Sunday, June 18, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Series #4



Race: The fourth race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 18 June, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was very hot and humid, about 31 C, with a faint breeze from the east. The river was high and flowing strong due to two weeks of heavy rain. The current was 1 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The current was more intense in the narrow upriver part near the start/finish line, and less intense downriver at the bottom of the course.

Participants, Results and gear: Some people were missing, probably because of the Father's Day holiday, but most of the serious CGT race team folks were there, including venerable coach Mark Athanacio, who won. My best recollections of who rode what and how fast they were are in the list below. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
Mark Athanacio ** 14' SUP ** 21.5 Hovie GT ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:40
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:47
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:10
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:27
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:02

Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:22:12
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:00
Jen Hayes ** 12'6 SUP ** 22 Hovie GT ** 2.9 km ** 0:26:35
Steff Bichi ** 11' SUP ** 34 BodyGlove iSUP ** 2.9 km ** 0:42:27
Mark Payne ** 14' SUP ** 27 404 v3 ** ?? ** DNF

Play by play: During the week I discussed with Matt Kearney that we would both race 14' boards and he would try to stay in my draft as long as possible. He took CGT's 14x23 Starboard AllStar hybrid construction, which is a good match for my 14x23 Riviera RP. Justin, also on a fast 14x23 board, started in the same group as us. Matt sprinted pretty fast off the start and was parallel to me for a long time. I'm not sure if he was vying for the lead or just trying to draft in my "side wake". If I'd wanted to be a jerk I could have squeezed up against a dock or tree branch to force him to get behind me, but I didn't want to be a jerk, and I thought doing so might actually be dangerous with how fast the current was moving. Anyway, Matt got into the usual directly-behind-my-board drafting position after about 500 meters. Around that time I heard a "SPLASH" and thought he might have fallen in, but it turns out it was Justin, who had been right behind Matt until then.

On the way downriver I struggled to set an appropriate pace that was fast enough to get me a respectable time but easy enough that I wouldn't burn out prematurely. One thing I did differently than in the last CGT race was I never yielded the lead to Matt. If I was only competing against Matt then it would benefit me to make him pull some of the time while I rested in his draft, but since I'm also competing against Mark Athanacio for overall fastest time, it's better if I just keep the lead and go the fastest possible pace. Though Mark hadn't been in the starting line, I knew he'd be in the race because we passed him as he paddled from his house upriver to the start.

At the US 41 bridge at the bottom of the course I did a good, tight buoy turn near the bridge piling, and took a few sprint strokes to get back up to speed. The turn put a 3 board length gap on Matt. I didn't intentionally sprint to get away from Matt, but I kept a hard pace. Matt says he'd been having no trouble keeping pace when he was in my draft, but that once out of my draft it nearly killed him trying to get in again. Ultimately he had to give up, drop back, and recover. On the way upriver I tried to guess the fastest "line" to take to avoid the strong current and shallow water and to minimize the distance traveled. Since the water was high I didn't worry about shallow water spots too much, which helped me cut more corners than usual. I felt very hot, tired and out of breath, and tried to focus on taking efficient, effective strokes to save energy without slowing down. I was encouraged when I got to where I knew there were just 800 m left, and I increased my effort just a bit there, and at 400 m and 200 m from the finish line. I was super exhausted and overheated at the finish, but happy to approximately tie my personal best time for this race series. I still haven't come near Mark Athanacio's amazing 40:00 time from the first race of the series, but I was only 7 seconds behind him today, which suggests that I'm at least holding my ground. I don't think there were any technical or strategic things I could have done differently to go faster today, but generally improving my strength, conditioning, and stroke technique could help me gain a few more seconds in the future.

This is my GPS track from the race. You can see more details if you view it in Strava.


Sitting in the water after finishing I saw that Matt was the next over the line, but that he'd given up a lot of distance to Justin who nearly caught him in the end with a time that was 18 seconds faster than his race #3 time. Pretty impressive in these conditions. Devin Turetzkin also went faster this time on his 14x23 Riviera than he did on the 14x23 Starboard AllStar in race #3. Matt went slower than in race #3, probably because he burned himself out physically with the failed drafting moves and had trouble getting back in the mental groove after that. I think only when he heard Justin creeping up on him did his mind wake up to spur him faster again.

After the race we had good eats and socializing at CGT. There's a lot of buying and selling action on the board racks at CGT, with Mark Payne trading in his 14x27 404 v3 for a 14x24.5 StarBoard AllStar, and Devin Turetzkin talking about how amazingly fast he's going to be when he gets his five-finned 14x23 Infinity Blackfish in August. (CGT is an Infinity SUP dealer now.) One of our other local racer guys, Mark Hourigan, just got a 14x25 Blackfish that he seems to be in love with.

