Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What a difference a year makes: Back to racing... and feeling good!

The Chainsaw Massacre is a local 6.5 mile prone/stand up race held annually here in Coronado. It's a fun, open water out-and-back type race that takes you to the buoy off Point Loma and features a bit of downwind action for the return to Coronado Shores. Importantly for me, the race marks my racing "birthday"; the Chainsaw was the first race I competed in one year ago. 

I was a bigger boy a year ago- a little more than thirty pounds heavier than I am today and a whole lot more inexperienced with racing than I am now. I was looking forward to the race- hoping to better last year's time of 1:33. Unfortunately, I was also dealing with a mysterious shoulder injury that limited the movement of my right arm. It wasn't until my friend Kiwi heard me complaining about my arm and commented about the strange smell of kitty litter that was following me around that I fully committed to the race. He had sufficiently shamed me- I was in. 

There she is... The Poison Arrow- pointing the way. Major thanks to my sponsors: Stamps surfboards- Tim makes unreal surfing standos and, of course, my Poison Arrow- which rocks! Emerald City Surf Shop in Coronado who keep me in wetsuits and gear and Future Fins who hook me up with great fins for both racing and surfing. Here's a no-brainer if you want to get faster, pick up Futures Weed Fin for racing- that thing works great!
I ended up really happy with my result. I was the fifth stand up paddler to the beach (behind the two Shoemakers on their unlimited boards, Kiwi, who took 1st place in stock SUP and Mike Richards who grabbed second in stock SUP) and third in the Stock SUP division. Best of all I beat last years time by 13 minutes with a time of 1:20. It was the first time I'd paddled my new Stamps 12'6 Stock Class stand up board (I call her the Poison Arrow) on the open ocean and just like I thought- this board is a performer- she blazes downwind! At the turnaround buoy I was even with a paddler on an unlimited prone board- once we pointed downwind, I never saw the guy again. I was able to catch and pick off two other stock paddlers who had passed me going upwind- that's a great feeling, reeling them in and passing them. Revenge!

Game day with the Poison Arrow- not your average race board.
Just a comment about the design of my board. The Poison Arrow does not resemble any other board on the water. There's no dug-in cockpit, no canoe type bow, her bottom is radically contoured- I haven't seen a bottom like it anywhere, and she's wider by an inch than most raceboards out there (30") wide. Most telling- her tail is very wide, voluminous and boxy. I'm telling you this board is unconventional. Which is exactly what I wanted. When Stamps went about designing the hull I stressed that I needed a board that was scale to my 210 lb frame- I was tired of dealing with balance issues that were robbing me of power. I was finding that if I couldn't be comfortable on the board in moderate sea states- I could not lay down the power that I knew I was capable of. This was very frustrating for me because I knew I could produce better results but was wasting energy just staying upright. At this level of experience I needed a board that was stable- and here she is, I really like this board and hope that the importance of communicating your particular needs to your shaper comes through here. Be honest with yourself and get a board that you're comfortable on. 

A year ago I set a goal for myself to lose weight, complete ten races and improve my performance. So far, I've got all three checked off. Now it's time to reevaluate and set new goals for the coming winter race season. I've got the board, the time and the water... now all I've got to find is the will. That's the tough part. I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Hey John, I've been curious for some time now as to why you went 12'6" for your racing board instead of 14'. I'm just getting started in the distance/downwind/racing end of this and everyone recommended 14' to me. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

nice work John on achieving your goals!-that board is sick lookin!!
I gotta get down there sometime soon and surf a few SD breaks with you-da Patch is getting old!

Anonymous said...

Meeting your goals is very impressive. The board looks a lot like a down wind sled. Does Stamps have any sailing background?
spiders brother

Kiwi said...

Truly stoked for you. I was so envious of your wider ,more stable board as we went past the harbour entrance to the turn bouy. That out going tide mixing with the side chop was really a test.I had to really concentrate to stay dry.
Downwind was a blast. I'll always remember Lilaoes advice "When downwinding do a zig zag course. You have alot more control and speed taking the swells etc on your quarter than directly astern.
Powerhouse this weekend???

John Ashley said...

Yeah Kiwi! Thanks- Funny going around the mark and then seeing you head almost straight south! When you're way out there you would think you should head directly for the south building but if you do you end up too far downwind (like me).... so much to learn from racing- thanks for the all the help!

John Ashley said...

Hey Jim... er Spiders bro... funny you should ask that... does that shape look strangely like an old school sailboard... I dunno, just sayin.

John Ashley said...

Hey Anons.

I wanted to go to 14' but Stamps can't fit a 14' board into his shape room... they look fun though and actually if I could afford it I'd go unlimited- I mean if you're going to go big why not go as big as possible?

But also, the 12'6 class is pretty large these days- so better chance for me to not come in last all the time!

Anonymous said...

Hey John,
Thanks for representing Futures, we are stoked for all your support. Check out the Futures SUP facebook page.
New 2012 fins are ready to test after BOP, I will get you samples for R&D.
See you this weekend, come by the booth

John Ashley said...

Hey Ryan-

Best, highest quality fins out there! Always excited for the fin box.... can't wait to see the new stuff for both surfing and racing... setting up a two week south baja trip, leaving in three days will be packing the full Futures surf fin range!!! Stoooked!!!