Save Our Ocean: Carolina Cup

The 13-mile Quiksilver Waterman Carolina Cup lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest races going, but this year it was hailed as even more fun than ever. A course reverse allowed for some calm flatwater and downwind bumps that added excitement.

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Zane Schweitzer book signing with NC Coastal Federation Board member, David Cignotti

A different sort of excitement was playing out at the North Carolina Coastal Federation. As the non profit and featured recipient for funds raised at the event, Catherine Snead, who has the role of development for the Federation, decided to get creative and connect with Zane Schweitzer for a unique collaboration. For each book, Beneath the Surface, sold at the Carolina Cup, $5 would go to the Federation. nccf-booky

Catherine arranged for a life sized poster of Zane to be at the booth so people could have a selfie “with Zane.” The most fun was when Zane spent time at the booth chatting with readers and doing what he does best – sharing stoke and the Zaniac way of doing things.

You can get your copy of Beneath the Surface directly from Zane or on AMAZON. (ebook or print version)

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SUP Mexico: Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa

It was the best way to put a wrap on the coldest, snowiest winter I have ever experienced. We watched all the YOUTUBE videos on how to pack a board, flew to Puerto Vallarta and drove a cool Nissan surf truck from Gecko car rentals to our resort – The Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort and Spa. Surprises and adventures beyond our imagination awaited. Most importantly – it was the people that added so much to the experience.

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Let’s begin with the waves! After all, that’s what we came for. Day one dawned and we peeked out from our ocean view balcony to the break called Burros just to the left of the more protected swimming beach in from of the Palladium. The little jutting out of land you see on the map is where the adult infinity pool and the friendliest bar you’d ever want to find is located. Burros was a solid 8 feet with occasion much larger sets rolling. No, you’re right, we had no business going out that day – but the water was warm and we were excited. Both Ed and I got some sweet lefts (the locals sort of owned the rights) – and we also got worked. It was a LOT of fun and adrenaline laced adventure. Yes, we did relax with a tropical drink afterward.  The team at the beach shack where you can borrow boogie boards, surf boards and SUP boards were amazing. Led by Eder and Elvin, each was knowledgeable and friendly – really added to the experience.

The next day we opted for a less challenging break so we drove in to Punta Mita to try the Anclote break. Holy cow, what a day! The consistent chest high, glassy rights were uncrowded and beyond fun.  To access the beach you can park then walk through the alley near the Cinco Hotel or (surprisingly) right through the El Coral restaurant! Water shoes can help, the shore is rocky and there are sea urchins. Once you get out to the break there is plenty of water. Long rights and an easy paddle out await – it was heaven.  (Photo credit and so much gratitude for the adventure – Dennis Oliphant)

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This ride will go “into the mind’s eye images” bank. As I am about to turn 68, this will inspire me.

Each day brought a slight change in the swell – we enjoyed the break to the far right (from the map perspective) of Burros, in front of a sweet sandy beach. This day the swell was more chest to head high and came in definite sets so the paddle out was easy. There is a channel at surfer’s left of the break, so we’d paddle out there but line up to catch our waves in front of a shoreline rocky ledge. They only thing that will bring you back to shore is the out-going tide – and the thought of lunch at the Palladium.

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa - junior suite_5Did I mention that in addition to fresh, clean rooms cared for by an incredible, friendly staff, the resort is all inclusive. We chose to visit the buffet (you do need to practice restraint) for breakfast and lunch. You can be as healthy or decadent as you wish. Egg white omelets to an expanse of fresh baked treats, or every sort of Mexican traditional delight you could ask for are there for you. Top quality yumminess and – again – friendly and attentive staff. After a strenuous morning surf session I leaped for the home baked pizza with a light and crisp crust – and a beer – most days for lunch. Salad? Yup, from fresh fruit of every kind to greens and veggies you will be happy.

We spent off water time taking long beach walks. We loved the area to the northwest of the Palladium the best. Huge cracks and fissures in the shoreline rock ledges created openings for the swells large and small to crash and spray with azure and white beauty. Tide pools large and small were host to all sorts of little critters and fish – and yes, sea urchins. Be aware.

(SIDEBAR: When you surf and play and beach explore in the wonderful sunny heat in Punta Mita you will get thirsty. One of the most wonderful aspects of what is available at the The Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort and Spa is the ever available filtered water. Whether it is cold bottled water in the all-inclusive refrigerator in every room to the cool pitchers of water offered at every meal, quench your thirst without concern about water. In addition, the filtered water ice is clear and plentiful).

It always happened that we arrived at dinner starving – and we were not disappointed. We chose to download the Palladium app so that it was easy to reserve at one of the ala carte restaurants each evening. Our favorites were Bambu, an oriental themed spot, and PortFino, which had a great selection of Italian cuisine. The Mexican restaurant perched high on the bluff had inside and outside dining choices and a magnificent view of the break at Burros.

