The Paddle Round the Pier Brighton event 2008 featured a Oxbow sponsored Stand Up Paddle race on the Saturday morning, originally the distance was going to be ten miles from Worthing Pier to Brighton West Pier, but due to bad conditions the safety team felt it was not to be. However, at around 7.30am the wind switched to a more helpful SSW and the decision was made to run the race, but from Shoreham Harbour to West Pier, a distance of five miles.
Thanks alot to Sean Clark from www.underwaterimage.co.uk for the use of some of these photos (as credited).
Twenty competitors took part, although mostly British there was also riders from Hawaii and Brazil. We loaded all of our board into a van and jumped into a bus to take us to Shoreham Harbour. As we got ready we were asked if we wanted to run as race, as planned or stick together in a pack as a more social event, due to the lack of safety boats. Race was the answer !
We made our way down into the ankle deep, stinking mud of the harbour and waited for the race to start. On the horn we all paddled out through the sheltered harbour towards the entrance. The pack was already beginning to take the shape that it would for the rest of the race. Once we rounded the harbour wall we were hit by the strong SSW wind and the swells that were breaking (and started to take out riders) just to the left of the harbour wall.
I was happily getting into my paddling rhythm settling into a good pace when disaster struck. I was about 1/4 mile out and there were some swells breaking in the strong wind. To avoid being knocked off my board every time I saw one I turned to face it and went over the white water, just like paddling out. This tactic seemed to be working fine until, as I dug my paddle into the wave, all power went and I fell off. As I was getting tumbled by the white water I was waiting for the pain to hit, thinking I had blown out a shoulder, when I surfaced and had a look at my paddle I realised what had happened. The shaft had split and the paddle blade had snapped out. I found the blade floating further in and then decided to head to the beach, I waved to Bill Fitzhugh my nearest competitor to let him know why I was heading in and then started prone paddling. I was opposite a local surf spot, hot pipes, so named as the hot water from the Shoreham Power Station is piped out to sea. Bill had mentioned before the race that the water was really warm, but it was a shock to feel hot, bath temperature water as I paddled in. It also had a very strong metallic smell to it so I was carefully avoiding falling in.
On the beach I started walking back towards West Pier, still 4 miles away. After about 50 yards walking with a 12ft board I decided that it was madness and exhausting, so I stuffed the broken paddle blade down the back of my wetsuit, slid the handle in between my shoulder blades and tightened my waterman pack to keep it tight and decided to prone paddle back. It was the right decision as with the wind behind me I was soon zipping along. I was feeling pretty strong up until the last mile, when an old back injury started objecting. I paddled into the beach again, took a quick photo, did some stretching and then paddled out and carried on mixing prone with knee paddling.
Apart from some crazy guy on the beach at Hove waving at me and shouting "shark" it was pretty uneventful after that. Finally back at West Pier the Paddle Round the Pier safety guys carried my board up the beach for me (thanks guys) and I followed up.
I managed to miss most of the fun as Hawaiian Ekolu Kalama came first, Elliot Dudley second and Mark Slater third.
After that it was a chance to wander around the festival and soak up the atmosphere. The Brush Boarding looked like a lot of fun, John Hibbard was showing the public how it was done, as Ekolu was demonstrating his Indo Board work out.
Congratulations to all the winners and all the riders as we raised over £2000.