TC Waterman 2012 – A Raging Success
It all started with a voicemail from TC Waterman race director Todd Mackey last Sunday afternoon. Todd heard the news that the surfski paddlers had become innocent victims of Chicago politics when the City of Chicago shut down the entire beach front for the weekend and effectively canceled the Chicago Shoreline Marathon. Feelling our pain, Todd offered to add a Surfski division to the 10 mile downwind course and asked me if I could get any Midwest racers to come out for an exhibition race. I of course committed myself at a minimum and immediately started scrambling to recruit as many surfski paddlers as I possibly could. Luckily I knew the venue would sell itself, so all I had to do was find people who had time in their busy summer schedules.
Time to Start Recruiting
I posted on my website, Facebook page, the MIPP news group and the Yahoo Surfski news group. Additionally I sent a direct e-mail to all of my customers and surfski contacts. With five days lead time, I was able to confirm 10 surfski paddlers and had another 3-4 who were totally bummed that due to prior commitments they couldn’t make it. Not only did I have paddlers, but I had 3 world class paddlers with Rob Hartman, Steve Corlew and Simon Longdill all on board
Analyzing the Wind (once again)
It was a hectic week between recruiting racers and checking wind forecasts. The TC Waterman is the premier Stand Up Paddleboard event and race in the Midwest and is setup on West Grand Traverse Bay (my front yard J ). Todd has the long 10 mile race organized as a downwind event that runs north/south and can be started from either point. Any wind direction other than straight west would make for a perfect course. Additionally, knowing exactly how the wind blows in the Traverse City area, the race is scheduled to start around 3:00 / 4:00 pm when we consistently get our best wind. In the days leading up to the event the forecast shifted around a bit, but as much as I didn’t want to believe it, it was pretty clear the dominant direction would be from the West.
On Friday night a small group of us gathered to discuss options on how to handle the west wind and at the time it looked like the wind was still going to have a northerly component. By Saturday morning it was clear that there would be some south wind mixed into the west – but hard to tell exactly how much. Overall the weather and water temps were perfect on Saturday. Mid 70s with water temps in the high 60s to low 70s. The morning SUP races had nice calm water on the bay.
By mid afternoon the winds were kicking up but I was still optimistic that there would be enough south wind to give us a nice run all the way down the bay to Bower’s Harbor. It was a bit frantic working the expo booth and sorting out all the logistics of staging cars to return boats from the point to point, etc.. but we managed to get it all figured out and all 10 of the surfski paddlers had sufficient time to get in the water and get settled in their boats.
Before we knew it, the gun went off and the race was on. I didn’t even have time to start my Garmin. Rob Hartman shot off the line at a torrid pace with Simon and Steve right with him. I tried to match their pace but within about a ¼ mile I knew that wasn’t in the cards. As luck would have it, we had pretty strong beam waves and after taking several brace strokes I knew I could not keep up with those three paddlers and had to settle into my own rhythm. I had a sense that Greg Greene was probably somewhere close by, but the chop commanded my full attention and I never even attempted to look behind me. Sure enough, about ½ way into the race Greg pulled up alongside me. We paddled pretty much together the rest of the race with Greg about 50-60 feet in front and taking a route closer to the shoreline. I thought maybe I had the better line at the end, but it was not to be and Greg put in a strong effort to take me at the finish line.
Too much of a good thing
Earlier in the week I had experimented with going to a ¾ mini cell seat pad in the bottom of my Stellar SE. I was already using a ½ pad and just thought that if that was working well, why not add a little more. I had just attended Jasper Mocke’s clinic where he was telling us that pretty much all the top guys pad up their seats for comfort and to get extra leverage in their strokes. So I logically convinced myself that if ½ inch was good ¾ would be better. I did a short 4 mile paddle early in the week and overall it felt good but I did notice less stability but in the conditions I was in, it was definitely manageable. Beam/quartering waves for 10 miles became a different story entirely. I never took a swim thanks to the amazing secondary stability of the SE, but I did come close many times. I’m pretty sure I took more brace strokes than I had all year and I felt it in my right shoulder the next day. It was definitely a tough ten miles for me. Unfortunately I never started my Garmin so couldn’t analyze results but I think my HR was probably much lower than normal as I couldn’t apply max power due to my stability challenges and overall lack of experience paddling for long periods in beam/quartering conditions.
