Saturday, October 10, 2009

California SUP trip- Hennessey's and Tahoe races posted by Robert Stehlik

The crew from Hawaii before the start of the Hennesey's race that would take us around Alcatraz Island (L to R): Kevin Seid, Carlos Gillis, Robert StehlikKainoa Beaupre, Morgan Hoesterey, Nikki Gregg, Honora Kalama and Eloku Kalama

Travel Report: 10 day Stand Up Paddle racing trip trough California. Sept. 25th to Oct.5th, 2009:
It started when my friend Kainoa Beaupre told me about the trip he was planning with Ekolu Kalama to participate in three SUP races and asked me if I wanted to come along. Of course I wanted to go, I was not sure if I could pull it off but everything came together. Here is the story.

Hennessey’s International Paddleboard Race 2009

I arrived in San Francisco on a red-eye flight from Honolulu early Friday morning before the race, took the BART subway and walked from the station to Fisherman's Wharf. I got to the beach and ran into my friend, Jeff Warner from Legends Surf in Carlsbad. We decided to rent bikes and head to the Golden Gate bridge.

When we got to the bridge it was covered by fog and overrun by tourists so we headed back to have lunch.
This is Jeff heading back to Fisherman's Wharf.
Kevin Seid from Everpaddle arrived in the afternoon with three brand new 12'6" Stock race boards that we were excited to try out before the race. We did some sprints in the bay and tried to pick the fastest boards for the next morning. All three boards were fast and it was almost impossible to tell which one was fastest.

Kevin Seid, Jeff Warner and myself with the pier and Alcatraz in the background. I loved the jailhouse themed race jerseys.

To my surprise, there were plenty of swimmers in the bay, training without wetsuits. The water was cold, especially compared to Hawaii, but it was not a cold as I expected.

After a night in a crowded hotel room shared with my friends from Hawaii, we made it to the beach. I was worried my friend Robby Ellingson from Boardworks would not make it to the start on time, he was bringing a C4 XPR race paddle for me to use. He spent most of the night driving up from Encinitas and just slept a few hours in his van, but he showed up bright an early.
Robby and Carlos unloading the van. So, I had a paddle but Kevin had the boards and he was not answering his cell- was he still sleeping? He showed up last minute with the race boards and we were all set for the start.
The sunrise was awesome and we lucked out with nice weather. The ground felt freezing cold but as soon as we started paddling I warmed up. Since we were all paddling, I have no pictures of the race, sorry. The Unlimited race started first, with a nine mile course around Alcatraz and Angel island. I was in the 12'6" stock division with a 6 mile course that took us towards the Golden Gate bridge, then back to Fisherman's Wharf then out to Alcatraz, around the island and back to the finish. I was under the impression, like most people seem to be, that the waters around Alcatraz are treacherous with ripping currents and patrolled by great white sharks, making an escape from the old prison next to impossible. To my surprise, it turned out to be a pleasant, scenic paddle (or would have been if I was not battling for position with some of the fastest SUP racers in the world). This is probably one of the most scenic urban settings to have a paddle race.

The stock race:
I got a decent start and soon found myself drafting behind TJ Saeman with Shakira Westdorp and Brandi Baksic following close behind. We were following TJ like ducks in a row. I tried to pass TJ a couple of times but he would pick up the pace and I could not pass him so I kept falling back into the drafting position. This was the first time I drafted in a race and I was surprised by how much much less energy it took to draft than to cut through the chop. I think the water coming back together behind the leading board creates a small bump that you can actually ride, also the water gets smoothed out and pulled forward by the lead board. This drafting effect seems to be even more pronounced in the third or fourth position. The tricky part is to maintain a close distance to the board in front of you without bumping into the tail and without going off course. I focused on the tail in front of me and usually switched my paddle one or two strokes after the lead paddler. I had to constantly adjust the power of my stokes to maintain the right speed. I would estimate that I used 15 to 20% less energy when drafting on the stock board, which is significant. On longer unlimited boards with their smooth water entry, drafting is probably less effective.
Coming around Alcatraz, a ferry boat bringing tourists to the prison was churning up water, which was tricky to navigate, around the next corner, TJ was cutting it super close to the rocks; his fin hit a rock and he fell forward off his board. I took the lead for a little while but TJ got up quickly, caught up and passed me again. In the final approach we all put in a last ditch effort to pass each other and Brandi pulled ahead on her thick Brian Syzmanski/ Starboards prototype, those boards seemed to work great for the conditions. I ended up behind TJ and Brandi but my 8th place overall finish time was enough for a 3rd place in my division, so I was stoked. Hennessey's put together an awesome luncheon party at a fancy restaurant overlooking the race course.
Big smile, this is the first time I ever won money in a race, so I was excited. Next to me are first and second overall finishers- Byron Kurt and EJ Johnson- those guys are fast and proved it again at the distance race at the Battle of the Paddle the next weekend- good job, guys!

