Bob Putnam’s May 19, 2011 Big Chop Race Report

In Vancouver we are blessed with not one but two weekly Paddlesport Races.  There is the weekly Deep Cove Tuesday Night Paddlesport Race and the Bi-Weekly Big Chop Series at  Vanier Park by the Planetarium.

Some of the the Deep Cove guys went a cross town to mix it up with the West Siders.  Myself, Mike Darbyshire and Kelvin Humenny braved the cross town traffic.  This must have been the biggest turn out for any Big Chop race I have been to.  60 paddlers from all disciplines, sea kayak, OC, Surf ski, prone paddler, canoe and of course a handful of SUPers.  I was counting on flat conditions, as my stand up balance skills aren’t nearly as developled as my sit down ones, ( surf ski)  For once the Big Chop lived up to its name with a fresh westerly kicking up 1 – 2 foot wind waves.

The savvy race organizers, Bryan Tasaka and Ryan Pogue changed the pre-planned route to accommodate for the prevailing winds, making it an out and back.  Little Chop race one loop (4 km)  and the Big Chop two loops (you can do the math).  I was paddling Starboard’s new 14′ race board The Ace.  14′ x 26.5.  (Available at Deep Cove Outdoors)  The race line-up spanned the whole entrance to False Creek and caused some concern for motor-boaters trying to enter The Creek.  Clothing is always a question and at the start I was cooking in my neoprene pants and looking enviously at Kelvin and Mike’s board shorts.  They were dressed for the weather, and I, as was to prove a correct prediction, was dressed for the water.

The start was fast and furious, from my surf ski racing experience, I am not used to all the boats bombing by me at the start.  We were pounding in to the westerly waves.  This wasn’t too bad as The Ace bucked up and down.  We rounded the red mark and then the waves were coming from the front quarter and combined with the side motor boat waves, I was like a hobbled old man leaning over my walker.  Instead of powerful full body strokes, I was dabbing at the water like a 4 year old patting down his mud pie.  It was a sad picture.  After my first three remount practices, resorted to cheating to catch up the lead.  I managed pull up beside Mike who was right behind Kelvin.  I asked what the rules were, and Mike said, “You are only allowed 5 strokes on your knees”  Well my allowance expired 495 strokes ago.

We rounded the 1st mark and I made it through side wave hell greatly anticipating the downwind glory.  This was my specialty (on a surf ski) and I was going to catch these guys.  Fall off #4,  &##@@!!  But then I got going and started to have some fun with down wind paddling.  Catching some waves, falling off, getting back on, get going catching some waves…….I think its called “The Learning Process”

I never did catch the guys.  Kelvin forgot to seal his day-hatch on his custom wood SUP, and it filled with 5 gallons of water.  How he managed to stay upright with all that water sloshing around inside his board is a wonder.

The Big Chop post race party with beers and hot dogs is fun.  Check out BigChop.ca  Next Race is June 2

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