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.
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