The Inland Paddler: Top Ten Things to Love About March (and a few we don’t)
Being a Paddler in Late February and March
Ah the promise of Spring! Here in the Carolinas we’re seeing it in the blossoming Bradford Pear trees, which are now in full bloom….in the Spring Peeper frogs who have started seranading us in the evenings, and in the mercury accelerating into the high 70’s if not 80’s. Even the water temperature, both inland and at the coast is creeping up. Soon, if not already, gloves and booties might be unnecessary. Hoods too.
So here’s a quick top ten list of the things I am indeed grateful for this time of year, in no particular order. Some of them make my heart sing while at the same time, strike terror into my heart:
- The Carolina Cup is just 56 days away! That makes me so happy! It means the start of our race season here on the east cost (not counting Florida), it means being reunited with friends I have not seen in months, especially my OC2 partner Dana, and yet at that same time, that’s just eight weeks to finish up training, which this year has been interrupted by the flu. That terrifies me.
- Paddle Monster’s launch of Spring Base Training; that will help me kick it into gear and take care of that last part of #1.
- The Gradual Shedding of the Neoprene: this Rite of Spring is perhaps the thing I look forward to most this time of year. The water starts to inch upwards on the thermometer as the days start getting longer and the air temperatures stay warm. One by one, bits of rubber can be removed, starting first with the booties (can I get a hallelujah?!) and gloves, then the dry suit or 4/3 mm wetsuit for surfing, then just the neoprene pants, to just light thermal protection like leggings and Virus Stay Warm gear, until finally, if we’re lucky about Carolina Cup time, we will be back to board shorts and light, loose rash guards. It it the most sublime feeling to finally be free of the confines of neoprene and to reconnect that way with the water! I may look forward to this the most!
- The Return of Huli and Footwork Practice: I am conservative in the winter especially when the water at my local lake is in the 40’s, as it has been this year. I don’t want to go for a swim, even when I have the dry suit on. Therefore, I tend not to practice skills like ama flying, self-recovery from huli or capsize or footwork that helps me with my downwinding and surfing. Quite frankly, as those last two activities become more of a focus for me, if I can’t practice those skills on the flatwater, I kind of don’t want to paddle flatwater. So, with the promise of spring comes the promise of less boring flatwater paddles, and a renewed sense of excitement and joy when it comes to my workouts.
- Increased Daylight: On March 11 we shall turn forward the clocks, and our march toward longer days accelerates! That means more time outside! That means more paddle time and more flexibility when it comes to workouts. Or to just enjoy being out on the water. Can I get another hallelujah??!!
- Flip-Flop Season: Goodbye wool shoes, and socks and boots, hello Olukais!!
- Teaching Season: My summer teaching schedule will soon open up and I will be back on the water with some of my favorite people helping folks discover all the benefits of our sport. Much laughter and smiling will ensue!
- More Dawn Patrols: Soon, conditions will be conducive (see #3) to making those early morning trips to my favorite break at Wrightsville Beach, followed by breakfast at Spoonfed, where I get to talk story with its owner Matt. Even though it’s a two-hour drive one way, I look forward to those warm mornings so much. Yes, I’ll have to pay for parking, and yes there will be crowds, but the bath house will be open. And it will be warm!
- The Learning Season: Spring and Summer is the time of year when I go off to get instruction – first it will start with a week-long trip with the Infinity Surf camp team at Nosara Paddlesurf in Costa Rica, then hopefully more windsurfing instruction and surfski clinics as well. Taking classes and clinics not only improves my skills on the water but I learn how to be a better instructor, too.
- Maui and Hood River: which is to say, DOWNWINDING!!! CHEEEEE!! It starts with the Olukai and Paddle Imua races and then the Gorge Downwind Champs and Gorge Paddle Challenge events. I will get to spend time with some of my most favorite people on the planet at these events, sharing glides, recovering in nature’s ice bath, soaking up the Golden Hour in the Columbia River Gorge, and most of all, laughing and reconnecting. That’s what paddling is all about. I cannot wait!
Of course, in March, North Carolina is notorious for having at least one more bout of really nasty winter weather. I hold no expectations that these lovely spring like conditions are going to hold right on in to summer…but I at least know that whatever happens, I have all of these wonderful things to look forward to, right around the corner!
Tell me what you love most about spring or the advent of it?