Above photo from Dashboards and Saddlebags. See the gallery here.

“My Aloha Paddle and Surf” in Mooresville, North Carolina, organized the very first paddleboard race on Lake Norman this last Saturday benefitting the Catawba River keeper. They did everything right. Right for a great race and right for North Carolina. Pulled pork and chicken to eat afterwards. Cash awards to the overall elite winners. They also did a few things that were seemingly out of place on a hot day in the foothills of North Carolina NASCAR country. Like Hawaiian music and hula dancing. Like Santa Clause racing on a paddleboard. But all of these melded together made for a cool ambiance and event. Do.Not.Miss.It.Next.Year.

My Race

I’ve never raced or paddled in fresh water, I didn’t know what to expect, would it be different and if so, how? I entered the elite race, which for me means I’m doing the longer 6+- mile distance. I’m still getting used to my new Bark Contender and I was going to use my new Naish Kahalo Race LE series paddle from Carolina Paddleboard Company in Wrightsville Beach. My goal this year is to try different events and varied distances to learn about me and about paddling. This race didn’t disappoint. I learned:

  • Paddling on a lake has everything I have in my salty and windy home environment, except tide:

    • There was side chop that switched sides, as I headed out, and then returned.
    • There was boat wake, there was wind, and there were hazards (rocks and tree stumps.)
    • There were Osprey and they were pretty pissed off we were going by their nest.
  • A straight line when going around an island is not necessarily the smartest line…yep, tree stumps.
  • Those at the front of an “elite”race, open a distance gap and open it early. I was impressed! I’ve got some speed to gain if I’m going to be able to ever keep sight or draft those folks! They’re out front not by chance.
  • For some reason I’m always trying to catch some man ahead of me who’s on a 14’ board, what is WRONG with me! I did not disappoint myself and tried hard to catch and beat my “competitor” and…..I didn’t. I told him afterwards that I was “hunting” him; yep, he knew; and yep, he was not going to let it happen! Hah! (Maybe that’s why this sport is so cool for us “old” folks, it’s like being 10 again and playing tag…and working hard to not be the one tagged.)
  • I need to be prepared to paddle on one side for a very long time, regardless of salt or fresh water, there will always be wind. My right side obliques could crack walnuts after Saturday’s race, whereas my left side could make Bojangles biscuits! Don’t ask me to show you, it’s not pretty!
  • I SUCK on in water starts (probably beach starts too.) I cannot figure out where to line up and I always get major jelly legs until everyone spreads out. It’s like a triathlon start to me, might as well have 20 of your best friends beat you with sticks while an earthquake and tsunami is happening all at once. I gotta work on race starts!
  • Without tide, paddling in a freshwater lake reminded me of biking 20 miles into the wind. There are no ups and downs in your heart rate or your speed; it’s a steady grind no matter where you are. A constant, steady, hard to the end, effort. No hills, no turns, just work. That training term “tempo” paddles come to mind.
  • Wearing capris when paddling results in some pretty weird tan lines mid-calf. Like WEIRD!

NOW, the Rest of the Story, A Home Run Race

The real race story is everything that happens when you’re not racing. This first time event did everything right, no kidding.  The registration process was easy and you had an option of buying a t-shirt or not. They had hotel discounts at several locations within a few miles from the race site. They had coffee and light breakfast fare BEFORE THE RACE!

They had several different races; an elite distance, recreational distance, surfboard class and a KIDS RACE! The races started on time. They had results immediately with race winners (and their times) written on a leader board and awards were done on time.

The courses were challenging with police and support boats patrolling to make sure we weren’t taken out by a rogue jet-ski or angry Osprey. The venue was beautiful and easy to find (with help from a GPS). Food was North Carolina hospitable with pulled pork and roast chicken.

There were friendly vendors and information booths about the Catawba River Keeper.  KANAHAS was there with some of their SUP-inspired clothing and gear.

There was Hawaiian music and hula dancers encouraging audience participation and spreading the aloha spirit (in North Carolina NASCAR country!)

There were raffles and prizes and cash awards to the overall winners in the elite race. The kids race was fun and exciting and those who “podiumed” (new vernacular) were applauded loudly.

The race committee for this event hit a homerun. It is something I will put on my calendar for next year. Fun.Fun.Fun.

Finally, the best part of going to different events is meeting and making new paddling friends.  I got to connect face-to-face with several of my virtual training buddies from the facebook group, the 100/100 paddle challenge.  Ken Teeter, Roddy Medders, Susan Beck Ballenger, and more. They are people who’ve inspired and encouraged me to keep on paddling and now I can match a face and baord when I think of them. I also got to meet one of the “Joe Paddlers” from Distressed Mullet, the landlocked jet mechanic, Michael Jones! We talked “shop” on boards. Very cool.

We may sometimes paddle alone but paddling is not a solitary sport.

Standup 4 Catawba at Lake Norman SUP Race Recap