Monday, November 21, 2011

Surf to Sound Challenge - Humbling Experience

We had about 6 Charleston locals make it up to the Wrightsville Beach, NC "Surf to Sound Challenge" race. As the "press release" below mentions, conditions were tough, but a great day. Cool, but sunny. Very windy, choppy, and good sized surf. I read a few articles that quoted the winds gusting into the 20 knot range...was at least in the teens. The beach / surf start was humbling for most of us. Even with years of surfing experience under our collective belt, I think most of our crew had a bit of trouble getting through the 2 sets of breaks, some in the chest to shoulder high range. Doesn't sound too scary, but was certainly more tricky than expected when on a long race board, and with 50 fellow racers shoulder to shoulder with you.

During the elite race, after getting through the surf, the fairly disorganized, windy chop in the open ocean was the next fun challenge - at least we had a nice wind at our backs. Most of us took a few swims -- it wasn't unusual to hear the splashing sound of nearby racers taking a plunge as well. Would have been pretty fun chop / swell / downwind conditions to navigate on a casual day. But, in the setting of trying to paddle fast and actually RACE at the same time, it was definitely a humbling experience.

After rounding the jettys into Masonboro Inlet, the water became a bit more calm. There was a brief downwind, sheltered intracoastal creek stretch...much too brief. We then rounded a buoy and headed into a pretty stiff wind for about 3 miles up the channel toward the finish line. This was a brutal stretch - everyone pretty much just held their ground. Not much dualing or changing of places going on as we were grinding it out into the wind during that final, long leg. I did have one drafter within an inch of my tail for a good 2 miles or so -- hope he enjoyed my help! Wish he had returned the favor.

Everyone did well. Most of us learned a lot.

Joe Mosquera was the top Charleston-area finisher in the men's 14ft elite, finishing 7th. Jenny Alderman was the first Charleston-area woman to finish the elite, in 5th place. As has been the rule this year, these Wilmington/Wrightsville races bring with them great competition and strong paddlers. The overall winner was a former Canadian Olympic gold medalist in sprint canoeing, Larry Cain.

Please see the press release below for some more details...full results can be seen on

NC Surf to Sound Challenge "exceeds expectations"

Wrightsville Beach NC...Stand Up Paddleboard competitors from three nations, ten states and the District of Columbia, enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's for today's inaugural NC Surf to Sound Challenge. Shawn Spencer, Race Chairman, said: "Today's North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge exceeded all expectations. Over 107 racers joined us today in this benefit FOR Masonboro Island."

However, Northeast winds were strong at 10-15 knots, and the surf was rough for the ocean start. Seas were three feet, increasing the challenge for the elite athletes. Elite paddlers navigated a 6.5 mile course, with a Le Mans style beach start, running to pick up their boards and splashing into the frequent and heavier than usual surf. Once getting past the breaking surf, the elite athletes braved the open Atlantic Ocean, battled through Masonboro Inlet, and paddled the channel behind Masonboro and Wrightsville into a stiff wind before reaching the finish line.

Winners: Elite Surf to Sound Challenge Race

Men's 14 ft category
Larry Cain, Burlington, Ontario, Canada, Time: 1hr 11min 09 sec Note: Larry is a Gold Medal Olympian and World Champion in Sprint Canoeing, and in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
Doug Ellis, Virginia Beach, VA
Chris Hill, Holly Ridge, NC
James Bain, Wilmington, NC
William Miller, Manteo, NC

Women 12.6ft category
Kate Lewis, New Bern, NC, Time: 1hr 32min 44sec
April Zilg, Wilmington, NC
Kim Sutton, Wilmington, NC
Kimberly James, Wilmington, NC
Jenny Alderman, John's Island, SC

Elite Masters 50+
Tom Pace, Pensacola, FL Time: 1hr 24min 30sec
William Pope, Wilmington, NC
Guy Davis, Hampstead, NC
Clay Thornhill, Charleston, SC
Michael Metzger, Key Largo, FL

Intermediate paddlers crowned their champion on a 4 mile flatwater course, the popular Harbor Island Outer Loop. While conditions were more serene than the elite course, racers faced stiff winds, tide changes and intense competition as they navigated the wide water circle around Harbor Island and the now famous Loop.

