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

2018 8-11 Paddle Cup-492-bhdr

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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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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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