Paddling the Rivanna River when it is high

Last Saturday I paddled on our local Rivanna River at the highest level I’ve ever paddled it.  The Palmyra gauge was somewhere between 3800 and 4000cfs when 3 paddling friends and I launched at 10am from just below the South Rivanna Reservoir.

I knew for sure the river had crested overnight and was dropping, so I felt confident at this level.

The rapids under the railroad trestle became standing waves that were Class II+ – Class III.  I was paddling my Nelo 510 surfski in the most challenging conditions yet and I stayed upright the whole time.  The bucket filled with water at least 3 times, though, and I learned to open the drain before entering a set of large rapids.

One of our members capsized in the largest of the rapids and her boat had very little buoyancy since there was no foam or flotation in it anywhere.  This could have been a very serious situation but we rescued her and her boat, though getting it out of the water to drain it was a challenge with so much water in it.

We arrived at Riverview Park and then I paddled back upstream to Darden Towe Park where FLOW: The Arts of the Rivanna River Renaissance Festival was taking place.  There were artists set up along the walkway along the river and there was a boat decorating contest.

It was most enjoyable and I think my favorite were the Earlysville Bluegrass Boys, 3 brothers who are very talented musicians.  I wish I could have stayed and listened to them for hours.

I then paddled back down to Riverview Park with a few other paddlers with decorated boats and then joined the after-party at Rivanna River Company.

I came away concluding the Nelo 510 is probably the most versatile boat I’ve ever owned.

And this celebration of our local river is a wonderful event I hope continues.  It sure came a long way since last year.

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My next kayak

I’m developing the short list for my next boat. Think Evo 2, Epic (gasp) V8 Pro, Stellar SEL and Nelo 550. What else belongs in the consideration mix?

Let me know if you are interested in buying my: Phoenix Mini Slipper, Prijon Interceptor, Wenonah Orion, Phoenix Match II or, possibly even my Cobra Viper.

I need to free-up some cash.

The Thunderbolt-X now becomes my winter trainer, which is weird because not too many years ago I bought a winter trainer as an alternative to her.

Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge 2018

Yesterday I returned to Wye Mills, MD to compete in the Wye Island Regatta Kayak Challenge.

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It has been 5 years since I last raced this race, last in my Thunderbolt-X kayak in the Racing Single division which put me in with all the surfskis.

Prior to registering for this race I contacted the race coordinator to ask what class I should enter.  I explained my Nelo 510 is a surfski but plastic and 16’9″ long with a beam of 21.6″.

He replied and told me the technical specifications put me in the Recreational Kayak division so I grudgingly accepted that but told him that if anyone at all complained, to please bump me up a class or two, either into the Fast Touring or Racing Single.

Since my boat didn’t fit neatly into any category, I really didn’t know which division to choose.  I certainly did not belong with recreational kayaks but I certainly did not belong with composite racing skis either.

So I registered in the recreational kayak division and at the time I registered I was the only entry, which I thought was odd.

When I raced the first year of the Kayak Challenge, there was a plethora of kayaks in the event, so I figured maybe everyone was waiting for the last week before the event to register.

Sadly, there were only 4 or 5 true kayaks there plus myself, and the rest of the field were all males on racing skis.

I hope the organizers address this issue at some point and try to appeal to a broader range of kayakers in the future.  I realize this is primarily a rowing event, but if it wants to include kayaks then I think it ought to try to appeal to paddlers who are below the level of advanced or elite surfski paddler, perhaps with a reduced entry fee for true kayaks or some other level of recognition.

Trust me, the people who showed up in kayaks yesterday worked harder than anyone else.  It was a shame there weren’t more of them.

The organizers bumped up the starting times by 30 minutes to try to beat impending storms, but as luck would have it, as we launched at 8:30am it started raining before we even paddled to the starting line.  By the time the race started at ~8:45 the rain was coming down steadily and at times became very heavy with strong winds and choppy waves.  This lasted for much of the first 5 miles of the race.

