By Basil “Chip” Tydings
“If you had told me at 8:30 am on a chilly October Saturday morning that I would be having fun at the commencement of the Inaugural Sandy Point Paddlefest at 10:15 I would have politely smiled and thought you to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic. The wind was howling. The temperature did not feel to be anywhere near 60 degrees. The Coast Guard was patrolling, on land mind you. The stage was set for a disastrous first run of an event brought about to provide fun and entertainment for paddlers and support for an organization that provides so much for our fellow athletes.
When the announcement was made that the start of all the races would be delayed there seemed to be no dissention in the ranks. Sure, some people had to head out to other obligations but to those of us who stayed delaying the race wasn’t an issue at all. The reason being that the representation of the Maryland SUP community was in full effect. SUP Annapolis was there. Walk on Water was there. East of Maui was there. Capital SUP was there. Mantra Fit was there. Sunrise SUP was there. And others were too, I just do not recall all the support, by name, that was shown by the SUP community as a whole but it was great to see. Please forgive me if I left your name off the list.
As the day progressed it became quite apparent that conditions would not be kind to any of us. Heads were put together and Chris Sperry and the other powers-that-be decided to move the short course to the inside lagoon…on the other side of Sandy Point from where we all had gathered. While this may have been a slight pain in the seat of everyone’s pants it was absolutely the right call.
The course inside the lagoon used established marks and a few buoys set by volunteers, some set perfectly and some set not so perfectly. Nevertheless the course provided perfect spectating and was very enjoyable to watch. There was a battle for position at almost every buoy turn. The course consisted of three laps and in the men’s division 1st, 2nd, and 3rd was different every lap. Who says SUP racing isn’t exciting? Everyone gathered on the docks watching had a lot to cheer about and there was plenty to watch. From the battles for positions all across the course to some acrobatic tumbles into the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon, all were entertained.
By the time the long course racers were set to neoprene up and get after it, we had all felt like we had participated in a days worth of events. It’s rare that races are separated enough to be able to watch friends and family members compete. I know I was exhausted from cheering, helping with logistics, and waiting. My nerves usual push for getting the race over with but I really enjoyed watching the short course race. The Inaugural Sandy Point Paddlefest changed my opinion on race-day scheduling. This race was also a great reminder to keep race courses within public view so people can watch! Being able to see competitors compete is always fun no matter what level of racing is taking place. Watching people smile and hearing the laughter from the short course at Sperry’s race sure was infectious.
I think Erik deserves a lot of thanks for going full neoprene. As soon as he fully covered up the sun came out and started to warm things up a bit as it was nearing time for the long-course racers to face the challenges before them. As I warmed up in the surf, yes I said surf and meant on the bay, I thought all I had to deal with was wind, waves, and other competitors. I had no idea about the orange fence with posts that loomed up on the sandy berm.
When Sperry gathered us all in for a race briefing most of us were sufficiently warmed up, again thanks to Erik! It was decided that the course would be made up of 6 in-and-outs through the surf with a short little run. I believe most of us were excited about a Pacific Paddle Games type course here on the Chesapeake Bay!
The start went off and off we went charging into the surf and wind. The charging quickly decelerated into staying upright and trying to move forward. Conditions were tough even though the chops were moving pretty consistently in one direction. These chops were at least knee-high at times. At the first buoy turn we were all pretty much in a pack. I struggled at the buoy and watched Ron Gossard start catching bumps almost immediately after the nose of his board was pointed back toward the beach. Those dang beach folk and their balance! I caught a few runners and caught my breath after the first upwind leg and made it to the beach in one piece. Then came the downfall…
That run that was handed down upon us racers like a punishment was slightly uphill and the sand was pretty deep. Why were we being so tortured for participating in a benefit race!!?? I know I felt my legs give out almost immediately. With the legs gone the race became all about survival. I was excited about being in a “surf” race on the bay but my legs were trying to shutdown on me after making them run through sand. For the rest of the race I was too afraid to try and pump the legs to push myself into the runners.I just wanted to stay upright. After a couple falls and five more beach runs the race was over. It was a huge challenge and it was a whole big mess of fun. We need more races like that, minus the run. Well, leave the run for any racer under 40 years of age!
What the run did do was provide plenty of time for volunteers to handle the board properly as racers exited the water for the run. All board handling was done s if by seasoned experts. No one had to wait on their board and leashes were set on the deck and it the best position possible. I know a lot of racers were very impressed with the board handling. A big thank you to all the volunteers who handled our boards with care and efficiency.
The after party was a lot of fun as there was plenty of food and drink for all. What looked like a potentially disastrous day turned out to be a ton of fun! Thanks to Chris Sperry, his mom, and plenty of others for making sure that all of us had a great time and Special Olympics were on the receiving end of some well deserved generosity. This is one not to miss in 2016!”