Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stand Up Paddle Surf Girls Rip: Tiffany tearing on her PSH Hull Ripper!

Just got these shots from my Hawaiian connection- Tiffany, ripping! Check 'em out:

"This was one of those beautiful spring mornings on the North Shore. The surf was was really fun and consistent. Everyone was getting waves and having a blast. Tiffany was surfing really well and in this sequence is putting her Hull Ripper on rail for a nice cutback."

That's the full PSH style cutback- I've seen lots of shots of guys (and now gals) on those boards laying down that type of full rail turn. Thanks again for the photos and keep 'em coming!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Don't get me started....

At the root of it all- I am a surfer; the neural pathways are set, there's muscle memory, my nose twitches when the tide changes, the smell of beach tar makes me excited. So don't be surprised when the forecasts get my fiendish little mind all in a twist. The cogs connect with the right gears and out pops a plan.... a surf plan. 

No, not here. But close- and better.

I'll give you some of the bones- you can flesh in the rest for yourself. First of all, it's looking like we're going to get a run of south swell here over the next five days. Second, I live temptingly close to northern Baja. Third, I just received some intel on what I like to call a safe harbor. In this case it's a little motel/trailer park, a secure compound with its own beach entry within stand up paddle distance of a couple prime northern Baja reef breaks. These are breaks that I surfed when I was in high school but have since written off (if you want to surf the spots, you've got to park your truck- which means that when you come back all you'll find are tire tracks in the dirt- yep, it's that bad). These are good waves people- I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grand Opening: K-Pasta... my new carbo-loading, pre-race pasta, post-race beer spot!

I am so excited about my friend's new restaurant- not only is it right down the street from my house, the place is damn cool and the food is super tasty. I know this place is going to be the spot for my pre-race carbo-loading ritual. The restaurant features fresh, made on the premises pasta, three or four kinds of sauces (my favorite was the tomato-basil sauce, but I've heard the turkey bolognese is unreal), a nice green salad and my favorite... home made pickles. Other menu items will rotate in and out on a daily basis so you'll need to poke your head in to see what they've got going on. Check it out:

Opening Day: Private party, lots of friends, lots of food- sunshine and happiness. K-Pasta is the brainchild of Kraig and Annie Kirstner. Kraig is the owner of San Diego's best hardware store K-Surplus (been there?) notice the similarity in business names? In addition,  K-Pasta sounds like que pasa, pretty clever, eh?   
The homemade pickles are delicious... I resisted at first but after one bite- I was a believer. That's Kraig and the recipe for those pickles belongs to his wife Annie- I think it's a big family secret.

Fresh pasta- made daily and waiting for you to come and place your order.
That's my buddy Kevin running the cash register- he'll be in K-Pasta daily, making pasta and keeping things running smoothly.
The hot water bath of the commercial pasta cooker... rad.
This man makes good food. Go get 'em K-Fer!
Uhm, yes- that's what I ordered: Hot Italian Sausage Sandwich... making me hungry just thinking about it.
Giant blackboards... check the offerings.
Kids love pasta- they love it stuck to their faces, in their hair, on the floor...
I told Kevin we had to snap this photo because in twenty years, when he's controlling the pasta racket on the southside and he's a made man, I'll need some proof that I knew him way back when...
K-Pasta will be open to the public in early June, it's located on 13th street, near the intersection of 13th and Palm across the street from Blockbuster video.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another weekend at the Stamps shop...

Tim's been cranking out the stand up boards lately. Here's a couple of fresh ones getting finished out and ready for shipment to Maui, San Francisco and points unknown. Check 'em:

Grim Ripper on the left and a Viking Bump on the right... one/two combo punch.
... and a special order Ninja Bump getting padded up and ready for prime time.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Florida state stand up paddling: Manatees and freshwater springs

A couple more stand up paddle adventure shots from my friend Vicky this time hunting manatees and exploring freshwater springs in beautiful Florida. Sign me up:

Searching, searching... manatees lurking somewhere. Emma sussing it out.
Looks fun to me- in fact, I'll volunteer for that one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cape Cod Bay Challenge: A long Baja surf story and a legit reason to paddle.

