"She was unstoppable. not because she did not have failures or doubts. but because she continued on despite them." Beau Taplin

Carolina Cup 2016 - Photo: Andy Anderson

Carolina Cup 2016 - Photo: Andy Anderson

   I just arrived home from 5 days at the 2016 West Marine Carolina Cup and I am so stoked with the entire weekend. Over 700 paddlers came together to celebrate and share and paddle our a**es off in Wrightville Beach, NC. For most of us, it is a long trek to get there. For me, a 14 hour car ride. For some, 35 hours in flight connections! But the experience is so worth the journey.

   Getting together with that many athletes, coaches, trainers, legends, and rookies is such an incredible opportunity. I love picking people’s brains and learning as much as possible about this sport and about myself at the same time. I have come so far in a short time and I still have so far to go. I have come home renewed and even more motivated to train smarter and harder.

   I left home Wednesday evening after work and drove 5 hours to Orlando, FL to meet my friend and avid OC paddler, David Rush. I stayed the night at his place and then we left early in the morning taking his (much more reliable) truck the remaining 9 hours to NC.  We arrived Thursday afternoon and I immediately launched my board off the beach and went for a paddle. The waves were big for this area, bugger than I remember them last year, and messy. I knew I was in for a rough race if that is how they were to remain. But I did my best to remain positive. They told me not to even check the weather forecast as it is always unpredictable in this area.

 Friday was a mellow day. Lots of meet and greets, but the energy is always tense before a big race.

Sure enough, Saturday morning, the wind had calmed substantially, but the swell was still rolling in nicely.

Start of the 2016 SUP Carolina Cup

Start of the 2016 SUP Carolina Cup

 I actually had a decent start. I waited for the first of the set of waves to roll through and then hopped on my board once already quite deep into the water and made it out past the next set with no tumbles. Even though I had waited, I reached the turn buoy before a lot of the women because I didn’t take any major falls.  After that it was slow going however, I managed to not fall once on the 3 mile outside leg, but my speed was terrible in order to do so. This was frustrating to me because in FL I am known as one of the paddlers with great balance who can stay on my board through some pretty hairy conditions, but I think that the difference between wind chop and swell is huge and I am just not trained in those conditions. By the time we made it to the inlet and found some flat water, the top women were long gone, and I’d wager I was somewhere in the middle.  I took off as fast as I could for the 8 mile flat water section of the course, knowing that this is where my Mistral Slipstream 12’6” x 23” (an amazing flat water board) could really shine. I am happy that I was able to gain my way back up to 8th place in order to claim a top 10 finish at one of the most competitive SUP races in the World. I can only wonder how I would have done if the entire course was on flat water…

The 1st place female finisher, Annabel Anderson, is an incredible athlete. She is not known for her warm, fuzzy smiles or pats on the back. This has given her quite the reputation, especially amongst the other women, but you know what? She doesn’t give a f*ck.  She is too busy living up to her reputation as the best female Sup athlete in the World to care what anyone else thinks. And that, to me, is admirable. I spend so much time and energy worrying what other people think. I always smile and say nice things.  But I think part of the reason why Annabel is so good is the fact that she is so ruthless. I think I stand to learn more from her attitude than her technique. Not that I would like to start being thought of as standoffish, but… take this funny story for instance.  As I was warming up before the start of Saturdays race, I looked up and Annabel was paddling right toward me. It was one of those who’s going left, who’s going right situations. She holds her ground and I lose my balance and end up falling in the water. What a dork. That moment might have decided the fate of my entire race… instability vs. intimidation. You want to be the best in the World? You need to eat dorks like me for breakfast. Who cares if she likes you or not? Stare her down so hard she falls off her board before the race has even begun…

   Anyway, Sunday was super fun. I stuck around for the Kids races and then got to join in on the OC6 races as well. We put together an unregistered girls team consisting of Annabel, Candice Appleby, (the World’s #2 ranked female) April Zilg, Kristin Thomas, Aimee Spector, and Myself. So much Fun! I loved getting to be in the boat with those girls!

   David drove the whole way to and from Orlando and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for his hospitality and chauffer skills this weekend. As well as the hospitality of team Carbonerro and VestPac for putting me up and taking care of me and making awesome paddles.  Mistral SUP for their continued support in my racing endeavors and providing an amazing board. To Remedys Nutrition for providing nutrition programing that keeps me healthy and energetic on and off the race course, Keys Mobile Chiropractic for always keeping my injuries at bay, Sweet Waterwear for compression clothing, VMG blades for excellent fins, And everyone who has helped get me where I am today. It just keeps getting better and better.

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!

Next Stop: Kew West for the Key West Classic SUP race. Yay!!!!