Ouch!

I never realized what an emotional connection a boarder has with their board until I decided to put a hole in mine. Actually it was more like a sliver out of the tail section. When I looked down to survey the damage, I was deflated. Right through the glass into the core. I thought about all the times I had babied my Oxbow Cruiser since its purchase in January. I thought about rinsing it down after each use after contamination from the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and, now, the Chesapeake Bay. And, I thought about laying down blocks of wood to keep the rail off driveway pavement when washing my board down.

The quickest way to put a hole in a stand up paddleboard follows an quick and easy recipe: (1) drink wine, (2) launch off the back of a sailboat, (3) paddle around a marina at sunset, (4) attempt to retrieve the SUP board using the swim ladder, (5) drop board while maneuvering board onto aforementioned sailboat deck right onto a jib winch. As sure as Bobby Flay cooks a mean steak, the 1/4 inch of fiberglass of a SUP is no match for 25 pounds of machined and tempered metal used to haul in a sail under a mean blow. For one instance after losing grip of the board and seeing it drop to the deck I thought it was cool. . . it just bounced off fiberglass-off-fiberglass like two magnets repelling each other. No problem. Then I turned the board and saw flakes of red paint, fiberglass and foam. Ouch.

Now that the damage has been done and I’ve given it ample time to settle in my mind helped by several Dark ‘n’ Stormy’s, I’ve come to the conclusion that I might have less of an emotional connection to my production SUP board than a proner might have to their custom short board, what upsets me first is that I don’t have the freedom to go paddle whenever I want to (the whole reason I bought the board) and second is the fact that I have to get my cruiser repaired and that will take time. I do, however, care enough about my stuff and value my investment enough to know that I don’t want an ugly white patch on the bottom of my board. This means finding a specialist in boards who knows their stuff well enough to provide an effective repair, shave and paint job. My sneaking suspicion is that a trip to a beach shop may be in order.

Then, I’m going to develop a fastening and hoist system to safely load SUP boards on both sides of the sailboat. This way we can jump in the water, swim to our boards and paddle to explore the shoreline of wherever we just sailed. In the meantime, the hunt for an expert board repair specialist begins.

I have a feeling I’ll be back on the water in no time.

 

Teague to Railroad BridgeIt was a strange day out on the water for this Morning’SUP paddle. I woke up promptly at 5a.m., fresh off the opportunity to paddle around with the D.C. Surfriders at the Outreach Meeting and Paddle last night, and could hear the rain on the air conditioner. Then I remembered hearing hail hitting the a/c earlier in the morning. And I thought to myself: this probably isn’t happening today. I pulled up Accuweather on my iPhone and looked at the moving map. There was a great big green blob over the middle of D.C., but it was moving out of the area. The forecast called for showers. I didn’t bother taking anything out of the car from our little excursion out at Cabin John last night so all I needed to do was throw the board on the rack and drive down to Diamond Teague Park. I was excited to be able to hit the water and hammer out some distance after getting some great paddling tips from Buck and the guys at Potomac Paddlesports last night.

If there was any doubt about going out on the water (lightning storms on the water freak me out), when I arrived at The Teague the doubt dissipated: there were clouds tumbling in, but there were plenty of club rowers on the water. To add to the certainty, radar showed no real convection and no real heavy rain. I didn’t give it a second thought and snatched the board off the roof. I tiptoed around goose shit on the dock and put in at 6:15a.m.

The water was largely calm with a light wind out of the southeast. I made it up to the 11th Street Bridge in no time and much faster than my freezing, rainy, wind-in-your-face paddle with Cheryl Norcross the last time I embarked out of Teague. I skirted the District Yacht Club and the Anacostia Boathouse to stay clear of the crew boats that were out for their morning practice. Before I knew it, I was at the Anacostia Railroad Bridge. I didn’t realize it but the Anacostia Park boat ramp was located adjacent to the rail bridge.