Every now and then you hear something that embeds itself in your brain and you never forget it. Twenty years ago, I was camping at a remote Baja point break with a few friends when I was asked something I've never forgotten. This all happened way out in the bush. You had to work to get to it but once there you were guaranteed to surf with just your friends, the flies and the mice that infested the dunes (and the big black snakes that ate them). Still, it's an odd place to hear something and carry it with you all your life.

One day, a beat Chrysler sedan came bumping down the road. Believe me, sedans had no business being on that road- it was barely passable in our 4x4 trucks. The sedan reached the last dip in the road and was confronted with a hundred yards of soft sand. The sand was the last barrier to the prime, wind protected, waterfront camping spots. If you had a Baja rig, you'd shift down into four low and crawl across that trap. The sedan's driver, lacking the clearance, gearing or inhibitions of more cautious Baja travelers chose a different strategy. 

He floored it. That car slammed into that soft sand doing about forty. At first, it seemed like he'd pull it off, the nose of the thing went down and then up shooting a huge cloud of sand up into the air around it. That straight blast of speed was carrying the big sedan over the sand on sheer momentum. It all seemed good until the driver realized he had to make a small dogleg to avoid the last little dune that blocked his way. Momentum is great for straight line work, not so much when you want to turn- some laws just can't be broken. Bam! The auto bounced up onto the apex of that little dune, tottered for a minute and then just sat there, high centered ten yards from the edge the beach. The sedan had found its home and someone had a new campsite.

Somewhere I've got a photo of the kid that eventually came out of the car. After I finish writing this I'm going to see if I can dig it up for you. Myself, I don't need to see it. The impression he made on me is as clear now as it was twenty years ago. Klaus was wearing a skirt- actually it was a batik print sarong he picked up in Bali. He had no shirt but was wearing black dress socks and Teva sandals. The kid had a cigarette drooping between his lips, a weird little goatee and the best part, he'd taken a piece of cardboard, cut it into a big circle and forced his head through a hole carved out of the middle- that was his sun hat. What the hell was he doing out there?

It turns out Klaus was  on the road, he was traveling. Not like you and I travel. Klaus was on a three year trip around the world. This was the, I-spent-three-hundred-dollars-on-a-sedan-in-Chula-Vista-and-I'm-driving-it-to-Panama portion. You know, just that. Why he chose to drive all the way out to our surf spot, I have no idea. He had no surfboard with him. He traveled with cases of cigarettes,  boxes of crackers and some cans of oil packed mexican sardines. We on the other hand, were living comfortably with a plethora of carefully selected and packed food items, ice and beer. Which made Klaus happy because he was German, and he liked cold beer. He also liked to talk. 

I talked to Klaus quite a bit. I'd surf in the morning, eat breakfast, crack a beer and wait for him to come crawling out from the back seat of the sedan. He could never stay there past ten or so in the morning, it got too hot. So we'd sit in the shadow of one of the trucks, drink beer and he'd ask me questions about surfing and surfers. He just didn't quite get the whole surfing thing.  Yes, he could see it was great exercise, and yes it looked really fun and, okay, I see how beautiful the water is- all those things he was satisfied with. Then he dropped it on me. He said, "It is very selfish though, jah? (kind of like that if I remember correctly)" He continued, "You surf just for yourself, it's never for the benefit of anybody else- it's very narcissistic, jah?" 

You know, I'm a simple man. I eat, I drink, I laugh, I surf- I never really had thought about the "why" of it. This kid messed me up. I remember my answer, "No it's not." And Klaus shut up, after all Klaus liked cold beer. And he was no dummy. 

So, I know your asking yourself, what's the point (as if listening to another long Baja surf story requires a point... sheesh!)? The point is, I've found a great reason to get out and paddle. There is an event in August called the Cape Cod Bay Challenge, it's not a race it's a fundraising event to benefit Christopher's Haven, a home for children receiving cancer treatment in Boston. My friend Bob Babcock has done an excellent job creating and organizing the event. If you're like Klaus and you seek answers to the big questions- this might be something you'd like to do. Here's Bob's press release: 

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge began in 2008 when 8 paddlers, the 1st to ever paddle across the bay, raised $12,000 for charity. Our numbers have more than doubled each year and last year our paddlers raised in excess of $80,000 to help support kids with cancer. August 20th, 2011 will see the 4th Annual Cape Cod Bay Challenge. This year will be our 1st year landing in Wellfleet and facing an increased challenge of 34 miles. The CCBC is not a race, while there is a finish line, it's all about everyone making it across. Our focus is inspiration and the support of others, most especially the kids. Come join the family of CCBC paddlers from around the country and world that are crossing Cape Cod Bay to help support kids battling cancer.

