The Texas Water Safari
How it all began:
After finishing racing the MR340 in October 2011 (http://www.supthemag.com/features/standup-paddling-the-longest-river-race-in-the-u-s/
I rested up and then started planning my 2012 race year. I tried to find the longest, toughest races that were out there and add them to my season. I checked out the Texas Water Safari, but couldn’t find a ton of info on it. Time passed and I was invited to race in Belize. So I put the TWS on the back burner and focused my attention on Belize.
March 2012 I raced in La Ruta Maya Belize challenge. A 179 mile race in Belize that traverses the ancient Mayan route (http://www.supthemag.com/features/going-where-no-man-has-gone-before/ ).
The Day prior to the race I was walking through the town of San Ignacio with the Pau Hana crew when we saw some Americans so we went over to talk. We found that they were obviously there for the race so we talked about boat situations. Virginia Parker and Morgan Cohutt both Texans were racing with a third member that was back at a hotel. So we gladly divulged I was racing on a 14’ Pau Hana Crossfit. Their reaction was the same as I get most of the time. Wow, wait what? As the conversation progressed, Virginia said, “I hear there’s some guy that’s going to try to do the Texas Water Safari on a SUP.” Todd Caranto (Pau Hana board shaper) pipes in and says “yeah, that’s this guy right here! He’s gonna be the first person to race the TWS by SUP.” So from that point forward I learned that the TWS was now on my list of races to conquer. The word was already out, there was no turning back.
Fast forward a month from Belize. My wife and I have our second child (Tessa) on April 20th. My training time Is now hard to come by. I have to make the decision of do I train tonight or spend time with my family. This becomes the question every night. In this process, I slowly become a ghost around the house. Training at 4am, then to work, then to work for clients landscaping, then home. Spend an hour or so with the family before I disappear into the basement to train for the second time in the day. Somehow I maintain this pace until the TWS comes.
2 weeks prior to the race, my nights are filled with emails, gear lists, acquiring gear, talking with sponsors, trying to get sponsors, getting my ground crew on the same page, all lumped in with light training and squeezing in some family time. I could not have made it through this process without my wife. She was home all day with 2 kids and when I came home she would let me train and disappear to prep for race stuff. I was exhausted, but she was beyond exhausted. I’m fortunate to have the support I have on the home team. My wife and Mother in-law were the rock at home base. Without them this whole process would not work. I would not be racing!
Getting there: Thursday June 7th
June 7th I wake up and work for the City, punching in at 6:30a and out at 3:00p. I race home to get all my gear ready. My wife goes and picks up the rental car for me and comes home with a Jeep Liberty. Man, I love Jeeps. I drive a 01’ Jeep Cherokee and it’s the best vehicle I have ever owned. The trip is starting off right.
My crew shows up. Team captain Michael Rokos and then Crew expert (and also an endurance athelete) Joe Baisa. We load everything in the Jeep and load the board on top. I say my goobyes to my ladies, My wife Elissa, My mother in-law Patti, and my Baby girl Tessa. Sadly, my son is asleep inside. I don’t want to wake him and leave, leaving him upset. I end up just leaving.
The trip is estimated to take 16 hours. Joe Baisa starts out behind the wheel. They let me linger in back and relax. As the drive progresses, Joe stays behind the wheel for almost 13 hours of the trip driving straight through and switching off with Michael. They let me sleep all night Until I awake in Texas. I like this ground crew already.
From left: Joe Baisa, Michael Rokos, Shane Perrin
Arrival in San Marcos: Friday June 8th
We make it into San Marcos to the start Early afternoon Friday, where there’s a mandatory check-in. We get the board off and tubs of gear and food. With this race you have to declare everything you will have with you for the entire race. (The only thing your team captain can give you during the race is ice and water). Michael and I painstakingly do this, from a snakebite kit all the way down to how many clif bars I have, and it’s a ton of them. The process takes a while. In the meantime various people make their way over to check out the board and the guy that is going to try to SUP the Texas Water Safari. Michael and I talk to a lot of folks with a lot of questions. West Hanson, a local favorite and a hell of an athelete stops over (check out amazonexpress.org). He’s genuinely happy I made it. Whether it’s to watch me die on the course or to have more Midwesterners find out what the Safari is all about.
Michael at the check-in. Inventory of all gear and food.
We go through this process for what seems like hours and I realize I don’t have enough dry bags. Joe Baisa heads out and gathers last minute supplies. Returning with dry bags and a whistle. We make the check-in. I realize we have just enough time to head out to Austin Canoe & kayak to pick up a paddle that Werner sent out for me and make it back to the safety briefing at 4pm.
Of course we get 20 minutes into our trip and there’s major traffic. We make the decision to keep going anyway. We get there and after a very confused employee, he emerges with the paddle. Werner bent shaft Grand Prix. Awesome just to look at. I thank him and we go to leave. Just until he says, “Hey have you paid for that?” I explain that it’s a sponsor paddle but he’s not buying it. I leave the paddle at the counter as he makes a call. All sorted out and we leave only to realize we’re going to miss the safety meeting. Joe drives and hauls the best he can with even more traffic. The meeting starts at 4pm. We arrive at 4:30. Joe drops us off as Michael and I slink in to the back of the pack and listen to the skinny. Mostly prerace fluff but some good stuff.
As we sit and eat, yet another curious person enquires about the stand up guy. After some conversation she says to my face, “ I’m sorry but you won’t make it past palmetto (approx.. 60 miles in). I just smile.