square inches smaller in area than the Shaka Pu'u. I'm a huge fan of the Methane in the surf- switching up to the larger Pu'u wasn't too difficult- same ovalized shaft, bigger blade.

The Result:  I got a little faster! My second race was the six mile Pro Race at the Hennessey's International Championships I paddled the course in 1:28. My first race was a little longer than six miles so I can't claim that I took five minutes right off my time, but I do feel that just lengthening that paddle and picking up a slightly larger blade shaved off at least two minutes. A small change, but I'll take it!


Capt Ron said...

I am just the opposite, I use a large blade for surfing and a narrower blade for a distance paddle.
I find a big blade good for short burst speed and realy gets through the rip/turbulent soup zone where a small blade won't get bite. It also realy planes out and holds me up when I lay on it.
A small blade is like a 10 speed bike in low gear much lower impact on your body and keeps you fresher throughout the paddleand a lot lower impact on the joints. I think ideally having 2 paddles with you on a distance race would be key. Use the large blade to get a jump on the gun and get out front then switch to a smaller blade to carry momentum with minimal effort then back to the big blade for the dash to the finish line.

John Ashley said...

Hey Ron-

You know- I've considered a longer shafted, smaller bladed paddle (Methane) longer races- they just leave you with something in the gas tank at the end of the race.

Now, what's the deal with these airborne stunts you're pulling?