What's Next: I'm done teaching for the summer, but I have lots of research and writing to do. I have to try to do lots of impressive things in the next 6 months because I apply for promotion to associate professor in January, and it's definitely not a given that I'll get it. (Unfortunately I don't think I can list SUP racing as a work-related achievement in my portfolio.) Although the work will be hard, my schedule will be flexible, so I should have plenty of time for sup training, including getting to the gym, which I haven't been very consistent about since last summer.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SUP Race Report: 2017 Sunshine SUP race #1

**UPDATE- Somebody put together a video of the race with some cool drone footage. You see a little bit of me (guy with the pink backpack and the light blue board) at various points in the video**



Jen Hayes' facebook photo album from the race. Thanks for the pictures!


Race: The first of two races in the 2017 RK Sunshine SUP Series. The next one is August 12th.

Date it happened: 3 June 2017.

Host / Sponsors / Benefitting: Hosted by Island Water Sports, organized by racers Victoria Burgess and Roray Kam. Supported by lots of sponsors listed on the event facebook page.

Location: Pompano Beach, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. I carpooled over to Ft. Lauderdale the night before with my CGT Team buddy Matt, and we stayed with his college friend Oden.

Course: The course was multiple laps around a big triangle in the ocean. The first leg went straight out about 200 m, then we turned south for a long leg parallel to shore, then diagonally back to a buoy set near the start/finish line. At the end of each lap we had to come to shore for a short run through a little corral in the sand. Board handlers would flip your board around and hold it for you to jump back on as you re-entered the ocean. The total distance of a lap was ~1700 m. The shorter "rec" race went first, with three laps total, then they held the longer "elite" race with 5 laps.

Conditions: The morning started cloudy/hazy and hot, with light and variable wind and some ankle to knee high waves on the Atlantic. Those conditions persisted through the short race, and for the first two laps of the elite race. But halfway through the elite race the sky grew darker and a southeast wind picked up, progressively increasing to white-capping strength and beyond. The fast finishers avoided the worst of it, but those who were still on the water got hit by a deluge of rain along with the wind, and many were forced to abandon the race before completion. The weather curtailed the post-race beach festivities, although some took advantage of the wind waves by shredding in the rain on surf-style and race sups.

Participants and Gear: There were around 50 participants in the rec race and 40 in the elite race, along with some others at the beach for a concurrent kayak fishing tournament and crossfit obstacle course. In addition to the sups, the elite race included three prone paddlers and four "OC1"s (one-man outrigger canoes). Hotshot racers in the 14' sup division included Jake Portwood on a 25" wide JP Flatwater board, Jake Graham on a 24" wide Rogue, bodybuilder Josh Smart on a 26" wide recessed-deck NSP, and tall Christian Goerloff on a 25" wide ONE "Storm" sup, which is also a recessed-deck design like the NSP. I rode my usual 23" wide Riviera RP, with a 6" Fins Unlimited Keel fin. (Using this short fin in an ocean race was a departure from my usual strategy of using a bigger fin for rough water stability. The small fin makes the board easier to steer and may be helpful in side-winds when constant course adjustments are necessary.) Another noteworthy 14' racer was my CGT teammate Justin DiGiorgio, who brought his Mahi Mahi colored custom 14x24 Hovie GT. Hotshots in the 12'6 men's class included Steve Miller on a 24" wide Starboard AllStar, Packet Casey on a 24" wide JP Allwater, Mark Athanacio on a 23" wide Hovie GTO, and Matt Kearney on CGT's 24.5" wide StarBoard AllStar. Female hotshots included Maddie Miller (Steve's teenage daughter) on a 24" JP, Catherine Uden on a 26" Boga, and Karen Kennedy on an Indigo sup. In addition to racing, Cat Uden was representing the Surfrider marine environmental conservation organization, which provided recycling bins for the many plastic water bottles and aluminum drink containers generated at the event.

