Wednesday 10 July 2013

Eastern Canadian SUP Championships 2013 Recap

Well, once again it was the downwinder that wasn’t, but conditions were better than last year and it was a hard, well-contested race.

After a week of stellar southwest downwind conditions allowing for some great, clean and fast runs from Oakville to Port Credit, followed by another week of amazing northeast winds resulting in ocean quality downwind runs from Port Credit to Oakville, the wind decided to die a few days before the race which was held on Saturday, July 6, 2013.  Despite some hopeful forecasts, race day dawned with a light southwest wind which provided little relief from temperatures in the low 30s Celsius with high humidity, and little in that way of useful bumps.  You know it must have been hot on the water when John Beausang steps off his board at the finish and says, “Time to go back to Carolina for some cool weather”.  While the small bumps created by the wind made paddling much more enjoyable than last year’s headwind, they were pretty soft and mushy and although they helped you go a little faster they were never the type that allow you to rest for a few strokes.  The result was a long, hard race in some oppressive heat.

Derek Schrotter of Paddle Sport Performance, puts on a really good event and thinks of all the little details.  Despite that he hasn’t found a way to control the weather yet.  It seemed cruelly ironic that less than 24 hours after the end of the race I was back out on the course on Sunday in the best southwest downwind conditions we’ve seen here this year.

While conditions can play a big part in the success of a race, they alone don’t determine it.  Derek is the type of guy who takes thorough care of logistics and runs a really well organized event.  That’s one huge factor in making a race successful.  Another is the quality of the field the race attracts.  This year we were lucky to have Dan Gavere racing, as well as the top Midwest paddler, Tony Paul of Michigan.  With the continuing improvement of local paddlers and the debut at this level of Jesse Kahonwakenra Rice of Kahnawake, Quebec, the men’s field was quite strong.  On the women’s side, the field was strong as well with local girls like Ariel Amaral paddling faster this year than ever and Lina Augaitis of Vancouver back to defend her title.

The race started later in the morning at 1130 a.m. in hopes that the wind might build a bit with the later start.  As we left Oakville Harbour and turned towards Toronto, it became clear pretty quickly that the wind wasn’t going to give us a great push and it was going to be a long race.  It was extremely hot and the air very humid.  Within minutes I was dripping with sweat and within ten I was taking my first sip of water.   One hour and 33 minutes and about 15 ½ km later it was over and I was happy to get on land and start chugging a big bottle of Recoverite.

I managed to win the race, paddling most of the way alone, by about 4 minutes over Dan who edged out Brent Schmidt from Ottawa on his draft.  Brent was followed maybe a minute later by Jesse and then Tony maybe a minute after that to round out the top five.  On the women’s side, Lina demolished the field and knocked an incredible 20 minutes off her time from last year.  While some of that marked improvement can be chalked up to more favorable conditions, most of it is simply due to her being a lot faster this year.  She’s definitely the fastest woman I’ve raced against this year other than Annabel Anderson who is just at an entirely different level, and it would have been cool to see her do a race like this one against Annabel to see exactly where she stands.  I know Lina is off this week to Hawaii to do a few races, including Molokai to Oahu.  I’m not sure what her skills are like in that kind of big, open ocean water, but in relatively flat water I think she’ll surprise some of the top women on the circuit.

Overall I’m fairly pleased with my race as it indicates that training has been effective and on track.  One of the things I’ve been working on is going out really hard like you need to do at a race like the BOP, albeit here without having to paddle out through surf.  My GPS says I traveled between 5:15 to 5:35/km for the first 1500m before settling into a pace around 6:00/km.  These are paces I’m pretty pleased with and are faster than I could have maintained last year or earlier this year at the Carolina Cup.   I’m also pleased that although it was a hard quality effort I was comfortable enough through the entire race that I never felt in danger of dying or not being able to finish strong.

What was the highlight of the weekend?  Well, it wasn’t actually the race but having John Beausang and Greg Lew from Carolina come up and stay at my place, along with my former club and Olympic teammate Jack Chubaty.  I’ve mentioned before how amazing people have been to me in more than 35 years of crisscrossing the globe for one type of paddling or another.  Rarely have I had a chance to return the goodwill extended to me as it appears that paddlers just don’t seem to have any reason to come here very often.  When they do I enjoy having an opportunity to extend some of the hospitality that I experienced in my travels.  We had a ton of fun and a great time post race having food and a few beers with the local SUP crew here. 

Thanks again to Derek for yet another great event!  Derek does most of what he does alone and still always manages to put on a great race.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.