World Surfski Series, North American Events

The World Surfski series has just recently had its first 2 out of 3 North America events. These events consisted of the Canadian Surfski Championships in Squamish, British Columbia and North American Downwind Championship (Gorge Paddling Festival) in Hood River Oregon.  Both of these events are in remarkable locations, the Canadian event has ‘The Chief’, the Chief is a sheer rock face which takes roughly 6-7 hours to climb. The Chief was what most competitors aimed for to help them paddle into the final 2km stretch before the finish line. The Gorge, well the name says it all, you’re are literally paddling down a river in the middle of a rock Gorge. On either sides of the Gorge you have Mount Hood on the Oregon side, and on the wild side (Washington) you have Mount Adams, and both are still snowcapped. For myself unfortunately I won’t be attending the third leg of the North American World Surfski Series events due to the fact I can’t afford it. But from what I’ve heard paddling under the Golden Gate bridge, past Alcatraz and into the finish line is amazing, Good Luck to all those who are racing in the US Surfski Championships.
The Canadian Surfski Championships was a 20km (12.4 Mile) event, paddling in downwind and flat water sections. With the tidal movements it made it tricky reading where to go and how far of the edge of the bank to stay. In this event they had the THINK hotspot, 1.3km (0.8 Mile) off the start line and the first around it had not only the first selection at the runners but also $750 cash. Sean Rice won the Men’s Hotspot and Teneale Hatton won the Females Hotspot, after this point you turned and had a 14km downwind section, where the line you took either made you catch up or slow down. For Myself I turned the hotspot buoy in 8th position, just behind Greg Barton ( 4x Olympic Medalist), about 500m after the turning buoy my clip for my drinking system broke, so I had to rest the tubing for my drinks in the bottom of the ski in the foot wells. While I attempted to try and fix this Greg opened up a 100m lead on myself and Canadian Wes Hammer started to breathe down my neck. Staying fairly central in the line I took, I started to link up a few runs, closing the gap on Greg and opening it on Wes. As we turned the point to face the final 5-6km I had a 50m lead on Greg, now it was time for the flat water section. In no time Greg closed the gap and then started to put meters on me, as I looked over to the right side of the course Wes had found an express route in an Eddy current that was flowing out from the point. For the next 5km Wes and I were side by side, each of us getting one run in front of each other and just trading the lead, until I put together 3-4 runs and made a 10-20m gap, as we hit the Chief the water became glassy as it was protected from the wind, and I could hear Wes coming strong and fast behind me. I tried to hold him off over the next few minutes but unfortunately for myself Wes got me for 8th. Overall I was the 9th Athlete over the line. This being my best international result to date. A Massive congratulations to Sean Rice (1st), Michael Booth(2nd) and Fellow Epic Paddler Jasper Mocke(3rd) and in the women's event Teneale Hatton (1st), Rowena Coghill (2nd) and Tamlyn Bohm (3rd).

From there I hopped into a camper van with Carter Johnson, Rowena Cog and Richard Spork and we travelled from Squamish to Hood River via Portland. For anyone who hasn’t see Carter’s truck, it’s impressive. I have attached a picture below, but I don’t think the photo does the truck/camper and trailer justice. At one stage we had 3 full grown men sitting side by side in the back and our shoulders weren’t close to touching each other. 

Sunday Started my week for the 2015 Gorge Downwind Festival, this event was a weeklong race week, with downwind shuttles happening every day from Monday between 12-4:00pm. You could do as many runs as you wanted, just load the ski or outrigger on the trailer, they drove you up to the location then you paddled home. For me, as I don’t have a car, it was awesome, it allowed me to do paddle backs without the hassle of using soft racks or finding someone with a car. This was the first event that I had been to that honored the ‘wind window’ meaning if there is a day within the time period they have set that has better wind than the race day they will change it.  Originally the race day for the North American Championship event was meant to be Friday, but Thursday was looking better, so committee decided to move it forward one day. A little different start to the 22km (13.4 Mile) course than compared to the Canadian event, having a 250m sprint to the first turning buoy then a race to the end. I took off going 10th around the buoy I decided to stay left on the Washington side of the Columbian river. About 2km into the race, I say a big white buoy and didn’t think anything about it and then realized it was the ‘gill’ nets which are huge fishing nets that range from a small size to at least 100-200m wide. I was hoping to paddle over it and not get snagged or wreck my rudder as it would have ruined my race. For the rest of the race I stayed fairly left and tried to surf the runners as much as I could. going into Swell City about 2-3km from the finish I was alone and just having a blast, yelling and singing, while dropping into solid 3-4ft swell and just milking the most out of them, hitting top speeds of 20-21km/h (12.4-13 Mph). Crossing the line, I was incredibly pleased to how I paddled and executed my race plan, finding out that I got 10th place another Top 10 in what was my 4th ever World Surfski Series event. Once again well done and Congratulations to Sean Rice (1st), Jasper Mocke (2nd) and Michael Booth (3rd) and Teneale Hatton (1st), Michele Eray (2nd) and Fellow Epic Paddler Rachel Clarke (3rd)

I would Like to say a massive Thank you to everyone who has helped me out with planning and the execution of this trip, First My parents and family for supporting me both prior and during the event, Kenny Howell from Epic Kayaks for setting me up in the CR Rocket, Clint Robinson, Greg Barton, Bruce Poacher, Jasper Mocke, Charles Brand and Tony and Jacqui King for all being a massive help over the past few weeks from giving me help to helping me organize boats and transport in Seattle I greatly appreciate it. Carter Johnson, Judy and Dave Jensen for putting on such a great event and also putting up with me for a few days while I crashed at your place. Mike Alexeev for driving me to pick up my ski and loading it on the trailer. Bob and Ian for hosting and Awesome Canadian Surfski Championship race, it was quite a unique from the views to the temperature of the water. And Seattle Canoe Kayak Club, for allowing me to share your boat shed at Green Lake. I appreciate everything, everyone has done to not only help me, but also the development of Surfski as a sport. 

Enjoy your week on or off the water. 
Ryan Paroz


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