Results: For the 14' SUP class, Jake Portwood won decisively with 1:00:26, followed by Christian Goerloff's 1:01:51 and my 1:03:01. First place 12'6 finisher Steve Miller was between Christian and me with 1:02:25, far ahead of 2nd place 12'6 Packet Casey's 1:04:18 and Mark Athanacio's 1:05:57. Maddie Miller was first woman and 4th 12'6 overall with 1:10:08. Matt Kearney was 5th 12'6 overall in 1:13:04 but got the 3rd place men's title because Athanacio was in the 50+ class. Catherine Uden was 2nd woman in 1:15:17 and Karen Kennedy 3rd in 1:27:32. The rec race men's class was won by Max Kolisch in 0:37:38, with runner-up Jeff Berry at 0:40:06. Rec race women's winner was Mini de Cunha in 0:41:30, followed by Jen Hayes with 0:43:44. All the 1st-3rd finishers got wonderful, creative hand-painted trophies. Here's mine:



Play by play: Before the races started we were led in a Hawaiian blessing by one of the race organizers' native Hawaiian friends. During the blessing I got to hold hands with Catherine Uden on one side and Karen Kennedy on the other side, so I knew my luck for the day was strong.

While the rec race was going on I did some warm-up paddling just outside of the race area, and some dipping in the ocean to stay cool. I find that the warm-up paddling is helpful for getting psychologically in-tune with the conditions. Also while the rec race was going on I caught up with CGT team coach Mark Athanacio, who gave me tips on the current direction (southward) and race strategies. Mark said I probably wouldn't be able to keep up with Jake Portwood, but that I was good enough to beat Jake Graham and I had better do so. He told me to pay attention to what segments of the course I was doing relatively well on, and to strive to make gains on my competitors in those sections.

For the race start I lined up somewhat on the north end of the beach, heeding Mark's advice that the current would carry me southward, and avoiding traffic congestion at the south end of the line. I got off cleanly, sprinted pretty hard, and was fourth sup around the first buoy, after Jake P., Steve Miller, and Jake G. I was really impressed with how fast Steve Miller was going on his 12'6 board, and it took several hundred meters of paddling before I could finally edge around him and get into third position behind the Jakes. At the end of the first lap Jake P. was pulling out of range, but Jake G. was still catchable. I ended up drafting him intermittently on the second and third laps, but there was enough "bump" on the course that it was sometimes better to go alone in clean water than to try to follow. I also think that in that mid-race period Jake G. and I got too comfortable and conservative about our pacing and positions, and may have opened the door for those behind us (e.g., Christian Goerloff) to creep up. I particularly wish I been more aggressive about my buoy turns, because I did some of them in the slow and conservative "cross bow" style instead of the quicker "step-back" style. Also, I should have remembered from other races and training the importance of making a brief sprint effort after every turn or transition, to quickly get back up to race speed. Little things like that add up to a lot of time saved in a long race with many laps.

The southeast wind began to affect our speed in lap #3, where a speed difference between the southward and northward legs first became apparent. Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff seemed less affected by the wind than Jake G. and me, and they creeped up and passed us in lap 4. There was a bit of conflict when that happened, because Christian was drafting Steve, not realizing that Steve was on a 12'6. (You're not allowed to draft from a different sized board.) He stopped drafting when we let him know, but he was still able to go faster than Jake G. and me. It might have been smart for me to cut over and draft Christian at that point, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do so. My problems increased when I had a slow buoy turn on the 4th lap due a combination of overly-cautious technique and traffic with an OC1 and some slower sups that we were lapping. Jake G. was about 50 meters ahead and it looked like I might get stuck in 4th and miss the podium. Nevertheless, I tried to work the bumps of the ocean and not get any further behind Jake G. as I worked my way downwind and into the final beach transition.

Looking out to sea again after the last little beach run I was shocked to see how much the wind had suddenly increased. Fatigued and paddling almost straight upwind, I was only getting 5.1 kph for the 200 m out to the first buoy. When we rounded that buoy the mostly-headwind turned into mostly-sidewind. But there I discovered that even though I was slow, I was making a little better progress than Jake G., and I caught up. He made some remark about how sucky the conditions were and I responded by passing him and digging hard, a little lightbulb going off in my mind that this could be the opportunity Athanacio had alluded to for me to put distance on the competition. Psychologically, I found it more motivating to battle the conditions than to battle Jake, but by focusing intently on the conditions and my paddle technique I put a good gap on him before the upwind buoy. Then it was a dicey slightly-downwind sidewind run to the finish. I had one scare where I fell and had to hop back on quickly, but Jake G. was far enough back that he didn't catch me then. I could see Steve Miller and Christian Goerloff up ahead, but they were doing great in those rough conditions and continuing to increase their gap on me. My goal was only to not screw up, and to get that third place. I had a shakey wave ride around the last buoy into the finish, but miraculously avoided falling and ran through the finish gate pretty happy.

Here's water photographer Ryan Pinder's pic of me about the jump off the board at the finish.


Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to go into Strava to see the details.


