In the middle of June, when paddlers have grown weary of the Cape’s windless winter days, the banter on the local chat group can quickly escalate into a very interesting plot.
A restless Young Gun, ever eager for more paddling, passes a glib comment to the SUP master of old about catching him on a downwind. A quick uptake, and a challenge is set in motion.
Out of this banter grew our race! The experienced Mavericks would race against the Young Guns, in the renowned southeaster downwind territory of Miller’s Run – an 11km paddle that can have a few challenges if the wind demons are not in the right kind of mood for the day. It can be a workout, or a whirlwind!
The race date was set, the entries logged in and the wind began to whisper that morning of exciting things to come. Our race director gave us a good-to-go signal, warning that it would be an honest paddle, as the ocean and wind were in a bit of a docile state compared to regular downwind conditions.
The busy slipway at the start
Thanks to the local paddler’s taxi service, Miller’s taxi, our racers had a lift all the way to the venue, but as with any event, you never know what’s in store on the day. The slipway at the start was abuzz with a fair amount of traffic, and the fishermen were working the sea with gusto and lining the route the paddlers needed to take. Alongside that were some casual paddlers, also taking advantage of a great day and “milder” conditions to notch some more downwind miles on to their paddling belts! Vinny later commented that our racers displayed the best organisation he had ever seen amongst the slipway chaos.
Paddlers ready, set…. and go!
A few of the intermediate paddlers were set off first, as well as some brave watermen trying out their first downwind race and first time on a race board – what absolute sports they were – and they made it all the way, albeit tired at the end.
The Mavericks were selected and given a special leader’s rash vest to wear and the Young Guns and mere mortal paddlers had to do their best to keep up as part of the second pack to leave.
We must give hearty applause to the prone paddlers. The Miller’s downwind on a milder day is already a slog on a SUP, especially when compared to the double-bladed power of the surfskis. Completing 11km on a purely hand-paddled craft while bending on your knees or lying on your stomach – well, that’s just another level of seamanship altogether! We salute our two prone paddling guys, and hope that the junior ladies-in-training will soon be the young guns chasing you mavericks!
Pick up your ski & go again
Young gun lineup at the finish
Our prone paddler finishing strong
So, back to the challenge that set the stage – what was the outcome?
Well, the SUP master reigned after all, but only just. The Young Gun was very close behind him, in fact, just under 3 minutes behind! Watch out for the next race – we might have to crown a new Maverick!