“If this race were in New Zealand or Australia, there would be 100 competitors and over a thousand spectators,” said Kenny Howell, this year’s winner of Reef Madness VI Extreme Sea Kayaking Race, the 26th race held at Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay, California on May Day. As it was, 13 kayaks, including three doubles, took off through easy three-foot surf and headed for Pillar Point. The rudder broke off one boat at the start, and one kayaker had to turn back because of shoulder issues, but all the rest, including two strong women, finished with ease—which is a first!
Usually, the sea conditions are much worse, so it was a blessing to race under sunny skies in balmy conditions. Two days before the race, wind gusted to 30 knots, and the seas were big and confused. The day before the race, the surf at Miramar was coming in at five feet and the wind blew at a steady 20 knots. Young Michael and Old Michael worked like busy sea elves to get the flags and the flotsam shipshape for the race. They did a great job and once again the phalanx of pirate flags flew proudly in front of Old Michael’s and his wife Nani’s Viking abode, headquarters of the Tsunami Rangers kayaking tribe.
Mighty Matt Krizan gave the safety talk this year, and he stressed that boaters would be on their own but must assist anyone in distress. He said that even though conditions at the point would not be as bad as past races (no 12-foot breakers onto rocks), boats could still be damaged and it was okay to chicken out. My favorite line: “Destruction is the better part of valor.”
As the start horn blasted, my race partner Jim Kakuk and I were first in the water, and led the pack for a good ten seconds. We were quickly overtaken by Scott Becklund and Steve King, who ended up getting second place in the race. Somehow they did this after capsizing twice—once in the slot at Pillar Point and once at the turnaround surfing beach at Ross’ Cove. As soon as we saw we weren’t going to win, Jim and I, being gentlemen, let folks pass us. We enjoyed the view along the way, paid attention while paddling through Mavericks, just in case a big one snuck in, and chatted the entire way.
Kenny Howell, paddling an Epic V-10 Sport, came in first with a time of 57:37. He was followed by Becklund and King in a Tsunami X-2. Third place was grabbed by Bill Vonnegut, last year’s co-winner. Bob Stender and Michael Powers got fourth place, and famous author (see the latest SEA KAYAKER magazine) Gregg Berman nabbed fifth. The rest of us came in when we did.
After the race, we all enjoyed a fabulous feast and listened to magnificent music by New Bop and the headliner band—the South City Blues Band. Sultry Singer Susan sang with both bands, and a swinging time was had by all. I did the talking at the microphone this year, as Ed Anderson, the very capable MC of Reef Madness, was busy doing Dragnet in Los Angeles. Ed is a cop, and duty called.
Every racer received a survival certificate, and a few were handed prizes, ranging from a genuine Yuban cigar to blow-up photos of a male model carrying a kayak that Michael foisted on some of the finishers. However, the grand prize was truly worth it. Kenny received a GoPro HD SurfHero video camera for getting first place. He was very happy.
Okay, this year’s race was not the #1 sea kayaking race in the world, it was not even the biggest open coast race, but it ranked among the best. Personally, I’m glad we did not have 100 competitors and over a thousand spectators. After all, this is not a big wave surf contest, for Pete’s sake. It’s just people messin’ about in boats. And there ain’t nothin’ better than that.