|A little motivational quote to start things off|
There was a lot going on right before this race with finishing off work, becoming recognized internationally as a SUP athlete, and trying to figure out how one lives a pro athlete life. I wanted to do this race for many reasons but felt it important for me personally to go out and race to set off my new life as a pro. I didn't know what to expect with varying levels of stress, lack of proper training, and just a lot going on in general. I was blessed with such positive inspiration from the SUP community, family, friends, and pretty much everyone that no matter what my results would be I knew I was doing the right thing. I wasn't sure how I would react to the added pressures from myself and the media,... I was keen to find out...
|Photo by Mark Paaluhi|
Thursday evening we had a race get together at the very awesome Velauno shop in San Juan... We were treated with drinks, great company, and talks from Eric Terrien, Jim Terrell and Chris Parker. Afterwards we had one of the best pizzas ever in a small pizza joint located on top of the shop... I got the pleasure to get to know some of the other top racers throughout the evening; sharing our adventure stories among other things. Everyone was excited and had tales to share.
|Velauno Shop Thursday night. Taken from Velauno facebook page|
Friday more racers were arriving, the rain was still downpouring, the winds still increasing, and my nerves and excitement starting to become noticeable. I went for some more paddling practice in the chop, tried to rest, hydrate, and eat! I definitely have a new obsession with coconut water.
|Werner team members Friday|
|Hanging out with the ladies on Friday before the race day|
Below is a little recap of how they come up with the final overall points at Paddle Royal:
The goal is to get the lowest number of points. You get to throw out your highest score and then the other 5 scores are tallied for your overall score. The distance race is worth two races and each sprint race is one. If you get 1st you get 1 point, 2nd 2 points, etc.... It is a cool way to try and find the most talented racer, one who can do the distance and have the speed and skills in the sprints.
Saturday morning we awoke to howling winds and huge swells. As we gathered for the race meeting we were told that the coast guards cancelled the open ocean section of the race due to their concern for safety... I was bummed as I was excited for the adventure of going around Old San Juan but also happy in a race way as I knew that the strong ocean paddlers would have had a huge advantage over me due to experience in those conditions... I made sure I had Nuun in my water and some gels in my pack. I used my Werner Grand Prix S1000 paddle and was on a Starboard All Star (12'6 x 25). I decided to wear a leash, looking around most pros didn't use a leash but I figured since we didn't have a run in the course, it wouldn't hurt to have one just in case it would get a little gnarly at some point (it turned out to be a good call wearing the leash. it did get gnarly).
|Photo by Michel Terrien|
The wind did not let up even in the protected lagoon. There were 4 sprint races... of varying length all counting towards the overall standings. My goal was to go out hard on the first two secure some more wins and then hope I could hold on to the top 3 for another race. The starts were important in this race as well as strategy and buoy turns. It was tough to manage hydration and food as the races were spread out and we didn't really know when we would be going throughout the day. We started the first race at 11am and the last race around 4pm. The first race was the longest. I got a solid start and was able to hold onto my lead the entire race. The second race was slightly shorter but again I had a solid start and held onto the lead. In between the 2nd and 3rd sprint races there was a one design team relay race. I decided to join a team as there was some cash money for the win. Chuck, Chris, Frank and I joined forces and managed to win the team relay!!!! We were stoked!
|The winning relay team!|
On the 3rd race I had a lead off the gun but at the second bouy turn Brandi took the inside line and managed to sneak out in front, it was a great battle... she has some solid turns and totally deserved that win. We had a pretty huge break before our last race which was a straight line sprint. Brandi and I figured out that no matter what happened we had locked in our positions of 1 and 2 and so celebrated with a beverage and felt relaxed with the pressure off our backs. There was a serious battle going on for 3,4,5,6 places among the women and for the men it all depended on the final sprint. I had an awful start but managed a win in the final race. The race to watch though was the pro men in that final sprint. It was AMAZING, the battle, the speed, the determination... Danny Ching managed the win and therefore the overall win for the weekend. Congrats to all racers, thanks Jaime from Velauno for putting on a great weekend!
|Photo by Mrak Pahuuli|
|Awards! Lina 1st, Brandi 2nd, Helga 3rd, Gail 4th, Bailey 5th|
St Thomas with Gail, Erik, and Jaecey....
I feel blessed to know amazing people. Two of these amazing people are Gail and Erik who live on St Thomas. They invited Jaecey and I to stay with them and experience life on St Thomas Island. I will try and summarize my time there.
Every Day all the time: Amazing views, warm water, and lovely people... I was trying to figure out if I was on vacation or working?!? HA. I wanted to use my time there to train in open ocean waters, surf, and downwind. So, is this work or vacation when you are an athlete? I tried to do a little bit of both I guess. When we were out on the water I took it seriously and tried to learn but also had loads of fun and enjoyed our adventures. I wanted to pack it in.... I don't get to enjoy warm waters very often so I was all about water fun!
Luckily so were Gail and Jaecey!
Day 1 We SUPsurfed. They were perfect size, deep reef, no crowds.... I was in heaven... I used my Werner Nitro paddle which worked awesome! It took me a while to figure it out but by the end I was catching some waves for sure.
|Practicing some turns on our way to the waves photo by Jaecey Suda|
Day 2 We SUPsurfed and did an awesome downwind run. The SUPsurfing was slightly bigger but still good. Again it took my a while but then I was catching them and riding them out the side:) YES! Improvement! The downwind run was just so fun! Colin Butler from !!!!!!!!!! took us out on his fishing boat. He dropped us off off the coast of St James Island and we paddled 8.5miles back to the lagoon/harbour. It was so nice to be out in the big ocean, the swell was overhead and we were having a blast catching glides, falling off, and just being in this beautiful area. I still am nervous when I fall off the board about sharks and other large underwater creatures but I try not to think about it too much:) I was working on catching glides and riding them, trying to read the waters like Jeremy Riggs taught me in Hawaii. I used my Werner Grand Prix small blade, My Virus tank and Sweet Waterwear shorts.
|Downwind photo by Colin Butler|
|Gail and I with a truck full of fun photo by Jaecey Suda|
I don't want to give a away all the secrets but I can say St Thomas is a great island for water adventures. Gail and Erik amazing hosts. I got a lot of good open ocean training in which I am so grateful for! Now, its back to Vancouver, back to my hubby, back to the cold, and back to training in a different way as well as some serious planning and working on the computer..... These last two weeks have confirmed to me that following this dream at this time is the right thing for me right now. I know it is not always going to be glorious but for now I will bask in this glory and take the tougher times as they come.... Although it seems like a luxurious easy “job” like any I know it will have its ups and downs,.... but I am ready for them!
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THANK YOU Werner Paddles, Nikki Rekman Sales, Trident Sports, OnItPro, Virus Performance Action Sports, Feed the Machine, Ultimate Potential, Pro-Lite, Ryders Eyewear, Surffur, Chacos, Crossfit Vancouver, Sweet Waterwear
Live, love, laugh,..DREAM!