The Anacostia Rail Bridge presented only about three feet of clearance — even at the channel. I slipped underneath to the north side of the bridge and entered something I can only describe as strange water. It was perfectly flat. It was like paddling in chocolate milk. All of a sudden it was totally silent. There were no rowers. There were no boathouses. And, I was perfectly alone. But what made it strange was that even though the water was flat, I was literally being sucked upstream. When I swept my paddle to turn around, I could feel the upstream current pushing against my skeg which made the turn more difficult than I thought it would be. When I was back facing the bridge, it was literally getting smaller as I drifted north on the river. I forgot to check the tide before I departed, but the water levels were already really high. It had to be high tide. Little did I know, we were still almost three hours to high tide and there was literally no clearance under the bridge. My better judgment told me to not venture upstream with no float plan shared and solo. I had to paddle to get underneath the bridge but could barely catch the paddle without hitting the bottom beams of the bridge. When I checked the tide chart back at my car, I realized that if I had spent more time and headed further north, I would not have had enough clearance to get under the bridge and might have been forced to go over the tracks — from land.

The return trip was uneventful. The wind was at my back but I still wasn’t making the headway I’ve been used to on the Potomac. I felt like I was paddling in a pool of chocolate milk. Nonetheless, I made it back to The Teague by 7:30a.m., pulled the SUP out of the water and was heading to grab coffee by 7:45a.m.

Total time on the water was @ 1 hr and 10 mins. for a total of 4.29 miles. Great start to the day.

 

It seriously could not have gotten any better being out on the water yesterday. I didn’t see a cloud in the sky when I woke up and with temps predicted to be in the low-80′s there was no way I was going to NOT be on the water today.

While I had a ton of things to get out of the way in the morning work-wise, I was able to make it out to Columbia Island Marina by noon and was paddling under the GW Parkway bridge by 12:20p.m. (I forgot my leash after paddling through the boats and had to go back to my car to get it.)

The conditions were perfect. Unlike my previous paddles this year I opted out of a wetsuit and stuck to some board shorts and a long-sleeved nylon SPF50 rash guard. 58 degree water splashing on my feet? No problem. It felt great.

Since the wind was at my back headed upstream, it was a great opportunity to work on paddling style and efficiency. My board being a cruiser with the maneuverability to surf small- to medium-sized waves, I’ve been having a problem with my board not tracking straight. I thought about adding a couple of additional fins to supplement my single skeg but my limited research online points to not bothering. A few people had mentioned that zig-zagging is more related to paddle style, so I figured that’s where I’d start and refine it more than I had been able to over the past few months. However, I have rented boards that had multiple fins and they were impossible to turn and tracked like they were on rails so I know fins make a difference at a loss of maneuverability in the waves.

The second thing that was really interesting about this day on the water was how different it felt to be out of a wetsuit, booties and gloves! After 2+ hours, my hands had a couple of blisters. But, aside from that, it just felt great to actually be able to feel the water and the deckpad under my feet.

Finally, when I was crossing from the north side of the river at the Memorial Bridge to the south side of the river at Columbia Marina — perhaps the longest, most open portion of my trip — I hit some rough water from a few fishing boats, water taxis and the wind. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt through the swells and chop. I just felt loose and comfortable. . . probably because I had a slight fear before of falling into a 38 degree Potomac. As a result, the crossing was the most fun portion of the trip.

As of Wednesday, it will be one week until the first, “official” Morning’SUP gathering. It would be great to get a few people out to join me. It will be early, but weather-permitting, it will be worth it.

Total time on the water was @ 2 hr and 23 mins. I imported my stats from GPS and my cruise was for a total of 6.96 miles. It was an amazing day.

 
Cheryl Norcross

Cheryl Norcross admires the drops of sunshine

It started to drizzle right before we put in on the lower Anacostia River at 11:30a.m.  It was also 45 degrees.  And, the wind was starting to pick up.

But, as the old saying goes “A bad day on the water is better than the best day in the office”.

Since it was Good Friday, and I was fortunate enough to get an invite for a little noon paddle from Cheryl Norcross, the River Coordinator for the D.C. Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, I was on board — literally.

