I always expect a lot from myself whether it’s being a mom, friend, lover, daughter, or the work I do. I tend to give more than 100% in everything I do. Having been fairly athletic since I was a young girl, I enjoy taking on new challenges and expect to do fairly well and improve each time I try. That’s why redemption was so sweet at the 2nd annual Oregon Open Ocean Race.
Last year was the first year Rob and Annmarie Finlay organized the event. I believe there were 17 participants, 6 of which were women. The race started at Beverly Beach State Park; went out around Yaquina Head Point and then finished at Nye Beach. I guess I should say the guys finished at Nye Beach. None of the ladies made it out through the shore pound. I remember standing on the beach with another competitor, Kerri Stewert, exhausted and staring at the surf. Then simultaneously we both said, “Did I really just quit?!?!?!” Neither one of us had ever experienced an ass kicking quite like that!
NOTHING was going to stop me from getting out there this year! I elicited the help from my friend, Tony Stein, to show me how to get out through the surf at Otter Rock where the Finlays had decided to move the start of the race. My two teenage boys and I had visited Otter Rock this summer to visit Tony and surf. He showed me where the rip was for easy access out to the surf if it was another rough day. He had also taken me out to Gull Island to see how/if I could handle my Lahui Kai out on the open ocean swells.
I have put over 400 miles on my wonderfully fast Lahui Kai on the flatwater of the upper Willamette since early April. But, after going out to Gull Island and a few downwinders in the Columbia River Gorge, I decided I needed a different board for this race. I called Bob at the shop and he recommended a couple of different boards. He had one ready for me to pick up the day before the OOOR. THANKS BOB!
The day of the race I was excited, determined and very focused. We could not have asked for better conditions! It was a BEAUTIFUL bluebird day with a small, gentle swell that didn’t look intimidating at all. The wind was light blowing in from the north (perfect) at about 15 mph. There were quite a few surfers enjoying the swell and more stand up paddlers catching waves than I’ve ever seen. Some of the local guys were discussing the gnarly break that had been at Nye lately but I just ignored all that and focused on getting out through the surf.
This year there were 23 athletes, only 2 of us women. When it was time to line up for the Le Mans start, I chose to stand by Tony and Gerry Lopez to soak up the vibe of the two legends. The horn blew and we ran to our boards. I leashed up, grabbed my board/paddle and told myself, “You got this, girl! Have fun!”
And I did! I knee-paddled 5 strokes, stood up and took off through the surf. I just had a couple of bobbles but made it through fine. I followed Tony out west of Otter Rock, found my pace and aimed for Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
While I was paddling to Yaquina, I was completely in awe of being out in the big, wide, powerful ocean. I felt completely relaxed and connected to the energy. When I fell off I just got right back on and started paddling again. The Water Safety team also helped me feel safe because they were always in sight and came by often to check in. I also came up with some qualities about waves while I was out there: W = wonderful A = adventurous V = vibrant E = energy. This was my mantra going around Yaquina Point. The wind had kicked up to 25-30 mph and the swell was 5-6 ft making things a little bigger and choppier.
Then it was time to focus on getting back through the impact zone. Yikes! For a minute, I had wished I had paid more attention to the guys discussing their plan. I was so focused on just getting out I had no clue how I was going to get through the break. I am a wanna-be-surfer and I’d not had much luck catching many waves … let alone waves that were head high. But, I told myself I was going to be fine. At 46, I was not going to come in looking like Alana Blanchard or Anastasia Ashley … I was going to look more like a washed up drowned rat. And I was totally fine with that … sometimes you have to swallow your pride or vanity to gain redemption. Whatever! I was going to finish this!
To keep myself calm and focused I gave the break positive qualities. To get through the break I was going to need B = balance R = relax E = energy A = accuracy K = knowing. I’ve got this! Well, I way over shot the buoy and the break seemed REALLY big coming in. The sounds of the waves breaking behind me were intimidating. But, I was able to remain calm, focused and determined with my BREAK mantra. Finally, a not so big wave broke over me and washed me off my board.
The jet ski was right there to see if I was okay, told me to get back on my board and lay on my stomach and just let the waves wash me in. PERFECT! He agreed with my drowned rat plan! Once in shallow water, I managed to stand up, get my leash off and run to the flags where the Gorge Performance team was standing ready for hugs and high fives!
What a great moment! Redemption Day had arrived! I was able to make good on a promise I made to myself and fulfill a desire to finish what I’d set out to do. It was sooooo sweet!
Good times! Next year I expect to see and enjoy the Blue Whales that were out playing off Yaquina Point.
Thank you Finlays for a great event! Thank you Gorge Performance for a great board! And thank you Gorge Performance Team for support and great memories! Gotta love the SUP Ohana …