West End Loop Race 2014


Mark Urkov…upright and rounding the West End (note flying fish in lower left corner). Special thanks to Pura Kai for supporting the race!

Things I saw at the conclusion of The West End Loop Race: 1.) Vacant stares; 2.) Blood; 3.) Folks with hypothermia; 4.) Silly, slightly bewildered smiles.  It was no cake walk to be sure.  For those that thought they still had a good base and that they could throw in an easy 16 miles (myself included), well, they got their asses handed to them.

The 11:00 start set the tone for the day.  At 11:05 the wind came on and didn’t stop, and the NW swell had us clawing up some solid rollers (which was about the only time I could see any other paddlers).  Honestly, I’ve never come off the board more during a race in my life and I don’t know how the SUP guys did it–they looked miserable paddling most of the first 8 miles on their knees.  Keep in mind, these guys are all excellent paddlers, on their knees, just surviving the first leg.  At mile 6 the conditions got a bit better (we could see the turn at the end of the island), but the damage was done–attrition pulled a number of folks out of the race.

What was supposed to be a fast down-winder on the front side of the island just wasn’t.  If you stopped paddling there was a good chance that you were going backward…against the wind.  At 13 miles, I just had to laugh at how spent I was and, had it not been for the support boats, that were carrying extra food and water, I think a good many people would not have finished.

Crossed the line 3rd stock…but the operative phrase in this case was “crossed the line.”  The Flying Fish did a hell of a job keeping everyone safe and the race proved to be one that could be technical, punishing, and on my list again for next year.  Now if I can just convince them to start it a few hours earlier.







I believe that the backside of Catalina is home to five things: sharks, terrified sea lions, big schools of bait fish (and, presumably, the yellowtail and white sea bass that eat them), fisherman, and Sleestacks (look it up, millennials).  I personally didn’t see any sharks on our 16-mile paddle from Catalina Harbor to Two Harbors, but I saw plenty of seals that had a look of utter fear written across their faces.  They didn’t even want to be in the water.  I also didn’t see any Sleestacks, but what else could live on that barren side of the island except for Chaka and cave-dwelling, aliens?  Huh?

With just two of us, on an outrigger and a paddleboard, the trip was a little hairy – big, open water, currents that flowed backward against 20-knot winds, clouds and fog, and lots and lots of bumpy wind-swells.  But, after we rounded the West End, the sun came out, as did our smiles, and we laughed and paddled on a downwind run that will surely be one to remember.  Five hours total run-time means we weren’t exactly tearing it up, but it was well worth the distraction of switching vehicles, swimming, and stopping to check out coves and awe-inspiring geology that one usually misses being in a boat.


The return to Two Harbors put us smack dab into the middle of some kind of wine festival, in which wine ‘tasting’ was replaced with full on gluttony and ‘dignity’ was a ship that sailed quietly away in the afternoon, leaving 200 of the drunkest folks I’ve seen in a long time.  It was a total horror show; a Russian dash-cam; a front seat to every bad reality program one can imagine.  I can’t even explain it, so I’m just going to post a few photos — maybe the captions will help.

For every girl that ran into a glass sliding window, for every mullet, Viking and buffalo-horn hat, for every rich tool who ordered drinks and walked away from the bar without paying…there are the patient people and beautiful charms of The Island.

Rock to Rock 2014 is up this next Saturday, so we get to do it all over again soon.