Other race intrigues: There was a lot of drama watching people come in to the finish as the conditions got progressively worse. Some of the kayak fishermen returning to shore for the weigh-in had spectacular crashes in the waves, spilling and busting their fishing rods, heavy buckets and tackle boxes etc. There ought to be some kind of weight limit for those kayak fishermen, because it's pretty ridiculous how non-portable their boats are. They had to have a backhoe on the beach to drag some of the kayaks back to the parking lot, where they were winched onto trailers. In my opinion, if it's too big to lift onto the roof rack, you're doing it wrong.

What's Next: Next weekend there are two big races on Saturday, the Orange Bowl SUP race in Miami, and the Battle on the Blueway race in Fort Myers. I'm going to the Battle on the Blueway because it's local, cheaper, and I know a lot of people involved in organizing it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Starboard Race SUP Test- 12'6x24.5, 14x24.5, 14x23



The Bonita Springs paddle shop that sponsors our SUP race team, CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, sells a couple different brands of paddleboards, including StarBoard. Not all of us on the team race the StarBoards (I ride a Riviera and some others use Hovies), but we're all curious about the pretty blue and red StarBoards and how they perform. Justin DiGiorgio had the idea to do a board test of the three different models of StarBoard AllStar that CGT currently has on the for sale / for demo rack: a 12'6x24.5 and 14'x24.5 in carbon construction, and a 14'x23 in the cheaper "hybrid" construction. The AllStars are all designed to work for both rough water and flatwater racing, with the different lengths and widths intended to suit different weights and styles of rider.

The format of the test was one we have used previously- 2x400m with a 30 second rest between them to turn around. The first 400m was downriver, and the second upriver, to cancel out any effects of current. The total paddling time of each trial was about 5 minutes. The testers were Justin (91 kg), Matt Kearney (64 kg), and me (77 kg), and we each tried each board once with long rests in between. We did the timing and distance tracking with my Speedcoach SUP 2 GPS. These are the results:



All of us were fastest on the 14x23 AllStar, slowest on the 12'6x24.5 AllStar, and intermediate in speed on the 14x24.5 AllStar. That is exactly what we would have expected because longer, narrower boards are inherently faster, at least in flatwater conditions where stability is not a limiting factor. What was interesting was how the board dimensions had more or less effect on our speed based on our body weight. As the medium weight guy, I was about equally advantaged by the 1.5" narrower board (+0.36 kph) and disadvantaged by the 1.5' shorter board (-0.33 kph). For lightweight Matt there was less of a 12'6 penalty (-0.22 kph), but unexpectedly there was also less of a narrowness advantage (+0.11 kph). Perhaps the slightly heavier weight or different flex pattern of the 14x23 "hybrid" construction board vs. the 14x24.5 carbon construction board was more of an issue for Matt. Heavyweight Justin had the greatest disadvantage on the 12'6 (-0.47 kph), but benefited from narrow width about the same amount as I did (+0.33 kph). However, for Justin we predict that the narrow width benefit would be lost quickly in rougher water due to more difficulty staying on the board.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

SUP Race Report: CGT Spring Series Race #3



Race: The third race in the CGT Spring Series.

Date it happened: 28 May, 2017.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: It was hot and humid, with little wind. The river current was 0.55 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. The water level was a little lower than average.

Participants, Results and gear: There was a good crew of local racers, including some new and rarely seen paddlers. Here's our times. Official results may be posted at some point on the CGT Time Trials page.

Racer ** Board Class ** Board Width and Model ** Course ** Time
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:41:05
Matt Kearney ** 14' SUP ** 24.5 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:43:00
Justin DiGiorgio ** 14' SUP ** 23 Hovie Flatwater ** 6.4 km ** 0:44:45
Devin Turetzkin ** 14' SUP ** 23 Starboard AllStar ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:31
Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75 Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:45
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 25 Riviera RP ** 6.4 ** 0:48:56
Jared Hamilton ** 14' SUP ** 24 Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 ** 0:51:49
Steve Fleming ** 12'6 SUP ** 24 Naish Maliko ** 6.4 ** 0:52:24
John Driver ** 14' SUP ** 26 Naish Javelin ** 6.4 ** 1:01:35
Donna Montgomery ** 10' SUP ** 32 Naish Surf ** 6.4 ** 1:07:48
Patrick Scheele ** 9'4 SUP ** 33 Fanatic Viper ** 2.9 km 0:28:30
Allison Denuzio ** 10'6 SUP ** 33 Riviera Convoy ** 2.9 km 0:29:01
Patricia ** 11' SUP ** Bote Touring ** 2.9 km 0:34:21

