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Forward into Fall Paddling Season

In the past, I have groused about Fall and the inevitable coming of Winter, the advent of Neoprene Season, and the time change and shorter days.

This year, it’s a little different.

Well, not the part about the losing Daylight Savings Time and the days getting shorter.  That’s always a sad thing for me.  I want as much daylight as I can get.

Love the Conditions

But this year - after spending much of last winter training and paddle surfing  no matter what the conditions -  I may have learned to embrace the change of seasons and the things Fall and Winter afford us.

So, here’s the list of the Top Ten Things the Inland Paddler is looking forward to this Fall and Winter:

1. Chattajack

Yes, my training has been, eh hem, compromised, and yes I have adjusted my expectations, but CJ is my favorite mainland event of the year.  The build up, the mutually assured suffering, being in Chattanooga, eating at Aretha Frankenstein’s, being with so many wonderful people - many of whom I’ve not seen since the Carolina Cup in April. The steady barrage of hugs and high fives are worth every second of pain those 32 miles down the Tennessee River will produce.  My Maui friends often marvel and/or shake their heads when I regale them of the joys of CJ - they don’t get why we’d put ourselves through the agony of 32 miles without downwind bumps - but they’d understand for sure if they came and soaked up the Chatta-stoke. No doubt.

2. Fall Leaves

The colors are already starting to appear along the banks of my local training lakes.  The air is devoid of humidity.  Seeing nature celebrate this time of year is amazing. Even the marsh grasses at the coast take on a different color.  It is just glorious to be outside.  And with any luck, the blast of color will be spectacular in the Tennessee River Gorge come the last weekend of the month.  Another reason CJ is so wonderful!

3.  Wardrobe Changes

The Bluesmiths Kula hoodie gets to come back into full rotation.  There’s snuggling in the SIC zip-up sweat shirt, or the new Paddle Monster hoodies.  I can wear black long sleeved rash guards without burning up.  Capri length or full length tights - same.  Eventually, I’ll have to get back into the dry suit or the wetsuit, but that’s okay. Really. It is.

4.  Thinning Crowds

Wearing the cold weather gear is worth every extra second it takes to wrestle on the rubber when you don’t have to fight for a parking place at the beach, put up with speed boats pulling inflatable furniture full of screaming pre-teens, or ignore all the new sup owners holding their paddles backwards.  Access #2 is ours again. At any time of the day.  Falls Lake is calm and quiet again. Except for the squawking herons.

5. Parking

Along the lines of #4, this time of year parking at my beach break is now free.  Yes, the bathhouse is closed too, but that’s what changing ponchos are for.

6. Tacos

Some of you (I'm looking at you, Sarah) might think this should be higher up on the list.  But, tacos taste EVEN BETTER when you have been paddle surfing in the cold weather. Just sayin’.

7. The Last Race of the Year

For us here in the Carolinas, it comes right after Chattajack.  It’s the Surf to Sound at Wrightsville Beach.  We end the season where we began it. It can be a mixed bag of weather, but it’s one last hurrah, one last chance to hug everyone’s neck, one last post race bowl of chili for the year. It’s bittersweet for sure.  But those last hugs will make up for the post CJ depression and can carry you through winter.

8.  A Break From Training

Fall usually means some time off.  Much deserved. Time to let the body heal and recover.  Time to reconnect with other activities, other past times and hobbies, to relax, refresh and recharge.

9. Winter Travel

This time of year can also mean traveling to paddle in places you love or have always wanted to visit for fun- not necessarily to race.  Maybe a surf camp in Costa Rica is in order.

10. Goals for the Next Year

Last but not least, Fall can be a time of reflections - to take a look at what you did this year, what worked, what you’d like to change and think about what you want to accomplish in the coming year. What races? What events? Where to paddle? It can be an exciting time, full of promise, new challenges, new experiences.

And it’s all just around the corner!

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