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Above the pools and on the bluff is the Mexican Restaurant

While we enjoyed the food, again, it was the the people that made the experience. For example, we didn’t order sushi our first night at Bambu. Oh my, our waiter, Francisco, was devastated. “Ramon is a master sushi chef, please, you must try his chef special.” So we did. We were not disappointed. Ramon created a beautiful plate with three varieties of sushi, all light, fresh and delicious. And Ramon visited our table to see how we liked it – and we did. His grin could light up a room. Needless to say we returned often.

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The blue area on the right side is the adult-only infinity pool for relaxing ocean watching

After dinner a walk was always needed. From exploring the vast property or strolling the beach with a fresh drink, we passed the time until the 9 PM POP (people of Palladium) show. Talent to the max – we enjoyed each show, different every night. It was obvious that “People of Palladium” have a mission to create a great experience for us all.

No story about our Punta Mita experience would be complete without mention of the unique service and team at Gecko car rental. We were collected at the airport with VIP service with boards and bags quickly loaded into an air conditioned van for the 20 minute ride to the Gecko office. In no time our boards were on the truck – and we were handed a book. Little did we know how valuable that book would be. It was the most comprehensive and well-written guide to an area I have ever used. truck

In addition, we had trouble with a sensor light (the truck was new and the sensors were finicky). In no time a driver from gecko met us at our hotel with a different truck – no problem at all. Smiles ruled the day.

 

Ride – Glide and Starboard Innovation: Again!

I got a LOT more than bumps in last weekend’s Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. I got a BUMP in performance and outcomes during the annual down-winder from Viento to Hood River Waterfront Park. It started with a question.

(Photo Credit – featured photo: Gorge-US Photography)

I am a solid fan of the Starboard 12’6″ Deluxe Inflatable Touring board and wondered if it would perform as well on the Columbia River bumps as it does on all sorts of river, lake and ocean conditions we adventure into. I went to the Starboard booth and asked Dan Gavere, “Is my 12’6″ Touring board the best board for me to ride today?”

starboard_sup_12_2x32_free_ride_xl_nose_21The answer is – I would have a lot more fun on a board designed for waves, racing and downwind!  I was very fortunate to connect with Dan Gavere who was manning the Starboard booth at the event. In the midst of talking to tons of avid dealers and Starboard paddlers, he took the time to answer my question. (Much Mahalo!) Dan explained, “You need a specific board for specific conditions – [and the conditions were forecast to be epic- 30+ mph winds on the beautiful Columbia River down wind run].” Dan was kind enough to let me demo the 2017 12’2″ Freeride Hybrid Carbon. And so the story began.

This is the fifth year I have had the absolute joy of doing this event. The very first time was in 2012 (story here). I have done it on a stock surfboard (11’3″), an inflatable, a 12’6″ race board and a 14′ race board. Guess what – this year on the 12′ 2″ X 30″ Starboard Freeride – I not only had my fastest run in similar conditions and training – I am 67 years old.freeride3

This is not usually the year for a personal best with little training and zero down wind practice since last August.

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Pre-race stoke!

Am I stoked – oh YES I am!!! I did my fastest time ever with ZERO falls. Never even got my hair wet. This was not for lack of trying. I went after every bump – aggressively, and the wonderful Freeride graciously sped up, grabbed the glides, burried a nose now and then, but gracefully popped right out and zoomed me forward.

It was so cool to zoom past 12’6″ and 14′ race boards on this stable and agile “all-round” board with surf performance fun.

I am now 24 hours after the race and – no soreness anywhere. No soreness any day for a 67 year old woman is one thing, but after 1:42:23 of hard (fun) paddling is something else.

I am not trained  more than any other year but I noticed one thing. Because the Freeride is so stable (I never fell)  I was not fatiguing my legs and back by trying to stay on the board. I could use every paddle stroke efficiently, balanced and solid. And, when on a glide, I could easily step into surf stance and RIDE!!!!!

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Ready for the most fun I ever had during a Columbia River down wind from Viento to Hood River Waterfront Park

Little did I know as I slid onto the start line what an experience this Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge would be. Woohoo! Total fun all the way.

One of the best parts of the experience was the amazineg”group hug” at the finish from so many of the Starboard Ambassadors and riders. Mahalo to you all for running up, greeting me and making my day with stories and support – Kristin Thomas, Lisa Schell, Sarah Sandstrom, Hailey Driver, Leilani Gibson and Terri Plunkett.