By the time we rounded the far end of the island and started paddling back east, the headwinds were very strong and choppy waves were coming straight at us.  In fact, in this race, the wind and waves came from all different possible directions over the course of the race so those with the best balance and skills in a variety of conditions were rewarded.

wyecompositeMy Nelo 510, my tracks from GPS and step count

As I reached the far side of the island, the Kent Island Rowing Club in a 6-person outrigger canoe came up from behind be and slowly passed me into the wind.  We chatted back and forth and a couple times I was able to retake them over the next couples miles.  Their wind profile was so high it was holding them back so I was evenly matched with them under those conditions purely based on out-of-the-water wind profile.

I paddled very close to them for the final 3 miles and tried to catch the last of the composite surfskis toward the finished line, but still came in about 10 seconds behind him.

I ended up taking home the winner’s medal, but I did not feel good about it knowing I beat a really nice guy in a regular 16′ recreational kayak who poured his heart into it.

I felt like I brought a gun to a knife fight.

But there were no Fast Touring kayaks and only 3 men and 3 women in the Recreational Kayak division so even if I entered in the Fast Touring Kayak division (20″ beam or greater & 17′ or longer,) I would have been the only entrant and the race organizers would likely have combined kayak divisions

I wish there was more competition in the kayak divisions.

This was a much different scene from the early years of the Kayak Challenge when there were many more true kayakers. In 2010 there were at least 10 participants in the rec kayak division and more than that in the Fast Touring division.

I’ll probably not come back to this race unless I buy a composite surfski and compete with the more elite racers.  Lack of participation from other kayakers doesn’t make me feel very appropriate in this race.

The race organizers should either embrace kayaks or announced this race is for rowers and surfskis only.

I have my eye on the Think Evo, the Nelo 550, the Epic V8 Pro, or the Stellar SEI, but I would only use one of those boats in one or two races per year and they would not suit my needs for the vast majority of the paddling I do where rocks are an issue.

So I find myself in No Man’s Land with regard to the Wye Island Regatta as I don’t want to invest 3 or 4 grand into a boat that is only suited to a couple races per year, and I don’t feel good about competing with far superior plastic against a limited field.

I wish there was a more affordable option to get into a composite surfski.

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Below is my video from the race.  I had two cameras but the rain was so heavy and the water so choppy there was water on the lenses for much of the race so much of the video is unusable.

 

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Race report: Richmond Paddle Cup 2018

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Yesterday I paddled in the 17-mile canoe & kayak race during the Richmond Paddle Cup event.  The sponsor, Crosswind Paddle Co., added a longer, 17-mile race this year after they were approached by the James River Association (JRA) and asked if they would consider adding a longer race in lieu of JRA hosting the James River Rundown this year.

I’m very happy that Crosswind Paddle Co. added this longer race and encourage them to hold it again next year and think about expanding the distance.  I’ll do my part to help promote the event and encourage more participants.

The race began at 8am at the Maidens boat ramp and the weather was perfect paddling weather, which is to say it was mostly overcast for the duration of the race.

I had only paddled this section of river twice before.  Once during the 40-mile James River Rundown in 2015 and then again in the 100-mile James River Rundown in 2016, however, in the 2016 race I paddled this section at night and didn’t really get to see it, but I did recall scraping a few rocks both times.

So I knew from experience there were some rapids early in the race but the last few miles were wide and deep with the possibility of wakes from recreational boats.

I chose to paddle my Nelo 510 due to the possibility of hitting rocks and knew Paddling Buddy Dave was taking his 19’2″ X 18.9″ carbon/Kevlar Stellar SR, so I fully understood I would not be any real competition to him so I hoped to compete well against other similar boats that showed up, especially any Epic V7’s, of which there were two of them in this race.

We got off to a good, clean start and Ryan jumped out to an early lead in his racing canoe followed by Salli & Mike in their tandem Stellar ski and then Paddling Buddy Dave.

I managed to work my way up through the main pack to stay in 4th place behind them and I was able to keep Dave at least in sight for the duration of the race.

I found myself in the ever-so-familiar no-man’s land again: well behind the leaders and well ahead of the main pack, so once again I paddled alone for the whole race.

I managed to average 7.2mph for the first 14 miles and then when the river got wide and flat with a slight headwind, my overall pace dropped to a 7.1mph average, but I was happy to maintain a steady, brisk pace throughout the race with no signs of fatigue.