Play by play: I thought I might actually have the day off from racing this day because CGT race team manager Nick Paeno was mulling the idea of racing himself and having me do the timing for this round. But the shop was too busy for him to be away on the water for that long, so he did his usual timing thing and I did my usual racing thing. The first group to start was Patrick Scheele and his girlfriend Allison Denuzio. They looked to be pretty evenly matched in speed and board type. I started in the second group with Matt, Devin, and Bryan. I made a big sprint effort to get out in front, and Matt locked into my draft on CGT's 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar. Devin didn't quite make it into our draft; he may have been tired from doing a Lover's Key rounding yesterday. I didn't do anything special on the way downriver, other than paddle at a pretty hard race pace. 1.6 km into the race I was feeling hot and tired, and Matt was still right on my draft. I decided to slow down and let him around so that he could pull me for a while. I drafted him for 800 meters, at a pace that was about 0.5 kph slower than what I'd been going. Then I passed and started pulling again. Matt stuck with me through the turn-around at the US 41 bridge, and for the first part of the upriver leg. I couldn't decide whether to make him pull again or to just paddle hard and hope he would fall behind. Eventually the decision was made for me, when he fell behind. As soon as he was no longer "in the race" he started slacking off and quickly fell pretty far behind. I knew I'd have first place at that point, but I tried to still keep up a good pace, watching the average speed readout on my Speedcoach SUP 2 GPS and trying not to let it drop below 9.something kph. I kicked it up a little in the final 800 m and again in the final 400 m, and sprinted across the finish line when I saw coach Mark Athanacio hanging out there. My time of 41:05 was a little disappointing, about 20 seconds slower than I was in races 1 and 2, and far short of Athanacio's record time of 40:00. I could maybe blame it on doing hard double workouts on Friday, and formula windsurfing yesterday, and being a little slower during the time I was drafting Matt, but mainly I think I just need more intense focus and better pacing to set a new personal best time.

This is my GPS track from the race.


After the race we had good eats and socializing at CGT. Several of us are selling used raceboards and trying to interest the newer racers Donna Montgomery, Allison, and Patrick in buying them. The nice thing about the raceboards at CGT is that they have lots of different kinds and they're all available to demo on the river before you buy them.

What's Next: I have a busy week of teaching a summer field studies in marine science class, then I may go to the Sunshine SUP race #1 next weekend in Fort Lauderdale. The following weekend is the Battle on the Blueway in Fort Myers, which I'll definitely go to.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bump & jump windsurf session with some duck jibes

This year seems to have been windier than last year, with the wind lasting later into the warm season. This video was taken on a day that it was blowing about 20 knots, and I was on a 5.5 sail with a 106 liter board. I actually made some duck jibes in this one, but they weren't too pretty. I think I need to work on my sail flip movements and timing.

Surprise Wind 5-21-17 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SUP Race Report: Sup & Run 5k

Men's winner Brad Ward with his new 14x25 Sunova dugout board.


Matt Kearney's track as recorded by his GPS watch. Total distance 10.1 km


Me and Matt Kearney posing with our boards after the race


Race: The 3rd annual 5k SUP & Run

Date it happened: 20 May 2017

Host: The Sarasota Athletic Association, led by Felicia Cox. The event was a benefit for Operation Second Chance, which is an organization supporting wounded military veterans.

Location: Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota, FL. The park is built around a big artificial lake, which is set up with buoys, breakwaters, bleachers etc. to facilitate various rowing and paddling events. There are also paved running / biking paths around the perimeter of the lake. This is the same place where Seychelle Hattingh and Robert Norman set their 24 hour sup distance world records.

Distance: The main event was a 5 km run leading into a 5 km SUP race. They also offered the run and the sup "a la carte" for those who just wanted to do one or the other. I did the combo. This year they had us run through the timing gate three times (once at the start, once finishing the run, and once finishing the paddle) which allowed them to report our run times and paddle times separately. Very cool.

Conditions: The weather was sunny, warm and humid, with a SE wind in the 5-10 knot range. The lake surface had some light ripples.

Participants and Gear: This event has grown every year since its inception, and had 599 total participants this year. Many just did the run or the sup, but 100 did both. There might have been greater numbers of elite sup racers were this race not on the same day as the Florida Cup sup race in Tampa. The sup+run winners from last year, Brad Ward and Katherine Pyne, both returned, but with different boards. Brad recently got sponsored by Sunova boards, and was on their 14x25 flatwater model. It's an unmistakably unique SUP with a wood finish, neon green nose, deep dug-out standing area, and scale-like protrusions over the one-way valves that drain water out of the standing area. Brad let me try it after the race and it felt pretty fast and extremely stable. Katherine was on a 12'6 Bark Contender. Other multi-sport talented competitors who returned this year included Jason Casuga on a sleek 14x26.4 Bark D2, Brandon Taaffe on a 14x25 Riviera RP, and my CGT teammate Matt Kearney on his 14x24 404 v3. I used my usual 14x23 Riviera RP. There was a wide diversity of sup gear among the other competitors, from full carbon Hovie Comets to clunky, beginner-style rental boards. There were also some interesting modified sups and paddles for people with disabilities, and some high-tech racing wheelchairs for the run portion.

