Corn fields, storms, sky scrapers and racing

Touched down on Maui a few days ago.  As much as I love going places there is nothing better than getting off that plane and feeling the Maui air again.

After leaving Florida, where we were hanging out for a month or so, we loaded up my Infinity race board and headed due north on highway 65 through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and finally to Chicago.  Our first stop was Culver, Indiana.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I but I will remember it now!  We were  coming to Culver for the first ever Lake Max Challenge being held on beautiful Lake Maxinkuckee, I think you can understand why they shortened it.  It was late afternoon when we arrived and as we drove through miles of green corn fields we kept wondering where in the heck a SUP race was going to be held way out here.  Then we saw the lake through the trees and as we got closer we were amazed to find not only a beautiful spring fed lake but also the coolest little town, Culver, settled right along the lakeshore.

After finding our bed and breakfast we headed to the lake for a swim and found lots of people from town had the same idea.  Everyone there enjoys the lake wether its for sailing, waterskiing, swimming and yes now stand up paddling.  The next day we met with world class sailor and race organizer Ed Furry whose whole family, and its a big one, lives on the lake.  Ed and his wife Beckie, a nurse and photographer, travel the world racing sailboats.  But when they are home they outfit racing sailboats with the latest gadgets and run it all from their farmhouse that looks more like a marina in the middle of a corn field.  They fell in love with SUP and decided it was time for the SUP world to come to Culver.

After a leisurely paddle around the lake while we visited with Ed and got a bit of history about the area we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for lunch.  Within what seemed like just a few minutes the skies opened up with a massive powerful thunderstorm.  We could not see across the parking lot as the rain whipped by our hotel window, we lost power almost immediately and then as fast as it arrived… it was over.   Lunch was no longer going to happen as everything closed down and people came out to inspect the damage and start the clean up.  People were in the park raking up, fireman were out on calls and people lingered and talked with neighbors.  Homes were damaged by huge trees that were blown down and power lines were down everywhere as the storm moved through a huge area.

Later we found out that thousands were without power.  That didn’t stop people who wanted to try stand up paddling for the first time as the Boardwork’s demo that evening was full of people anxious to try it out.  The demo was a huge success and it was great to see Culver getting psyched on SUP.  Luckily Ed’s house still had power as racers, friends and family gathered later on for an evening of pizza and live music.

That night was a hot one trying to sleep with no AC or fans and finding food was a thirty minute drive. Any inconvenience we experienced was minor compared to the people whose businesses were closed and whose homes were damaged.  But no one in Culver complained, everyone just dealt with it, got in the lake to cool down and waited for power.  Even Gina at Inn by the Lake where we stayed rallied the next morning and made bacon and eggs on her gas stove, served up instant coffee and muffins and sent me off to race with a good breakfast.

The race was a buoy course with lots of turns to make it interesting and everyone had fun.  Race day also included a race around the entire lake, about 8 miles, and kids races.

After the awards ceremony I held a SUP clinic, the weather was perfect and the day was great. Once again I have to thank some of my sponsors for the amazing swag and prizes they sent for my clinics in Florida and Indiana.  Maui Jim, Camelbak, H2O Audio and FCS  really came through.  People were thrilled and loved taking home some great stuff.   Everyone in Culver was awesome and as we loaded up to head to Chicago we were figuring out how to come back next year and spend some time before the race hanging out at the lake for a few extra days.

After a long day on the lake we left in the late afternoon for Chicago and the Stand Up World Tour race being held on Lake Michigan.  From little Culver to the big city was quite a change but a fun one.  Our hotel was right on the lake in the middle of the city and we immediately ran in to other top race participants coming and going.

The next day was the sprint day of the event and heats started around lunch time but ended quickly.  The darkest clouds I have ever seen rolled over the city, sand began to blow, tents and boards had to be held down or thrown in to the only clump of protective trees on the beach.  Huge gusts of wind came through as racers on the three bouy short sprint course stopped racing and headed in.  We waited it out and the heats began again an hour or two later when everyone got settled and gathered their belongings from where ever they had been blown.

The races where exciting but I was disappointed when after making the final I fell on the second bouy and gave up my second place position for sixth after getting back on as fast as I could.  The race was just too short to make up the mistake.  The next day was the distance race with a unique course that had racers paddling along a long pier so spectators had a great view for some of the five mile race.  It was a very competitive race and a fast paced one.  In the end it was Kai, Connor and me taking third as we raced up the beach.  But we weren’t finished yet.  Connor and Kai had tied for first overall for the weekend and Eric Tarain from France and I had tied for fourth, so we had to race two lap sprint tie breakers.  Ryan Helm had third sown up.  It was deja vu for the Namotu race. After the distance race the last thing I wanted to do was sprint it out but everyone rallied and in the end it was Kai, Connor, Ryan, me and Eric in fifth.

After a long day of racing we showered at the park, loaded up the board once again, said our good byes and got on the road back to Florida.  Two thousand miles in the car but worth the adventure.  The fourth of July was awesome in Pensacola watching the fireworks over Santa Rosa Sound with friends on a warm night.  I was not looking forward to the day long trip to get home the next day but I am happy to be here.

Next…lots of downwinders.  Aloha, ST