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge launches August 20th pre-dawn from historic Plymouth. That afternoon and 34 miles later we land in Wellfleet to join the ongoing celebration. The CCBC is known for it's great parties and this year we are taking it up a notch.  We finish this year in Wellfleet to allow for a bigger and better party. Tents on the beach, a live band, demos and vendor booths, and cold Wachusett brews will make for a great time. Come join us and be treated to some great music, food, and camaraderie. Paddlers, family and friends can register for the event and the party at  http://ccbccrossing.eventbrite.com/

In 2010 we expanded on the success of the CCBC by adding three other events that provide some fun competition and at the same time allow for almost anyone to participate.  This year we start our season June 11th with the Wellfleet SUPathalon. The SUPathalon is classic Cape Cod on one of the great beaches of the world and includes a race and surf contest. We continue on July 16th with our Challenge on the Charles, a 4 mile race from Community Boating in the basin of the Charles River next to the Hatch Shell and esplanade (of 4th of July and Boston Pops fame). The CCBC, the main event and detailed above, is on August 20th. Our final event of the season is in Marshfield, the Humarock Late Summa Paddle, a costume required cruise with a focus on fun. All of the events feature great parties and include raffles and auctions of great gear thanks to our generous sponsors. We'll be raffling a new 14' Naish Glide, Maui Jims sunglasses, Kialoa paddles, Cape Cod Beach Chairs, Barefoot Wines, artwork and much more. You’ll find the registration pages for all our events at http://www.eventbrite.com/org/1039166601?s=3729407

All proceeds from the CCBC and other events will benefit Christopher’s Haven, a 501-c3 non-profit dedicated to providing housing for kids that come to Boston from around the world to undergo cancer treatment. The haven can house up to 7 families at a time in a comfortable homelike atmosphere and help relieve some of the strain during a very difficult time. Christopher’s Haven is a home for kids when cancer hits home. http://www.christophershaven.org/
For detailed information on all the events and for more on paddling, sponsoring, or to donate visit our website at www.capecodbaychallenge.org.

Thanks again,

Bob Babcock

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lessons at the Loop

There's a lot to this racing thing. When you think you're fast, you're slow. When you think your intel is good, it's wrong. Think you're losing? You could actually be a front runner and when you're ready to give up- that's when you need to turn it on. It goes on and on. I haven't quite figured out a good all-purpose strategy yet. I wish it was as simple as, just follow the fast guys but often, those guys (and gals) are out of sight and you're left there alone to figure it out, to choose your own line. This weekend's 11.5 mile Loop race left me with plenty of time for contemplation. Here's a few conclusions from my experience: 

1. Straight lines are shorter than curvy, snake routes. I zigged and zagged, looking for the fast water when I should've just kept it simple. Making the course longer does not help your chances for placing and thinking too hard about where you need to be just gets in the way of laying down clean strokes. Lesson: Keep it simple, be decisive and stick with a plan- the middle of a race is not the time to go prospecting. 

Loop Results 1 - 51: Notice that the SUP category isn't broken down into divisions? I think that 1st place in Stock was Kiwi a.ka. Mark Field, 2nd in stock was Paul Zacharias and unless Mike Suerth was on a stock board, I got third! There were relatively few stock racers in this one- most chose to paddle 14' and Unlimited boards. 
Loop Results 53 - 83: The field was relatively large- and FAST.

2. Stable is fast: Once again, the confused chop and swell outside of the Bay did me in. I was horribly slow out there, unable to feel comfortable while I was pitching around and also unable to get into my rhythm. I think I could've shaved two minutes off my time if I would've felt stable enough to lay into my paddle. Lesson: In my case, a wider board might be a faster board.

3. Save something for the end: Right when I needed it- I was gassed out. A solid kick at the end of this race might have netted me a couple extra spots but at that point I was tapped out. Lesson: train for the end of the race... this means do more intervals!

The Stand Up Journal comes to town...

