Kensington Metro Park Kayak Race
A few weeks ago I was reading the Midwest Performance Paddlers Yahoo News Group e-mail and noticed a 2nd annual race that was being organized in Milford (Detroit Metro area) at Kensington Metro Park. I immediately thought this would be a great opportunity to go do a race and start assessing the surfski market potential in the greater Detroit area.
Fortunately I already had a few very interested potential customers so I was able to make the best of the 4 hour trip south and do some demos and make a sale on Saturday and then race on Sunday morning.
When I heard about the race I quickly informed Denny Paull who is a good friend of mine and one of the strongest paddlers I know of in the state of Michigan. I mentioned to Denny that he might have some good competition as I had been hearing stories of a surfski paddler from New Zealand who was tearing things up in the Midwest. I arrived at the race Sunday morning to see that Denny and Simon Longdill (paddler from New Zealand) were both there and had already made acquaintances. Overall there was a great turn out of just over 40 racers with 5 surfskis, a handful of performance kayaks and a performance Canoe
Race Registration and Start
I really enjoyed that the race registration was all very low key, parking was easy, no waiting in lines, etc.. it all felt like a very peaceful morning with none of the usual pre-race jitters. But then the race organizer yelled go and I was quickly reminded that this was a race. Simon quickly pulled out to the front in his Carbon Think Uno and I gave it everything I had to stay with him. As expected, Denny was right there with us in his Epic V12 Ultra. After about a ¼ mile the three of us had separated from the rest of the field with Denny and Simon trading off lead positions and working to find the best draft options. I was pretty much at the red line just to stay with them and alternated between being right on their stern wash and falling back 15-20 feet. I had to keep telling myself that I would just hang on for one more mile and then fall back.
A Hot Ride on the Way Out
There wasn’t much wind but what wind we did have was at our back on the way out. This made for an incredibly hot first three miles. The three of us got a little off course for a brief moment and had to stop and ask a fisherman for directions. This was actually quite a nice little breather for me. We quickly got back on track and at 3 miles circled the turn around buoy. I was pleasantly surprised to be turning around in 3 miles but didn’t want to allow myself to be entirely convinced that it was only a 6 mile race. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the race course description but understood it to be 7.5 miles so thought that maybe we were taking a long route back. I always fall into the trap of thinking I am further along in a race than I actually am, and didn’t want to do that here.
Luckily I had some good intel from Jim Kemp prior to the race, and knew that it would be a weedy course. With his advice I switched over to a 4” inch weedless rudder on my Stellar SE. I never paddle in weeds so it is not typically something that ever crosses my mind. This course was quite weedy but between the weed guard and the 4 inch rudder I don’t think I picked up anything on my boat. My paddle was another story. I flicked quite a few weeds onto my head and into my boat over the course of the race. It was definitely a new experience for me and I found myself adjusting my stroke at times to avoid getting tangled up in the weeds. I shifted to a less vertical stroke and started rolling the paddle blade to avoid throwing it out of the water with a wing cup full of weeds. I don’t know if this actually made any sense but in my oxygen deficit delirium it seemed to be a good strategy.
Final Mile and the Real Racing Begins
As we got inside one mile to go I was on Simon’s draft when he put in a surge to pull up along side Denny. I could not respond and at that time fell behind both of them who were paddling side by side. I’m not sure what would been the best draft position in this situation but it did seem to get choppy sitting between both of their wakes. I need to do some more draft studying on Jude’s site. I came across this article a few weeks ago and although it is written for outrigger canoes, the same concepts should transfer to surfskis: Drafting Strategies
Denny and Simon battled through to the finish and put in a very strong sprint to what they thought was the finish line. Denny had it by a fraction and they both started winding down only to have the race director yell that they hadn’t finished yet. Simon put in a quick sprint to claim the official victory.
Although not a perfect finish, all of us were thrilled to have had a good battle and the opportunity to really push each other hard. I know that I was in awe just to have stayed that close to Simon and Denny for that distance. In talking with Denny later he mentioned he set a PR for the highest average heart race maintained in a paddle race and also the fastest pace for that distance. At just over 7.5 mph it was quite fast, especially considering the shallow/weedy water conditions and no current to assist.
Below is a link to my Garmin HR/GPS Results
The other two surfski paddlers, Carl Trost in a Performance V12 and Cliff Alfiche in a V10L came in respectively in 4th and 5th place. In the recreation class Steve Doyle took the victory in his Stellar S14. Steve has really enjoyed dominating the recreation class in his new Stellar S14 this year and recently purchased an Epic Carbon Wing Paddle from me. I expect he will some day be a force to be reckoned in the competition class.
Overall it was a great day and exciting to see all types of boats and racers out enjoying the water and having some friendly competition. After the race we hung out in the water for a bit and we all jumped o
n the opportunity to glean any bit of information about surfski paddling and specifically downwind paddling from Simon. It was my first time ever talking with a surfski paddler from the Australia/New Zealand region where it has been a popular sport for a long time. Simon could not have been a nicer more humble guy and was more than willing to share his experience and knowledge of surfski paddling in New Zealand ocean conditions.
Many thanks to Mark Irish and Willi Guttman for organizing this race and doing what they can to start a grass roots movement of paddle racing in the Detroit Metro area. For $20 dollars this may have been the best value race I have ever done. We all received nice race t-shirts and there were lots of different generous prizes from the race sponsors for all the top finishers in each class both male and female. Willi also supplied the pictures I used in this blog, more of which can be found at
I look forward to seeing the paddling communities continue to evolve in the greater Detroit Metro area. There is definitely a lot of great water to be utilized. I just recently got wind of a new adventure race starting up this fall in the Lansing area, The Grand Adventure Race. I am optimistic this will be an opportunity for more traditional runners and bikers to take a shot at competitive paddling and catch the bug.
|Dave and Kris|
|Luaren Fry and|
|Alex Martins and|
|Lee R.R. Jenks||25:35:00|