Thanks to Cheryl and her scouting abilities, we discovered that launching from the docks immediately across Potomac Street at Diamond Teague Park is not just an option, it’s a fantastic option.  The docks are brand-spankin’ new, there’s tons of parking and the site provides access to explore the upper portion of the Anacostia River and the Southwest Waterfront.

Cheryl and I got underway shortly after 11:30a.m. and we made our way north, hugging the shore along the Navy Yard.  The wind wasn’t enough to throw us off-balance, but it certainly was enough to make a stand-up paddlers leading edge cold — in this case, our hands.

After 20 minutes or so of steady, upwind paddling and with the rain now a full-on drizzle, by the time we got to the 11th Street Bridge, Cheryl and I decided to take a short break under the bridge and head back to where we put in.

The paddle back, of course, was much warmer and easier.  The wind was now at our backs and we were riding the current and the tide back.  We took a short trip across to the east side of the river to check out what looked like an old pump house and then headed back to the dock.

Cheryl Norcross

Cheryl recovers a bucket and a soccer ball from the Anacostia

True to the mission of the Surfriders, Cheryl couldn’t resist but to pull an old soccer ball and a huge bucket from the river on our way back across to Teague Park.  The soccer ball was floating but was weighed down with water that had permeated it seams.  I was impressed to watch Cheryl recover the bucket. . .  it was apparent that she had done this before — many times.  Any amateur would have attempted to drag a bucket full of water aboard, but Cheryl was careful to empty the bucket of its contents before pulling it atop her board.  And, she did it with frozen hands and a smile on her face.

Cheryl officially wins my award for Earth Day Hero.

By the time we got back around 1p.m. we both won the award for fastest time to break down, pack up and go home to warm up.  I think it took us 10 minutes total.

Despite the weather not being that great for a paddle (but doesn’t it always rain in D.C. on Earth Day?), it was a lot of fun being out on the water, able to chat with Cheryl, and having a chance to meet and spend time with someone new who also has a passion for S.U.P.

Total time on the water was @ 1 hr and 15 mins. but I wasn’t keeping track of the time that closely.  MapMyRide.com had the cruise at 1.8 miles, straight line.  It was a cold, rainy and good day.

 
morningsup

6:35a.m. The Washington Monument at Sunrise

This is what I’m talking about.

The view of the sunrise on the Potomac is better savored on the water than driving down the GW Parkway.  And, such was the case on April 14th when I launched for a 90 minute cruise from Columbia Island Marina to the Roosevelt Island Bridge and back.

I was on the water by 6:20 and was on the Potomac at 6:25.  Ten minutes later the sun came up and I was treated to one of the best views of Washington, D.C. ever!

I also could not believe the number of rowers.  I came across at least a dozen singles, two doubles, and a four crew teams from Georgetown and the local high schools.  Needless to say, I was not alone.

The weather was perfect. On my outbound, upriver leg to the Roosevelt Bridge there was no wind and there was nothing but flat water.  It made it easy to get my Oxbow Cruiser on a plane.  The hardest part of the paddle was keeping out of the way of the rowers.

Rosslyn

Rosslyn and the Memorial Bridge at dawn

As I made my way upstream to round the Roosevelt Bridge, the temperatures were in the 70′s. With the water in the 50′s, I think I am going to forgo a wetsuit on my next cruise, providing the air temps are decent.  I think board shorts and a base layer shirt are more than suitable for the middle of the Potomac now.

The water around the Roosevelt Bridge was really turbid around the pylons since the current was already pretty brisk and the tide was high and starting to drop.  Once I rounded the bridge and came back, I could have just stood on the board and let the current take me back.

I did, however, think it was funny when I said, “Beautiful morning!” to a rower in a single that she replied, “It’s a little rough and squirrelly this morning. . .”

I was like, huh?  Against the last few times I had been out, there was no wind at all.   I guess she was talking about the debris and flotsam in the water from the recent storms.

