Paddling under the Golden Gate Bridge                  PW and Lance winning the Alfies to Robertson Race
Well the weekend came and went, my first paddle back on the river was far more fun than I expected. I paddled with a good friend Jackie Barnes who is one of the up and coming youngsters and had a great race shooting all the obstacles with no problems, the only problem was the 2hr plus race which was possibly 20min to long for me at the moment.
This weekend we move down the river and finish at a new location Kambati River Resort.

As far as the US Surfski Champs went it looked like hard work to the turn and then great paddling from the turn home. They all move onto Chicago this weekend for the long Chicago shoreline marathon...good luck to all.

When Sean flew across to the US race he took some paddles for a friend from Cape Town who now lives in the US (Atlanta) Dean wrote an account of his San Fransisco race and have added that below nice to get a different perspective to the official race reports that come out

                            Sean at full speed during the downwind leg of the US Surfski Champs

Deans Race Report

If you fly to San Francisco with 9 month old twin babies, don't be
surprised when they wake up at 4am the first day, 5am, 6am, and then
7am on the day you leave.  You also learn about what to pack in which
carry-on bag to best facilitate entertainment, feeding, changing and
so on.

If you fly to San Francisco to participate in the US Surfski
Championships, don't be surprised when you paddle out through the
heads into a raging current with vicious side chop, play chicken with
container ships under Golden Gate Bridge, and wrestle with energy
sapping wind and waves surfing your way across the Bay to Berkeley.

My attempt at hyperbole aside, the race went like so...  We started at
Fort Baker, Sausalito, paddled out to sea under Golden Gate Bridge,
turned around a shipping buoy off Point Bonita, and headed straight
back under the Bridge across the Bay to Berkeley.  A total of 28kms
which I finished in just under 2 1/2 hours.

You can read the race report on if you want the view
from the elite end of the field, for the fish-and-chips version read

Its been 18 months since I paddled in the sea and I was rusty.  The
first 1/4 of the race out to Point Bonita was as difficult as I've
paddled.  We paddled against a 4 knot current and had to contend with
wind and wave chop from all directions as it rebounded off the cliffs
and swirled with the rushing tide.  I paddled conservatively without
making a mistake (swimming) but found myself in the back 1/3 of the
field.  Conditions like these really separate the elite paddlers from
the rest as they paddle powerfully and efficiently while the rest of
us struggle and brace.

Turning downwind and paddling back under the Bridge was a thrill -
picture surfing the swell at 10 mph blades down, stealing a glance as
the famous SF landmark rushes by.  I made solid progress through the
field on the downwind leg linking runs together and basically having a
ball.  Downwind paddling is the pinnacle of surfski racing and
everyone was unanimous that the conditions were fantastic.

Despite Carl's best efforts, 2 sessions on the Hooch on weekends
wasn't sufficient conditioning for this event and the distance started
to take it toll in the last 1/4.  I forgot how harsh sea paddling is
on your hands and wrists compared to the gentle grip you use on flat-
water.  Also, I started making technical mistakes on the runs
occasionally spinning out as we had to work our way to the right at an
angle to the swell.

2kms out with the finish in sight I made an error on a run and swam.
Worst possible luck.  The ski I was paddling (Fenn Mako 6) has a
notoriously deep seat which makes a remount difficult.  You have to
remount side-saddle, balancing yourself against the swell and wind -
not great when you're exhausted.  I figure I lost at least 5 minutes
attempting (and failing) to remout - I'll have to check my GPS to
verify - and watched a good bunch of the paddlers I passed on the
downwind leg sail by.

For the record I finished 60 out of 97 paddlers in about 70% of the
winners time.

It was a wonderful event - well organized (free food and beer at
reception, race start and prize giving), an excellent course with
challenging upwind and exhilerating downwind, attended by both the
international surfski elite and and an enthusiastic local contingent,
and a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new.  All in all a
great weekend - it has a permanent spot on my calendar.

Dean aka 'the downwind machine'