The top three SUP Unlimited 40+: Thomas M. Shohinien, Thomas Gallagher, and Chuck Patterson- these guys were PUMPED UP.
The top three SUP unlimited under 39: Jared Vargas, Ekolu Kalama, and Dolan Eversole. Next to them is Mr. Hennessy himself in the white jacket- thank you sir, for the great contest, parties and price money!
I did not get a good shot of the other top finishers, sorry. Congratulations to all racers.
complete Hennessey's race results

When the luncheon was over, it was time to pack up the gear and head to Lake Tahoe, the site of the next race on the itinerary. Kevin Seid and I drove his rental van to South Lake Tahoe and checked into a cheap motel. Jeff and Robby ended up staying in San Francisco and left at 3:30 am to drive to Lake Tahoe to meet us at the start. The rest of the crew from Hawaii decided not to do the Tahoe race although they ended up going to Reno to gamble and met us at the finish in North Lake Tahoe.
We got up just in time to get to the start and I was scrambling to get some food in my stomach before the race. I did not take my camera with me during the race so I have no photos from the Tahoe race at all, bummer. If anyone has pictures, please e-mail them to me so I can post them.

2nd Annual Tahoe Fall Classic Paddleboard & SUP Race
2009 Tahoe Fall Classic
I took this picture of the start from the Tahoe Paddle and Oar website where you can also find the complete race results.
The start was at Camp Richardson, the air was clear and you could see the other end of the lake where the finish was at King's Beach. The air, ground and water felt freezing cold but it was a beautiful day but once again I warmed up as soon as we started paddling. There was no wind and the water surface was completely smooth and glassy with only a few boat wakes disturbing the glassy water. I was concerned about the altitude and SUP'ing on fresh water for the first time, but neither turned out to be much of a problem. The race started fast with the lead pack breaking away quickly and keeping a fast pace. I meant to draft behind my buddy Robby Ellingson on his unlimited board but after a few strokes his tail started spinning out. He stopped paddling and as his board slipped into a turn said "I don't have a fin!". He forgot to tighten the fin plate screw, so he had to turn around to put in a new fin. Despite getting a 15 minute late start he still passed most of the field and finished in the top 10. I could not catch up with the fastest guys on unlimited boards but found a fast local paddler on an unlimited board (the guy in the black shirt in the middle of the picture above, I forgot his name but he has a construction company in Tahoe). I was able to draft him on my 12'6 Everpaddle stock board for about an hour and a half without a break. I had a water backpack lying on the board at my feet and wanted a drink badly but did not want to stop and loose the good draft, so I had to wait for him to take a break. He finally did and I had just enough time to put the Da Kine waterbag on my back and keep going. The drafting was working great and I was hoping I could draft across the whole lake for the 22 miles. Unfortunately that strategy did not work out but the drafting made it easier, for sure. The water in the middle of the lake was beautiful with the sunlight making cool patterns in the deep clear water. I focused on my breathing and synchronized it with my strokes, exhaling with each pull. My mind went completely blank a few times in a trance-like meditative state. I drafted behind Lance Erickson from Dana Point for a while and had a good chat with him until he got tired and needed a break about three hours into the race. The finish looked pretty close by then and I thought I could finish it in another 30 minutes or so and started paddling all out. There were some boat wakes going in the right direction and I tried to time my strokes to use all the push I could get from the tiny bumps. Even though the finish looked deceptively close, I still had quite a ways to go. I finished the race in under 4 hours and was stoked- first place in the stock division! I did not fall in the whole race and finally took a cooling dip at King's Beach after finishing. We got to meet some of the friendly locals at the finish, and Kainoa and the gang from Hawaii stopped by too, on their way to Reno. We were served a nice lunch and had an outdoors awards party before catching a ride back to the south end of the lake.
My request for Tahoe pictures was answered:
Jeff Warner sent this shot of the awards luncheon at King's Beach: Dan Gravere, Robby Elingson, Robert Stehlik, Jeff Warner and Kevin Seid.
Kevin Seid sent me this one he took right before the start, check out the clear water and beautiful scenery. The Tahoe Fall Classic was a great, memorable day.

After getting back to South Lake Tahoe, we went to a Thai restaurant and ate lots of good food before heading back to San Francisco. The next morning I headed back towards Encinitas with Robby. We had to pick up some C4 Waterman demo boards he left at the Log Shop in Pacifica, they had a big party (and surf contest, I think mostly as an excuse to get a permit) at Ocean Beach the night before. The Log Shop is one of the coolest surf shops I have seen with indoor skate park and graffiti walls in the huge space they occupied. Check out their my space page for skate videos.

I was wishing my shop in Hawaii (Blue Planet Surf Shop) was that big.

