As a another brutal Noreaster Bears Down on Eastern Long Island it gives me pause to think back on the 2014 Paddling Season. For many of us it started back in April, as we assembled our first ever Main Beach Stand up Paddle Race Team.
Training began in earnst as a colder than normal Spring and an Early date for the “Paddle Race for the Bays”, May 10th, got everyone fired up. Team training paddles took place on Sundays while individual training and paddling took place as the weather permitted. For the most part it looks like Starboard, Bark-Surftech, SIC, NSP and Hobie are the SUP brands of choice for most local racers. Quickblade, Kialoa and Werner Paddles seem to have a lock on the SUP paddle market for the local race scene. By the way, anyone interested in racing is welcome to join our team race training sessions. In addition to the workout, these training sessions are also great opportunities to interact with other racers and demo the latest gear. Please contact me at the shop to be put on our race training mailing list for 2015.
As far as the “Race for the Bays” goes, we were blessed with a great day on Saturday, May 10th and the race was well attended. James Rothwell from Connecticut took 1st place in the Men’s Elite division and Stephainie Shideler from the Main Beach Team taking 1st in the women’s Elite division. The friendly team rivalry with the Connecticut racers added some spice to the race, but the team concept proved tough to fully implement and the jury is still out for 2015.
While the Stand up racing and training scene was going on, I found myself distracted with the rumblings of Striped Bass and Weakfish turning up in the Peconic Bay and I went into paddling over drive, Kayak Fishing at dusk and dawn, Race Training after first light and then off to the surf shop to support our mission of getting folks on the water. A delicate balancing act at best. Springtime on the Peconic Bay is magical, as the local flora, fauna and fisheries come to life somewhat simultaneously. It quickly became clear that I needed to be more efficient if I was going to keep up this crazy schedule, so on work days, I would fish from one of my SUPs, creating a style of fishing that involved interval sprints to a certain hot spot, working the spot for a few minutes and then moving on to the next spot at as part of another interval session. While probably not the most effective approach to maximizing my fishing results, I was on the water paddling and training every day. Not to mention, I had a few good days of fishing from the paddleboard, which is a lot of fun. I have successfully tricked out a few SUPs for fishing so be sure to speak with me about this the next time you see me at the shop.
As exciting and challenging as SUP fishing is, I still find a well designed fishing kayak to be a better all around fishing platform. On my days off, I was at one of my favorite launch sites with either my Native Watercraft Slayer or a Wilderness Systems Ride X. Both great boats that warrant a complete write up on their own merits. I almost forgot the tried and true Malibu II XL from Ocean Kayaks, for taking out guests in a tandem boat. Fishing kayaks have evolved considerably over the past few years as they have become the fastest growing segment of the Kayak industry.
Spring time on the Peconic Bay means Striped Bass, Weakfish, Bluefish and Fluke, all of which are challenging to catch and quite delicious table fare. While the Striper bite was off a little, a strong showing of Weakfish, Fluke and hard hitting Bluefish made up for it and overall it was a rewarding and fruitful Spring Kayak Fishing Season.
Now I do not want to sound like it was all fun and good times this year, but it does get better. June not only provided great weather and our Friends in Connecticut put on a great race at the Sound Surfer event, but we also had some windy days. Now some people might ask why someone would want to go paddling on a windy day? Well, let me tell you, windy days, make for great conditions to plan out down wind paddles. Down winders as they are known, are probably the most fun type of paddle that I have ever done. I would go as far as to say, they are almost as much fun as powder skiing. A good down winder requires some planning and team work, and perhaps the biggest effort of a down winder is the jockeying around of some cars and trucks, so that there are enough vehicles at the destination point for the planned paddle route. If gliding down the face of countless waves as you cruise across the flats and sand bars of a beautiful estuary sounds like fun, you are right, it is a lot of fun! We enjoyed several great downwind outings this year, primarily running East and West routes on the bay and along the beautiful Hamptons ocean beaches, and when we had a stretch of strong southerly winds we charted out some runs starting at some popular South Fork Launch sites and paddling north across Gardiners Bay to Orient Point, good times.
The summer hit hard with the surf shop being busy and our camps, rentals, lessons and tours were keeping the outfitter crew busy. Just as we thought things couldn’t get any busier, the “Paddle for Pink” in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation was upon us. The BCRF crew did a great job and a fabulous event was planned out at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor. With a great turnout of around 175 paddlers the race was a huge success. We ran a 3 mile recreational Race and a 6 mile Elite race on a beautiful course set out into Northwest Harbor. Taylor Resnik Took first place in the Men’s Elite division and Mary Scheerer in the Womens division.
Sometimes things don’t quite go as planned, and sometimes they do. My good friend Billy and I spent the better part of a year planning out the Great Peconic Race in 2013, only to have the Coast Guard pull the plug on the event with only a month to go until race day. Ouch! Roll the clock ahead to September, 14th 2014 and we are at Wades Beach on beautiful Shelter Island. With 82 racers on the beach prepping Surf Skis, Outriggers, Kayaks and SUPs for a 20 mile circumnavigation of the rock. The forecast was on the edge with 15 to 20 knot winds forecasted through out the day. Awesome conditions for Surf Skis but not so much for Stand up Paddlers. By 9am all racers were off the beach heading in a westerly direction towards Crab Creek and Jennings point. I think the arial photography of the race tells the story of just how amazing this race course is around Shelter Island. As challenging as the conditions were the race was super fun and challenging.
Everyone who registered finished either the full or ½ course. Stand up Paddler times range from 3 ½ hours up to 7 hours. A great post race party capped off a memorible day of paddling, racing and friendship.
The season finale race supporting the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue squad a Fall tradition was cancelled due to wicked weather conditions. This was truly a bummer as these great guys and girls do so much for our East Hampton community supporting countless local charities and running the local Junior Lifeguard program. Rest assured, the race will be back next year better then ever,
So where is Stand up and Paddling Heading for 2015? Personally I can’t wait to get a look at the new boards and paddles that will start shipping in April. Please contact me or stop by the shop with any questions regarding new gear. Of course I cant wait for the first signs of Spring to honeysuckle me away from the wood stove and out onto the water in force. Look for a great Hamptons SUP Race Series next year (4 races), lots of Clinics (I think Candice and Anthony Vella are coming back), Demo Days, Gear Swaps, Kayak Fishing Adventures, Downwinders and more…
For now it will be selective on the water sessions chasing surf, weather permitting paddling sessions, fat tire bike rides, cross country skiing on our local Hamptons trail network and hopefully a few trips up to Vermont chasing some POW.
Happy Holidays and Safe Paddling to All.
Main Beach Surf and Sport