Tuesday, July 12, 2011

midwest SUP festival recap

The Midwest SUP Festival went off in Madison, Wisconsin this past weekend and Windy City Waterman was right in the middle of the action.  A great job was done by Gary Stone and everybody at Paddleboard Specialists to put on an amazing event.
After our Windy City Waterman event in Chicago on Thursday evening, I drove Karen Wrenn, Chuck Patterson and Charlie Burwell from Naish up to Madison for the festival.  The first order of business was a race clinic on Friday evening.  I paddled out with the group and learned a few things myself from these two seasoned pros.  It was amazing to hang out with them all weekend and glean a ton of knowledge... what a great opportunity.
Saturday morning we were at it bright and early, setting up the Naish booth and prepping all our equipment then getting ready for the race.
The course was a simple triangle with just two buoy turns.  The challenge came in when the wind picked up to 15 knots or so out of the south/southeast.  That meant that on the way out you had to paddle about three miles just on your right side, and on the way back almost completely on the left.  Not ideal... even the pros said it was tough.  It was my first race, so I was watching all the top guys to see what strategies they used to get ahead and stay there.  In the end I was happy with my performance and finished about in the middle of the pack, behind most of the pros but ahead of most of the recreational paddlers.  Not bad for a first go...
Chuck Patterson, Jim Terrell, Karen Wrenn, me (somebody pinch me, just to be sure) Kevin Vangritis (an awesome paddler from North Carolina who's going to join me on the Lake Michigan crossing) and Joe Bark. 
Post race everybody was chill and ready for fun and a few beers.  This whole community is so awesome - inclusive, easy going and eager to share their knowledge & help others learn.  Great people!
The education continued all day with clinics like this one conducted by Jim Terrell from Quick Blade.  Jim was a 4 time Olympic canoe paddler who has made the jump to SUP.  He's been making his own paddles since he was like 13 years old... a super geek (in the really, really good way).
Of course there was plenty of time for goofing around too... Here's cowboy Charlie, Karen and I pre-trophy ceremony...
And finally, we saddled up for the drive back to Chicago to send them on their way.  I can't tell you how cool it was to spend the weekend with these amazing athletes.  I learned a ton and was super inspired watching them kill it on the race course, then return to land to share tons of stoke and passion with everyone present.  Class acts all the way around.  Thanks guys.  See you on the water again soon, I hope.

And the rest of you, I hope I'll see you in Lake Geneva this Saturday for the Clearwater Classic... should be another epic event! 

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