So sure, I won the 60+ age group with no competition, but in going through the finish times among the Downwind Women – the Starboard Freeride delivered me 12th overall in a field of 25. Truly – and seriously – the equipment matters. I have never enjoyed so many glides, I counted them as 20+ seconds more time than once. the bumps connected in combinations of 3 glides, so often. My legs loved having the stability and my surfer-head loved the agility and absolute “go-get-the-bumps” fun-factor.

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Tons of fun being a board caddy for the course race – the Starboard race boards are light and so easy to carry (Photo: Leilani Gibson)

I am so grateful I ran into Dan Gavere at the Starboard booth – that changed my entire weekend. Check out this innovative and game-changing board for yourself.

“Ulitmate glide on an all-round board.”

The Starboard Freeride Hybrid Carbon:

This light weight hybrid layup, offers a good weight at great strength.
I was riding the 2017 Freeride: Thanks to Dan Gavere I learned more about the 2017 Freeride, “It has construction that is called Starlite which is new and costs much less than Carbon. It has Innegra rails that can’t be chipped and features Starboard’s sandwich full PVC wrap making it last a lifetime which is better for the environment because it outlasts other boards and won’t find itself in a landfill.”

Connor Baxter Wins the Oleron

Connor Baxter battles a strong field to win the Oleron World Series in France - June 2013

Connor Baxter battles a strong field to win the Oleron World Series in France – June 2013

The June 2013  Oleron Stand Up Paddle Challenge opened the European leg of the Stand Up World Series on the beautiful Oleron Island.   Featuring one of the most stunning and challenging long distance courses combined with the exciting World Series Sprint Racing, Oleron Island is always an exciting stop for the 2013 Stand Up World Series.

This World Series event featured the world’s very best athletes, from Ratings leader Connor Baxter (Starboard), Kai Lenny (Naish), Jamie Mitchell, Beau O’Brian (Starboard) and Paul Jackson (Fanatic), to Europe’s leading lights Casper Steinfath (Naish), Leonard Nika (Starboard) and Bart de Swart (Starboard), the Oleron Stand Up Paddle Challenge will provide the ideal platform for competitive stand up paddle-racing.

The second stop of the 2013 European leg of the Stand Up World Series was the Bilbao World SUP Challenge, held in the Basque country of Spain. The Bilbao World SUP Challenge inspired the world’s best paddlers to the City to battle it out for the $20,000 prize-purse and all important ranking points on the Stand Up World Series. After breathtaking performances and close finishes throughout the series, Connor Baxter came out on top giving him a 100% winning record this year!

Connor Baxter surging his Starboard to speed - photo by Michael Terrien

Connor Baxter surging his Starboard to speed – photo by Michael Terrien

June 10, 2013: In the words of Connor Baxter after paddling to his third straight win in the World Series Stop 3 for the World Series in Oleron, ” France was an amazing event. This was a two-day event and like always we had both a long distance and sprint races.”

A last-minute storm just before the start of the distance race created a change in the course distance from 30 km to 6.5 km due to heavy winds. The beach start in the storm conditions caused some chaos for the athletes.  By the time the leaders arrived at the first buoy, Connor Baxter held the lead with Kai Lenny pushing a close second. He was followed by Casper Steinfath, Leonardo Nika and the rest of the elite field.

A bevy of spectator and filming boats created side chop and added to the difficult conditions. At a crucial moment one random choppy wave hit Connor and cause him to fall of the board. A quick scramble back and he was paddling hard, but the interruption gave Kai the break he needed to capture and hold the lead.

Day two of the series brought better, though cool, weather and a field of athletes raring to go in the sprints. As the heats progressed toward the final field, it was apparent that the competition was still strong. The heat was stacked with the world’s fastest racers all trained and ready to excel.   

Along with Connor Baxter,  Eric Terrien , Kai Lenny, Casper Steinfath, Jake Jensen, Leonardo Nika, Chase Kosterlitz, and Beau O’Brian were ready to sprint from the start.

From the moment of “GO!” in that final heat, Connor sprinted off the beach, into the water and didn’t look back. His fellow Starboard teammate Beau O’Brian was right beside Connor all the way to the first buoy. In spite of a fall at the second buoy, Connor had a good distance in front of second place.

With two more buoys to go, Connor’s strategy was simple,  “I just kept my head down and my paddling on full throttle. I pretty much had it in the bag after I turned the third buoy and the last buoy but I didn’t let up – just in case. I caught a bunch of little swells on the way in and secured my first place.”

Casper Steinfath came in second then Connor’s  Starboard teammate Beau O’Brian in third. It was a sweet win for Baxter who stayed focused and positive in spite of battling health issues just last year. The grin on his face said it all. This is a waterman whose heart and passion for what he does inspires us all. Find Connor Baxter, water athlete, on Facebook.