The Woody’s First Win!


I think to tell this story right we have to go back a few years to the first time I raced the Ocean Blue Adventure Race.  It was the first adventure race I had ever done and our 3 person male team spent most of the race completely lost with no idea what we were doing.  It took us over 13 hours and almost everything was packed away when we got back to the finish, including the finish arch and all the sponsors tents, the leaders had taken just over 6 hours.  But that first race was so much fun I was hooked on the event and the sport.  I’ve been back every year since and it inspired the design of the Basic Roamer AR in an attempt to make the navigation easy.


This year was going to be all new.  I’d built a new triple kayak over the winter and this year I was racing with the super duo of Mike Prindiville and Mari Chandler.  This was the first time that we’d all be in one boat with Mike’s powerful paddling.


There was a last minute request for AR Navigation Supplies to give a short clinic the night before the race at the registration area.  A good group of people stopped by to learn about UTM plotting and the other skills needed to find your way around a Big Blue event as well as a paddling class given by Thomas Bastis of Team Aquan.  By the time I got home there was little time for preparation before the 5 AM alarm call and the drive back to Half Moon Bay.


We unloaded the boat in the harbor and set the seats up for Mike and Mari.  Everything was ready for the map handout and race start.  We were told there were going to be a few surprises in this event and they weren’t joking.  Big Blue had found some brand new areas to take the race and it was going to be longer than previous years with a lot more climbing on foot and bike.  This was going to be a fun one!  When the maps were handed out we plotted all the points before the start.


When Todd Jackson said “GO”, it was a run down the beach to the harbor wall where Team Lucky were hanging out with their new dog as volunteers for the day.  It was probably no more than half a mile each way but it spread the field all over the beach.  We were in the lead group and first to hit the boats.  We had a clear lead as we paddled across the harbor ready for the portage over the beach and into the Ocean right at Mavericks!  Yes the well known surf spot.  I’ve always told people that this is the only place that I’ve ever kayaked uphill and today would be no exception. 


The map below shows the wave conversion for the biggest waves at Mavericks and the black arrow shows our route over the harbor wall and into the ocean, straight through the middle of it all.


As we hit the portage there was a solo racer on a surf ski running up the beach.  He had caught us coming into the beach and carried his lightweight boat over the wall and into the ocean in front of us.  One thing we noticed as he was paddling was that he didn’t seem to have a map.  As we paddled further out the waves started to get larger and we could see that the surf ski was spending more time staying upright than paddling forward.  The big wooden boat just seemed to plough over everything without any worries, especially when Mike had his paddle in the water.  We could see the buoy that was WP 2 but the waves were so large that this 20’ high shipping buoy would disappear for 20 seconds at a time.  As we rounded WP 2 we were right next to the surf ski but we pulled away as we headed south.  By the time we hit WP 3 we couldn’t see anyone behind us to the point where both Mike and Mari were concerned we’d taken a wrong turn.

Wave Crests



We were leading the race in a homemade wooden boat after paddling through Mavericks.  As we came into the harbor we had about a 10 minute lead on the second boat.  We were in and out of the TA in about 5 minutes and off on the bikes in search of CP 2 at the underpass in downtown Half Moon Bay. 







CP 3 was at a park entrance near Purisima creek.  This was the transition to a run up a mountain.  We had about 1500 feet of uphill and Mike threw on the tow rope.  It was at this point that Mari started to really feel the bruised rib she sustained while going over the handlebars the previous weekend in Oregon.  She started to lag behind, which never happens, as she could only take short breaths and the pace Mike was setting took more than just short breaths.  It was about 3-4 miles to the top and the trail intersection we were looking for.  We found the CP and immediately started to head back down the hill.


We’d gone about Ľ mile when we started to see the other teams coming towards us.  The first pair was Phil Lovaletti and John Moss.  John was towing Phil on a bungee cord and as they got closer to Mari, who was leading us down the hill, John started to swerve from one side to the other.  This seemed to confuse Phil who was behind him and at the last moment they were stretched across the trail attached to each other by a bungee.  We were all at top speed and Mari had nowhere to go but between them and straight into the bungee cord, there was a lot of shouting and a very loud THWAP as the bungee cord snapped at its full stretch.  As I looked back I could see a 1 foot long frayed piece of bungee hanging from the back of John’s pack and I can only imagine the damage the other end must have done as it came back at Phil.  I hope it wasn’t around his waist as that could have been real painful.  The real funny part was that no one stopped on either team.   The race was on.


We were at full speed as we came down the mountain saying hi to all the other teams on their way up.  We knew now that we only had about a 3-4 minute lead.  We jumped on the bikes and backtracked till we hit the small park that had the water tanks where we would find CP6.  This was another out and back trail where we got to see the closest teams again.


After this we had a long road section back to the TA.  This time through downtown Half Moon Bay we started to see all the sprint teams out on their run course.  We came into the TA and had a quick reload of food and water before jumping back on the bikes for the northern half of the course. 


This would take us almost to the top of Montara Mountain and a small single track trail that we had to clamber down with our bikes.  Mike was hurting on the climb up and we stopped for some food very close to the top.  I had two Hostess apple pies in my pack and they seemed to bring us right back to life.  I was thinking there was no way you could ride this single track after the CP and I’m so glad we decided to go all the way up on the fire road as opposed to trying to shortcut up this trail.   As we were coming down there was a guy carrying his bike up.  He was decked out in full body armor including shoulder pads and a full face crash helmet.  Apparently he was going to ride down it.  That had to be an intense ride but I wasn’t about to try it.


After one more short climb it was going to be downhill all the way to the finish.  We still had two more CP’s to get near the beach before heading south to pick up CP 14 and the finish.   We had a little trouble with the Beach CP as we couldn’t decide if we needed to leave our $3000 bikes in the parking lot while we went all the way down or if we could just send one person down there and we were also having trouble making out the single track that was described in the instructions.  Anyway once on the beach it was easy to find and we made our way back across Hwy 1 and up into the hills on out way back to CP 9 where we could get back on the highway.


I though we were still in the lead at this point but Mike and Mari were concerned that we’d been passed somewhere on the mountain with the varied choice of routes that could be taken.   We cut behind the airport and picked up CP 14.  As we crossed the open land heading towards the finish area we saw John and Phil riding towards us in the wrong direction.  I couldn’t understand exactly what Phil said but it sounded something like “did you know there were 14 CP’s?”  Err, Yea we did and we’d just got it.  All we needed to do was another flat mile and we’d be home with our closest competition going in the wrong direction! 


We reached the finish and found there was one more test that we had to do.  For some reason we had to run around the outside of the TA before we crossed the line.  It didn’t seem too hard but running in bike shoes is never easy after seven and a half hours of racing.  John and Phil came in about 10 minutes later.  Apparently they hadn’t noticed that CP 14 was on the back of the instructions and had completely missed it.


We’d won the race!  There had been no major incidents or errors and everything just fell into place on the day.  This was a race I’d wanted to win since I’d first started in the sport and this year we did it.  All that was left to do now was to hit the Half Moon Bay Brewing Co for some well earned beer and dinner.







Thanks to Todd and his team for another fantastic race and to Hailey and Jen for being the best supporters ever.


See you at the next one.