Winners: Intermediate Harbor Island Outer Loop

Men 14ft Division
Steve Dullack, Virginia Beach, VA, Time: 44min 23sec
Mike Stanaway, Raleigh, NC
Steven Capps, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Ratley Warren, North Myrtle, SC
Kris Matson, Cary, NC
Women 12.6ft Category
Karen Wilson, Kure Beach, NC Time: 49min 22sec
Susan Lew, Wilmington, NC
Christine Rebman, Semora, NC
Carly Tillotson, Duxby, MA
Laura Stevens, Wilmington, NC
Men 12.6ft Category
Mark Allison, Myrtle Beach, SC Time: 50min 20sec
Patrick Akos, Chapel Hill, NC
Justin Donaton, Kure Beach, NC
John Cox
Coty Pinckney

The youth competition fielded 8 paddleboarders who braved the cold air and 63 degree water at 9am to complete a 200 yard dash, rounding a buoy at the half way mark.

Winners: Youth Division of North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge
Tag Spencer, Wilmington, NC
Henry Murtagh, Wilmington, NC
Oliver Bain, Wilmington, NC
The North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge was organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddleboard Club and Blockade Runner Beach Resort. WBPC spokesman Haywood Newkirk said today: "We are really excited about being part of the season ending fall race here at Wrightsville Beach. Having the event at this location will allow us to have a more challenging ocean start for the Elite Race, while simultaneously holding an enjoyable flatwater race for the recreational paddlers that are so important for the growth of this sport."

William Pope, Director for the World Paddle Association said: "It has been amazing to watch how quickly the stand up paddleboard (SUP) sport has grown throughout the country, especially in the Wrightsville Beach area. Wrightsville offers so many different types of water and conditions it appeals to everyone. As the SUP community continues to grow around the world, Wrightsville Beach will be at the heart of that growth on the East Coast."

The Surf to Sound Challenge was sanctioned by the WPA (World Paddle Association).

Aerial photo of North Carolina Surf to Sound race courses
Photography by Lemonstripe
Pre-race Aerial video of Masonboro Island, Wrightsville Beach and surrounding race waters:
2011 Aerial Pre-Race footage for NC Surf to Sound Challenge

Contact information:

Race Chairman: Shawn Spencer,, (910) 256-2545

Expo Chairman: Jason St. Clair,, (910) 256-7115

Surf to Sound Communications Director, Robert Butler,

William Pope, WPA Director, 910-367-3144,

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Cold Weather Paddling

There are many articles and resources out there that can give you a great deal of detail on all the options for bundling up for cold weather stand up paddling. After paddling through last winter, talking to fellow paddlers, and doing some research I have learned some simple basics that might help you stay out on the water through the winter months. By no means, though, is this meant to be a detailed article on the "high tech" of cold weather paddle boarding. Rather some opinions from personal experiences - after some trial and error!

With our mild winters around Charleston, there is really not going to be a day that isn't paddle-able during the chilly season. The biggest question is simply "what" to wear on any given day. Which really comes down to "what are you trying to do on that given day"?

If you're heading out to put some miles in, tour the water ways, get some exercise or even just take a leisurely paddle, odds are you're going to stay on your board (i.e., not take a dip in the water). It's actually sort of amazing how 45 degree water can motivate you to stay on your board - you become a much more cautious paddler in the January. Though, we'll all take a plunge every now and again. But, for these "safe" days when the expectation is to stay out of the water, what most of us have found works best is to simply dress as though you were heading out for a jog or bike ride in the same temps.

Layers work best - that way you can add or subtract during your paddle depending upon how you feel. And, layers of thin, insulating, wicking materials. Things that are easy to find at outdoor sporting outfitters and running shops. Thin wool garments are easy to find these days, too...wool will help to keep you warm even when it gets wet. And, there are specialty versions these days that are very thin, very comfortable. They make for a good base layer on a super cold day.

A next step up for layering your core is often a good breathable windbreaker-type jacket - waterproof if possible. I typically use my ski jacket shell on days where it is very windy and cold and/or raining. And, I would expect that if (when) I fall in and take a dip, a good quality outer shell won't soak up too much water, and will probably retain a good deal of "wind breaking" property when I get back on the board.

And, as for taking a dip, hopefully that will be the exception. But, with that ALWAYS a possibility, probably best to avoid clothing that'll get soaked and heavy, like thick cotton, plain old tee shirts, etc.

