Monday, September 9, 2013

Paddle For A Cure

Yesterday was the Paddle for a Cure event. It was a great event but a hard paddle. I also learned some interesting things about SUP/kayak events I hadn't known before. But I'll get to that when the time's ripe. First, on with the event.

I got to Annsville Circle about 7:20 and dropped off Big Red and everything I needed to go paddling except for my big waterproof pouch. Then I drove to Cold Spring to drop off my car. I caught a return shuttle organized by the Paddle For A Cure crowd back to Annsville.

Annsville was getting pretty crowded:

There were ultimately fourteen paddleboards to over one-hundred kayaks. There was kind of a festive atmosphere. There were a table for registrations and another stacked with PowerBars. People seemed to be arriving constantly. The place was an ocean of multi-colored plastic.

Jerry from Standup Motion (Always a stand-up guy. Get it? Stand up? I make funny.) offered my the use of an NSP 11'6" for the paddle instead of Big red. I hemmed and hawed, but took him up on it, transferring my Allison fin to that one. This board didn't have tie-downs, so I couldn't carry as much stuff as I wanted, but it was a more suitable board for the river. later, I was very glad I did.

There were far more paddleboarders at this event than had ever showed up before, so Jerry and I were recruited as guides. We got hot pink guide hats and became one of the caretakers. It was probably a good idea that happened too.

Jerry from Standup Motion getting his NSP 12'6" ready. While another man, Leopoldo, had a Bic Wing 12'6", Jerry officially had the slickest board of the event. The rest of us were on all-arounds.

My new ride.

You may now be jealous of my pink hat.

I did a dumb thing before the event. I tried a PowerBar bar and a gel. I have been told since to never try a new food right before an event. Now I know why. You never know how your body is going to react. I reacted with stomach cramps, which plagued me the entire paddle. My wife informed me that what I did was “stupid”, which I guess it was.

It was decided that since paddleboards are mostly slower than a traditional kayak, that we would launch first. Jerry and I would take responsibility for this group, which made sense. So we did. I got the hang of the new board, which was a little longer and lighter than my personal NSP board. We launched and became the vanguard of the excursion up the river. I felt proud. 

As soon as we went under the rail bridge, trouble started. The winds were blowing between 10–15 mph from the north, right in our faces. Whitecaps were visible, which meant the wind was even going above 15. About half of the paddlers dropped down to their knees, which was a smart thing to do. It gives you more leverage on the paddle plus less wind resistance. Denise Smith took these pictures of us starting to struggle against the wind. the water looks calmer than it was.

Pictures courtesy of Denise Smith.

Pictures of the kayaks launching, by Peggy Navarre, one of the event organizers.

Right beyond the piling in the picture above we lost our first paddle boarder. She wasn't a very strong paddler and was moving at a pace that would take her all day to get to Cold Spring.  She was already in last place and falling behind rapidly. I felt terrible for her, but it was decided to get her out of the water.

Jerry's daughter got these shots of me. These are so cool, because I rarely get shots of me in action. You can see how chaotic the water is in these shots.

It didn't take long for almost all of the kayakers to pass us. They have a distinct advantage in the wind. A kayaker sits lower so there's less wind resistance. Kayaks are more needle-shaped (usually) compared to the jelly beans most of us were on. So our vanguard turned into a rear guard, but that was okay. I could have kept up with the kayakers, but my responsibility was to this group, not to looking macho.

We all struggled until the Bear Mountain Bridge (I was on my knees by Fish Island), where the wind magically disappeared on the other side. Suddenly our crawling up the river turned into a more leisurely paddle through Manitou and Garrison. The conditions were lovely. We marveled at the riverside houses in Manitou along with a battered seaplane. Of course we paddleboarders fell further behind, but the group was having a great time. Leopoldo and his son had to stop in Garrison. This apparently was his son's first trip, and the conditions were too much for him. One of the other paddlers, Deirdre, was also going very slowly, but someone loaned her a kayak paddle, and pretty soon she had scooted up with the rest of us, doing fine paddling her board like a kayak. Carrying one of those around might be a good idea for a group paddle.

Things got interesting again at World's End, which is where the Hudson does a narrow twist by West Point. This is where the famous chain across the Hudson was laid during the Revolutionary War. The water was completely chaotic by Constitution Island, so insane that everywhere I looked, the water was going in about five directions. It was almost like we were on top of a huge boiling pot. This was kind of  weird and exciting at the same time. Yet when we rounded the corner into Foundry Cove, things got worse.

The wind was awful, again blowing in our faces. This time the speed was closer to twenty, but gusting higher. I went partially across then returned to lead some paddleboarders in a roundabout way around Foundry Cove to take advantage of some shelter at the shoreline, but I got yelled at by other guides. So across the cove we went, against the vicious winds. For the second time I went to my knees and scratched my way up to the park just north of Main Street in Cold Spring.

It seemed we were all late to a big party. the kayakers had all eaten but fortunately there was still pasta and sandwich wraps. Prizes were given out and people relaxed. I was exhausted. Even now, the next day, my shoulders ache. Not only that, Kirsten has now taken possession of my pink hat. (I still have a white one in my car, though.)

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