SURF TO SOUND TO SUDS: RACE RECAP
Told by Capital SUP PaddleBro Brian Meyer
November is traditionally the time of year I take a break from padding unless the wind is blowing. Paddling 32 miles down the Tennessee River Gorge last weekend for the Hypothermic Edition Chattajack 31, my body was telling me no more racing! My mind was telling me otherwise. I still had the itch to compete. I’ve never been to the Surf to Sound to Suds paddle race in Wrightsville Beach, NC…home to the famous mega race, Caroline Cup. The weekend forecast showed 70s and sunny. I could race both SUP and OC-1 in the same weekend. Sold! I rallied a small but formidable contingent of Capital SUP paddlers to make the expedition with me.
Mary “Air Mare” Howser and Cody Iorns joined me on the drive down. We made good timing until we got close to Wilmington. Mary took the wheel for me for the last part of the drive. We ended up missing a few exits due to my neglection of the navigation. I told her I was working on business, but I was really Instagramming…Sorry Mary! Our final destination was to April Zilg’s home in Wilmington. Soon to be Capital SUP paddler Teresa Plitt’s home. Leaving Baltimore County for the beaches of North Carolina. I don’t blame her, but will miss her! Bummed to be losing April to the West Coast. Not only is she one of the best paddlers in the world, she’s a great ambassador to the sport and culture of stand up paddleboarding. One of the few that really understands how to connect with all ability and experience levels of paddlers.
Woke up Saturday to bluebird skies and summer like weather. I decided to compete in the 6.5-mile Surf to Sound race on my 14 x 24” Sunova All Water raceboard. My training the last month was focused on my OC-1 getting ready for Chattajack. Sitting down in a canoe and not activating my leg muscles for a month, I knew I was going lose my lower body strength during the race but hoped I could last till near the finish. Race conditions: 10-15 mph North-Northeast wind and a Full Moon tide. Meaning…downwind fun and then a slog the rest of the way fighting the current and wind.
The horn blew and 50 odd paddlers were off into the waves. I executed a clean beach start and took the holeshot. I traded bumps with 3x defending champion Larry Cain to the inlet. I was able to get on his draft and hoped I could work with him the rest of the race. That wishful idea lasted about two minutes and then a boat wake created separation. Local paddler and friend Haywood Newkirk gave me some tips on how to navigate the inlet before the start, but I got too caught up on following Larry’s line. Fielding Skip Pagel, a groomed Capital SUP paddler, and current East Coast stand out listened to Haywood and I soon found myself fighting the current while Fielding was blowing by on the right hugging the north inlet. Right behind him were too unfamiliar faces, but immediately knew they were going to give me some trouble as well. Turns out they are two of Larry Cain’s protégés. Once we rounded the halfway buoy we were graced with a 10-15 mph headwind. My legs turned to jello and Fielding and the two Canadians left me in no man’s land. The last 3 miles to the finish were unpleasant, to say the least. I saw outrigger friend Harrison Diesworth, my competition for Sunday’s OC-1 race, on the docks cheering all the paddlers. Paddling by him, I shot him the look of pain, while he smiled back at me. At the moment I was regretting my decision to enter the SUP race. I finished the race in 5th place. Teammate Fielding won a sprint to the end to finish 2nd. Seeing my Capital SUP team do well reenergized me for the rest of the trip!
Made a stop to our favorite Wrightsville Beach restaurant, Tower 7, to refuel with their delicious Mexican food & drinks. Ran into April and her Vanilla Wafer crew. I proceeded to unknowingly spill the beans on her surprise party later that evening. It got awkward and I got red in the face. Thankfully I learned later April already knew of the plans. The rest of day was spent sleeping on the floor in an empty room in April’s house. April and husband Corey had already moved all their furniture out of the house. Thinking back on the weekend, I probably slept a total of 2 hours. Coffee was and will always be my best friend! Aprils going away party brought together some of the best of the Wrightsville Beach paddle community. Caught up with old friends and met some new ones! The nightcap took us to Waterman’s Brewing Company, a relatively new brewery and restaurant in Wilmington. Highly recommend.
Opened my eyes Sunday, because I never fell asleep, and went to get up. My body felt strapped to the floor and took me a minute to get to my feet. My whole body hurt. I started to wonder…how was I going to be able to paddle another 11 miles today? Sunday was the Froth race. A new race at Surf to Sound with the objective of growing the outrigger and surf ski communities on the East Coast. Starting to transition myself over to outrigger full time, the race gave me the opportunity to show my fellow stand up paddleboarders the transition over was doable. Race conditions were overcast, cool temperatures, raging current, and a stiff NE wind. A small but experienced start list of paddlers lined up for the start of the race. A mixture of local standouts, weekend warriors, and the Future of the sport, Harrison Diesworth. I already considered Harrison the top paddler of the East Coast. Before Chattajack, I hadn’t raced against him and was anxious to see how I could stack up with him. With a lucky boat wake surf session and then 10 miles of pure adrenaline I was able to come out on top. I knew he was eager to get me back.
When the horn blew he went off like a rocket! We went head to head and settled in with a sizable gap on the rest of the field before mile 1. I was paddling in Harrison’s backyard. Sticking with him was going to be a challenge, but my body felt good considering Saturday’s punishment. He created separation in the inlet, but then I chased him down on the upwind section of the ocean leg. Once we hit the turn buoy, Harrison surfed his way to a sizable lead. His experience in the ocean showed and I knew at that point I was settling for second. The rest of the race was a fight against the current and keeping Harrison in sight. I emptied the tank and paddled hard to the finish where I was greeted by the Wrightsville Beach community. My race season was done. It was time to relax and cheer on my Capital SUP team! Fielding sprinted home to another 2nd place podium finish. Alex Young, hammered to the end to cap off a successful first year of paddling. In March he stood on his first raceboard. This weekend, he paddled 13 miles and looked like a seasoned paddler doing it. Congratulations Alex! Next to round the last turn to the beach was Cody Iorns, Capital SUP’s adaptive athlete who has been inspiring the paddlers the last year with his dedication to stand up paddleboard racing. Winning the weekend’s most inspiring performance, Cody proudly walked up the stage to receive his award while the rest of us gave him standing ovation. Cindy Eisele, one of Capital SUP’s most stoked paddlers, rounded out the group of finishers paddling hard all the way to the end with a big smile on her face. I waited for her on the beach to be the first to congratulate her.
Good weather. Good racing. Good vibes. and Good people. Surf to Sound to Suds delivered. That’s why I’m sharing my experience with you. Put this on your calendar for 2018! Before I end, I would like to thank a few friends before I go…
Sharon Pieczenik. Thank you for assuming the role as Capital SUP’s media person for the weekend. You’re a natural fit in our paddle tribe and we’re excited to have you a part of it.
April Zilg. Thank you for being our host this weekend. The Capital SUP family and I are going to miss you. But we are all excited to support you from afar. Safe travels across the country in the creeper van with the pets, garden of plants, and boat! I will see you again on the water soon.
John Beausang. Thank you for being a great race director and dedicating your life to growing the culture and sport of paddling. Want to read some great paddle content? Check out www.distressedmullet.com.
Time to reflect, recharge, and reunite with the gym. I have work to do!