Days at the beach
A wee bit of heaven in Tofino at the sup classic. The weather was typical wet west coast, overcast with a slight breeze but the scenery did not disappoint. If you have been to Chestermans beach and seen Frank Island at low tide with Pettinger point to the South and Wickaninnish Island and Inn to the North, well, it's an astoundingly beautiful scene, rain or shine.
It was a bit of an ordeal getting down to the beach with all of our gear. Kids in tow. Boards. Beach gear. Food supplies. Extra clothing. Race gear. More gear then hands but we made it. The atmosphere was exactly what the doctor ordered. Grass roots racing at its best. Registration tents on the beach. Sand everywhere. Boards everywhere. Course discussions right up to the last minute deciding on the best section of beach to launch from and where to put the turn bouys for Saturdays short course technical race. Balancing entertaining kiddos and participating was a challenge made substainlly easier with the wide open expanse of the the beach, a plethora of children to play with, sand castles, and freedom to roam. Chestermans is quite the scene on a Saturday in June. Surfers, beach strollers, wedding parties, beach cruisers, random characters and our eclectic collection of paddling enthusists. The paddling community on the Wet Coast is special, with Mike Redpath, Brian Reymer, Gina Lemeuix and Catherine Bruhwiler putting in endless hours organizing the various Vancouver Island events for those who want to race, and for those of us, like myself, who just want to be around paddlers, to share in a love of drifting on the ocean, the events provide a venue to commune together. It was fun to watch the women's Elite race, I took what maybe one of my favourite pictures of a sporting event, a line drawn in the sand, where nine competitors agreed to take on the elements, and some wave break turns; "the race is from here to there and back, four times, four turns per lap, including a u turn inside the break, enjoy, mark set go".
The pure joy of grass roots events.
I ended up borrowing a 12'6 (race boards come in 12'6 and 14), the Elite race was set at 12'6 for some technical reason I chose to not try and understand, I simply wanted to get out and play with Evan, Jason and the boys, I especially love paddling with Mike Darbyshire, beyond being 'one with the board' he is an exceptional human being, a community leader, tirelessly giving back in tandem with his wonderful wife Karly, while managing life with two young children. Mike is salt of the earth, and a joy to paddle with. The race was fun, I caught some waves, got pounded a few times at the turn and mixed it up with my friend Tim, to whom I share a tradition of yelling "HOW MUCH FUN IS THIS" whenever we are paddling in the same vicinity. I took one or two, too many, large bails and ended up back of the pack, including a fairy substaintial "oh dear that board and fin are coming flying at my head" stack right at the end with a 15 year old competitor who is already whopping my ass out on the ocean. We jogged it in together, matching fin wounds narrowily averted.
The highlight of day one had to be seeing my buddy Sir Richard going head to head in the men's open race on his Starboard ACE. Sir Richard is another salt of the earth, or maybe it's salt of the ocean, character I've come to call a friend through paddling. A father or two Richards love of paddling matches mine, we come from the same corner of the universe, we march to the beat of the same ocean drum, to see Richard recover from a terrible start and bomb a huge wave from out the back to put himself back in it was quite the site. One which I took in from the beach, the first race took more out of me then I expected, both emotionally, reconciling my competitive fire isnt does come easily, and physically, I was bloody exhausted. Speaking of exhausted, Richard was spent when he finished, I think it took him awhile to just move on from the finish line, well earned Sir Richard. Well earned.
We spent the evening by the fire at BellaPacifica camp ground, after some Tacofino and prepped our camp grounds for the rain expected that night. My van was a picture of colour and chaos, the girls were in heaven, while I was relegated to sleeping on the plywood between foamies... a raw deal but worth it, my life, van camping with kiddos.
Day two saw storms on the horizon, a south easterly was blowing and there was some concern regarding the long course races, apparently no one wanted to get blown out to sea. The race was set for 12km, 3 laps from Mackenzie beach to middle beach and back, navigating wind chop, shoreline swells, a down winding section, the consequence to down winding, an upwind battle, into side chop, with a few islands to navigate thrown in there for good measure. "Tony the Tiger" and I managed to battle it out for 2nd and 3rd behind Jason Bennett, I lit the pilot light for the first time in a long time racing, and loved it. Everyone there looked like they were having the time of their lives tackling the elements, cheering each other on as we passed back and forth, chasing bumps and riding the heaving swell. Again the paddling scene here on the wet coast was on full display with smiles abound running into the beach. Stories of waves missed, unintentional swims and long slogs preoccupied the post race chatter. We had just enough time afterwards to get changed into our wetsuits and accompany the kids out into the surf. Seeing Pippa and her friends out on the ocean smiling ear to ear was quite special, they say a picture is worth a thousand words; the smiles say it all.
As far as Fathers days go, this was one for the ages. My daughters smiles said it all, that and their wonderful cards, which mean so much. Onwards and upwards, life as a dad, and a wet west coast paddler.