As the weeks and months passed after my first solo kayak race on the Tye River, I realized that I needed a faster boat if I was going to truly compete with some of the top, local paddlers. I began my search for a fast ocean kayak.
It did not take long for a used Necky Looksha IV to show up on Craigslist and it seemed to fit the bill. A skinny (at least I though so at the time at 22.5″ wide), fast ocean kayak was just the ticket I needed! I paid the man his money and was driving home with a real 17′ long ocean kayak. Nothing could stop me now!
Once again, kayaking buddy Konrad told me about yet another race. This one was the Wye Island Regatta up in Maryland. It is primarily a rowing event but it also has a kayak race component to it. It was to be a roughly 12-mile race around Wye Island in the Chesapeake Bay. I, of course, said yes, and then realized that maybe some training would be a good idea since that would be the longest race I had ever attempted.
So I hit the local reservoir and paddled as fast as I could as much as I could. I was in awe of how fast this boat was and how much better it glided with the same paddling effort. At some point I realized the type of paddle I used probably had some impact so I went out and bought myself the paddle with the largest blade surface I could find since I figured that would grab the most water. So with a brand new Werner Corryvrecken paddle, I trained and prepared for my first flat water race.
Race day came and I was excited. I was confident that I was unstoppable.
I came in second in a field of three in my specific category that day, less than 3 minutes behind the top place finisher. I felt good about that but again, I started paying more attention to the types of boats that other people used. My boat measured in at just under 17′ long so I raced in the recreational single category. As I walked around the launch area prior to and after the race, I saw all types of boats. Many of them were longer and skinnier than mine and some were made out of what I thought were weird materials. Fiberglass. Kevlar. Even carbon fiber. Who were these people and why did they own such exotic boats?
Konrad did well that day in the Fast Touring Single category. He took second in his category but his time was a full 10 minutes faster than mine. This was a race on flat water so reading a river and avoiding obstacles had no impact on time. This was a flat out speed race and, clearly, maybe there was more to this boat design/construction thing than I thought. I thought I’d be the fastest thing on water and the times posted in the top kayak category, Racing Singles, were some 30 minutes faster than my time.
Konrad & I paddling back in after the race
Once again, I took mental notes but still figured that the best paddler always wins regardless of boat type–as long as one paddled with a boat very similar to others.
I was never more right and more naive at the same time.