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.

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