Screenshot_20180811-210822_Mi FitScreenshot_20180811-210920_Mi FitScreenshot_20180811-211017_Mi FitScreenshot_20180812-180953_Mi FitGPS tracks from  my Amazfit Bip wristband along with pace data

I don’t recall my official time and I overshot the finish line a little bit before I turned off my GPS, but I think I finished at ~2:25:00 which was good enough for 2nd place, about 4 minutes behind Paddling Buddy Dave.  {Official time was 2:23:44 which was more than 12 minutes faster than every other kayak/ski that was not a carbon/Kevlar ski longer than 19′.  I believe there was also a fiberglass Prijon Expedition in that mix.}

I was quite happy with that.

And this is a real testament to the Nelo 510 since we know the paddlers are about even and the Stellar SR is far superior in terms of weight and speed, so kudos to Nelo for designing a plastic ski that smokes the V7 and any plastic competition!

jrr2018medal2nd place, Men’s Solo Kayak

FB_IMG_1534380559130Me and Paddling Buddy Dave

The best part about this race, though, was the fact that it seemed like a homecoming for former participants of the James River Rundown.  It was great to see and visit with Mike, Salli and Joe from 10th Life Kayaking and also Justin from JRA.

We finished at the same pavilion we had two years ago when I crossed the finish line pretty tired at midnight and Mike was in ill health and had to drop out that year, so we had a much more pleasant experience at the finish line this year and I felt like I was part of a very cool fraternity.  It was great to hang out with friends.

 

 

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My video from the Richmond Paddle Cup 2018

Salli also agreed to an interview so I could ask her about her very recent completion of the Yukon 1000 race.   She is a true paddling rock star!

My interview with Salli O’Donnell

My nutrition for the race was typical.  2 side orders of eggs and 2 side orders of bacon from Burger King along with ample black coffee.

Before the race I also took 3 Cellucor NO3 Chrome capsules.  This is a nitric oxide/vasodilator product that I find helps open up my nasal passages due to chronic allergies and sinus congestion.

I did, however, try something new in my water bladder this time.  I added 1/2 scoop of BodyLogix BCAA’s powder with salts, which has about the cleanest (i.e. no sugar, but it does have Sucralose listed as an ingredient, which is probably just as bad, hence only 1/2 scoop in more than 40 ounces of water) profile I’ve been able to find in a BCAA product.  I’ve used this product for other, strenuous workouts but never for a kayak race.  It seemed to work well.

 

 

My experiment with BCAA’s and electrolytes

I was feeling good today and got in a workout with fairly heavy volume this afternoon at Planet Fitness.

Screenshot_20180812-203912_AtlasToday’s workout, tracked with my Atlas Wearables 2 workout tracker

As I was working out, I thought about my next boat and it is probably going to be a high-end surfski.  If you’ve been paying any attention at all then you know I typically buy a boat that hasn’t been done yet in my paddling circles.  I like to try something a little different and/or unusual.

So I’m open to talking with any surfski companies who think they have something for me to consider, but I’ll have to sell off some of my existing boat inventory first to make room both with the finances and in the garage.

Boats that will probably soon be up for sale include:

  1. Phoenix Match II downriver racer
  2. Prijon Interceptor downriver racer
  3. Wenonah Orion, K1 flatwater sprint boat
  4. Prijon Beluga
  5. Phoenix Mini Slipper

Let me know if you have an interest in any of these boats.

PS – I know I dropped several brand names in this post so I therefore want to remind you:  I am not sponsored by anyone and don’t have any incentive to promote or mention any of the brands I just talked about.  I merely share those products and brands I use and like.  People often write me to ask about the details of the gear and gadgets I use so I thought I’d share the details in advance this time.

If you choose to check out these products I encourage you to do so via my affiliate links below:

What I use and recommend:
Amazfit Bip Fitness Tracker by Huami
Cellucor NO3 Chrome Nitric Oxide Pump Amplifier, 90 Capsules
Bodylogix Ultra BCAA Powder
Atlas Wristband 2: Digital Trainer + Heart Rate Band

Products mentioned by Mike and Salli (I have no experience with either product):
TUF-FOOT Liquid Foot, Hoof and Paw Protection – 7 oz
Infinit Nutrition GO FAR Nutritional Drink

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The Oscar Chalupsky interview on the Vinnie Tortorich podcast

Absolutely fascinating interview combining several of my passions, diet, exercise and kayaking.

