Friday, October 24, 2008

Surfski Gods - They're Just Like Us! (plus fish on Friday for the non-paddlers)

Sorry about yesterday's disjointed post. Came back from vacation expecting to have to have to do some hard work to catch up...actually came back to find that fit had sorta hit shan & on top of the work I was expecting there was a big big big pile of data collection & categorization. Nothing awful, just pretty much filled up the days, the work I'd been expecting to do still needed to get done so with the days booked up that pretty much left evenings for the other work. Nothing like a few extremely busy 11 (or more) hour days to get you shaken right out of all that silly vacation relaxation. It was in a particularly brain-fried moment that I decided to post my aphorism about roads & busses. I thought it was funny. Definite not something I believe, though, seemed more appropriate for "wingers" of either variety!

Anyways...somewhere in yesterday's disjointedness there was something about how I didn't feel like I can say that paddlers like Greg Barton (winner of multiple Olympic golds & now a designer of really nice surfskis, kayaks & paddles, still highly competitive) should have been wearing a lifejacket in Sunday's cancelled Manhattan circumnavigation race.

Oh...hold on a sec, before I get any further into this rambling kayak-geeky ka-yaketty-yak post, how about something for the non-padddlers...hey, it's Friday, how 'bout some FISH?

Nice, huh? They are young salmon at the Seattle Aquarium.

We now return to our regular blather:
So I've been finding the Mayor's Cup debacle has ended up leading to some interesting insights on the surfski racing set's attitude towards lifejacket (which I'd alway's assumed was a rousing "FEH!".

Oh - Anybody going "Mayor's Cup debacle?"

Well, long story short, if anyone is - the Mayor's Cup is a big kayak race around Manhattan. In that form (Manhattan Kayak Company & some Achilles Track Club folks had an event under that name back in 2001, but it was a one-time deal & not a race), it started a couple years back & aside from a big local sea-kayak crowd, there's enough money & coolness factor to draw pro racers from all over the world. It was scheduled & launched & then called off on Sunday. Conditions were fierce (TQ & I were flying in that day & the pilot actually warned us that our approach & landing might be a little bumpy) there was a barge moored near the starting line with which a few of the surfski paddlers ended up getting up close & personal, a number of the sea kayakers were also running out of steam & the Coast Guard ended up calling off the whole race - much to the chagrin of the professional surfski racing set, who were having a fantastic time. For long version, as I mentioned yesterday, go check out Joe Glickman's excellent story on
There really didn't end up being much discussion of it on the list except about the lifejacket thing. Usually I wouldn't mention yet another lifejacket debate -- as I've mentioned before, I usually stay out of those- but this one got my attention because that all the sudden the discussion wasn't about the lifejacket use habits of our local sea kayaking community - the debate was broadened because suddenly the people involved were genuine professsional surfski racers. People who paddle from Molokai to O'ahu every year. People who have Olympic gold in their display case. People you read about in the paddling magazines (or who actually write for the paddling magazines). It's a whole different level.

So I didn't stay out of it as much as I usually do. When I made my little crack about Greg Barton not being "people" , I was accused, by a gentleman who takes the exact ultraconservative "everyone should wear lifejackets" line that I just can't entirely embrace, of having a double standard.

I couldn't fight that. It's true. What I did do was try to explain why:

"I have no frame of reference for what it's like to be that skilled, and I know that the surfski racing culture is a very different one from our local NYC kayaking scene. That's why I have a double standard - because I'm very aware that there's so much I don't know when you start talking about the norms at international-level surfski races. It would be like me trying to offer opinions on what jockeys should
do to be safe in the Kentucky Derby."

That's pretty much it.

At the same time, though, I was wondering - what would one of those skilled surfski racers have to say if they happened to stumble across this debate, with it's highly sea-kayak-centric bent?

Well -- in one of those funny little synchronicity things, just as I was wondering about that, I went back on (been following some of the commentary, which made an already solid article more & more interesting), and just happened to stumble across an article that gave just the point of view I'd been curious about. The guy clearly a very skilled surfski paddler, and there he was, mulling over the lifejacket issue after getting himself into a very nasty situation. Lucky for me & my newly-roused curiousity about what the surfski gods & goddesses themselves actually think about the whole lifejacket thing (which, as I mentioned, is really & truly a choice for them, federal law gives them an out from the lifejacket rules), he had the guts & the genuine concern for his fellow surfskiers to share it in a forum where there are probably a lot more non-lifejacket-users than otherwise.

You can read that here.

The comments are interesting too -- my favorite is actually from one of the guys who run, Alain - his comment mentions how stylish & comfortable some of the latest surfski pfd's are & he closes with "Certainly more stylish than ending up dead in a Speedo".

What's that magazine that shows photos of famous people caught in ordinary-people moments - shopping for groceries, picking up dog doo, slobbing around in sweats eating pints of Haagen-Dazs? Reading this article & the comments, I was reminded of that...Surf Ski Gods - they debate PFD use - Just Like Us!

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