Robby with his computer shape
at Segway Composites
We drove most of the day to pick up Robby's computer shaped blank at Segway Composites. He designed a 12'6" race board on his computer and wanted to use it in the Battle of the Paddle six days later. The owner, Ken spent several hours educating us about surfboard construction, very interesting.
We ended up driving to Robby's hometown, Mt. Baldy, the closest ski area to L.A., where his dad owns the Mt. Baldy lodge. He was celebrating his birthday when we arrived and we had a few beers and shot some pool in the bar.
Altitude training at Mt. Baldy
The next morning we got up early and drove to the top of the ski area to do some altitude training, we went running at 8000 feet and I quickly ran short of breath following Robby up a steep climb. This time I definitely noticed the thinner air. We were hoping to boost our red blood cells for the Battle of the Paddle. Later that day we dropped the computer shaped blank at Casey McCrystals shop in Huntington beach and watched him finish shape the board.
Casey McCrystal shaped, glassed and finished in only 3 days for Robby to use it at the Battle of the Paddle.

On Wednesday I met up with Jeff at Cardiff for a morning SUP surfing session in decent waves. We were catching the waves to the right of the main break. There was an outside peak that would back off and if you could connect, jack up again for a fast inside closeout section. I tried the new 9'6 C4 SubVector model for the first time and was impressed by how stable yet manouverable it was.
We then went by Donald Takayama's shop in Carlbad to drop off a paddle Jeff had borrowed. Donald was in the middle of a business meeting with his Japanese partners pouring over spreadsheets, so I just expected a quick handshake. To my surprise, Donald excused himself from the meeting (he was probably bored by it anyways) and took about half an hour of his time to show us around his shop and talk story about his design ideas for Stand Up Paddling boards and Hawaii. I was amazed by the stoke, energy and enthusiasm he had after so many years in the industry. He still has plenty Aloha, too.
With the legend: In Donald Takayama's shaping room with a wooden blank

Afterwards we went to Jeff's comfortable store in Carlsbad, Legends Surf where I hung out in the recliner for a couple of hours.
Jeff Warner at Legends Surf Shop in Carlsbad
Jeff in his super cool hangout shop- Legends in Carlsbad, where he also runs Warner designs on his computer in the back behind the big fish tank.

On Wednesday I visited the Altered electric skateboards warehouse in Lake Forest. I distribute their boards in Hawaii through Bionic Wheels.
Altered Electric Skateboards
I checked out their latest (still secret) prototypes, went for some test runs and talked business for a while. I checked into my hotel in Dana Point and went for a paddle at Doheney state park that evening.

On Thursday, I met Zane Schweizer, a 16 yr old from Maui who was staying at the same hotel. Zane's grandfather, Hoyle Schweitzer, invented Windsurfing. When I started windsurfing, all the gear had to be "licensed by Hoyle Schweitzer" as he held the patent. We did some training runs to get ready for the big race, practicing the transition from running on the beach to launching into the water and back out. In the evening we went to a talk by Jamie Mitchell, the 8 times Molokai race champion (prone paddling) at the Cardiff Patagonia store.

Jamie Michell's Molokai training program:
Here is what I learned about his training regimen: Jamie, his coach Mick and his Aussie mates prep for the Molokai race with three paddle training days a week, with one long run on the weekend and two shorter ones during the week. They work themselves up to doing more than the race's 32 miles on the weekend run and more than half the distance during the weekday runs for a total of more than twice the Molokai milage per week. In addition Jamie swims several times a week- over 3 miles each time and does some strength training and running as well (he did not even mention surfing, SUP or tow in surfing). In addition he talked about the importance of nutrition, recovery (rest, sleep, taking days off) and having a training group that pushes each other. There you have it- now you know why he is so fast.
When Jeff Warner asked him if he plans to Stand Up Paddle race competitively he said that if they held the Molokai race on two weekends with prone and SUP held on separate weekends, (which is a possibility in the near future) he would do both but for now he will stick with prone paddling. Jamie said he entered the BOP race "for laughs". For those that don't know, he won the Elite race against most of the fastest SUP racers in the world two days later, for more on that see the next blog entry.

On Friday I walked down to the beach to find a buzz of activity and a big group of my friends from Hawaii. I talked story for a while and helped some of my friends set up their tents for the Battle of the Paddle SUP Expo, had dinner with Doug Hopkins and his friend from North Sports whose Aquaglide boards I also distribute in Hawaii and then went to bed early.
The Battle of the Paddle SUP Expo. For more on the BOP, check Part 2 of the California SUP travel story

Please watch the Zen Waterman interview with Kevin Seid at the Battle of the Paddle Surf Expo below

Kevin Seid, Battle of the Paddle interview from Zen Waterman on Vimeo.

Robert Stehlik

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I want to do some paddling on my ventures to Tahoe and the Bay area!


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