On the wetsuit / neoprene topic, that will be very much dependent upon "what" you're doing. If you are heading out primarily SUP surfing, then a wetsuit (full or otherwise) will be pretty much a must, just as though you were surfing on a surf board. Even in a wetsuit, it is definitely chilly when you pop back up and stand on your paddle board and are waiting for the next wave -- more motivation to STAY ON the board and out of the water whenever possible. Some people have discussed wearing kayaker "splash pants" or some other "windbreaker" type of pants on top of your neoprene - with the rationale being that it will keep you a bit warmer when you get back standing up on your board by blocking the wind away from the wet neoprene layer underneath. But, if you are repetitively getting soaked, a somewhat bulky pair of splash pants also might end up being more annoying than simply wearing a good neoprene wetsuit by itself

In general, though, neoprene is probably best to stay away from when you plan on staying out of the water and ON your board on a given day. It doesn't breathe -- you might be surprised how soaking wet you are from sweating when you get back from your flat water trek. And, a good full wetsuit will be VERY constraining to the range of motion of your arms, shoulders, chest, back. That said, some days, when it's freezing, AND you think you just might be taking a dip in the water, better safe than sorry. Those are days in which wearing a full wetsuit, even if you PLAN on staying dry, might save you in the event you fall off of your board on a 30 degree afternoon. But, a better idea might be a sleeveless wetsuit, which will at least give you some added range of motion - then layer thin, breathable, insulated, water friendly shirts on top (easy to take off as needed). On the "how to best use neoprene for stand up paddling?" topic, my best "find" has been a pair of neoprene pants. Keeps the bottom half of my body relatively warm and dry, especially if I'm going to be on a long trek that might include some ocean surf, chop, etc (e.g. a winter ocean downwinder). And, then, layer lots up top with thin wool, Lycra/polyester, and other cold weather "running-type" shirts. Layering your upper body with various thin, versatile materials really helps you to fine tune things for a particular day and a particular type of paddling trek...and, will allow you to continue to fine tune things once you're out on the water.

As for feet, that might be the "make or break" issue. If your feet are numb and cold, everything will be miserable. So, invest in some good neoprene booties. And, some people will even use a thin layer of wool socks inside their booties on the coldest of days.

Hands - gloves, can also be a "make or break" issue on very cold, windy, wet days. Neoprene wetsuit gloves are good in general, but can be too hot if you're not getting wet, or if it's not extremely cold out. Often, ski glove liners work very well.

A super helpful trick that I learned last year (not rocket science) is to START off warm. If you start your paddle off cold, on a freezing day, it'll be hard to feel good. So, get changed into your gear in your car, with the heater blowing and THEN get your board off your roof and get ready to roll.

The biggest take home is probably to have a variety of options. Experiment. Mix and match. Trial and error. And, most of all, don't let the winter months keep you off of the water.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thank you, SUP Safaris for a SUPer Event!! Race times, photos and kudos

THANK YOU to Jon Ory and all the people who made the SUPer Scary Race a blast on Sunday!  I think I can say that everyone definitely had a great time.  Check out the pictures on the SUP Safaris' Facebook page.

Race times for the top finishers
  • Elite Women- 1. Danielle Licari 1:18         2. Krisitin Lewis 1:22.08
  • Elite Men- 1. Mike Evatt 55.48         2. Don Alderman 56:30    3. Damon Licari 60:01   

  • Recreational Women- 1.Beth Lovett 37:25      2. Jenny Alderman 37:32     3. Caroline Rossi 40:08
  • Rec Men- 1.Blackwell Johnson 36:35.29     2. Jeff Baxter 40:02  3. Ryan Carey 40:02
  • Dog SUP Race- Russ Marshall and Franny
  • Kid's Race- Dylan, Sayer and Preston were all winners!!!!   
Charleston Sup Safaris raised funds for Pet Helpers and Emerson Rose Heart Foundation   Proceeds will donated on behalf of all participates.

We would like to thank all sponsors:
Charleston SUP Safaris and their professional staff 
Liquid Shredder for donating a SUP board
Deanwatersports for a wooden paddle
Ocean Surf Shop for gift certificates
Surfers Healing charm
All the local restaurants for gift certificates

SUP ATX, Half Moon Outfitters, Berts and Surf Bar for the award prizes
The Sunset Cay for supplying the great venue and music by The Blue Grass Society, Wadata, oysters and drinks.

It was a family fun SUP event.  Tell all your friends!