The wind condition outlook was not so good for race day due to Hurricane Sandy; wind gusts were up to 25+ mph and there was lots of ocean chop. But Water Monkey Fall Paddle Festival race organizer, Chase Kosterlitz, was prepared with alternate courses set in the Treasure Island, FL intracoastal waterway. And the athletes were ready to tackle the cards they’d been dealt!
Fortunately, on the morning of October 28, 2012, Sandy’s winds had slowed to 13-15 mph, the weather temp was feeling like a true, cool fall day and the racers were feeling energized! Since the courses had been altered, the electronic timing system had to be prepared manually due to the water, instead of beach, finish. At the host hotel, Island Inn Beach Resort, over 100 paddlers lined up, got their numbers, and Chase announced the course details and safety information at the Captain’s Meeting. Racers were relieved to hear both the 8 mile Elite and 3 mile Fun courses had been shortened due to gnarly conditions.
There was a decent launch site across the street from the Island Inn Beach Resort, complete with a boat ramp and dock, and Elite racers began putting in and lining up between the dock and buoy that represented the starting line. Chase gave the 30 second warning, blew the horn and the athletes were off to a strong start, heading north into the headwind and current. The course was super fun, winding through dock and boat-lined canals, around 3 home-filled islands. On my 12’6”x 26” Starboard BOP, I chose to strategically hug the sides to avoid the brunt of the wind and current. My Starboard SUP, sold by Travel Country in Altamonte Springs, FL, cut through the chop nicely & kept me stable through intervals of washing-machine-like chop from the reverb of waves off the canal walls.
The course offered all kinds of challenging conditions – currents, wind and chop from all directions, but most of all I liked the downwind section after rounding Capri Isle and looping south! I was catching wave after wave, moving toward the center of the canal to benefit from the current and wind at my back! My Maui Jim Sugar Beach shades allowed me to read the water clearly and offered a sharp view of the dolphins playfully surfing just 10 feet to my side! Rounding Paradise Island at the end of the course, I hit the head wind and current again, and the gusts were much stronger than when the race started! I got low and used a choke stroke with my light and powerful Werner Grand Prix paddle and gave it my all to the finish line! The digital timer presented my finish time of 1:22 hours for 6 miles total and there were encouraging spectators cheering and applauding!
Post-race lunch and awards ceremony were held back at the Island Inn where top 3 finishers in all board classes/races received medals. I placed 6th in my division and 3rd in my age group! In the spirit of Halloween, costume beach relays and egg toss were held which was a very fun and entertaining way to end the day! In all, it was a great event - organized, challenging and competitive! Big mahalo to my sponsors, Travel Country, Starboard, Maui Jim & Werner!