The Inland Paddler Carolina Cup

…to go to the festival!

It’s Carolina Cup Week, and nothing is more like the King’s Festival than this in the paddling world.  And the Big Dance is of course the Graveyard Course. The 13 mile waltz off the beach, into the ocean, through one inlet, down or up a grueling flatwater stretch, then back out another inlet into the ocean and back to the beach.

Not really a cakewalk.

It can leave you feeling like a worn out Prince Charming chasing after that pesky Cinderella chick who’s only wearing one shoe. At best.

I have aspired to do the race ever since my first Carolina Cup four years ago.  Last year was a bust for reasons well known. But this year.  I have been training with a group of AMAZING people who have become family and with an amazing coach.

The Inland Paddler Carolina Cup

Plan is to do it in my OC1. I have done the course twice now – I slayed Mason’s Inlet – the big giant crux of the course – the first time.  The second time, she slayed back. I huli’d or flipped the boat twice. Ocean Patrol was watching on the beach and had a ski ready to come save me but I managed to get back onboard, with the help of one of my amazing training partners, who jumped off his sup into the swirling, crashing and murky water to help me. (Tacos were on me that night.)

The Inland Paddler Carolina Cup

In this awful time of the taper, the doubts are of course creeping in, like an evil fog seeping into the woods.

What if the shorebreak is too big?

What if the tide is too low? What if it’s not just right?

If this is starting to sound a little Grimm, as in fairy tales, that would be about right.  Doing the Graveyard is kind of like a fairy tale.  For all of us char girls, bakers, girls with red capes – in other words Jane and Joe  Paddlers – who dream of reaching big goals and challenging ourselves, we just want to go to the ball. Even though we know we are not going to be up on that podium with our beloved Paddle Royalty.

I am confident in my ability to do the distance.  I can even manage the OC in a tough, mean ocean. But what I do not have confidence in is my ability to SAFELY paddle that piece of expensive carbon through our often nasty shorebreak back into the beach. So I am going to have to make a race day decision that just might kill me.

Skip the ball.

I am leaving immediately after the Carolina Cup for an even greater challenge, on some levels, the Olukai on Maui.  I can’t get hurt in the surf.

I can’t break that very expensive piece of carbon.

All this week I have been pouring over forecasts, practicing my huli recovery, my beach starts and finishes – as much as one can do that on a lake. That is flat.  If I have to bail on the big day, because the surf is too rough on the beach, it’s okay.  Knowing your limits and making the decision to stay within them when the risk is too high is part of paddling smart.

The Inland Paddler Carolina Cup

There is always next year.

But, oh how I want to put on that gown and twirl – okay maybe not- and run up that beach, paddle in hand as if it is a magic wand, or a harp, stolen from a giant.

Into the Woods, the great Stephen Sondheim musical has been in my head all week – the high schooler just did a fantastic production of it at Enloe High here in Raleigh. (He was the wolf!) So, with apologies to Mr. Sondheim, Little Red and you too Aaron, this is what you’ll hear me singing as I hit the road and make my way to Wrightsville this week:


Into the waves

It’s time to go,

I hate to leave,

I have to, though.

Into the waves

It’s time, and so

I must begin my journey.


Into the waves

And through the swells

To where I am

Expected ma’am,

Into the waves

To the Graveyard’s House


Into the waves

To The Graveyard’s House


The sky is clear,

The wind is good,

I have no fear,

Nor no one should.

The waves are just water

The water is just liquid

I sort of hate to ask it,

But do you have a patch kit?


Into the waves

And down the swell

The path is dredged

I know it well.

Into the waves,

And who can tell

What’s waiting on the journey?


Into the waves

To clear my head

No mistaking,

I have no dread

Never can tell

What lies ahead.

For all that I know,

The wind will be dead.


But into the waves,

Into the waves,

Into the waves,

To The Graveyard’s House!

And home before dark.


The Inland Paddler Carolina Cup
Photo by: Peter Mountain. © 2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc.