Last Sunday i headed over to Bowen Island for the 34 KM Round Bowen Challenge. It’s a very short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Harbour on Bowen. Jen and i SUPed over to Snug Harbour for breakfast and coffee one morning and then took the ferry back, which was free. You only pay one way. It’s a fun little paddle and you just have to be aware of boat and ferry traffic and the westerlies that can build up out of the Straight of Georgia. Paddle it in the morning before the winds come up.
The Round Bowen Challenge traditionally has been a kayak race but this year there were Jen, Mike, Lee and Tim were competing in the relay and Kelvin Hummeny and i were going around solo. I thought this race would be great training for my Molokai to Oahu race at the end of July. Kelvin and crew took an earlier ferry and headed south around Bowen for their start. I took a later ferry closer to the beginning of the race and by that time the call was to head north around the island.
I brought over my 14′ Roy Vickers Rogue Raven board to test around the island. I love big distance ocean races and expeditions and the feeling of freedom it brings being on the water. We had great weather for the paddle and throughout the day. The first 50 minutes of paddling was pretty cruisey as i moved with the flooding current and a slight inflow breeze at my back. Bowen Island is located at the mouth of Howe Sound which is the starting point for the strong inflows that develop during daytime heating. By the time those inflow winds get to Squamish, the kiteboarders and windsurfers are having a great time riding the swells and powerful winds. I love these conditions for downwinding on my sup as well and the best place to start is in Porteau Cove.
As i rounded the east side of the island the current and wind both switched direction and i found myself paddling against a decent headwind for an 1.5 hours and against the current for 2 hours. Regardless i just paddled on taking the time to concentrate on my stroke and use the water along the shoreline to my advantage. The west side of the island can be pretty nasty with full exposure to the Straight of Georgia but today it was warm and flat. The quickest part of the race was heading back up north along Bowen and back to Snug Harbour. For the last hour and a bit i picked up the north current again and the nice inflow wind that was at my back again now but stronger. By the time i hit the dock in Snug Harbour my watch read 3:52 mintues. That was pretty much continuous paddling effort with about 500mls of water and 4 shot blocks. I felt pretty good afterwards and really enjoyed the salmon dinner they had waiting for us, man i was hungry. The Vickers board was great and a lot of fun to paddle. Congrats to all the racers but especially to my fellow SUPers, Kelvin, Jen, Tim, Lee and Mike.
I think this race in the future will be a great one for the SUP racers. I like it because it really tests your waterman skills of weather, wind, tides, currents and how to read all of those and how to use them to your advantage. The 34 k tests your physical abilities, training and paddling technique. I know i have been paddling with good technique because aside from some general muscle stiffness i have no joint or tendonitis problems which can occur over long distances and with poor technique.
I think i will head out for the MEC Big Chop race series this Thursday at Vanier Park for some more training. Race begins at 7:00pm.
See you on the water.