A bit after the fact but here is the race report from US Surf Ski Champs. I have always had difficulties with deadlines.
Race Day ended up being pretty nice, weather wise. Winds weren’t as strong as they had been earlier in the week and the 1:00 – 1:45 start window was pushed to the latest point to allow for shipping traffic and the wind to build.
The start was from a horseshoe shaped bay at Fort Baker with a right hand turn immediately after leaving. I was following words of wisdom from Tuesday Night Race video guy and former bike racer, Jim Moore, “inside is suicide” So I stayed wide and witnessed the carnage in the corner.
In my small pond of Deep Cove there will be 5 – 10 people ahead of me, here in SF with the Big Fish, there were 60 people ahead of me.
In my mind I had broken the race into 4 sections. 1. Fort Baker to Point Bonita, 2. Point Bonita to the Fenn Hot Spot at Fort Baker, 3. Fort Baker to Point Blunt on the east side of Angel island, 4. Angel Island to Berkely.
We pounded into the wind and waves and made our way to the Point Bonita Buoy. Many paddlers took a wide route to maximize the outflowing current.
As we left the confines of the harbour the seas picked up. Apparently the period between swells was 18 seconds which is substantial. At one point I was on top of a wave, which was on top of a swell. I was gazing down over an expansive valley which seemed to be 300 metres in width. Here I was changing positions with Warren Bruce and a couple of other guys. Daryl R. Ken S. Shane M and Gareth were working hard and pulling away. Falling into my evil plan.
My strategy was to take it easy to the buoy and then to maximize the surfing from the following seas on the way back. This proved not to work out so well. In the 2 section, seas were confused and we were fighting a 1 knot current. Swell was running left to right pushing into the middle of the channel. So you had to work hard to catch waves….harder than I wanted to work at this stage.
Approaching the last side bay before the Golden Gate Bridge, most of the pack decided to follow the shoreline to stay out of the current. Matt Kelly had pulled ahead of me at this point and I decided to take a chance and cut the corner. At last years race we visited The Bay Model, which is a scale model of the entire SF Bay. We had learned that there wasn’t much of a back eddy on the flood tide, so I figured the same would be true and the ebb. This proved to be true as I didn’t lose much speed and I was able to close the gap on Matt.
After rounding the corner of the GG Bridge footing, it was 400 metres of flatwater to the Fenn Hot Spot. I pulled ahead of Matt and made a strong push. The $1000 prize money had already been claimed long before by last year’s USSS Champ, Aussie, Jeremy Cotter.
From here things started to get messy, a cross current shooting out from behind Angel I, messy waves and lots of traffic all added up to make it difficult to get anything going. I am sure the stronger paddlers were able to surf these waves but it took a lot of effort and I didn’t want to burn myself out with half the race left. So it was survival paddling to Point Blunt. Matt was making more of the waves and had pulled ahead. Warren Bruce were exchanging places too.
After passing Point Blunt the relative shelter of Angel Island we hit a nasty tide rip. It was here that many paddlers went for a swim and just past here is where Warren and I had a good scare. I heard a horn sounding and looked south to see a catamaran ferry about 3 km to the south, seemingly a long distance away. These ferries are flying and Warren and I were in its path. It was closing very quickly and we were staring at the void between it’s two hulls. I was paddling like a windmill in a 50 knot wind and if you looked at my heart rate monitor there would have been a substantial spike. Other racers had similar stories, but 4 place finisher Sean Rice had the best, with a close encounter with a freighter going the opposite direction. The Coast Guard had positioned themselves between Sean and the freighter with guns drawn and pointed. This was Sean second enounter with Homeland Security in two weeks. The other had been in NYC on the Hudson River.
Here’s where things started to pick up. Waves were getting bigger and organized. The surfing was great and I was starting to link waves. This is what I had been saving myself for, but it was also the last quarter of the race. Off to my right I could see Matt Kelly. I was making ground. This is a tough part of the race as you need to be lined up with the finish line. There is a clock tower in Berkley that makes a good landmark. The runs were great here and my speed was hovering around 17kph.
As I approached the finish line there was another guy I was trying to pick off but he crossed the line 8 seconds ahead.
Team Think Results – for the local guys
Rod Hope had a good race but a capsize near the finish tacked on about 3 minutes to his time while trying to remount his ski in the washing machine seas. He was gunning for some Bellinghamsters and putting it all out there with a Swim or Win attitude.
This was Paul Hansen’s 1st USSSC in his home built surf ski and after sorting out some issues with his rudder on the training run he had a good race. Warren Bruce was solid. He has been struggling with a tennis elbow and had been icing it everyday after practice. He was solid throughout the race. Matt Kelly was a surfing star and him and I were duking it out. Matt capitalized on his excellent boat handling skills in the confused seas. I was saving myself for the big surf section which didn’t materialize until the last quarter of the race. I managed to scoop Matt when he was looking the other way. Ken Stanick, 36th, pull out a good result, paddling the new THINK Evo II. The added stability in this great new boat helped Ken power through the chaotic seas. Daryl Remmler, 34th, had a good summer of training and it showed. He also paddled the Evo II. Big Shane Martin, 27th, had an excellent 1st time USSSC race as he brought both power and surfing skills to the race. Shane had a great summer of training and had recently had some good surfing practice at the Wild Side Relay in the Gorge. Gareth Tudor Jones moved up in the rankings from last year to 16th place, and was the top Canadian at the event.
What happens on the road stays on the road!