Race Prep

Last Sunday night i headed down to Washington for the Deception Pass Dash. Traditionally a kayaking race, they have recently added a standup paddleboarding class and since i hadn’t had a chance to race and push the pace since August i thought this would be a fun event to be part of. Due to my guiding in the Greatbear Rainforest I had unfortunately missed races in September like the BOP in Cali, Board the Fiord in Deep Cove and the Round the Rock race at Mercer Island. The DPD intrigued me because it was on the ocean and there were currents to deal with. Kevin OBrien from Kalavida Surf Shop had sent me a couple of new Quickblade paddles and also sent a 14′ Naish Javelin to try out. I have been training on my 12’6″ Rogue Outlaw but I have always admired the Javelin and it looked to be a pretty fast flatwater board. I also wanted to paddle a 14′ board as l like this class on the ocean. I also knew the Javelin was tippy in choppy, dynamic conditions but i wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The Kalavida Javelin

We had beautiful conditions to paddle in with the presence of a strong coastal high pressure system. Deception Pass is a scenic area and a great place to have a race. It was sunny and cool with a bit of a NW breeze. The race started at 10:30am and it was great to see race veteran, local and Northwest Paddle Surfer Beau Whitehead. I last saw Beau at the Kalamalka Classic in Vernon in June. It was great to follow Beau’s race at Round the Rock in September on 9/11. Beau, a firefighter himself, was racing his new 19′ custom unlimited board in tribute to the firefighters who were lost in 9/11. I admired that. He had a great race and placed second to Thomas Maximus, another powerful unlimited paddler on a lightweight carbon rocket.

Race Start. Photo Rob Casey

I was also not sure what to wear. I did not know how strong the currents would be, how choppy the ocean was going to be and how i would perform in those conditions on the Javelin. I brought a bunch of clothes but just looked to Beau as he has been there and done that in this race. I basically copied what he was wearing so that meant a 2mm neoprene MEC pant and a longsleeve Victory KoreDry shirt with and Xcel short sleeve over it. That system worked pretty well and i didn’t really overheat.

Deception Pass Dash race course

The Javelin took off pretty quick in the first couple minutes of the race but i realized immediately that the board was indeed “sporty” as i had to deal with the wake of all the kayakers who had blasted off ahead. We made our way around the first island and again I found it a little challenging dealing with the northwest chop but i kept my focus and drove forward. The goal is to get through Deception Pass before the currents really started to move and made paddling even more difficult as it ran into the NW wind chop. Beau and Rob Casey told me later that they can surf some the 8 foot standing waves that build as the current ebbs out to the ocean. It felt good to be out pushing the pace and to just be out on the ocean with other people as i tend to train by myself most of the times. I did not have to route find much as i just followed the speedy surf skis ahead of me. It reminded me of the Bowen Island Challenge i had done early in the season. Like the rest of the kayaks i used the back eddies and hugged close to the shoreline as i made my way under the bridge and to the turn around island inside of the pass. The racers battled the current to the island but once around we were now with the flow and used the main stem to moved quickly back under the bridge and through Canoe Pass.

Trying to use the back eddies to avoid the main current. Photo from DP bridge

My Larry Allison race fin performed well and shed the bull kelp found in certain sections of the course. It certainly kept the board going straight but i did find it a little tough at times trying to turn upwind. Regardless it was the right fin to have on the board. The most challenging part of the race was battling against the growing NW chop that was bumping up due to the ebb current coming out of the pass. Actually, it was really challenging and i found myself bracing a few times to keep me from going in the ocean. My pace would slow as i managed the ocean conditions and it was more survival paddling than race paddling as i lowered my stance and used shorter, quicker strokes. After circling the last island, racers again had to deal with the same chop but stronger currents before hitting flatwater for the stretch home. The currents build by the second here so the longer your out the more current you have to deal with. I was the first SUP to hit the finish line with Beau coming in just under two minutes behind. I know Beau, a great competitor and top racer was pushing the pace and not knowing where he was behind me motivated to keep paddling hard. I really had to stay focused the whole race or i am sure i would have been in the water. I actually enjoyed the challenge of staying on the Javelin in the rough waters but a lot of speed is lost when you do not have the stability to drive hard. You can have a really fast board but if you cannot stand on it and race at speed then there is no point. The ocean usually does a great job finding the flaws in design on race board or any board or watercraft for that matter. These days choosing a race board that matches the ocean conditions is key. I completed the 6 mile course in just over 68 mintues.

Coming through canoe pass.

With the race completed we all enjoyed the post race festivity’s. Great job to all the racers and thanks to all the volunteers for putting the race on. There were a few other guys from Washington who i was hoping to meet but reports and pictures from the surf at Westport showed that they had an epic day as well. This was a fun race at a good time of the year since there are not many opportunities to get out and compete. Thanks to my partner Jen for coming down to support me and for taking pictures. I have been training at her studio ChallengeByChoice in Squamish. I have found a combination of the high intensity multi functional strength and conditioning classes, with paddle specific training and some yoga has kept me ready to go during the offseason, if you can call it that. I am also happy to report that i will be in board shorts this Friday when we head to Hawaii for Jen’s Honolulu Marathon. We hope our timing is good and that there is a massive north shore swell so we can watch the Pipeline Master’s and The Eddie, a dream of mine for a long time.



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