My blog has been dormant this year because I haven’t been on any adventures. Now that the math semester is over, my attention has turned to doing the things I have spent the semester planning and dreaming. After my long “successful” kayak ride in the ChattaJack 31 back in October, I wanted to evolve from the slower kayak and try out a faster surfski. I bought one of the smaller, heavier (and much cheaper) surfskis because balance isn’t one of my stronger attributes. Here is the surfski I ended up getting:
The heavier surfski is supposed to be less wiggly on the water. But once I got on it, all I do was wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. For me, there is the constant physical feeling of flipping the damn thing over. Begin to flip to the right, over correct, flip to the left, over correct, flip to the right, etc. I attempt to do this balancing act while paddling, but I can’t paddle it too much like a kayak. Too much hip action, and I flip. And careful how you press those foot pedals; that steers the rudder. So, to do a heavy paddle on the right, I want to press my right foot hard to brace myself and heave that water backward, but that steers the surfski hard to the right. Then I over correct, flip to the left, yada, yada, yada.
I knew this new adventure was going to take a good amount of time; time for me to get physically used to being on, and using, a surfski. Unfortunately, after delivery delays, bad weather, hiking practice, and other interruptions, I was only able to practice on my surfski on three occasions (for a total of about 18 miles) before time to participate in my first race, the 19-mile Bluegrass River Run up in Kentucky.
My routine after those first few rides became, when I first get on my surfski, I spend the first half mile getting down a smooth, gentle stroke where I don’t feel I am going to flip over. Then the next half mile I get comfortable with the stroke and I speed up, but then I end up flipping over into the water. And since I can’t figure out how to get myself out of the water and back up on the damn thing, I swim toward the shore where I can stand up, climb back on the surfski, and head back out, this time in a smooth, but slower, stroke.
And that is how my inaugural taste of the 19-Mile Bluegrass River Run started. I started in the rear, so as not to be in the way of the real “racers”. I flipped my surfski as usual at about Mile #1, swam to shore, climbed back on, and headed back out. I flipped again at about Mile #10, swam to shore, climbed back on, and kept going.
Most of the other racers were out of sight soon after the race started. Every now and again, as I paddled around a bend in the brown Kentucky River, I could see a few paddlers way up ahead of me, easing around the next bend and out of sight till I got past that next bend, where I could see them going around the next bend. I knew there were a few racers behind me, but I couldn’t turn around and see where they were. If I tried to do that I would surely fall off my surfski. So, I just kept paddling. Here’s a link toward the preliminary race results:
Out of 33 random vessels that started, and out of 24 of us who finished within the allotted 5-hour cut-off time, I finished 22nd. My Happy-Time goal was four hours. If I finished in less that 4 hours I would be happy. If I finished in more than four hours, eh, I would be less than happy. I ended up finishing in 4 hours, 2 minutes, and 48 seconds. If I hadn’t fallen off twice, I would have easily beat my Happy-Time. But falling off is part of the race. With a lot more practice (practice paddling and practice balancing and practice climbing back on), I hope to compete again later this summer somewhere and see how much I have improved. Adventure on!