Colwyn Bay Blast – Take 2
I started Surf Skiing last year as a new challenge so that I could take part in Quadrathlons. From there, I soon found myself taking part in the Colwyn Bay Blast, my first ever surf-ski race. I did terribly. My lack of skills, no paddle training and old, uncomfortable kit saw me finish last after 2 hours of pain and struggle. Here are the results from last year with me right at the bottom.
A couple of quotes from last years blog post hint at the ordeal that it was:
I’m just glad that none of the safety boats asked if I needed a tow as I may well have said yes. It was hard work, the hardest thing I’ve done for a while.
The one guy that was behind me went past me here and asked if I was OK. I lied and said that I was. My pace had slowed considerably and the last mile was agony.
Rather than dwell on the fact that I was last and losing I had hope. Hope that I could only get better.
Not one to give up on a challenge, I’ve done just that for the past year – spent time getting better. First was a new surf ski, new paddles and new buoyancy aid. That in itself was a challenge as it took me quite a while just to be able to stay upright in it. The first few sessions were simply about balance, falling off and wondering if I’d gone a step too far with an intermediate ski rather than a beginners ski. The next was plenty of time honing my skills and getting better in the boat. Gradually I got the hang of it and on Saturday I was back to face the Colwyn Bay Blast once again. Everyone was saying that at least I couldn’t do any worse than last year, but I wasn’t so sure. For a start there’s always a chance of a DNS or DNF which would be worse. Secondly, there were more entries this year with a full field. So, if I came last again I guess technically it would be worse as I would be 40th rather than 30th. For me it wasn’t about the actual position though, it was about first finishing and more importantly, finishing having felt comfortable and having enjoyed it. I just hoped it wasn’t going to be as much of an ordeal as it had last year.
Scoping out the Competition
My brother Jay and his family were in Borth for the weekend and wanted to do some cycling. I suggested that I take Jay and Harry up to North Wales with me, drop them off at Colwyn Bay and let them ride the 80 miles back to ours. They agreed so I left our house and drove through a damp, cool, misty Wales to Colwyn Bay with my surf ski on the roof and their bikes on the bike rack. I pointed out the roads they’d be following on the way back and suitable cafe stops too. Soon we were in Colwyn Bay and I parked up alongside a large number of vans which also had surf ski’s on them. It looked as though there was indeed quite a large field this year.
Jay and Harry set off and I chatted to a few friends I’ve made over the past year. As part of my mission to improve my surf-skiiing I’ve been meeting up with other like-minded people. It’s quite a small scene anyway so everyone seems to know everyone and even some of the faster guys from last year remembered me and were glad to see me back giving it another go. The past year has seen me paddling lots at home and a few people had been here to paddle with me. I’ve paddled in North Wales a few times, Scotland and the Lake District and had made new friends along the way. So there were plenty of people to chat with and say hello to as I made my way over to registration.
There were lots of nice shiny boats to look at too from Revo, Think and Stellar.
I’d sort of like a new boat but don’t necessarily need one. So, although they look nice and could possibly be a little better than mine I don’t think it’s quite worth getting another just yet. I therefore only took a quick look at them and didn’t try any out.
Once registered it was time to chill, chat and get ready. The field of entrants was good and there were some fast paddlers here. Competition at the top was going to be hot. For those of us likely to be towards the back, the competition over who would be last was equally as hot. I had prior form in this respect so could quite easily be there. A few others were challenging for the last spot as well though and I had improved quite a bit so secretly hoped it wouldn’t be me. I wasn’t the only one who had improved though and I hadn’t really done any actual training – all I’d been doing was playing in my ski whenever I could.
Colwyn Bay Blast 2018
The conditions looked pretty easy out there. Very little wind, barely any chop and not too hot. The sun wasn’t shining and there was no swell. Saying that, I don’t mind a little bit of water movement these days. Living by the sea means I get plenty of practise in choppy conditions so don’t really mind either way. I’ve never paddled in anything really rough yet though so the conditions did at least mean I was fairly certain I would be able to finish.
Soon we were lined up on the beach ready to go. Almost 40 surf skis, a few sea kayaks and a few SUPs spread out across the beach is quite a sight. The hooter sounded and we were off.
I wasn’t so tentative with the mount today and slickly got in my boat and paddled off. It wasn’t a flying mount by any standards but it was quick and easy. I settled into a decent rhythm and we were off. I’m not used to paddling in such close confines to others though and felt a little boxed in. I should have made the most of it and rode some wakes for a while but instead I decided I’d feel more comfortable with some space to myself so I eased back behind the guys around me so that I could manouvre myself to the outside where there was more room.
The course was the same as last year. Out to a buoy offshore from the beach, around it, back towards the beach and around another buoy before heading off across Colwyn Bay to a buoy offshore from Rhos-on-Sea. From here it was out to the Rhosneigr shipping buoy and a left turn out across Penryn Bay to a big yellow buoy offshore from the Little Orme. We rounded this buoy and headed back.
The going was good, flat water to start with and a little bit of chop out around Rhosneigr Buoy and across Penrhyn Bay. Nothing too serious though. I was keeping up a good pace and settled into a position somewhere in the middle of the field. What’s more, I was on the same leg as the leaders and wasn’t getting dropped off the back like last year. I felt comfortable, I was paddling well and all was good.
The paddle back was a little more interesting with a few little lumps and bumps to ride. With the help of the chop and small swell it felt faster, but my watch was telling me other wise. I was still making good time though and holding my position within the field. At this rate there was no way I’d be last and maybe I’d even have a half decent time.
15km is still quite a long paddle for me, especially at pace. Last year it took me just over 2 hours. I did paddle 15km last week here at home just to see what it felt like. I probably had a little bit of tidal assistance on that day and went hard all the way. I did it in 1hr 26 which I was really pleased with. My pace today had me on target for something similar.
Soon we rounded the Rhosneigr Buoy and just had the final mile or so back to the beach to do. This time last year the final mile had been agony. Today I felt good, I was well within myself, I was having fun and I was moving much faster. I soon glided into the beach, dismounted and ran up to the tent to finish. I looked at my watch which said 1hr 22 with an average speed of 6.3mph. I was happy with that. behind me on the water there were still plenty of people making their way across Colwyn Bay. In fact, more than half the field were behind me! Quite an improvement on last year. There was no need for immediate refuelling and recovery either. I felt fine and could if needed have done it all again. The practise, perseverance and purchases had all paid off. Maybe I can even consider myself a bona fide surf-skier now!
I packed up and soon found out that the results were already online. My official time was 1:21:17. That was over 40 minutes faster than last year. Everyone was faster this year though with the leaders completing it 10 minutes faster than last year too. Even so, it was a massive improvement for me and I was in the middle of the field rather than dead last. I can’t complain about that.
I packed up and waited around for the prize giving. This was pretty impressive too for what is quite a small event, the prizes were huge. with prizes and support from:
- Think Kayak Europe
- Rough Water Gear Co
- Stellar UK Kayaks and surf skis
- Revo Kayaks
- Race Pace Ltd
- Rockpool Kayaks
- Aquapac – 100% waterproof protection
- Reed Chillcheater Ltd
- Colwyn Bay Watersports
Not only did the winners get prizes but there was a prize draw too. I got a Think Kayak T-Shirt but the top prizes from the draw were a brand new pair of paddles and £500 off a new Think Surf Ski! Not bad.
With everything done and dusted I headed home. The weather was gorgeous as soon as I drove away from the North Coast of Wales so we had dinner in the garden with Jay and his family once I got home. Perfect.