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Nelo 510 surfski first impressions

This was originally going to be my James River Rundown boat for 2018 until the James River Association discontinued the event.

Now it is a boat in search of a race.

I’m waiting for the back-ordered, over-stern rudder to arrive before I can do any downriver distance with it, but as it stands, it is a very fast boat for a plastic design.  I do not yet know how it compares to the Epic V7, but hope to have that verdict to you soon.

Initial impressions?

I wish it was sharper in the bow to cut through the water rather than splash and push a bit of water (I felt like it always had a leaf stuck on the front) and wish it had a reasonable space for a water bottle within easy reach, but overall I like this ski.

I’ve got only 14 miles into it over the weekend so a full review will be coming once I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces.

I have to say, the difference between under-stern and over-stern rudder is huge. The shorter ‘wheelbase’ of an under-stern rudder makes turning much more efficient such that it takes very little movement of the peddles to turn the boat significantly.

I’ll explore this more fully in a future review, but once I got everything setup and adjusted I found that if I found myself thinking about using the rudder I was already overthinking it.  Only the slightest press of the foot with a toe involved achieved the desired effect.

And Ben not too many years ago…

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James River Rundown 2017

2017 James River Rundown_Dave Dolak Paddling_Mark East

This year’s James River Rundown had 4 different variants, a 120-mile race, a 50-miler, a 25-miler and a 5 mile fun float.  I paddled in the 120-miler, beginning at 6am (yikes!) across the river from downtown Lynchburg, VA.

I cashed in some loyalty points and stayed at the Holiday Inn directly across the river from the starting line the night before and walked to dinner at The Depot Grille and had an amazing dinner consisting of a huge rack of ribs, broccoli, salad, and two or three chicken wings.  When I was finished gorging myself I put in an odd request since I knew I wouldn’t be able to find food at 4:30am the next morning.

I asked for an order of bacon and eggs to go so I could pop it in the refrigerator in the room and just microwave it in the morning. The kitchen staff kindly accommodated my request so I had a To Go box with breakfast in hand as I walked back to the hotel the long way so I could see a little more of the city.  I will definitely be back to the Depot Grille and highly recommend it.

The alarm went off at 4am Saturday and I was a bit concerned right away when I bent over to pack up my duffle bag and stood back up and felt some pain in my lower back.  I didn’t think too much of it, though, as I filled my CamelBak bladders with water and headed out to the front of the hotel where Paddling Buddy Dave and his wife were to pick me up at 5am.

We got to the boat ramp, unloaded boats and gear and I noticed another paddler pull in with what looked like an identical boat.  I walked over to meet him and helped him carry his boat to the starting line and we placed it right next to my Pyranha Octane at the starting line.  His name was Bill and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him at that point, but he seemed like a nice enough guy.

start

We all got onto the water and lined up at the starting line waiting for the start and then we were off and racing.

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lynchburgstartThe 120-mile starting line with downtown Lynchburg, VA in the background

I was using my Fenn 3 wing paddle and did a bit of a sprint at the start of the race and jumped to an early, fleeting lead before Paddling Buddy Dave passed me in his Epic V7 followed shortly by Ethan in another Epic V7.  This was the showdown I was waiting for to see which of these boats was faster.

I got a clear answer rather quickly.

They created separation between us in the first mile and I was amazed at what a fast start they got off to and thought they would either kill themselves slugging it out on the river all day or one or both of them would crash and burn at some point.

They chose Option A.

I was separating myself from the rest of the pack and thought I was going to be in familiar territory early yet again this year. No Man’s Land.  Well behind the leaders but well ahead of the main pack.  And that was pretty much the way it was for many of the first 70 miles.

Somewhere around James River State Park, my shoulders were getting sore and I was starting to tire as the sun heated up.  The river was shallow and many, many times when I plunged my paddle blade into the water to take a good stroke the end of the blade hit a rock just an inch or two under the water and violently bounced back at me which cause stress on my shoulders and a brief moment of imbalance.  This happened too many times to count.