Results: Brad Ward won the men's division again this year, with 54:54 total (21:04 run, 33:50 sup). I was second with 57:19 (22:46 run, 34:34 sup), Jason Casuga was third with 58:40 (23:19 run, 35:20 sup), Matt Kearney was fourth with 1:00:23.4 (22:39 run, 37:45 sup), just ahead of Brandon Taaffe 1:00:48 (20:31 run, 40:17 sup). It was Matt's personal best 5k time. Katherine Pyne again won the women's in 1:02:07 (22:50 run, 39:18 sup). The next fastest female was Amber Crowley, who won the masters' division with 1:14:12 (25:16 run, 48:56 sup). It was interesting that there were some people who went MINUTES faster in the run than the overall sup+run winners, but didn't place particularly well because their sup times were over par. For example, 17 year old Dylan Hull ran a blistering 18:38, but took 46:14 to complete the sup.



Play by play: Since the race started at 8 am, I had to get up at 4:30 am to pack and drive to Sarasota. It's probably better to get more sleep before a race, but I don't think it made a huge difference. While setting up my stuff at the event site I had a scare when my board disappeared off the beach. Somebody had mistaken it for a rental board (I don't know how; it didn't look anything like the rental boards), separated it from my paddle, taken it for a spin, and deposited it at the far end of the beach. Fortunately I found it and sorted things out. The only damage was a minor nick in the fin where the dude had set it on the rocky ground without the appropriate tenderness. I'm going to put a sticker with my name on it on the board to avoid future confusion.

The running portion of the race was first. A few minutes before the start they corralled us behind the inflatable timing gate, gave us some last minute instructions, and two young women sang the Star Spangled Banner beautifully. The start happened, as advertised, at exactly 8 am. I was fairly near the gate, but still found myself in a traffic jam, unable to move until the layers of people ahead of me got moving. It was OK, though, because the timing chip corrected for when I passed through the start gate, which was about 10 seconds after the gun went off. Somewhere in that traffic Matt Kearney busted out ahead of me. I knew from our practice runs that we were similar speed on foot, so I tried to keep him at the same range as we proceeded along the path. Katherine Pyne seemed to be our speed, as well, so she was another good landmark. I passed Jason Casuga, who I think was pacing himself to save energy for the sup. (Last year Jason beat Matt and I in the run.) I felt OK until halfway through the run, at which point my inadequate running training manifested as increasing difficulty matching Matt and Katherine's pace. My feet and calves felt weird, and I alternated between toe-first and heel-first running styles trying to figure out which gave the most speed with the least effort. With about 500 m left I started to slip behind, but I wasn't more than about 10 seconds behind Matt at the end of the run.

The run transitioned directly into the sup; no break. I hustled to the water's edge, pulled off my shoes and socks, and hopped on the board with a running start. I think I did that part better than last year, although in some video that Matt's parent's took you can see that I bobble awkwardly on my third stroke, still finding my sea legs. Since I was close behind Matt and Katherine, and I paddle a little faster than them, it didn't take me long to pass them. Then it was just a long grind to get around the lake. I could see Brad Ward far ahead but I knew I'd never catch him. I was more concerned with whether or not I could catch the fast runner / slow paddler guys before the end of the race. I was worried that some of them might have practiced their paddling since last year and become a lot harder to catch. With some relief, I got up to Brandon Taaffe before the mid-point of the sup circuit, which was earlier than I'd caught up to him the previous year.

I made a big mistake on the short side of the rectangular lake, though, when I paddled most of the way straight across, into the wind and the sun glare, before realizing that the buoy was actually about 100 meters north of where I thought it was. (You can see the diagonal on Matt's GPS track.) As a result I ended up paddling an elbow instead of a shorter diagonal, probably adding 20 or 30 seconds to my time. Oh, well. The second half of the paddle had more favorable winds, and I got in a good rhythm, putting more distance on Jason and Matt. Brad Ward was finishing just as I rounded the final corner of the lake. I tried to keep good speed all the way to the beach. For some reason I decided to carry my board with me with me as I ran through the finish line. Maybe I was feeling possessive of it after that pre-race incident.