I returned to the Columbia Island Marina 85 minutes later and talked to the security guard a little before heading out.

It’s amazing: the more people I talk to, the more energy and excitement I can sense about SUP in the Washington, D.C. area.  I am planning the first “official” Morning SUP cruise to leave Columbia Island Marina on May 4th at 6a.m. to catch the t 6:07a.m. morning sunrise as soon as we leave the marina and cross under GW Parkway, for a 90 minute paddle up to Roosevelt Island and back.

I’m excited to take a few cruises before that happens.  I’d love to have you join me.

 

The wind was starting to kick up at Gravelly Point when I pulled in to the parking lot shortly after noon.  I wasn’t in the mood to contend with a steady 10 kt wind and gusts to 17 kts. It was also cloudy and drab out.  I almost got back in the car and drove away to paddle another day.  Then I figured since I was here, I should just do it.  It was the right decision.

Ten minutes later I was making the mile long paddle across the Potomac headed for the southern-most tip of East Potomac Park.  I was also doing my best to avoid the water taxis and commercial vessels so they wouldn’t have to slow to avoid me.

It was, indeed, another beautiful day.  There was what looked to be an FJ regatta going on just off National Airport, so that gave me plenty to pay attention to on my way across.

The biggest challenge crossing were the swells and wake from the commercial traffic and the recreational boaters.  It got a little more turbid right in the channel.  I tried to hit the channel perpendicularly so I could expedite the amount of time it took to cross.

I hit East Potomac Park and there were fisherman lined up all along the park’s shore walk — all had lines out.  I stayed about 100 yards offshore to avoid any master casting and lines that were let out.  (As an aside: as an aspiring angler, I don’t really “get” throwing a few lines out and waiting. . .  totally boring.)

The water was a little bit rugged as I rounded Hains Point and started to head north — probably a confluence of the Anacostia, the Potomac and the water running down from the Tidal Basin, as well as the boat traffic to and from the Southwest D.C. waterfront.  Further upstream there were two Dragon Boat teams practicing their starts and having themselves a little scrimmage.  It was pretty cool to watch, but I pretty much didn’t wave to their paddlers or anything because I didn’t want to distract them from their practice.

The Francis Case Memorial Bridge was mile three and my turnaround point.  I was hot and needed to take a break.  The temperature had risen to around 70 degrees and, while it was still somewhat cloudy, I had sweat running down my face and inside my wetsuit.  I actually thought about jumping in the water to cool off.  Instead, I just unzipped the top of my suit and got some cool air on my chest and back and took a little break.  I also didn’t have water. . .  next three hour paddle will definitely require water.

The return trip was uneventful, but a little bit of an easier trip since I was warmed up.  D.C. Sail had their Flying Scots out and were conducting classes, so that was good to see and also made me realize that you can’t take new skippers’ skills for granted: assume they can’t see you or will not maintain safe leeway.  While my return around Hains Point was a little rough, crossing from east to west was much more smooth than the outbound leg of the trip. . .  the swells were coming from behind me and I felt like I could ride a couple of them a few times.

Gravelly Point was pretty crowded when I pulled in.  The tide was high enough all I needed to do was drift into the dock and step off my board.  I broke the surface tension by lifting the side of my SUP board, gripped the handle and walked up to my car.

I was packed, mounted on the roof rack, and out of there in ten minutes.

Total time on the water was @ 2 hrs and 50 mins. but I wasn’t keeping track of the time that closely.  MapMyRide.com had the cruise at 6.4 miles, straight line.  It was a good day.

 

 

They say that the third time is a charm.  Indeed, it was today.

I departed Gravelly Point at 8:45a.m. with an incoming tide and a wind out of the south-southwest.  High tide was at 10:43a.m. so I figured shortly after I reached my final destination (the Three Sisters, just north of Georgetown), I would be heading back with both the tide and the current in my favor.  And, it was 100% clear with an air temperature of 40 degrees when I departed.  With a full 3/2 wetsuit and, now, gloves and booties I would be dressed for the occasion.