I was surprised and stoked to get a chance to meet and surf with Stand Up Journal Associate Publisher Steve Sjuggerud. And, yes, I did get a preview peek at the forthcoming summer issue- it's a winner, you're going to like it and the photos are, once again, pretty amazing. Speaking of photos- Imperial Beach local boy, Manny Vargas scored the table of contents spread with his photo of ripper Sean Poynter. Check it out: 

Manny, stoked. You won't find a harder working surf photog. Manny's up at dawn, on the phone, on the web and on the gas pedal getting himself to the best surf, the best light... and probably the best breakfast burritos. Seriously, homey knows where to find the best food in any town on any continent. Congrats Manny!
Fact about Sjuggerud: The guy is full-on surf stoked. He may be a writer/publisher but he's undoubtedly a surfer first. I appreciate that. In fact, the first thing Steve wanted to know was if the left off the pier was working and, secondly, were we going to be able to pull off a session before I had to get back to work (I actually took a sick day- not everyday I get to find out how it's done in the big leagues). I instantly liked the guy- no surf mag cheesiness, no name dropping, no "hey bro" cool guy attitude- just a dude who can't seem to fill his personal wave quota... something I understand.

Sjugg smacks it- the big guy surfs well, handling the windblown slop and making something out of nothing.
I got a wave or two as well. It ended up being a fun little session- although I did end up freezing my ass off.
Of course we finished the day in the customary fashion...
Even better: The summer issue is a good one- but, I have to admit, I did get a double hush-hush peek at an article that will be featured in the Fall issue... that's one to look forward to. Can you say, Cloudbreak?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Biggest south swell I never saw...

Time to reset the compass... find true north again. Basically, the first big south of the season lit up the coast like a roman candle- and I saw none of it. Something's very wrong with that picture. Friends called in with reports of long period, southern-hemi lines sliding through slick, glassy water. One of my favorite LA county, right handers was going off a couple feet overhead- and my overworked, high powered, can't-ever-get-out-of-the-office buddy surfed it with just two other stand up surfers.  It's definitely time to get my feet back into the wax. Find my rhythm, compress and release, get her flying, load up the fin- that kind of stuff. Man, I've got to go surfing. 

I know what the problem's been. I've been concentrating (wasting my time?) on a couple new distractions- like a dog chasing it's tail, running hard to get nowhere- for nothing. But things are becoming clearer for me now. I'm waking up, coming to my senses. And those little voices are telling me to get out there and back to the source- wake up early, hit the road, head south, head north... whatever it takes. I know that routine; cup of coffee, tank of gas and the open road. Point me in the right direction- I'm ready.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LiftSUP Stand Up Paddle Handle: This thing's sweet!

Unless you've got the claw-hand, fingers-of-steel gripping ability of a rock climber you know that the standard finger grip found on most stand up boards sucks. The basic problem is this: There's no indentation to wrap the tips of your fingers around so you've got to go for the old Land of the Lost, Sleestack grab. And who really has fingers like that?

Check out those fingers- they'd fit perfectly into the grips found on most boards.

Here's a better way to cart your board around:

The future of stand up paddle handles!

The LiftSUP is a retractable stand up paddle board handle that gets installed into the deck of your board prior to glassing. It can also be retro-fitted into any board by ding repair guys or glass shops with experience installing fin boxes or plugs. I got a close up look at the handle at the Paddle for Humanity Race in Dana Point. Here's another shot of it: 

Nice and flush.

The handle is great for locking your board to your truck or tent or tree. Of course, if somebody really wanted the board, they're going to get it- but I think this is a great way to stop your standard grab-and-run board thief. Additionally, the handle retracts flush with the deck so that you don't have to worry about getting the dreaded toaster toe (you know, when you step forward to trim your board and your big toe jams down into the finger slot while simultaneously peeling back your toenail- sound fun?).

Being able to run a cable through your board while your run in to the donut shop is a bonus.

The best thing about the LiftSUP is that the grip makes so much more sense ergonomically. For example, you can bend your arm around the board and really get a nice grip, wrapping your fingers around the handle- it doesn't sound like a big deal but it makes carrying the board really easy. As you can see the finished install is really clean. The little holes on around the periphery are drain holes. The whole unit is light and sturdy (it's made of a combo plastic/fiberglass material).

I predict you're going to be seeing a lot more of these handles in the near future- they just make sense!

I'm working on getting one of these handles installed on a new custom board (Thanks Matt and Scott!)- I'll give you a full report once I've got it done.