So somewhere after James River State Park I found a rock on the river and stopped and swapped out my Fenn 3 paddle for my custom-made wing paddle I was carrying as a spare in the hatch which had smaller blade surface area and was a less expensive paddle in the event the rocks did real damage to my paddle.  I didn’t want to continue to beat my paddle blades into rocks and since I wasn’t running with the Big Dogs I wanted to give my shoulders something with much less resistance to paddle the remainder of the way.

The smaller blades (equivalent now to the Epic mid-wing) were much easier to paddle but I soon resumed really feeling the heat of the day.  My lower back was screaming by this point.

I hugged the right shoreline to find shade and took many breaks to stretch my back.

Then I saw Bill in his Think Nitro coming up from behind.

I wasn’t too worried because I knew there was still a lot of river ahead of us, but he caused me to stop taking breaks and paddle with some purpose once again.

Soon we were paddling next to each other and started talking.  Bill got a little ahead when we approached Dog Island, just upstream of Howardsville.  Bill went left, I went right.

Soon I was paddling past some people on the shoreline with saws and ropes removing a sweeper that extended into the river.  Entangled in the tree were the remnants of a canoe.  We had been told about a woman who had died on the river earlier in the week because she became entangled with a tree and this was a spot where the main flow went directly into that tree.  I knew immediately this was the place where that poor woman lost her life just days before.  I bowed my head and stopped paddling as I passed the tree and prayed for her family and friends.

It was a somber moment.

I emerged at the bottom of the island and found Bill was a little behind me at that point.  Now I don’t honestly remember if I waited for Bill to catch up to me or if he just caught me, but we resumed chatting as we pulled into the boat ramp at Howardsville for a pit stop.  I did a quick refill with water without getting out of the boat and pushed back out quickly but Bill got out of his boat and took a few minutes rest on land.

Not too long later I looked back and saw him behind me on the water again.  My back was in great pain and I had just about had it so when he caught up to me again a new dynamic took over.  I found out this was to be the longest distance he had ever paddled (in fact, I think 50 miles was more than he ever paddled in one shot) and he learned how much pain I was in and offered me a pain killer.

We then started encouraging each other.

I told him how much nicer it was to paddle with somebody than paddle for hours on end alone and we agreed to paddle together and briefly mentioned something about fighting it out for third place the next day.

But then shortly after that we also talked about how there was really no fame, reward or glory in taking 3rd place in this race and how unlikely it was that anyone in the main pack behind us would catch up to us.

At some point it was discussed that we would each come back in the morning if the other one did and resume paddling together and that it was starting to sound silly to paddle together for so many miles and then try to sprint at the end to beat the other one for no particular reason other than a few seconds difference on some time sheet.

We observed each others’ boats and for the first time truly understood how much rocker these boats have and noticed both the front of the bow and the stern were both out of the water.  When you are paddling the boat you don’t see this, but when you are paddling next to one you do.

bowsternThe bows and sterns both out of the water makes for a shorter waterline and slower boat

This amount of rocker makes for a much shorter waterline and with the flat hull, we truly understood that the Pyranha Octane/Think Nitro (same boat, different badge) was fundamentally a much slower design than the Epic V7.

What is discussed on the river stays on the river, but two people at some point in time might have discussed starting an online flame war between the Pyranha Octane and the Think Nitro, each arguing why his boat is far superior to the other.

As we approached Hatton Ferry I was describing the best line on the river but then opted to just lead the way and show him the best line since I was more familiar with that section of the river.

We pulled into the mandatory overnight stop in Scottsville (Mile #70) together and I honestly didn’t know if I was going to return the next day.  I figured I would give myself a few hours and a good meal to see how I felt and then make the call.  After a fat filet mignon I bounced back and felt an obligation to Bill.  I knew he would be back.  He is a strong paddler and I could sense how important this accomplishment was to him.

So we resumed in the morning.

Once again I jumped out with The Big Dogs but knew my boat was no match so I fell back and waited for Bill.

We then paddled the rest of the way together and really enjoyed the day.  The rapids at Seven Islands were awesome with some good drops and rock gardens and we made it through with solid lines and just a few bumps.

We caught up to and passed a few of the 25-mile paddlers.  We made every pit stop together and waited for each other at each pit stop.

