Friday, November 18, 2011

COOL Weather Paddling

Thanksgiving is next week.  Some of the Tahoe area resorts are already open for the Winter season.  Snow in the Sierra means rain on the coast, and lots of it.  Does this mean that we are supposed to pack up our boards until Spring?  Let's face it, it just doesn't really get that cold here so why not paddle all year long?  Ocean temps don't fluctuate that much and on a sunny Winter day, it can be pretty nice.  In fact, I would say that Winter is better than Spring for standup paddling.  Spring brings allergies and lots of wind, and who needs that?

So get on the right clothing and get out there and paddle.  I can't wait to paddle on the river or the bay during a nice hard rainstorm.  Electrical storms are pretty rare, so the only concern is staying warm.  I'm going to wear my farmer john wetsuit, a thermal top, waterproof shell, booties, gloves and waterproof hat and I think that will be enough.  I'll be sure to pack an extra shirt in my drybag.  If the rain stops or I get too hot I can always shed a layer and put it in the bag.

The forecast calls for rain this weekend.  Let's pray for rain!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Technique Tip: Loose Grip

I took the board out into Tomales Bay this afternoon.  Afternoons near the mouth of Tomales Bay can be windy, even in the Fall.  The wind is blowing on-shore and gets funneled down the bay due to the hills on the east side and Inverness Ridge on Pt. Reyes side.  It wasn't terribly windy though so I left from Miller Park and headed northwest into the wind toward Walker Creek.  It was quite rough so I had to pay attention to keep the board perpendicular to the incoming wind chop.  Needless to say, driving my large frame (6'5" 230) into the wind takes a lot of effort so I was really happy to reach my turnaround point and start heading back downwind.  My back and shoulders were starting to get sore now so I just let the board glide on the little bumps.  Going with the wind (following sea) is an incredible amount of fun.  You don't even have to paddle very hard at all to go really fast.  That's exactly what I did.  I just kept my knees bent, shortened my paddle a little and just paddled very gently using a slightly open hand on the grip and just my thumb and first two fingers on my shaft hand.  The burning in my shoulders went away.

During my baseball and softball days, if I gripped the bat too tightly, I could not drive the ball.  If I kept a loose grip (especially with my top hand) and extended my arms, I always got a good pop on the ball.  Tight hands lead to tight forearms, tight shoulders and a stiff neck and back.  I think the same dynamics are at work here.  A grip that is too tight, can rob you of power, shorten your reach, and lead to fatigue and maybe even injury. 

So, keep a loose grip on the paddle to lengthen your stroke and drive the paddle with your torso.  There are so many wonderful things to learn.  Another thing I learned today is "don't give up".  I got a little sideways to the swell when I wasn't paying attention. I felt myself lean wayyyyy to the left, I think the left half of the board was completely submerged, I then started falling back and then back half of the board was sunk!  It was like a pivot turn without the turn.  I fell forward onto my knees, just barely saving it.  I wouldn't have minded the fall mind you, as I was wearing my wetsuit but like Laird says "Don't fall until you FALL".  Good advice.  I just sat there on my knees laughing and looking at the seals popping their heads up front of me.  One looked like he was shaking his head saying "what a newb".

Note:  In the map below, Miller Park parking lot is adjacent to Nicks Cove.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Battle of the Bay SUP Race & Expo

What a great way to start a blog!  This event took place at McNear's Beach on San Pablo Bay, Marin County CA on Saturday October 29th.  The weather is generally perfect this time of year.  If you are from this area, you know what I'm talking about.  Days are generally warm, skies are sunny and winds are gone.  The race organizers could not have designed a better day to be on the water.

I signed up for the Surfboard Division race at the last minute just to see what the racing scene is all about.  I've only been paddling for two months and just starting to feeling comfortable (like I'm not on the verge of falling all the time).  When I pulled into McNear's, the ranger working about the booth said "Are you racing today?".  I replied "Yeah, I'm not scared."  He laughed a bit and said "I'm not scared; I like that!  Good luck man."  So, that's how it started.  Just a little bit of experience and a lot of enthusiasm and here I am about to race!

Pulling into the parking area I was a shocked to see so many cars.  This was a bigger deal than I thought it would be.  I've done a couple of triathlons at this same venue and it looked a lot like that.  I had to park a distance away in the overflow parking.  I carried my gear up the beach and checked in and received my timing chip.  I still had a couple of hours before my race so I checked out the other races and watched the pros.  The great thing about this sport is you can race in multiple races per day.  They make it easy to race as there are so many different divisions.  I want to learn more about this and cover it in a later post but the divisions are based on board type and length.  Compared to triathlon, this is a very spectator-friendly sport as all of the action happens right in front of you.  As a participant, you can also watch the other races and have plenty of time to check out the expo.

My race was scheduled for 1:00 pm so everyone gathered around the finishing area for the pre-race meeting to go over the rules and the course.  Luckily, the Surf Division course was very short and easy to figure out.  It was a water start with everyone in about knee-deep water, only hands and paddle touching the board.  Next thing I hear is the official saying "One minute!".  I gulped and then the horn went off.  I pushed the board way out and hopped up on my knees and started paddling.  Boards and paddles were crashing and water was really churned up.  It looked like everyone had their position before the first buoy.  I was pretty relieved that I did not crash into anyone and did not fall!  My buoy turns were pretty slow but okay.  I did a sweeping turn rather than a pivot turn as I was afraid of falling!  Don't fall!  By the time I rounded the last buoy, my throat was parched and my shoulders were burning.  I coasted to the finished and ripped my leash off and ran over the timing mat.  I came in 12th out of 15 among the men.  Yes, back-of-the-pack but part of the pack.
After the pressure of racing was over, I had a good time paddling around and also checking out some of the vendors.  Of course, my local shop Clavey Paddlesports was there.  We're so lucky to have them in town.  Their shop is only a block from the Petaluma River.  They have a great selection of gear, lots of local knowledge and they are passionate about paddling.  It was also really nice to see and meet a few of the pros.  In particular, Dan Gavere and Chuck Patterson.  Both of these guys are world-class waterman so it was a real treat to see them race.  Chuck got first place in the "Kahuna" Division which is for men over 200 pounds on a 12'6" board.  If you are new to the sport of SUP you must get the Dan Gavere's video, The Ultimate Guide to Standup Paddling.  I got it for my birthday this month and have watched it 20+ times already.  It is excellent.  I picked up quite a few tips and learned how to correct a couple of things I was doing wrong.  I highly recommend this DVD and will do a full review of it in a later post. 

That's all for now!  I really love this sport, don't you?  To try it is to love it.