Want more info on the LiftSUP handle? Click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"I went to Alaska this time": Vicki charges the icebergs, survives 31 degree water.

My friend Vicki is an adventurer- she's got a go-for-it spirit that I really admire. In the last couple of years she's paddled with manatees, cruised around Turkey with an inflatable stando and explored the waterways of Europe. She's a cool girl- check out her latest caper (words are Vicki's, slightly edited by me):

Yeah Vicky- love the life vest, strobe light and all!

"So I planned to paddle Mendenhall Lake in Juneau Alaska lake with a bunch of kayakers, but when they heard I was riding an inflatable sup they said I was a liability and could not provide a ride, wetsuit or life vest for me. I had to improvise, hence the bright orange vest I stole from a cruise ship."

You're definitely not in So. Cal. anymore...

"Luckily, I brought some booties but had no wetsuit. So I a 30% chance of surviving should I fall into the 31 degree water- assuming I could get help within 10 minutes. It took me about 2 hours to paddle all the way across to the glacier due to the layer of ice on top of the lake. You can see it in one of the pics (and I hugged the coast the whole time  like a pussy). I had to break the ice with each stroke and I could hear it crack for what sounded like 30 seconds out in each direction."

Looks like ice to me... think that water is cold?

"Fortunately, there was a lone kayaker out near the glacier to take my pic, and provide me some company as I periodically warmed my feet on the rocks so they didn't go numb. And there was a beautiful waterfall.  I think I am going to paddle the Everglades next :)"

Paddle Alaska? No problem, dodge an iceberg here and there- no biggy. 
 If you want to catch up with Vicki and get involved with her global SUP trips (she's got a fleet of blow up standos) contact her by email: vicki@supcoronado.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Here comes the Loop!

All in: I sent in my registration for the Loop race yesterday. Nothing left to do but show up and blow up- or blow groceries. Check out the route:

The course is advertised as 11.35 miles. My GPS put it at 11.7 but that just could've been due to my zig zag paddling technique- specially designed to throw off any would be drafters. Or extend the agony.
Course Overview: The first three miles of the course is open water out to the marker buoy at the tip of the Zuniga Jetty. Out there, you'll be looking at Point Loma and if the south swell is still running you're going to see some sweet little right hand peelers at Ralph's, the surfspot tucked inside of Point Loma. At the marker, you take a right hand turn and start blazing for the narrowest part of the San Diego Bay, the channel right off of Ballast Point. Watch for boat traffic coming out of Spanish Landing as you squeeze through this spot. 

Next, you'll see San Diego's downtown on your left as you paddle along North Island Airbase towards the Coronado Bridge. This is the widest part of the bay and you'll likely see bigger ships moving through here; tugboats, aircraft carriers and destroyers. Don't get too distracted by the music playing through your headphones- those big ships are deceptively quiet and if one "sneaks" up on you, the blast from it's horn may trigger a sudden flushing of your bilges. 

Finally, you'll wrap around into Glorietta Bay and head towards the finish line. You'll have to make a decision before you bend towards the finish line. You'll need to decide when and where to cut through the moored sailboats and yachts. The final approach to the finish line can be tough as you're heading almost directly into the wind for the last quarter mile. At this point there's no whining and complaining allowed- suck it up and finish strong!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Race Review: Moonlight Beach Paddle and Swim, Encinitas Sports Festival

First of all, I'd like to thank Dan Van Dyck and his whole crew for a well organized, smoothly run race. I really liked the use of the chip timing (you wear a velcro strap around your ankle that triggers a timing device on a mat at the finish line). As you know, I'm always the guy who has some type of problem with results- sometimes I'm there, sometimes I'm not.  The chip timers are pretty much fool proof which means I sleep better at night knowing I'll be able to check my time. Here's a couple shots and commentary- check it:

