CP Race Recap - Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay

Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay - Race RecapA little while back Cali Paddler did a thorough race preview of what paddlers could expect with this race. But to be honest nothing is quite as exciting as getting to hear what it was like by one of our own. Who doesn't like to talk paddling after spending all day paddling (#ifyoupaddleyougetit). So one day after finishing this 41 mile journey, Micah Winslow shared his experiences with us. Take a few minutes to get the scoop and see if it is a good fit for you in 2019.

Hi Micah, thanks so much for sharing your experience this weekend at the Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay! Please tell us a little bit about who you are and what you raced and the category this weekend?

I moved to San Diego a few years ago and started paddling 6 man canoes with Kai Elua Outrigger Canoe Club in 2015.  I fell in love with the sport and the community and finally bought an OC1 in October of last year.  I raced with my brother in the open OC1 2 person relay.

How was this different than any other race you have done?

For starters, it was my longest race at 40 miles.  The water was still pretty cold(colder than during September Catalina Crossing). However, this race was very unique in that there was a whole weekend of events/activities for paddlers/athletes to enjoy prior to the actual race.  The gang at Puakea Designs really went out of their way to make an enjoyable weekend for everybody.

Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay - Race Recap

What were some of the off the water experiences paddlers got to enjoy?

Unfortunately for me, I did not arrive to Catalina until 1 o’clock on Saturday so I missed out on most of the events of the weekend.  Some of the activities involved included hiking, yoga, a surfski clinic, happy hour, and paddling clinics put on by the Puakea team.  I did make it in time to hear Danny and Johnny speak, which was awesome!  We were also treated to a delicious pasta dinner the night before the race.

How about the race? Walk us through everything, the start, the course, the conditions, how you and others did changes, and of course competition.  I know that’s a lot but fill us up with the scoop!

The race was an absolute blast!  Looking at a map, you can see that the Newport Jetty is northeast of 2 harbors.  On race day, there was decent sized NW ground swell and small NW wind swell.   This combination meant that the bump would push you south while you were trying to maintain a NE course.  Many times, I got too carried away surfing the bump and my teammate had to remind me to steer north.  Throughout the day, we also ran into some stretches of sticky water and some stretches of flat water.   Sometimes, we would get boat wake from random fishermen blasting by on their boats but for the most part it became a game of catching whatever bump you could and resting whenever you could. 

My partner and I each started off with a 40 minute piece in the canoe, followed that up with a second piece of 30 minutes each, and then dropped it to 25 minute pieces.  It seemed that 25 minutes was about the time where I found myself starting to fatigue/slow down and needing to come out for fuel and water.  The water was still pretty cold so my partner opted to do a dry while I decided to forgo the dry change and to do a normal water change. 


Here’s how we did our changes: My brother would hop into our 6 foot raft next to our escort boat.  I would bring my canoe up to the raft so that my brother was on my right. I jumped out to my left and held the ama down while he adjusted the seat and climbed into the canoe. If it was my turn to change into the canoe, we would drop the raft next to the escort boat and I would jump into the water when he was 10 feet or so away from the raft.  He would then climb onto the raft while I’d adjust the seat and then I’d climb into the canoe and take off.  We took video of our changes and it took no longer than 10 seconds.  I saw other teams using Supsquatches, large zodiacs, large paddleboards, inflatable kayaks, and also changing directly from their escort boat onto their canoe.

Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay - Race Recap

The competition was fierce and there were many good paddlers there. The start of the race was very intense with many paddlers battling for a good position in the pack prior to the first changes which were allowed after 30 minutes.   When the first changes started occurring, there was considerable boat wake kicked up and it made for some fun surfing.  Eventually, the crowds thinned out and it was time to find a good pace/rhythm/intensity that you could maintain for many hours.  One of the coolest parts of the race was watching a 4 way battle occur in the ocean for at least 3 hours and not really even being decided until a few miles into the harbor.  The grit and determination of those 4 teams was awesome to see.

What was the finish scene like?

The finish at NAC was filled with many happy, yet exhausted paddlers.  Finishing this race is a feat to be proud of and you could see that everybody there was happy it was over.  There was plenty of delicious food and drinks and the NAC was like a giant beer garden.  Great vibes and also great to see a big sponsor like Toyota of Socal there to support paddling.

Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay - Race Recap

What did you end up having to spend at the end of the day? Including everything from boat to food to lodging to race fees?

My brother and I each spent $75 to register, $90 total for the campsite for my team(me, my wife, my brother, and my cousin), and split $600 for our escort boat driver fee.  My escort boat driver took us over to Catalina so that saved us the cost of taking the ferry to the island.  We bought lunch on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday and it probably ended up costing $20-30 for both meals.  I’d estimate the cost of my race fuel/energy/food and drinks to be $20.  I spent $20 on the inflatable raft used for our changes.  I left my truck at Newport Dunes(that is where my escort driver picked me and my team up) and I think parking would’ve been $25 per day.  I can’t remember exactly how much parking would have cost because the guys working the parking booth let us out with charging us because they knew we did the 40 mile relay!

What were some of the hurdles and logistical challenges?

Honestly, the biggest hurdle to doing this race would be the expense of an escort boat driver.  Everything else seemed to be no problem because Kelly from Puakea Designs made it easy for me and my team to do this race.  She paired me up with an escort driver, offered me lodging options(campsite or the hotel in 2 harbors), set up for my canoe to get sent over to Catalina, and even gave the option of having all my camping/non-essential gear shipped back to NAC on Sunday so that I wouldn’t have to bring it on my escort boat.

Any tips for folks who want to attend in 2019?

Sign up early and save money on the registration fee.  Train hard and don’t forget to have fun!

Catalina Wild Buffalo Relay - Race Recap

Anything else you would like to share about this unique and exciting race?

Overall, this weekend was a weekend that I’ll never forget.  I camped at the beach under the stars with my family on one night and then got to spend the next day doing an epic paddle race!  A day on the water is a day well spent.

We couldn't agree more Micah, thanks so much and we will see you on the water!

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