[Thank you to Conrad Stielau for taking the time to do this interview and share his impressions. This adventure-loving paddler from San Diego and friends from the Newport/Long Beach area made the trek up. Enjoy this interview on his thoughts and impressions of MBX for those who might want to try it in 2016. This is part of our MBX2015 Race Recap.]
CP: First off... Tell us a little about your race up there? (iron, change, competition, challenges and results)
Conrad: I was in a co-ed 9 man crew for the Monterey bay crossing, me from San Diego, a few Imua paddlers from Newport, one from Santa Cruz, and another from San Francisco. There was around 25+ crews from predominantly Northern California, farthest south was me, and Dana Point.
CP: What the conditions were like up there?
Conrad: It was COLD!! Yikes, nor cal is chilly. When we woke up early on race day it was foggy, socked in and very overcast, and about 63 degrees. Water was around 60 I believe. The race is a straight shot through the bay to Monterey from Santa Cruz, and there was some decent 7-8ft swell mid channel and towards the finish, but coming in on our right so not too much to actually surf in. It was really difficult to stay pumped throughout the race because of numb toes and hands. And the fact that once we were off the beach at the start we were swallowed up by the overcast and couldn't see any landmarks for 4+ hours. Kinda eerie and spooky a bit to just keep paddling on with no end or vantage point in sight.
CP: How did the race differ from what your are used to paddling down in San Diego?
Conrad: In this race we were required to do dry changes as opposed to the water changes here in the lovely warm San Diego water. So essentially you're in the chase boat, then jump into a dinghy to pull alongside the canoe and you swap people in and out through that means. But in 8 foot swell the dinghy jumps all over the place as does the canoe, thus adding a nice difficulty to changes. And scraped knees, bruised elbows and nut shots are common. pretty sketchy, but added to the overall fun and fanfare of the race. Also there is no governing association to run this race, its just headed by outrigger Santa Cruz, so they take care of all of it, safety boats, skippers, meeting, race fees, timing, post race food and beer and bus celebration haha. which is a big hats off to them for being able to throw that all together.
CP: Did you see any sea life while there?
Conrad: Yes!! Whales! man what a treat, we'd be paddling away, trying hard to stay in the zone, when all of a sudden 50 yards away a giant spout of water erupts, followed by a monstrous tail to slap the water and make a nice wake and keep you on your toes, and what an experience to make you feel small and powerless, in this giant bay with all this ohana and canoes around, the only thing your focusing on is the race, when this gigantic creature comes by and puts you in your place. It was awesome and makes you think about the little things, especially being a little thing.
Also had the amazing opportunity to swim through what I believe was every dolphin in the bay. We look up when were about 4 miles from shore and there are literally thousands of dorsal fins coming right for us, and no joke about the thousands. They were swimming and surfing in the opposite direction of us and were coming at us head on, and for about 30 seconds or so our canoe was surrounded by them all just minding their own, spouting and cresting the waves as we passed each other and went on by. What an experience.
CP: We have been pretty stoked on how nor cal puts on a race in the past, What can you tell us about the host clubs and event off the water?
Conrad: As soon as the race finishes up, and all the boats are loaded, all the paddlers retire to a park across the street, where we chow down and drink good beer! We had some awesome rice bowls and an endless supply of Kona beer all included in our race fees. A small awards ceremony, small raffle, then we all just sat, ate, talked and drank. In total there must have only been around 150 paddlers total. Then after everyone is good and full, and full of free beer, 4 yellow school buses pull up and were told to grab beer and load up for the 30 min drive back to Santa Cruz. What ensued on these buses was a mix between the fast and furious and animal house. Most I can't put into words, or incriminate myself by doing so. But the ohana spirit was in full swing as we all shared beers and stories, while speeding up the coast highway in bright yellow school buses.
CP: Anything else you can share with Cali paddlers about this race that might shed some light on this special crossing?
Conrad: The MBX is an awesome race, there are no awards, only prize pots for record times beat. The location is beautiful and I definitely plan on going back next year with an iron crew for competing at a shot for some prize $$ Northern California is supremely beautiful, a totally different landscape then what were used to down here in San Diego.
Mahalos and Aloha
[photo credit: Thank you to Monterey Bay Crossing FB Page for the photos used in this article and the photographers who took them: -Kara Guzman -Jacob Meyberg -Jim Jackson Rahn -Val Guzman. Race Director -Dave Loustalot. To learn more about the event feel free to inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.]