Here's a shot of one fired up competitor... and a whole bunch of stand up and prone paddlers getting ready to challenge the windy, slightly stormy conditions. This was a tough race, the chop and swell was a little more gnarly than it looked like from the beach. In addition, there was a solid south westerly wind that was in your face for the long southern leg. There were lots of guys falling, cursing and grumbling- I like races like that!
The tents were up, the coffee hot and brrrr... we were cold.
The boards and competitors kept coming- all told, I think there were close to a hundred competitors. Not a bad turnout at all.
Here I am at the finish. After chasing Brendan Light for six miles, I almost had him in the surf zone. Brendan was stuck in a big hole between waves and I could see the look on his face as I bellied a wave right up to him. I yelled at him, "Go! Paddle in!" as I frantically tried to beat him to the beach- he ended up beating me by 17 seconds for fifth place in Men's Open Stock.
Boga Race Board: light, stable and pretty darn fast (didn't some Nor-Cal kayak guy smoke a bunch of people at the Dana Paddle Race on a board just like this?). This one looked good- I'm going to have to paddle it sometime.
Best part of the race? Finishing! Check out the mats... you run across them and the chip on your ankle triggers the timer- no yelling out numbers, no missed numbers... sweet! Here I am, like a cow heading to the barn, wondering where the cold beer is.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A level of clarity.

I get a lot of  "Dude SUPing sucks" and "your blog's stupid and you're an idiot" screeds in the p.net email inbox. Fortunately, every so often, mixed in among the knee jerk yappings- I receive a jewel. One of those comments that mean something. Or maybe it's an observation that contributes to the conversation or brings a level of clarity to what's going on here or in my life. Got this one today- check it out: 

Heh. It's so weird how I was *all* pumped up about kiting five years ago, then discovered SUP, and, um, well, all my kite gear has become dusty and obsolete, while my stand-o equipment becomes newer, lighter, and smaller. Not to diss kiting at all, just to underline the incredible, it-takes-over-your-life power of standup paddle. Now I'm tooling up to race. WTH? If you'd told me ten years ago I'd be putting my effort into anything that'd take me out of the impact zone, I'd have said you were nuts. Reality, as always, is broader than our imagination...

Wow. I told this guy or gal (and you can go back and read it all in the comments section of the last post) that he/she pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. In fact, it's inspired me. I need to tell you,  my reality has been so much broader than imagination that, a few years ago, I would've called the life I'm currently living fantasy.  Except it's not and it's blowing my mind. Here's a couple examples:

1. Racing: I have never raced anything in my life. No track teams, BMX bikes or bullfrogs. My heart rate was like a Muddy Waters', blues progression- cool, steady- languid. Pulse spikes were limited to super model sightings and close out Puerto sets (um... that one actually is fantasy because I don't have the balls to paddle out at Puerto but I can imagine that the old ticker would be redlining).

Fast forward to the Present: Let's just say that racing and I are heavily involved. I train for it (weekly, timed paddles, interval work, a weight lifting program, built in recovery and carb loading days). I plan for it (thank you Google Calenders and the Eaton race website). I've even got a racing work ethic: Get there early- gotta nab the best parking. Leave late- gotta quaff the after race victory beers. And celebrate my small victories (and I do mean small... if you saw the 4th place trophy for the Seaside Slide you know what I mean).

Perhaps most telling is this: My good buddy, Captain Ron, told me that I'd knock a couple seconds off my mile if I wore one of those skin tight, East German, Olympic iceskate racer suits. I said that was ridiculous... that's where I draw the line. At least until the Battle of the Paddle.

2. My waist line: Dude, I was fat. I was at least 235lbs and probably more like 240. The low point? I asked a fellow racer what I needed to buy to be faster, his answer: "You can be fat or you can be fast- you can't be both". That was a gut punch- and, believe me, there was plenty to hit.

Fast forward to the Present: Ever heard of a "fitted shirt"? I do fitted shirts now. Look at the masthead of this blog- that was me at 235. See those blue/gray trunks? Can't wear 'em anymore, they fall around my feet. My shopping cart looks like the inside of Pacquiao's refrigerator (I know because I saw it on "Cribs") all good, healthy red meats, bright colored vegetables and acres of spinach. Who would've known me and Pac-man, eating like brothers.

And guess what?  I AM faster. Unbelievably, I've staked a spot on the forward part of the finisher's  bell curve. I'm on the positive side of average and on the good days (identified as the races where two or three fast guys decide not to show up) I can even end up in the top ten. What kind of fantasy world put's me in Ricky Martin's old rayon v-necks and occasionally in sight of open water? Not one that I would have predicted just a couple of years ago.  

The point is this, the crystal ball is never set for any of us. Best of all, the power to determine what's in the future lies in your hands. All you've got to do is reach out and grab a hold of something good. In my case, I lucked out and wrapped my fingers around a carbon fiber paddle- little did I know that decision would put me on a path to some great changes in my life. I hope the same has been true for you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wow, the fuse just got lit... summer goals.

