Fomo (fear of missing out) is a serious problem for me and many other paddlers out there. For me it has dragged me into a couple longer events this year not normally on my radar and it seems to be getting the better of me a little more often than normal these days.
We are really spoilt in KZN with plenty of wind and some amazing downwinds. The wind never arrived on the weekend so the Da Real Downwind 50km Challenge was moved out to the Monday. I am not sure if a race here has ever run on a Monday but the forecast was to good to be true, a VERY strong NE with medium swell, not to be missed.
I popped in a late entry, just to be part, more for some miles in the arms than to race. Jumping in a double with friend Kyle Friedenstein to make the distance more bearable. I woke to the curtains in my room flying across my room, wrote of work for the day and went paddling with 30 odd other hard core mates.
The start at Blythdale was challenging. We had another boat go sideways in the shore break and come at us at a rate of knots. I managed to field it off with my forearm and get user it, my partner wasn’t so lucky and it smashed him in the forehead. Only later did we see how bad it was with a full inch worth of a cut. Kyle is a tough guy and didn’t even flinch. Off we went.
In the process if dodging the oncoming ski I broke my foot strap. Something that has never happened to me and never realized how much we use them. It took a while to get out through the surf as every wave with hit took me right now the boat. We eventually got a big gap and hit backline some way down on the front couple of singles who had got out well before us.
We settled really quickly into the runs, which were awesome, hard not to when you are getting blown from one to the next. Only some 10km into the paddle did we see the next boat, passing Jean Luc Mauvis of Balito Point.
The sea was alive with the strong win and up the north coast there is normally a lot of sea life on show from little sharks, dolphins and whales. We pulling into a run and a shouted to Kyle, check there is a whale up front in about 100m. Not paying to much attention focused on the water, I got a little fright when Kyle came back with, THAT’S NOT A WHALE! Lifting my head from the sea a huge Manta Ray popped through the back of a swell on the surface. I have seen a Manta in Tahiti but never on my own coastline and this was almost double the size of the one I had seen before. It had beautiful white marking over its head and flapped its huge wingspan, as we got closer to cruise to a safe distance from out surfski going down a run at over 20km/h.
The sea always has a surprise for us, even in the chaos of a raging ocean, these 3 seconds of seeing this awesome creature might as well have been 10min, in slow motion etched my our memories forever. “Not your standard Monday” !!!!
It took another 30min to catch the next single surfski, which made us realize how far back we must have been getting out. Mistakes cost you big time when the sea is running so fast. We got up next to Brendan Rice off Westbrooke and had a little chat of “how good is this”, “what would you rather be doing”, You get the idea, we were having a lot of fun with Kyle telling me we were averaging between 18 and 20 so far on the paddle and it was just continuing to go up.
The next 25km were a blur of turbulent water, wind gusts and surfing. I have to say I didn’t pick the greatest line, having to much fun on the NE and the last couple km were a little slow being to shallow.
Just before Pirates the leader of the race Brett Bartho popped up on our outside, We had a closer Line in and got the first wave, well having to strap is not ideal in the surf and the white water lifted me right out the seat again for a 4th swim of the day. Brett passed us floundering in the mid break to take the overall win.
Barry Lewin and Kyle Friedenstein
Jean Luc Mauvis
More results can be found at www.fsportz.com.
There is an underlying passion in our sport for downwind paddling, being out in strong winds and big swell, finding rhythm and flow in the chaos is a sweet experience. The 30 people who bunked work to paddle may not drive the economy when the wind is blowing but long live this passion. I certainly want to be doing this into my latter years.
Well done to Angus and Fsportz for providing these mad people a platform to live out these crazy adventures in the sea. Staying true to what downwind is all about and delaying the race to Monday could not have been an easy call. I certainly would have called the race off completely, but hanging in for the wind was such a WIN!
It is very hard to explain how good the downwind was. Maybe this pic from the winner Brett Bartho will show a better idea.
Here is his quote “Still going sub 3min kilometers after 37km with an average speed of 21km/h for a whole kilometer- I’ll take that thank you! My FENN ski was humming all day…”
Photos of the race to follow soon!
Next up is Mouth 2 Mouth this weekend.
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