This past weekend was the Stand Up for Clean Water race in Malibu. A chance to explore beautiful scenic coastline and water. All for a great cause. But what started out as a plan for a calm seas race quickly turned into one of those days paddlers will be talking about for years to come. We welcome Team Writer Bret Warner who was there, learned some great lessons, and gives us this a 'for paddlers, by paddlers' racap! Thanks Bret -C.P.
I learned a lot at Stand up for Clean Water on Saturday. The main one though is that next time when I forget my leash I should listen to my wife and run back to my bag and get it. I didn't end up needing it, but that was just as much luck as it was skill and I have some recovering scratches and bruises from falls turned board hugs to keep my flotation/board from blowing away. For those who haven't heard what happened, the race was called less than two miles in when Danny Ching stopped racing, and turned around out of the lead to start helping the numerous people who were quickly getting into potentially dangerous situations because of the intense wind. At this point there were easily more people on their knees than there were standing up as we paddled not quite directly into the wind making stiflingly slow progress to the next buoy.
In retrospect, maybe more of us should have seen it coming. I couldn't have been the only one driving down Lost Hills Rd staring at shaking treetops, to the detriment of watching the road, and we were all making jokes on the beach about how windy it was, and how "fun" the second buoy turn, the one right into the wind, would be. Who wants to pass up a chance to paddle in paradise cove though, especially considering how much it costs to park there if you are not racing. And of course, we always want to see if our training from previous days/weeks paid off.
The beach to the first buoy was a hard side wind, but not bad. There were a little more falls than normal, but it's such a short distance that it was alright. After that it was basically a downwinder to the next buoy, and it was a blast riding bumps while we were all still in the early race blob of paddlers. It was between buoy 2 and 3 though where the wind was in our face, and all the little seaweed patches just were not getting any closer no matter how many all out strokes you took. I am not sure how long I would have soldiered on before I turned to the shore with the race cancelled or not, but I say without shame that I felt relief when word came down the chain that the race was called.
Paddling back in may have been the toughest part. As the wind had been slightly offshore I don't think most of us realized how far away we had been pushed, for most of us it seemed a mix of knee paddling, prone paddling, and standing up when we were deluded enough to think the wind had died down. I saw a few standing up most of the way back and can do nothing but applaud their balance and determination. I just know I fell even when on my knees three separate times on the way back. There were safety boats, helicopters, and pro paddlers out helping people get back, but I was so focused on my own paddle, and the group around me that I had no idea about any of them until I got to shore.
Even with all this craziness, however, I was reminded about how much I love SUP racing. Spirits were still high on the paddle in with many making jokes and talking. I remember one paddler jubilantly announcing how we were all earning our tequila for the day. High fives and fist bumps were given amongst strangers just for making it back to the beach. It was still without a doubt a test of paddling skill, just not the one I expected. Most of all though I was impressed with all the pros that paddled back out in the wind on multiple occasions to help those in trouble. What a great group of athletes for a young paddling generation to aspire to be like, and examples for a paddling community that I will always be stoked to be a part of.
[ Photo credit to my friend at SIC Jeff Baillargeon!
Team Writer Bret Warner - Paddling truly got its hooks into me when I, on a whim, watched the 1999 Santa Cruz Paddlefest with my dad. I had kayaked a little before, but from then on the addiction was palpable. My first kayak, a purple and turquoise Necky Rip, came soon after. The following year I was that kid at UCSD who had a surf kayak in the common study area instead of a surfboard in my dorm room. I also taught sea kayaking all through college in San Diego, and up in Santa Cruz after I graduated.
When SUP came around, however, the paddling addiction became even more rabid. The garage started to fill up with different types of boards, and is now more than half full of hollow wood boards I have built myself,both for environmental reasons, and because it’s awesome to get to talk about how you built your own board when people ask you about it after a race. I love the paddle racing scene in California right now. Everyone is so stoked to be on the water competing, and the fierce competition is matched by the smiling faces when the race is over. I have gotten to paddle crafts that I never really considered before, and can see myself getting hooked all over again on something else: prone, OC-1, surfski,whatever, I just need more garage space.
Three years ago I founded the non-profit Stand up to Alzheimer’s. An organization that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research through paddle races. This organization was born from lacking a tangible way of dealing with my father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, but has now become a way, hopefully, for other to help cope as well. Our next event is on July 9 in Monterey at Del Monte Beach, just a little north from Monterey Bay Kayaks. Visit us at www.sup2alzh.weebly.com.