Did a quick scan of the calender today and realized how soon I'm going to be done with work and into my summer vacation. Wow. I'll be competing in three races (Moonlight Race, The Loop and the Hobie/Hennessey's race) and then I'm out of here for a week of surfing. Crazy how time starts flying by. Time to set goals for the summer. Here's what I've got so far:

1. Compete in ten California races between June and October.

2. Improve my time in the Chainsaw Massacre (a local six mile race here in Coronado) which will mark my first complete year of racing. I'm hoping to beat 1:30.

3. Complete the finish work on the 14' wooden dory that I put together last summer. I need to finish sand the outside of the hull and varnish it.

Remember my little project? Well, there she is- waiting for adventure.

4. Do a five day surf/paddle/windsurf trip to Punta San Carlos (a remote point eight hours south of the border).

5. Spend a week paddling my dory and stand up board in some of the beautiful rivers and lakes of northern California/Southern Oregon.

6. Learn how to shoot a 12 gauge properly.

7. Row my dory out to Point Loma with my surfboard, a lunch and a six pack. Surf, sleep in the sun and row it home.

8. Learn how to do a nose ride 360 on my longboard stando.

9. Do one kitesurf/paddle trip to San Quintin (I spent four years kiting before I started doing stando... since then, my kites have gathered dust... I wouldn't mind pumping up my 12m and getting reaquainted if the conditions were right).

That's what I've got going on this summer. And you?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not like the first time.

Once again, my mind is preoccupied with visions of left hand point breaks peeling through cobalt blue waters. I can practically feel the warm afternoon winds and taste the sopes con pollo that I know Saundra and the girls are warming up for me. Yep, the tickets have been purchased (First Class baby!), the housing booked and I'm stocking up on hard bricks of tropical surf wax- mainland Mexico here I come. Again. 

The place is definitely a great spot for stand up paddling but you've got to tread lightly when you come down with a stand up board. Things have changed since I first came down to surf the point, it's definitely not like the first time I was there. Surfers coming from the states have had to adapt to the "new kid on the block" and a lot of them bring their biases across the border with them. What this means is that you're more likely to get a couple of hard looks as you walk across the sand to the water and you may have to deal with a comment or two out in the water. Interestingly, it's not the locals who care too much about what you're riding as long as you obey the rules of the line up and know how to handle yourself and your board. Generally, you get the most grief from older surfers and, ironically, the loudest ones are almost always on big old long boards themselves. I don't want to bum anybody out and I don't want to ruin anyone's surf trip just by being in the water so I always try to be extra sensitive about my impact when I travel with my stand up board. Here's a couple of things I do to ease relations in the lineup. 

1. I don't stand up paddle the point in the morning. I concede the best part of the day to the prone surfers and won't surf the point until most of the dawn patrollers have come in. I make it a point to paddle out on my regular surfboard and catch a few with the "regulars" out there. I like for them to see that I'm capable of surfing prone as well as stand up. It's funny though how much more entitled you feel (and brazen) when you're out there battling it out on your belly- in most cases I think I've got better manners when I'm surfing stand up. 

2. When surfing the point on my stando, I'll paddle in if there are more than two of us out there. A point break can get clogged up pretty fast by three stand up paddlers. I don't want to be part of a continuous cycle of waves ridden by stand up paddlers at the expense of the prone surfers in the water- so I leave. 

3. I rarely paddle to the top of the point. Remember, everyone is sitting facing open water that means that inside waves further down the point may be going unridden and unseen. If you surf a little on the inside there's a great chance that you'll become the invisible surfer. Give the inside a chance, you'll be surprised at how many waves you'll nab right under the noses of the mob. 

4. Give away a bunch. Purposefully pull off a wave even when you have priority and hoot someone on the shoulder into it. Be generous and cognizant of who's getting waves and more importantly, who isn't- those are the ones you want to give 'em away to. 

5. And finally, a guideline to live by: Know your limits- if you can't control your board, DO NOT paddle into the thick of things. If you're still learning to surf- stay away from the peak. Earn your spot out there and keep it by being skillful, respectful and mindful.

Have fun and travel safely!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Carbon Fiber Race Board for Sale: The Black Beauty!