I can’t say it was all straight beam waves, we did have some quartering and we were able to catch some runs. I do think the waves offered a lot more than my skills were able to milk out of them, so I know I have some work to do in that area. Beam waves are one of those things that if you have your choice when training you usually avoid them, and I have been pretty successful at that. But clearly that is not a wise training strategy as more often than not in an open water race you’re going to have to deal with beam conditions and this is where the racers with extensive race experience and phenomenal stability will easily pull ahead.
Some Great Race Stories
Aside from my race story – there were several other great stories that deserve mention as well. Steve Corlew hadn’t been in surfski in a few years but when he heard about this racem and that his long time friend and t
raining/racing partner Rob was going to compete, it sucked him in. I was able to arrange for him to paddle my Stellar SES Advantage demo boat. Steve hopped in the boat, ran a quick warm-up and when the gun went off he was right there charging full speed ahead with Rob and Simon. This was my first time meeting Steve and I knew he was quite heavily credentialed in the paddling world, but I was still blown away by this. I would have expected it in flat water, but not in the conditions we had on Saturday. The SES is built exactly for guys with the size and skills of Steve and he commented to me afterwards that it was the best surfski he had ever paddled. Scary to think what he might do in the Carbon SES and with a little more time in the ski.
As I paddled and braced my way through the 10 miles I couldn’t help but think of the four first time surfski racers out there. I was not at all worried about their safety, but was concerned that battling the beam and quartering chop for 10 miles might just ensure they never race a surfski again. I also knew that this was roughly twice the distance that a few of them had ever paddled. I could not have been more wrong. Every one of them finished the race strong and smiling, with a renewed confidence in their paddling abilities and the desire to get out and race again. It helped a lot that they were all paddling boats that matched their skills well, so although there were a few swims the conditions were not at all unmanageable by them.
Definitely a different atmosphere
Following the race we all attended the Luau dinner and feasted on the generous dinner spread. I have only ever been to two other paddle races, but I suspect the atmosphere at this award ceremony was quite different than most paddling events.
One of the things I enjoyed most and have now found consistent at all the races (and even the un-races.. CSM) is how humble the elite paddlers are and how willing they are to engage with the beginners and share anything and everything they possibly can. Surfski paddling definitely seems to be unique in this aspect and I guess it has a lot to do with it being such a small niche sport that even the elites tend to go unrecognized in the general public and as a result they don’t develop over inflated egos. Whatever the case, I know that the approachability, gratitude, and wealth of information sharing from the highly experienced paddlers was greatly appreciated by the beginners.
A Great Exhibition Race – Looking Forward to Next Year
Overall it was a perfect weekend. The weather was awesome, the venue was beautiful, and the people were great. Had the wind cooperated, it would have been the ultimate first race. And of course just to spite us, the wind picked up out of the North on queue on Sunday right around 2:30 /3:00. I got out on the other side of West Bay and had the chance to play in some nice wind whipped 3 footers that would have made for a phenomenal run from Bowers Harbor to the finish at Clinch Park.
I am really excited about next year and look forward to working with the TC Waterman organizers over the next year as they continue to refine and improve the event. I have no doubt we’ll get at least 20 surfskis next year and my goal is 30. Knowing that people will be traveling from all over the Midwest I would like to make it more of a surfski weekend. All activities may not be tied to the race, but with so much water to work with and so many paddlers coming together it would be a shame to not take advantage of it all.
|1||Rob Hartman||Epic V12 Ultra||1:19:22.0|
|2||Simon Longdill||Think Uno Carbon||1:21:03.9|
|3||Steve Corlew||Stellar SES – Adv||1:22:05.5|
|4||Greg Greene||Huki – S1-X Carbon||1:30:26.0|
|5||Nick Murray||Stellar SE Excel||1:30:42.0|
|6||Cliff Afliche||Epic V10L Performance||1:54:09.6|
|7||Kenyon Fatt||Epic V8 Performance||1:55:37.6|
|8||Ryan Deering||Epic V10S Performance||2:00:42.1|
|9||Mike Bungi||Epic V10S Performance||2:02:43.4|
You can see more pictures of the race on our Facebook Page
Any of the racers who want to share your story – feel free to post comments