We’re reprinting here a lively account of the June 27th ‘Round Bowen Challenge as reported by racer and colleague Bob Putnam, owner of Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak.
It was the most challenging ‘Round Bowen Race in recent years with 60 + paddlers battling the wind and waves. With course options such as half race, relay race or full race there was an option for everybody. But for novice surfski paddlers and paddle boarders hoping for benign conditions, they didn’t get there wishes. Stable skis were the order of the day and normally fast flatwater guys got spanked in the tumultuous first half of the race. This was a great warm up for the July 18 Canadian Surfski Champs where lately downwind conditions have been excellent.
In attendance, were the usual Vancouver suspects, 19 year-old Ken Rice from South Africa (yes, Sean’s younger brother), a group of solid OC and surfski paddlers from the Okanagan’s new Kelowna Paddling Centre lead by former National Kayak Team member Greg Redman, Olympic K2 Gold Medalist from the LA Olympics, Hugh Fischer who was preparing for the Canadian Surfski Champs and World Marathon Champs, Lone Bellinghamster, Steve Scoggins, and a few new surfski paddlers from Victoria. Rounding out the field were paddler boarders and OC Paddlers.
Unfortunately another to remain un-named strong competitor ended up on the ferry to Nanaimo…not Bowen Island….oops!
A circular race route with wind means only one thing, half headwind and half downwind and that is exactly what was served up. It was agreed upon by local avid surfski paddlers and Bowen Island-ites that a counter clockwise route would deliver the best conditions. Off the start conditions allowed for a nice warm up and the pace was somewhat subdued. Nobody really hammered considering instead the 32 km laid ahead. I was paddling back to the start some 300 yards away when I saw paddles up and heard the horn. I did an about face and merged my way into the pace amongst my usual competitors.
As wind rounded Hood Point, the NW head winds made their presence known, the lead group was made up of Ken Rice, Canadian Surfski Champ, Wes Hammer, Shane Martin, Greg Redman, not far back was Steve Scoggins, Daryl Remmler. A bit back congregated around the Hope Bros double, was Warren Bruce, myself, Bruce Mctaggart, Hugh Fischer, and John George. So paddling into a headwind is like cycling up hill and everybody stays in sight. The further we progressed the stronger the wind and bigger the wind waves. We were bouncing through 2-3 foot waves and a bit of swell. Winds were a solid 20 knots. Our destination, Cape Roger Curtis(CRC) was felt like miles away especially after the final gauntlet of Tunstall Bay where conditions became “side-on.”
The first half of the race was a true test of one’s balance, and by the time you got to CRC, your core muscles were shot. But you had to salvage your reserves because this is where the runs started. They were a combination of swell from the 40 km fetch, wind waves, reflective waves and some current thrown in. The runs were good but you had to dig deep to catch them. With every effort I made to catch a run I could feel the diminishing gas slopping around the bottom of my tank. But by not trying to catch every run and only catching the runs I new I could get, I was able to persevere. I came upon Hugh Fischer being helped back into his ski by a short course sea kayaker. Hugh later told me that when he capsized every muscle in his body cramped. “Who would have thought that your forearm and bi-cep can cramp at the same time.
The downwind remained good until Cowan Point where they became mini-runs and then diminished to flat for the final 5 km push to the finish. As usual, the post-race Salmon BBQ and beer was fabulous, where there were plenty of tales of glory and stories of woe.
Steve “The Pride of Bellingham” Scoggins was solid in the race. Grabbing the rough water dragon by the tail and giving it a good shake. Steve placed a respectable 5th place. Canadian Surfski Champion and RBC course record holder Wes Hammer was in second, but nearly 15 minutes behind winner 19 year-old Ken Rice. Fortunately for Hammer, conditions didn’t allow for a record time so he can hold the title.
I hope to see you all at the Canadian Surfski Championships July 18. Please get your registrations in ASAP. It’ll be a good one.