Here are my pics from the Unleash the Beast Race, AKA Paddle the Dragon, at the NW Adventure Sports Expo, AKA NW Outdoor Adventure Sports and Film Festival. Actually, I think the official name is the NW Adventure Sports Expo: Unleash the Beast. Jeez, couldn’t someone have just thought up ONE name for this event?! Maybe something simple and memorable like, "The Port Gamble Kayak Symposium". Unfortunately, that wouldn’t work because mountain biking was a big part of it, as well as stand-up paddleboards and outrigger canoes.
I joined 21 other competitors in the race and was awarded men’s second place in the "sea kayak" category -- unfairly I should add because I was placed in the "sea kayak" category and should have been in the "high performance kayak" category. Ooops! Well, I didn’t realize it was divided up into HPK/FSK/SK, although I should have because that is how all races are done around here. There was only one other HPK out there, so I would have gotten 2nd place anyway, but someone got cheated out of 2nd and 3rd because of me. Sorry! Well, only the first place winners got prizes anyway, so it wasn't as if I went home with a undeserved box of Caveman Bars. I finished the course (a little over 7nm) in 101 min, 52 seconds. I feel really out of shape from not having trained since December.
Sterling Donalson of Sterling Kayaks and Fiberglass was at the demo beach with Dubside’s new improved black IceKap. Apparently the old IceKap suffered a lot of cosmetic damage from being dragged around to demos and pool sessions over the last couple years, including a big stellate crack in the middle of the gelcoat over the painting of Dub’s face. So the face is gone. Sterling also modified the cockpit opening and back deck to improve the ease of layback rolls. It feels very comfortable on its side and layback hand rolls are ridiculously easy in it.
I got a private lesson from Ken Campbell on stand up paddleboarding, “The Sport of Hawaiian Kings”. After kayaking for 25 years, Ken has become a big fan of the SUP. It’s true that you can't go as fast and cover the miles that you can in a kayak, but it’s very convenient and gives you a great workout. He says if he has only 30 minutes of free time he can go out paddleboarding. You wouldn’t do that with a kayak. Ken has done some impressive trips on his SUP, like tearing down Colvos Passage from Blake Island to Point Defiance in the span of a couple hours. He had a strong tailwind and basically surfed all the way.
Ken says it's important to dress reasonably for the SUP but it’s not as critical to dress for prolonged immersion. If you fall off a board, you can just jump back on in a matter of seconds. In contrast, with a kayak, you may be stuck in the water a while if you have wet exited, attempt a paddle float rescue, and then have to sit in a flooded cockpit as you pump it out. I think the appropriate things to wear on a SUP are board shorts and a loud Aloha shirt. Ken also wears an inflatable Type 3 PFD that fits in a little package you wear like a belt. I could definitely get into paddleboarding. The simplicity and convenience appeal to me, as well as the possibility of finding some plans to make my own board, but right now I’m still focused on developing more advanced sea kayaking skills.
Port Gamble is a cute and picturesque little town. It turned out to be the perfect venue for an event like this. The beach is a small and post-industrial, dominated by a old dock and rotting pilings, but it faced a little sheltered area that worked well for paddleboarding and eskimo rolls.
If you are ever presented with the opportunity to sit in on one of Jennifer Hahn’s seminars on "Pacific Coast Wild Edibles" be sure to take it. She has an excellent slideshow and makes a delicious seaweed salad from wakame, sea lettuce, cucumbers, and an olive/sesame oil/rice vinegar vinaigrette. She goes over which shellfish are generally free from paralytic shellfish poisoning and are safe to eat, basically, sea urchins, chitons, and limpets (the ones without the hole on top). To eat a sea urchin, turn it over, stick a knife in the middle and thrust it back and forth quickly (“don’t make it suffer”), cut it in half and eat it raw out of the shell by scooping out the insides with crackers. Be on the lookout for her book on foraging pacific coast wild edibles which is also a cookbook, coming out very soon.
“Don’t make them suffer” is a common theme in Jennifer’s talk regarding foraging shellfish. Yes, we don't need to harvest shellfish to survive. Yes, we do this just for fun, for a few minutes of gastronomic adventure really. And yes, these animals suffer for it, but I guess that's OK because after all we are all speciesist here, right? I think it’s good that she at least acknowledges that lowly shellfish suffer, something that even philosopher Peter Singer didn’t commit to in his animal rights classic, Animal Liberation, because, well… we just really don’t know if they do. Even with significant advances in neuroscience we will probably never know. Therefore, give them the benefit of the doubt.