Sunday, July 8, 2012

Texas Water Safai Part 7

Texas Water Safari Part 7

                              You do something for the right reasons, Nothing can stop you.

I'm not here to try to be famous.  I'm not racing to have my picture taken for papers or interviews.  The cheers, the handshakes, and way to go's are very welcomed but not rewards I look for.   I'm often asked, why a Stand Up paddle board?  The answer is never easy.  There are a multitude of reasons why. 
      Why do I do this? A major goal of mine is to spread and further the sport of SUP. Through ultra-distance racing I am able to reach a larger audience to showcase the sport I love.  Stand up is my life's passion.  I live it. I don't get paid for it. It's actually quite the opposite, I spend a ton of money racing.  My reward is connecting with people through Stand up.  Teaching lessons. Education. Whatever I can to share my love of the sport.
     However, what I do is not easy.  I'm not talking about the racing, that's the easy part. The training, finding family time, finding money, managing life, these are tough.  Even tougher is finding a race I am accepted into.  9 times out of 10 when I ask a race organizer to race in their event on a SUP, they won't allow it.  It's usually a plethera of emails back and forth and then the most used reason is that my board doesn't fit into USCA specs.  However,  I won't let ignorance be a deterrent.  I keep search other org's that say yes. 
     Which leads me to the Texas Water Safari.  One email asking the race organizers to let me race,  with one simple question.  Would you be open to letting me race in theTWS on a stand up paddle board?  A prompt response back. "We've never had a stand up in the race before , that would be great. You can be in the men's solo unlimiteds."   I wish it was always this easy.

     I paddle out from Victoria into the night.  Night time kind of sucks but is kind of interesting.  As the night begins I get tortured by bugs.  Nothing that bites or stings, but bugs that are attracted to my light.  I try to run with only a flashlight taped on the nose of the board.  I have to run my headlamp periodically to scan for  stumps or rocks.  Everytime I turn on the headlamp I'm eating bugs.  I develop a paddle stroke that I turn my head to the side with each stroke hoping it throws off the kamikaze bugs from bombarding my face.  It works decently, but i'm sure I look like an idiot. I bet all the racoons that I saw on the banks were laughing at me.

                                              Heading back out into the night from Victoria

     Once the bugs are gone, night paddling takes an interesting turn.  I scan the banks and see some oddities.
           A Rhino humping a cricket!  What the hell?  How is there a cricket that big? Wait why is the Rhino humping it?  I paddle on the opposite side of the bank .
  My night is filled with oddities.  Some I've convinced myself are true and I keep my distance, others I paddle closer because I'm intrigued.  There is no pattern what I think is real and what's not.  I paddle close to a 20' teradactyl perched, only to find it's an oddly shaped tree in the night.  I have no rationale at this point.  I paddle away from a rhino humping a cricket but paddle towards a Pre-historic bird that can eat me!

  Through the night and into daylight finally.  That was wierd.  I've been warned about hallucination alley in this race.  I'm not sure if this was where people were talking about, but it was defiantely my Hallucination alley.   As I get daylight and catch up to my crew,  I follow my now normal pattern, ice the crap out of my entire leg, reload my water bladders, eat my bagel with peanut butter and then back on the water. 

    I know it's close, it's been on my mind, it lies behind any bend of this stretch of river.  The infamous log jam.  I'm told it's a 1.8 mile portage.  I've spent time in my backyard figuring out a way to transport the board through this area.  Now, faced to portage without my harness I have to figure out something else.
        Just as I see the log jam in the distance I get a nice head wind slapping me in the face.  It's like getting kicked in the nuts and while you're hurt getting a tittie twister!  I'm tired, and a bit beat up, and I let out a loud grrrr/grunt and pound the water with my paddle.  Not even 15 seconds later I hear, " Hey Shane".  It's a tandem boat I've talked to here and there on the river.
  I think, did they hear me? They must think I'm a wierdo. If they heard me, they play it off. I ask them what their plan is. They tell me there's a portage river right that dumps into another slough/stream that you paddle that puts you around the jam and right back into the river. The guy in the pic below with the black shirt runs through the woods to try and find the path to the slough. 20 minutes later he comes back covered in sweat. No dice, he can't find it. I make my way over to the left bank as they do too.

I call these guys my log jam buddies.  They arrive at the massive jam at the same time I do.  Can't remember their names,           but they were really great guys,  (If you guys read this, please let me know your names again)
(pic at the awards ceremony)

This is what  you see as you come down the river - Major log jam
More Log jams

     Prior to the approach I came up with a half-brained idea for a harness.  The wheel system has a bit of extra nylon strap on it and there are some bungee tie downs.  So once on the bank I put the wheel system on.  I put the wheels under the nose and fasten it over the top through the 2 Surfco hawaii handholds I epoxied on prior to the race.  I clip the sides together and cinch it tight.  There's about 4ft of nylon left  and I cut it off.  There's my harness.
       I tie it around the handhold on the tail of the board and it works.  With a loop tied around the handhold, I now have about a 2 foot loop that I can hold onto and pull the board.  A quick pull over rocks and stumps and I make it to an old jeep trail about 30 yards from the river.  Now strategy comes into play.  I'm told some people will portage around a huge log jam and then get back and paddle the river until they come to the next large jam. I drag the board for about 5 minutes and lay it down.  I run back over to the river and take a look.  Still the log jam.  I get back to the board and the tandem team has caught up to me and pass ahead.  I follow them and decide to see what they do.  They portage the whole thing then get back in the river.  I follow suit.
                                    In between the major jams this is what the river looks like.
                                 During the long portage, some people get back in and paddle to
                                                              the next impassable section
     After a long portage, I pull off the wheels and we're in the river paddling again.  Guess what? Yup, another log jam.  We get out and I decide I'm done with the wheels.  I just drag the board, nose end first.  I scrape over stumps and rocks in the process.  The rubberized coating on the bottom of the board (developed by Pau Hana's Todd Caranto) has proven itself over and over again. I drag for about 5 minutes until there's about a 10' drop that leads back into the river.  Back paddling and there's smaller log jams I paddle up to and crawl over pulling the board with me.

                       Racer Tim Osburn slips on a log at a jam just after the bigger jams.  Trying to maneuver on the  
                              logs is tough.  It's slippery and some of the logs you step on will submerge making you fall.

                         After the major jams, this is the river for a little while. Very technical on a SUP


          I finially make it out of the Log jam ordeal and paddle for about half an hour and decide to see if I can get any reception on my radio.  I get a local station that comes in decently.  Now paddling alone, my log jam buddies have paddled ahead, with a little music I find a decent groove.  Until about 10 minutes of listening, I hear disturbing news over the radio.  I stop paddling. I have to kneel down on the board.  I can't even hold my paddle.  I completely lose it and breakdown.  The news is more than I can handle...

1 comment:

  1. Congratulation to the winners. I'm sure the contest is not easy with that kind of track full of tree limbs everywhere. Paddleboards Red Deer