We all know that pro’s are amazing. They are focused, well-trained, with skills often developed over a lifetime. Many start, lead and finish races with full on Braveheart game faces. Water warriors. While most race coverage will be about the men and women in the top 10 (which we eat up with glee), the majority of any event is comprised of “rest of the pack” paddlers. That my friends, is what the 100/100 is. We are “the rest of the pack”.
100/100 Race Season started with the Carolina Cup
The Carolina Cup has become a huge reunion for the 100/100 paddle challenge facebook group. Yet, unlike most reunions, we’re stronger and healthier, not just older; and may have never met each other in person. We are excited and pumped and perhaps even tan. We come to race. We come to accomplish goals. We come to learn. We come to support and cheer each of those who are THE pack of paddlers in a race.
My First Graveyard Finish
I finished my first Graveyard race this year. (Insert Euphoric Cheers here) It was four years in the making. It was like a huge elephant baby I gestated for years; I had “issues” to overcome. Two years ago, I was hit in the face with a board (my fault) and didn’t ever want to go in the surf again. Last year I had major shoulder surgery. I didn’t think I’d ever paddle again. What I really had to overcome was my lack of confidence. I tell myself I’m too old, or too this or too that, or my tights will come off in the shore break. It’s always the mind that limits me. I love to train, but confidence is always lacking raceday.
But….the 100/100 paddle challenge group always makes me feel accountable to “paddle the paddle”, not just buy the products or talk about it. I needed to GET THIS DONE. First step, I hired April Zilg, to coach me. She set up small group training sessions geared for the Graveyard. There were 4-5 of us at any given session; Worth Liipfert, Sarah Westbrook, Lisa Schell and others. All of us wanted to accomplish the Graveyard and we bonded tightly over this shared journey. I made sure I participated in the Mulletkai so that I’d have Graveyard course experience and knew how my Bark Contender would react in different conditions. I roomed with two good friends who talked me down from the freak-out ledge the night before. I knew there was world class ocean rescue headed by Big Dave Baker out there if I needed it. I had friends on the volunteer (aka party boat) cheering and tossing snacks to me. And I had the whole 100/100 family rooting for me.
I finished the Graveyard as third master’s female, in second to last place in women’s 12’6” sup. I finished and survived. But most important, I HAD FUN. There was a true epiphany moment of “HOLY SH*T, THIS IS FREAKING FUN” and that was amazing. I had John Beausang of Distressed Mullet waiting at the end, my coach and friend, April Zilg, coming out to talk me through any surf break fear if need be, I had my training partners in crime all on the beach, my roommates on the beach, and a zillion 100/100 folk waiting for me…and each other. I’m still euphoric when I think about the day.
The Other 100/100 Race Stories
Sarah Westbrook, our Mahiku tights star and SIC super warrior, finished her first Graveyard. A year ago she did the Harbor Island race on a surf shape board and finished under an hour. That was her goal then, look what she’s done now. Worth Liipfert shaved a good amount of time off his prior year’s race despite conditions being a bit tougher. Lisa Schell and Dana Bittenbender did their first Graveyard on an OC. Daniel Ancheta did his FIRST RACE EVER, and it was a Graveyard finish. Mark Sumner did his second Graveyard after hit and miss training due to work schedule conflicts. The Turner-Hodges clan from Tennessee came down and all participated in multiple races, most importantly they brought us moonpies and moonshine cake (OH MY YUM). Shawna Herring not only raced, but took some amazing photos that she shared with us all. Vincent San Nicolas came out from Arizona and pitched in wherever needed before and after HE RACED. Kristin Thomas (2nd place female masters in the Graveyard) and Maggie Adams (1st place female masters in the Money Island) were a few who came out from the West Coast and enthusiastically jumped into clinics and meetups proving to be consummate ambassadors of our sport. There were several ladies (and gents) excelling at their first Graveyard on prone; one being Danielle Goldston, who took a beating at the start losing all her nutrition and hydration to nasty shore break; and she still finished strong. David Rush showing us all how an OC should be handled coming into the beach. Larry Goldstein took a one-on-one clinic with Travis Grant and raced the next day, improving his time by 25% from the year before. Veronica Lee took advantage of every clinic to learn as much as she could while she was there, no second wasted. Brian Lee raced with his son as superheroes, capes and all. What makes you feel fast, makes you fast! Many Canadians raced as podium winners and not podium winners. I believe the 100/100 has helped motivate them to have “winter SUP” now according to Tracey Finlay (1st female masters in the Graveyard). New Jersey and New York were in the house. The house was PACKED! There are so many paddlers with so many great stories; I wish I could list them all. The “rest of the pack” is the peanut butter and jelly of any paddling sandwich, the meat and potatoes, the sharks and stingrays.
Our Race Season is off to a BIG Start
We’re off and we’re going and it’s going to be one heck of a great year! What happens at the Cup does not stay at the Cup! We’re not Las Vegas!
“Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Provided to me by Debbie Klapperich…who together with Anya Yurchenko, talked me off the freak-out ledge.