Monday, March 10, 2014

Confessions of Watertribe SUP paddler-JustSurf

Overwhelming appreciation not only to the Watertribe competitors that I met out on the water but also to Paula, Dana, Chief, and all the other volunteers and general supporters of this amazing event.  People kept telling me they thought I was crazy for doing this on a SUP but all I can say is right back at you, I don’t think it is any different whatever craft you choose to use. 

It’s not about being crazy, it’s about being part of an amazing adventure and experience. It’s something few others get a chance to do.  I have to admit that prior to the start I had no idea how far I would be able to go despite preparing and speaking to Shane (Perrin) who had completed the course last year. 

Many thanks also to Stripbuilder and JoeWildlife for their words of wisdom.  My longest training run, prior to this race, was 14.5 miles. Once I got to Check Point 1, I knew I had it in me.  I just had to watch the weather carefully.  I was surrounded by some amazing paddlers and for that I am grateful.  The natural beauty was amazing and each day my list of sightings grew: sharks, rays, manatee, turtles, wading birds, shore birds, white pelicans, fish, crocodile, the list goes on.  Wow, what an event.  

I set out on this adventure to raise money for Surfers Healing- Folly Beach chapter [link below], a group that provides a day camp for children with autism, taking them surfing and allowing them to experience the freedom of the ocean.

Two weeks before the start of the race I found out my sister had stage II breast cancer and I continued my fundraising but decided to dedicate the race to my sister Nikki.  While I was doing the race my sister found out she now has stage IV cancer.  I realize what I went through out on the water is probably a small sample of what challenges she will now face. Have strength Nik, you are stronger than you realize. We all are.

This ones for you Nik- I love you!

Final Push across Florida Bay

It was odd to be pushing and pushing to get to the next check point then once we reached the last one it was like "what now?"  Oh, yes the finish.  Wow, have we really gone this far?  We pulled into Flamingo and after a little clean-up and rest we left at 5pm for a push to the finish across Florida Bay.  The bay is super shallow and one has to be spot on on ones navigation following these narrow marked channels.  With names like Tin Can Channel, Dump keys, Twisty Channel and Crocodile Dragover we weaved our way to the finish.  Arriving at 3:15am there was not a lot of celebrating but it sure felt good.
 Storm clouds all around Florida Bay
 Unpacking for the last time
 Signing in at the finish

Day 4 - Mud and Mosquitos

I was happy to leave the mud behind at CP2 not to mention the mosquitos who were taking no prisoners.  After a quick stop at the Ranger station to get a camping permit we left Chokoloskee.  Shortly after our departure I managed to drop my phone overboard but luckily retrieved it after a short search and rescue mission in the shallows.  

Our next destination was the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades National Park shooting for CP3 Flamingo.  There were some amazing wildlife moments this day and we saw many dolphin, turtles, wading birds, shore birds and manatee.  After many hours on the water we decide to stop at the South Joe River Chickee which is a platform upon which one can camp.  Once again the mosquitos had a feast and even once in my tent I felt like they were going to carry me off. 

Day 3 Early Start

We were up at 3:30 and on the water by 4:30am because the wind was shifting to the south I thought this would help us get a kick-start on the day.  We past Naples and stopped at the pier as I was starving and figured there would be some sort of concession stand there.  Those hotdogs tasted so good, followed by two cups of Coke I felt rejuvenated.  This was a good day for food as I was tired of the energy bars and powder I was drinking.  I found a lady selling burgers off her boat at one of the inlets and that was like a gift from heaven.  There was a lot of talk about food and food cravings.  It was another long day and after a huge battle against the outgoing tide we made it to Chokoloskee at mid-night.
 Thanks for hanging with me Val it was great to have the company and share the frustration, laughter and experience.

Day 2

Day 2 was the toughest and luckily I had be warned the day before about this.  Head down and grind it out that's all you can do.  The problem was the wind was up and then we were fighting the tide not to mention it was Sunday and it felt like everyone who owned a boat was out.  They tried really hard to provide the biggest wakes possible and thought it would be good to come and find out if I was okay.  This was done by roaring up to me then after finding out I was okay they roared around me and headed off, leaving me with another huge wake, thanks very much Mr. Motorboat.

Day2: Camp Cayo Pelau to New Pass

 Beautiful sunsets were a treat at the end of a long days paddling
 Team Vapor Apparel perfect shirts for the race

Race Day 1

After all the preparation, build-up, planning, traveling and nerves it's finally here.  It felt so good to get off the beach and on the water all those worries about whether I had the right gear and packed it all were gone.

Long day on the water and I was very happy to get to the first checkpoint [CP1].  From here on out I know I could do it if the weather held.

 CP1 Camping
 CP1 check-in for competitors
JustSurf and Stripbuilder on the way to CP1