JRA-8JRA-9

Although at the time the last 50 miles on Day #2 seemed like a slow and boring part of the river, the time passed rather quickly and again I commented how much better I felt mentally paddling with somebody and engaging in pleasant conversation.  I explained how paddling for so many hours alone last year did strange things mentally.  Last year my mind wandered into ‘the zone’ and when I had a minute or two of human contact at pit stops my crew man sensed I wasn’t quite right mentally and I knew I was struggling to put a coherent sentence together.

There was none of that this year.  Bill and I enjoyed each others’ company and the conversation kept our minds occupied and in a much better place.

We were not paddling leisurely either, regardless of what it might have looked like at the pit stops.  We maintained a pretty good pace together.

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So we got to the finish line in a dead even tie for third place.  We found out that Paddling Buddy Dave came in second place behind Ethan and those two did indeed push each other all-out for two days.

I grinned and almost felt guilty knowing I had a significantly more enjoyable 120-mile journey, made a friend along the way, and still managed to come in third place.

The number of minutes or hours between 2nd and 3rd place was meaningless.

IMG_2362Turning off the GPS at the finish line.  117 miles in 19hrs, 55 minutes moving time.  Official race time will be more because pit stops will be included.

My race video:

 

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PS – I recovered quite quickly and was back in the gym Monday training opposite muscle groups and then again on Tuesday training legs with squats and leg presses.

During the race I had snack-sized baggies with beef jerky, Epic chicken jerky, salted almonds and shelled pistachios.  I ate less than one baggie each day and on Day #2 hit the river without breakfast or coffee.  A true testament to being fat-adapted and #NSNG.

But Wednesday came and when our local paddling group got together, I cut loose and enjoyed some cold brew and a fine, Dominican cigar.

wednesaday

And for historical purposes, I updated the historic chart of river levels on the James River during the James River Rundown.

table1jrrlevelstable2jrrlevels

PPS – I stayed at the finish line after the ceremonies ended and after most people had left to help finishers get their boats up onto land and help them find their land legs and it was there and then I witnessed some of the best this race had to offer with the “back of the packers.”

A male duo in a canoe that weighed roughly the same as the USS Yorktown finished the 120-miler still in good spirits.  The female tandem kayak team, The Sirens, completing the 120-mile journey telling tales of their interpersonal mayhem during the race but obviously getting out of their boat with a tighter bond than ever.

And the most touching, the female 50-mile solo paddler who got to the finish line and began shaking and became emotional due to the sense of accomplishment.  This was her first finish in three attempts.  I even got choked up watching her reaction and joy.

Some of the best stuff this race had to offer was with the folks who got off the river last with little fanfare or recognition.

Here’s to you!

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James River Rundown practice run

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would paddle an ultra-marathon in a kayak I would have told you you were crazy.

If you would have told me that I’d paddle an ultra as a training run I would have just laughed uncontrollably.

Yet here we are.

Paddling Buddy Dave and I got on the river at 7am this morning to paddle the full length of the Rivanna River and then 10 miles of the James River from Columbia, VA to Cartersville.

We’ve gotten a lot of rain in the past couple days and the rivers were very high, so we kept our eye on the gauges and visually inspected the rivers to make sure we would be paddling within our skill level and not putting ourselves in any danger.  The levels dropped overnight on Friday, just as expected, so we had a “green light” for a day of paddling.

As we shuttled vehicles Friday night I guestimated it would take us between 8 and 9 hours based on our projected river flows.

55 miles, 8 hours and 8 minutes of paddling with ~30 minutes of rest/eating/water-replenishing later, and we completed our mission.

We are tired and sore.

At one point on the river the only thought that came into my mind were the song lyrics, “I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.”

The last 7 miles of the Rivanna seemed slow and boring and my back was shot by the time we hit the James so I just did what I had to do to get it over with.

Paddling Buddy Dave showed no signs of fatigue on the water and I continue to hold him in highest regard as an absolute paddling beast.

The Pyranha Octane and Epic V7 seemed very evenly matched and any advantage of one over the other seemed purely attributable to the paddler.

Nutrition for me was water with BCAA’s, almonds, Pistachios, beef jerkey, and two Epic bars.