Overall, I felt pretty good about the race and my result, despite some regret over my navigational error and unnecessary board carry. I'd like to do some more running cross-training to see if it can help me with my SUP, and to see how much faster I can get. Many professional sup athletes like Annabelle Anderson and Michael Booth incorporate a lot of running in their training, and I think it might help their "pep," endurance, and leg strength for rough water. I sure feel "worked out" today after that race yesterday (plus a sweet 20 knot wind windsurfing session when I got home in the afternoon).

Other race intrigues: It was excitingly close between Jason Casuga, Matt Kearney, Katherine Pyne, Brandon Taaffe, and Dave Thorne. Matt didn't pass Brandon Taaffe until the very last ~200 m of the race, making for a nail-biting finish. After the race there was a nice, festive atmosphere with a good MC doing the awards, good free food, and some inspiring words spoken recognizing the brave, wounded veterans who are the focus of Operation Second Chance.

What's Next: The CGT Race Series next local race is coming up May 28th in Bonita Springs. Next big race is also relatively local, the Battle on the Blueway June 10th at Fort Myers Beach.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

SUP Race Report: Noodles SUP Luau Race

Mark Athanacio and Jesse DaSilva with the best sprint starts.


Race: The 8th Annual SUP Luau Race, sponsored by Noodles Italian Cafe & Sushi Bar, Beach Box Cafe, and B3 Marketing LLC. Benefitting Collier County Special Olympics.

Date it happened: 7 May 2017

Location: In the Gulf of Mexico at Vanderbilt Beach, Naples, FL.

Distance: The competitive race was approximately 5.3 km, but I don't know the exact distance because I forgot to start my GPS tracker. The race was 6 laps around a triangular course, with two buoys offshore and one in the surf zone. That inside buoy provided a good challenge for the competitors and drama for the spectators. After the competitive race there was also a short "family fun" race and a race for the Special Olympics athletes.

Conditions: There was a light side-offshore wind from the NE, and some knee to thigh high swell breaking near the steep sandy beach. For those who weren't used to the rolling ocean conditions, balance was a major challenge, and there were several "retirements" before the race was over.

Participants and Gear: There was a big crowd for the family fun race, and there were quite a few Special Olympians, as well. The competitive race was a smaller group (17 people), but it included experienced studs Mark Athanacio and Packet Casey, among race-savvy competitors from the CGT tribe and Naples Outfitters. There were no divisions by board size, so most people used 14' boards if they had them. I used my 14x23 Riviera RP, with an 18 cm "Natural Winner" fin that I stole off of one of CGT's Starboard AllStar boards. I've previously raced with some fins that I thought were too big or too small for rough water, but this green one seemed like a good compromise.

The Goldilocks fin? I might look for an aftermarket fin that has similar specs, such as the Fins Unlimited 7.3" Seagrass SUP fin.


Mark Athanacio used his salmon colored 14x23.5 Hovie GTO, and Packet Casey used a 14x23 JP Flatwater that looked tippy (although it's the same board model that Vinnicius Martins recently won the Key West Classic on). Hal Atzingen used a 14x25 Infinity Blackfish with a 4-fin setup (3 at the tail and one little one towards the bow). Lots of people were drooling over that board. I tried it and was impressed with the stability but thought it might be faster with just a single fin. Matt Kearney used a 14x24 404 v3. Justin DiGiorgio used his Mahi Mahi colored 14x24 Hovie GT. Mark Hourigan used the same model of Riviera as me but with a Futures RedFish fin. John Weinberg used the 14x25 Riviera. CGT team manager Nick Paeno made a rare appearance on the race course with one of the shop's 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar boards. Meg Bosi used a 12'6 Bark Contender, and Donna Catron used a 12'6 Bark Vapor. Cindy Gibson volunteered at the registration booth but had to skip the racing due to a serious muscle injury she sustained while winning her division in the Key West Classic.

Results: Since this was a low-key local race focused mostly on the recreational paddlers and Special Olympics athletes, I don't think they are going to post our times. They did keep track of who got what place, though. I got first, followed by Packet Casey and Mark Athanacio. I think the next two finishers were Matt Kearney and Justin DiGiorgio, who rode in on the same wave but varied in how gracefully they dismounted and ran up the beach. Meg Bosi was the first female. If they'd had age divisions, Athanacio would have won the 50+ division by a wide margin.

