Big Wednesday - Miller's Run Video

Friday, 08 February 2019 09:33 | Written by 
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Miller's Run at its best... Miller's Run at its best... Credits: Rob Mousley, Surfski.info

Yeeeeeha! A couple of strokes and the ski started accelerating, 16kph, 20kph, 26kph… Whooomph! The spray deflector threw a mass of water arcing into air… Blinded, unbalanced, keep it going, paddle, paddle…!

The chatter in the Miller’s Run taxi was dominated by a character larger than life sitting in front… Oscar Chalupsky was in town! But Mother Nature had honored him with some proper conditions in False Bay – the Fish Hoek weather station was showing 32kt average wind strength, with gusts of 40kt plus. Simon’s Town had squalls reaching 45kt and more.

Further out in the bay, we could see big rolling waves, their tops being snatched away in foamy white feathers by the gusts… It looked epic.

War stories were rife – one paddler had beaten his previous Personal Best with a 38min run in the morning; another had smashed his PB by nearly two minutes at 2pm…

As we neared Miller’s Point it was eyes left as the paddlers stared at the ocean; gusts were ripping sheets of spray across the surface. But thankfully on the other side of the Point, the wind wasn’t quite so violent, and the sea was relatively flat. It would be a grind, but not too stressful to get out to the start of the run.

Too much kit!

By the time I’d rigged up the boat (camera mast, GPS, camera safety rope, etc), the others had launched and I paddled out to the rock on my own.

The wind was howling, sure enough, and I took it easy, bracing often but paddling steadily out.

PB or no PB?

Turning downwind, the wind seemed less strong, but the sea was confused, waves in all directions and the gusts ricocheting off the mountain side to hit us side-on.

Damn! This wasn’t going to be a PB day after all!

I set off conservatively, stopping to chat briefly with my buddy before heading off again.

The messy conditions are not uncommon on the run – and usually sort themselves out about 3km in – when the wind and waves start lining up for Fish Hoek. And so it turned out today and I realized that actually a PB had been on the cards, if only I’d gone flat out from the start.

Oh well, I told myself, it’s really not necessary to try to beat your record every time you paddle!

Big Millers 2019

About to launch down a big one...  power strokes!

“Start paddling early…”

The next 8km were sublime; big runs, plenty of sequences on offer and enough wind to help you bounce the next wave. With the Chalupsky dictum in the back of my mind (“start paddling early on the wave and stop paddling early when you’ve caught it”) I concentrated on milking every run, looking for the shoulder of the next wave, trying not to wallow on the back face.

It was absolutely exhilarating, and I lost myself in the rhythm of the ocean. So much so that I suddenly realized that I was steering seawards of the lighthouse and I worked left to get back onto the optimum line on the inside.

Big Millers 2019

After the lighthouse I was again transported into zen-like state, spray, speed, curving down and around the runs – and again I woke up to find myself off course, this time too far left! I cut right, working diagonally across the runs for a few minutes to line up with Fish Hoek Bay.

Approaching Sunny Cove, a green ski appeared to my left – the big O appeared, yelled something about my bracing when I should have been paddling and shot off. I managed to stick with him for a few moments, but he put a sequence together that I didn’t, and he left me in his wake.

Big Millers 2019 02 06 00 48 35 823

About to be dropped by the big O...

Stats

Looking at the stats I did:

  • 11.79km (approx. 100m further than usual! Definitely off course)
  • 45:30 – a great time for me, and just over a minute outside my PB (43:51)
  • A best km of 3:26 (ave 17.5kph)  I think this may have been my best interval ever.

What’s with the obsession with speed and PBs anyway?

In case it wasn’t obvious, downwind paddling, and especially our beloved Miller’s Run is what I live for from an exercise point of view.

I love the ever-changing nature of the run – the conditions are never the same from one run to the next.  And getting a good time is integral to the fulfillment that I get from the run – perhaps it’s part ego, but the challenge of paddling skillfully in downwind conditions interests me - and to me, speed is the outcome of that skill.

So, perhaps it’s a sign of my immaturity but I can seldom relax and just coast on a downwind. I need some external reason to do so, like escorting another paddler; then it’s easy, a “good” time is off the table and I can just relax. But mostly I feel an urge to get to the other end as rapidly as possible, and I just love it.

Technical Stuff

I currently paddle a 12.5kg hybrid Fenn Swordfish S, equipped with a Nelo spray deflector and DK Rudders custom rudder.

Safety

From a safety point of view, I use a Vaikobi PFD and a Mocke belt leash. I use a paddle leash too so that I can let the paddle go if I have to.

I carry my mobile with SafeTRX running (with the link sent to my family and to my buddy so they can check up on me without having to contact the authorities).

I have a whistle, pencil flares and a handheld VHF in the pockets of the PFD.

Video

I mount my Garmin VIRB Ultra 30 on a camera mast that I built from a paddle shaft attached to a moulded fiberglass base. Click here for details of the mast.

I edited the video in two passes:

  • First I exported the entire video from Garmin VIRB Edit in order to get the speed and distance gauges into the frame. This made a massive 19GB mp4, but I can delete it after the final edit.
  • Then I used Final Cut Pro X to scan rapidly through the video to cut out the best clips.
  • Finally I went through the video several times deleting clips to reduce the time from about 18min to just over 8min. I usually try to make the final video less than 4min in length, but I couldn’t bring myself to chop any more out of this one, conditions were sooo good.

I chose not to add music; I like the sound of the wind and waves!

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