So I went out last night for my first ever stand up paddleboard (SUP) race. As it turns out, I was grossly underprepared and grossly over confident at the same time.
First, my board. I use a beautiful Boardworks Great Bear SUP that is designed for loading up gear and heading out on a day trip or expedition. It can handle big waves and chop really well. It is the off road pick up truck of the SUP world... not the indy car. Strike 1.
Second, my clothing and gear. The racers around me were using super light pull cord inflatable waist belts that satisfy the requirement for a personal floatation device without being too bulky or constrictive and think neoprene suits that didn't let them get easily overheated. I was in an expedition style life jacket complete with tow belt, knife, and pockets for emergency equipment and a full gore-tex drysuit complete with latex neck and wrist gaskets. I was the most comfortable guy on the starting line... strike 2!
Finally, I've paddled for the last number of years through big waves and long distances and even surf on a SUP so I thought I had this little 4km course all but wrapped up. I didn't think I was going to win, mind you, but I didn't really think it was going to be much of a work out either. As such I didn't really fuel up with good food or water and wasn't really in a strong competitive mindset. Strike 3.
The race starts and I'm off with the pack! So fun! The course left the Deep Cove government docks and headed out due East (see map). Things were going pretty well there and once I rounded the buoy to head South and pick up a tail wind things were feeling quite good. Most of the pack was out in front of me but, "no problem", I thought to myself. I knew they'd be a little quicker - especially off the start. I was hitting my top speed (in green) of 10.5 km/h and having a great time. About 1.5 km into the 4 km race, however, hauling my big heavy board with my bulky too warm clothing and personal flotation device proved much harder than I had anticipated. I was getting pretty hot and starting to slow my pace a little.
Things really started to fall apart as I rounded Grey Rocks island. You see the little red dot in my route around the West side of the island? It was here that my fin hit a submerged rock and stopped my board dead in its tracks. The result, of course, was to throw me over the front of my board and into the water. I quickly clambered back onto my board and got underway again only to come around the East side of the island directly into a powerful and gathering headwind. According to the Canadian weather service, by that time, I was attempting to paddle directly into a sustained North East Gale of 26 knots gusting to 36 (see weather recap below). I didn't know that at the time... all I knew is that I was barely moving and paddling as hard as I could. According to my route tracing app I was paddling about 0.39 km/h at that point!
Now this is where the Inlet taught me something. When I headed out on the water at 6:30 to warm up there was very little wind - 5 knots maybe. But there were these weird waves coming out of the North that should have suggested changing seas to me. I was so engrossed with my own actions that I didn't stop to listen to what the water and the inlet were trying to tell me. That is why this project is important. We, as people who live on the inlet should attempt to find ways to bring ourselves more in tune with our surroundings, more aware of the changes that are happening.
The life lessons from the inlet?
1. Look and listen to what's happening around you. Try to notice small changes and what they might mean for the immediate future.
2. Be prepared with the right stuff or be prepared to suffer the consequences.