Play by play: No buoys were set up yet when we got to the beach, so there was a lot of speculation on what the course would be like while we paddled around and warmed up. Initially we thought there would be running up the sand and around a cone or something between laps, but it was decided instead to just have us go around a buoy near the shore. That turned out to be challenging enough, since the buoy was flanked by breaking wave zones. We also weren't sure how long each lap of the course would be and how many laps there would be, but after we saw where the outside buoys were placed (pretty close in) we collectively decided that 6 laps would be the right amount. I'm glad we didn't do more because some of us had trouble counting to 6. It starts to feel like Groundhog Day after about the third lap. The direction of the course was counterclockwise such that each buoy turn was a left turn, advantaging "regular footed" paddlers, like me, for whom left turns are easier.

The start was the standard type of beach start, and I was lucky to get out relatively cleanly from the favored end of the line. Athanacio got the best start, and dreadlocked Jesse from Naples Outfitters also had a fast starting sprint on his 12'6 custom 404. Packet Casey didn't have as great an initial position, but subsequently sprinted fast and took an outside line to get ahead of me and Jesse. I had a little trouble with Jesse's wake, but I think I passed him before we got to the first buoy. I don't think I caught all the way up to Packet on the first lap, but I stayed pretty close behind him, and he stayed pretty close behind Athanacio. Each of the three legs of a lap had a slightly different character. The first was a bit upwind, and a diagonal angle to swells. The second was vaguely downwind, but the wind was too light to make a noticeable difference. The third leg was straight in to shore, and that's where it paid to time your paddling with the swells to get some boosts of speed on the way to the inside turn. I think the third leg is where I closed some distance on Packet and Athanacio.

My first inside buoy turn was decent, and got me in a position where I could catch up to and draft Packet for a while on the second lap. In flat water I probably wouldn't be able to catch Packet on his 14x23 JP Flatwater, but he had just enough instability wobbles in these conditions that my slightly-more-stable 14x23 Riviera RP was faster on average. Athanacio was still out ahead at that point, but at the end of the second lap he fell on the inside buoy, which had drifted impossibly close to shore. I was also forced off the board at that point, but corrected course and jumped back on without much fuss.

The messy turn after the inside buoy drifted to shore.


The details of the rest of the race start to get fuzzy in my head, but I remember that in subsequent laps I continued a routine of drafting Packet when possible, and trying hard not to fall off at the buoys. Sometimes I did "real" step-back turns, while other times, particularly if I was in the lead, I did less risky cross-bow or arc turns. The inside buoy got both Packet and Athanacio at least once more, which shuffled things around such that each of us spent some time in the lead. We started to lap the slower paddlers, which created a bit of traffic problems, but nothing too serious.

Going into the last lap I had the lead, and tried to pick up the pace slightly to reduce the chances that Packet or Athanacio would pass. Packet later told me that he'd been planning to do a big sprint around me during the last lap. I knew that plan didn't work out for him when I heard him splash into the water behind me halfway through the last lap. I picked up the pace a little more to make sure I had a safe gap and had used up most of my energy by the finish. I managed not to fall on the last leg, and rode a wave ungracefully up onto the sand at the finish line, putting some scuff marks on the nose of my board.

I'd barely had time to lay my board down in the sand before Packet finished, and Mark was just a few moments behind him. The three of us fussed with each other a little over who'd had the better luck with the buoys, whether we had actually done the correct number of laps, etc. I wished I had managed to start my speedcoach GPS properly so I could retrace each lap. Fortunately, Packet's memory of what happened each lap was really clear, and established that we had indeed done all six. Anyway, I was happy to have done well in the interesting, open-water conditions at this race, and to have finished alongside two of Florida's original SUP racing badasses. Athanacio is now 52, and Packet is 40-something, but both continue to punch well above their weight in the Florida SUP circuit.

After the competitive race was over, it was delightful to watch the huge mob of inexperienced but majorly-stoked racers in the family fun race. Some were really charging, some were thwarted by the waves and barely making headway, but all showed admirable determination. I think that a large volume of low-key amateur participation is a good sign of a healthy sport.

The Special Olympics race was also fun to watch, though it was tense watching the challenged athletes face bigger waves than most had ever paddled in before. Miraculously, they pulled through, and a few even managed to surf their waves back into shore as they returned from their short run out to the buoy. Woo hoo!

Family fun racers and some Special Olympians prepare for combat.


What's Next: Next up is more training, working on rough water and race skills, and getting read for the Florida Cup race later this month. Nick Paeno and John Weinberg, who opted to retire early from this race after falling a lot due to lack of practice in bumpy water, are keen to get some more rough water practice, and coach Athanacio has a new combination paddle-run workout that he has recommended we all try.