Kiwi's selling off his custom Stu Kenson racer, The Black Beauty. This board is a proven winner in the California race series- the board is super stable and blazing fast. If you're looking to paddle in the stock class races and want a board that you know is fast- this is it. $1200 or best offer. Contact kiwii1@pacbell.net Check it out: 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Inside Scoop: The Coronado Loop Stand Up Paddle Race

Anybody else out there going to race the Loop in Coronado? I'm looking forward to this one even though I know that the net result is some serious pain. How do I know? I'm feeling it right now. I'm wallowing in that all over soreness that knocks the crap out of you. 

Kiwi and I practice paddled the course today. This will be my first time ever racing in the Loop and Kiwi's fourth. Since I've never paddled it before, I didn't want my first time to be on race day. When you wait until race day to get out and run the course you deal yourself an instant psychological blow- the unknown is scary and when you don't know where the end is, the race seems to drag on forever. That's why, if possible, I always try to pre-paddle the route. I'm especially fortunate to have a paddling teammate (we're both from Imperial Beach so that automatically puts us on the same team) who's done the race a few times- Kiwi passed on a couple of tips that he earned through sweat and agony. Thanks mate! And, no, I won't share them with you- well, maybe over a few beers after it's over.

If you don't know about the Loop, here's some basic information about the race. First of all, this is a race founded by prone paddlers- our vertically challenged paddling brothers. What that means is that there won't be many stand up paddle divisions (this is my general rule of thumb- if the race is put on by a prone paddler, even if there are twice as many stand up paddlers in it, there will be limited divisions for the stand up guys and gals). In the case of the Loop there is only Stand Up Mens and Stand Up Womens divisions- no age group breakdown and no board type breakdown. What that means is that somebody on an Unlimited stand up board will probably win- those of us who race stock are going to be lagging behind those eighteen and nineteen foot monsters.

Secondly, the Loop is an eleven mile race that somehow comes out to be 11.7 miles- be ready especially if you're one of those types of racers who hangs onto every tick of the GPS mileage counter. This is definitely not your four to six mile sprint-type race you'll want to get into your groove and pace yourself for the long haul. If you're like me and your weekly distance practices are between four and six miles you'll find that the distance starts to affect you around mile eight, definitely come prepared with fluids and food.  In the course of those eleven miles you'll be paddling open water and flatwater so practice in both types of conditions is recommended.

Finally, approximately three quarters of the race takes place inside of the San Diego Bay. Depending on the direction of the tide, your trip past the various twists, turns and narrows of the Bay can be a fun little downhill run (if the tide is flooding) or a grueling slog uphill on a watery conveyor belt doing its best to push you back out the mouth. My biggest piece of advice is to go paddle the Loop a couple of times so that you figure out where to be depending on race day conditions. Nothing is more helpful than logging data points out on the course- even if means a trip to the land of Ibuprofen is in your future.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chili con CARNAGE at the Paddle For Humanity

I was stoked to compete in the Paddle For Humanity this past weekend at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. All of the usual suspects were there blazing through the six mile course making it look easy (the poster child for that is Christina Zur who paddles like she's sleep walking while she goes zipping by...  her technique, truthfully, is mesmerizing). I huffed and puffed it and finished in an hour and ten minutes. Couple of observations about that: 

Nice turn out, nice race, nice day.
1. Wow, get off your race board for a week (I was up in Santa Barbara corralling rambuctious seniors on a school campout) and you are going to feel it. I swear I was pulling a gill net behind me out there.

2. I'll take credit for a little progress- my first completely open water race was the Chainsaw Massacre not quite a year ago. That race was 6.5 miles the Paddle For Humanity was just under that (6.45 on my GPS). My time at the Chainsaw 1:33, my time at the Paddle For Humanity 1:10.... hmmm is it possible? Am I getting faster?

The morbidly fascinating part of the race was the finish which involved surfing the small 2' Doho rollers into the closeout section. That section sucked up and whomped onto the cobble encrusted sand- it was like watching a train wreck. Except we were wrecking three thousand dollar carbon fiber race boards. The crowd loved it, the ding guys loved it... I loved it. Check out some damage:

Carnage asada...
The WHOMP getting ready to do its thing.
See that little cobblestone bank? That's the cheese grater. The cheese grater had magic attractive qualities for loose boards.