What an incredible weekend!!! I finally made it to my first Pacific Paddle Games and my first ever stand up paddle race on the West Coast! You know the saying, the more you learn, the more there is to learn? I love it! And it pretty much sums up my weekend. Winning is a triumphant experience, and one that I strive for at every race, but the amount that I learn from my failures makes being defeated every now and then extremely worth while.
I knew this would be a challenging race for me. I organized to arrive early in the week to get a few days of practicing in the surf at the race location, Doheny state park in Dana Point, CA. (Really a few months or better yet years of surf practice is what I need 😜)
My amazing sponsors at surfstow live 5 mins from the park and offered me a room at their house and a car with a roof rack for the week. This was super convenient and I am super grateful!
The first thing I did upon arrival was collect my board and head to the beach. I hooked up with Jamie and Mike from the Paddle Academy and joined in on a training session at the beach with their squad of about 25 groms! (water sports slang for: youth) They have such a great program going, getting the youth stoked on the sport and doing legit training sessions with them 3x a week. This interests me a lot. Maybe when I slow down my own racing schedule, I will start a sup school.
My first surf session didn't go so well and I really wasn't liking the feeling of the new board. I decided to make a different plan. Luckily this industry is small and everyone is helpful. I was able to hook up with NSP and ride one of their boards for the weekend. I can't really go in to details about the boards and why I made the choice I made. I know it was a big disappointment to my sponsors Mistral, and a big risk for me to ride a completely foreign board design for the first time during a race, but sometimes you gotta take risks. And whether it works out or not, without risk, there is no growth. I am very grateful to the entire surf tech team for temporarily adopting me as their own and especially to Ryan Guay for the gear.
I spent the entire week trying my hardest to master the surf, but this was not without its setbacks. I was dealing with residual shoulder and rib injuries and had to really take it easy and could only do about two 1 hour sessions a day before the pain would creep in and I would have to stop. But, there was definite improvement throughout the week. It was so cool to see all the athletes and the teams training at Doheny Beach throughout the week. I jumped in on as many sessions as I could and everyone (and I mean everyone) offered help and advise. That is the cool thing about this sport. Even the women who were going to be my competition were trying to help. (Maybe it just looked like I I needed it that bad. Lol)
On Tuesday night we had the awards ceremony for the Euro Tour I did this summer. This was the first time all the athletes were together in one place since June. It was so nice to see everyone! I ended up getting 2nd place women overall and received a giant check which was super cool! Thank you Euro Tour!
Wednesday night was the SUP Awards, presented by SUP the Mag. The "red carpet" of SUP. I was shocked and honored to be awarded Female Breakthrough Performer of the year! It was a monumentous year for me and it felt incredible to be recognized by my fellow paddlers for all of the hard work I put in. I walked up to the stage with tears streaming down my face, unable to make acceptance speech, yet full of pride and gratitude. Thank you to SUP the Mag for this honor and to all who have helped me on this journey. Whether your contribution was big or small, I couldn't have done it without you and I feel truly blessed.
On Saturday we had our first race, the semi final heats for the pro women's technical event. The technical race is 3 laps around a course of buoys. There are 6 buoy turns in each lap and two of them are in the surf. The swell was up and the conditions were very challenging for me. I got so smashed in my warm up that I went and hid and cried like a little girl before the start. I was f*king terrified. Then I remembered to breath and finally to meditate. I re entered the beach ready to take on the surf and whatever the outcome would be. It certainly wasn't pretty, I didn't make it over any white water without falling and I didn't surf any waves, but I managed to stay calm and to somehow finish in the top 8 and made it into the finals. I have to admit I was feeling pretty low after how poorly I performed, but everyone was once again so encouraging, which really helped.
On Sunday morning was the "distance" race. It was meant to be a 6 mile course of two laps all outside the surf zone. Even though the waves were not breaking, the water was a bit rough. It wouldn't have been so bad except that I was once again on a new board and didn't quite have it dialed in. I lost the entire draft train from the very start because I just couldn't keep steady in the white water. It took me about 20 minutes, but once the field of women got spread out and I could actually get into my rhythm, I felt super strong and the board began to glide. By the end of the second lap, I went from about 18th place up to 8th. The women were starting to get tired and I was only just warmed up. The actual distance of the race was a little over 5 miles. I wish we could have done another lap or two so I could have closed more of the gap made by my bad start, but before knew it, it was time to turn the last buoy and surf on in to shore....except that I once again proved how much I have to improve in the surf. I wiped out on every single wave coming to the beach and watched as the girls I had worked so hard to pass, just surf right by me to the finish. I ended up finishing 12th. Not terrible, but not the result I was hoping for. To win a race, you need to begin and end strong. I did neither of those. Oh well....
That same afternoon we had our technical course race finals. Much to my delight, the wind had picked up and the swell had died down! With the waves a more manageable size, and me feeling more comfortable on the board, I was able to have a strong race. I fell ever time we hit the inside buoy, (but so did pretty much everyone) but I didn't wipe out in the white water AND I caught a wave and surfed all the way in to beach for the first time without falling! April Zilg and I were on the same wave and jumped off at the same time and I won the sprint race up the beach! I came in 12th again. Just to keep it even, but I felt that I had had a good race. It was the first time all weekend I wasn't embarrassed running up to the beach.
In the final standings /combined points I came 11th overall. I am not super stoked as I would have of course liked to do better, but I am happy. Happy I came here. Happy for the opportunity to race in challenging conditions, to get out of my comfort zone, to learn, to grow, to take risks, to meet new people and make new friends. The Pacific Paddle Games really delivered!
Thank you to my sponsors whom I couldn't do this without. @ Mistral SUP, I wish you guys were here. @vestpac for the new prototype hydration pac. I am liking the improvements! @remedys nutrition, the extra strength pre-work out never lets me down. @carbonerro @surfstow, it was great to hang out with you guys at the West Marine tent. @sweet Waterwear, the race jerseys were awesome! @vmg blades @keys mobile chiropractic @kaenon
love and blessings and gratitude!
RPhotos from @onit pro