A great day for a workout paddle

meoctane

The weather was nice mid-day today in Central Virginia (in between morning and evening rains) so I loaded up the Pyranha Octane and headed for my local reservoir.  This is the third or fourth time I’ve paddled it but the first time I’ve paddled it more than 5 miles so I feel I have enough miles at this point that this can serve as my review of the Pyranha Octane surf ski.

The day was a bit windy and my back was tight and achy, but once I got out on the water I got more and more comfortable in the boat and loosened up a bit.

After a short while, I realized the boat is very stable for a surf ski and quite predictable.

The hull of the craft is more flat than round so it is much more stable than most surf skis.

Wiggling around and reaching to open and close the drain was no problem.  The seat is very comfortable and the narrowing of the craft at the point of paddle entry was well thought out.

Being the first open cockpit craft or surf ski I’ve owned, I was somewhat amazed by how much water splashes up from the paddle and into the long, open cockpit.  I was opening the drain more often than expected. I guess I’m used to that splash hitting a deck and rolling over the sides.

Now I fully understand why there is a drain.

The boat is quite fast (I got her up to 7.5mpg without wind at one point) but at times suffers from ground effects in shallow waters due to is underwater profile and weight.  It just plain seemed to bog down in the shallows more than what I’m used to.

I started out with my Camelbak Podium Big Chill water bottle in the cup holder between my legs and at some point realized that bottle is so tall that it interfered with my legs so I pulled it out and bungied it to the rear deck.

That was a huge improvement which allowed me to have a more natural motion with my legs and provided much more room.  In the future I will keep a shorter water bottle in the cockpit with me.

A minor annoyance was the foot straps on the peddles.

The boat came from the factory with one piece of strapping with the “hook” piece of hook-and-loop fastener anchored in its middle in between the peddles with the ends loose to wrap over the top of each foot.  Then each peddle has a “loop” bit of strap on the outside of each foot that then also wraps over the top and joins with the other strap.

The system firmly secures your feet to the peddles, but what I found very annoying was the fact that the inside part of the straps rubbed together when I worked the peddles and since it was exposed loops against exposed loops, it made a crunching sound each and every time I had to make a peddle adjustment to work the rudder.   A small detail, but an annoying one.

I don’t know why they didn’t use the smooth side of the strap in between the feet so it doesn’t rub hook against hook the way it does.

peddlesWhy oh why are the insides of the straps rubbing hook on hook?

When I got home I immediately removed the foot straps and I’ll see if I like it better next time without them.  If not, I’d design my own foot straps and reinstall.

gps3-18-1711.3 miles with a top speed of 7.5mph.  Not bad!

Another small gripe is the fact that the gap behind the carry handles is too small for adult hands.  Just a little more room in the handles would have been great.

Overall the boat is very fast for how stable and heavy it is. As I look at the photos, I see how much rocker it has which prevents it from floating just a little bit higher in the water.  I suppose that’s the trade-off between speed and maneuverability.

I’ll accept that trade-off in this boat because it is obviously made for rivers more so than for ocean surf or flat water sprinting.  With that said, I believe this will be a good entry point for those new to surf skis who are scared by the extreme tippiness of other options in the surf ski category.

My average speed was meaningless today because I stopped several times to stretch and at one point just sat for a short while and watched as a Bald Eagle perched above me on a branch.

The boat is slower than my Thunderbolt-X and most likely also slower than my Cobra Viper, but not by much and with its plastic construction and relative stability, it fits a clear niche and is going to be a great long-distance river runner.  Exactly what I wanted it to do and be.

As an aside, it was somewhat fun to explain to the fine folks at Appomattox River Company that I was actually buying this boat for its stability and then watching their facial expressions  as they tried to compute that statement.  I don’t think I am their typical customer.  🙂

I love the fact that it has a large rear hatch for storage and also a storage compartment in the bow with access in front of the feet.  It will be interesting to paddle this alongside my paddling buddy with his V7 to see how the two compare, but on paper the Octane (also branded as the Think Nitro) is marginally longer and narrower.

I love this boat!

As I got home and reviewed the video, I realize how sloppy my form got over the winter.

I’ve got a lot of things in my technique to straighten out and fix in the next few weeks before racing season begins.


My first long run with the Pyranha Octane today


My first ever outing with the craft