Rolling Without GPS

I don’t have a GPS watch, and I’m (unsponsored) as John lists with race posts (ha ha) if anyone would like to contribute to the cause. Just kidding. I finally  have something to ask for for Christmas.

Anyway, I told Kim “Kim, I want to do the graveyard race of the Carolina Cup next year. I just want to finish. I don’t care if I have to spend time on my butt between the jetty, but I’d like to stand to paddle the length of the beach.” “Well, the beach is 5 miles long. Today we’ll go three miles. You’ll be almost there!”

Although the Onslow Bay race was in the ocean and presented its own set of challenges (nearly dying of heat stroke) I don’t so much count it as an open water paddle race. I feel that I’m starting from scratch here.

At 6:45 am, we met at Access 2 on Wrightsville Beach. Who needs crossfit when you can lug your paddleboards up and down giant sand hills? Bonus workout after the paddle when the deck pad of your board has sucked up a bunch of water.

Kim had to go “slowly” because of a hurt shoulder. Kim’s “slow” in the ocean is my “fast.” Her two weeks of “rest” should work out well for me!

We started paddling south along the beach, against the swell. So far, so good. “I’M WORKING ON PUTTING MY HIPS INTO IT” she says (yells-because of the wind) and does a booty dance. “AAAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE” I screamed while trying to imitate her. It’s hot, I don’t have my water with me, and the sun is beating down. Kim practices her buoy turns in the ocean. I practice floating in the ocean.

I CAN SEE WHY SHIPWRECK SURVIVORS WANT TO DRINK THE OCEAN. There’s so much water. Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

Kim’s GPS map of where we paddled

Kim has a GPS. “If we turn around now, we’ll end up doing four miles. We’ve done two already!” Kim, you’re smart. That’s the way to train me. Tell me we’re doing three and tack on an extra one or two. I’ll never know.

Riding the Swells-Catching the Bumps

In D.C. I heard a lot from John and Kim about missing the bumps. “I like bumps.” “I like bumps.” “I like bumps.”


I’ve never liked the bumps because I had no idea what to do with them. Riding continuous swells to me feels like start-stop-start-stop-start-stop. If you’ve never done this and you try it, you’ll immediately see what I mean. It’s like running your board into a wall (a spongey wall, but a wall nonetheless). I would always stop paddling at the bottom of the swell and try not to fall off. I would fight the ocean.

It was exhausting.

Here’s the trick: keep paddling at the bottom and rest at the top.

Kim taught me that trick, and it changed my entire outlook on ocean paddling. In D.C. John said “Stick your board’s nose into the back of the swell in front of you.” It is basically the same thing, but I had no idea what he meant. View from the Back Tip of the Week: If you’re out in the ocean, or on a river, or whatever–someplace that has swells–paddle hard at the bottom of the swell and rest for a second at the top when you catch it. By catching the swells, we went from an average speed of about 3 miles per hour to about 5  miles per hour.

Definite change in speed while downwinding!

You can also see that it took a lot less time to downwind (while doing it properly) than to paddle upwind. The distances are the same. Knowing how to “ride the bumps” should give me a big leg up in my next race!

Water Ballet

Kim said she isn’t graceful. I think she looks like a ballet dancer on the water. “I love paddling in the ocean,” she said. You can tell, too, if you watch her.

Kim coming in during the Onslow Bay Challenge

 Surfing with the Dudes (and Lama)

After paddling with Kim I ran into John in Whole Foods. “JOHN JOHN JOHN JOHN I JUST PADDLED FOUR MILES IN THE OCEAN! ON MY FEET! WHEN CAN WE GO AGAIN? SOON! SOON! SOON!” We made plans to head out the next day. After going without water on Saturday, on Sunday I brought the whole kit and caboodle. The 100 ounce Camelback (overkill), my sup thing suction bungee strap thingys, my pfd, my camera, my leash, etc. etc. etc. “Katie, you sure do bring a lot of stuff paddling.” As we had already discussed my packing issues re: car space for D.C. I failed to see how this was news. I thought we were going to paddle, but the waves in Mason’s Inlet were so good, we had to go surf. Surfing with a Camelback? Not easy. Surfing at all? Not easy. Surfing my 14 foot race board? Yeah. One guy asked me if this was my only board. “No,” I said. “I actually bought a sup surf style board. It is sitting in its bag in my garage right now.”

The other SUP surfers. They were very nice and gave good advice.

I started by getting too far inside and being clobbered by a wave and spit out into the whitewater. Miraculously, I was still on the board (on my knees). Too far forward, I was about to pearl (nose dive). I leaned as far back as I could and rode the whitewater. YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. “THAT WAS AWESOME!” “You just did a layback. Tell people you did a layback.” “Cool, I won’t tell them I was on my knees.” I learned to surf several years ago. I’m a bad surfer. VERY VERY BAD. But I can catch waves, and handle my board without killing myself, and fall properly. I know to look out at the ocean rather than back in. TANGENT: You can always tell surfers from non-surfers. If they’re swimming, the surfers are the ones looking out into the ocean instead of in toward land. First rule: Never turn your back on the ocean. Surfing was a good prerequisite for ocean paddling. If you have surf camp in your area, I’d recommend a day of it if you plan to paddle in the ocean.

The Mullet (PS aren’t you glad I brought the camera? I thought so.)

I tried to catch a few more waves and fell off. Well, I jumped off. “Katie. We have to have the talk.” John paddled over to me. “There is NO SHAME in falling off your board if you’ve charged a big wave. There is ETERNAL TEASING and LOATHING from fellow surfers if you jump.” Got it. Even though the water was glassy and smooth, I fell off more in that hour and a half than I had in the last month. “Katie! Why do girls always scream when they fall off?” shouted Greg Lew. “Because we’re girls!”

Lama. She’s pretty badass. I don’t think she screams.

I scream when I fall. I scream when I jump. I scream when I catch a wave. I am a screamer. TMI? When you surf, you go from being prone to standing/crouching. When you paddle surf, you go from being upright to crouching. It’s a different motion and a different way of reacting to the water.

“Katie, you’ve just about got it. Now step back into your surf stance,” said John.

“You say “your surf stance” as if I have a surf stance.”

“Everyone has a surf stance.”

Just remember that, landlocked friends. Deep inside, everyone has a surf stance.

Charging. Stepping back. Crouching. I managed two of the three on one last wave. I was far FAR outside, trying to stay out of everyone’s way. I looked over my shoulder and saw a big one rearing up behind me. I started paddling like I was running from a shark. I caught it. I stayed on. I crouched. I flew! People watched and got out of my way. I rode until I fell off. It was probably the best wave I’ve ever surfed while standing. “That was great! Now just get back in your surf stance!” I’m working on it.

Katie becomes hooked on the ocean after a paddle with her friend Kim.


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