It was nothing short of brilliant on the water this morning.  The cherry blossoms on the east side of the river have already reached their prime, but were beautiful nonetheless.

The trip upstream was totally smooth with some stretches of totally flat water that made it easy to open it up and dig in.  My previous trip from Gravelly ended at the 14th Street Bridge because of a north wind and heavy chop between there and the Memorial Bridge (and because I was wearing neoprene socks, not booties [my feet were cold] and gloves that were not waterproof and that prevented me from gripping my paddle).  Not today.  The weather conditions and my clothing options worked out perfectly.

Heading inside Roosevelt Island was great and worry-free since I got there right around high tide. . .  plenty of water, no wind.  Heading north of Roosevelt Island and under the Key Bridge, it seemed like the wind shifted to the northwest and was right in my face.  A few brief gusts were totally tolerable through to rounding the Three Sisters.  Turning around the rocks, I just stood up and soft/half-paddled downstream to the Key Bridge — a nice rest from the trip upstream.

The wind situation changed south of the Key Bridge.  The wind was whipping out of the SSW, just as it had when I departed.  The return trip would be harder than I initially thought.  So, now I had the wind out of the south and the current and tide heading south.  This created a really nice chop (with swells!) between the Roosevelt Bridge and the 14th Street Bridge — a place that I had avoided on my last cruise mainly because I didn’t have neoprene booties or gloves and I wanted to be prepared for a spill.  I made it to the 14th Street Bridge without going for a swim, but I tell you what: getting back to Gravelly was a chore.  The wind was at a steady 8-10kts with gusts that must have been between 12 to 17kts.  Had to have been. . .  there were freakin’ whitecaps. I made very little headway standing at the south near the point, so I kneeled for a few minutes just to round the bend into the Gravelly Point inlet.

Once I had the wind to my left/back, it was a smooth paddle to the ramp.

Total time on the water was @ 3 hrs and 15 mins. but I wasn’t keeping track of the time as closely as I should have.  MapMyRide.com had the cruise at 8.5 miles.  I’ll take it.

It was a great day for a Morning SUP in D.C.

Notes

  • The Coast Guard helo came over to say good morning.  I didn’t see their inflatable until I was packed and driving home in my car, but if I were a betting man they will be checking for PFD’s.  I had an inflatable PFD around my waist.
  • The Potomac water temperature is still between 47 and 57 degrees.  Most people I have spoken to recommend a 3/2 wetsuit with booties and gloves which is what I was wearing.
  • I was also wearing a synthetic skull cap which I removed when I got too warm.  I dress as if I am going to be going for a swim, rather than fear getting wet in a very cold river.
 

Morning SUP pictureThere is nothing more amazing than Washington, D.C. at sunrise.

Every Monday morning for two years I was on the 6a.m. flight out of DCA to Atlanta.  It was the first flight out.  What sticks with me were those drives down the GW Parkway en route to the airport.  .  .  the sun climbing up behind the Washington and Lincoln monuments, beckoning a new glorious day.  And, separating Washington, D.C. and me was a placid body of water in the form of the Potomac.

I want to make up for those brilliant mornings that I spent in a cab on the way to the airport instead of being on the water savoring the dawn of a new day.  And, I want you to do it with me — at least on a couple days a week.

MORNING’sup (D.C.) is about bringing together like-minded adventurous and athletic people that have a passion for Stand Up Paddleboarding to enjoy a morning (probably sunrise) cruise on the Potomac.  We’ll depart together and plan for a 60-minute cruise.  If anyone needs to bail earlier, they can.  If anyone wants to go further up or downstream, no problem.  There’s no agenda except to be on the water at sunrise to catch a glimpse of dawn.

I’ll probably grab a box of coffee for everyone to enjoy some coffee and talk when we get back to the parking lot.

Judging by the water and air temperature, we’ll probably hold cruises on Wednesday and Saturday mornings starting on May 4, 2011.  If you are interested, please join the MORNING’sup Facebook Fan Page.