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The Heat Is On: Pull a water toy out of the quiver

Surf- Skiing Paulina Lake The heat is on. It's supposed to be close to 100 degrees all week long. I feel for the cyclists



Surf- Skiing Paulina LakeThe heat is on. It's supposed to be close to 100 degrees all week long. I feel for the cyclists in the Cascade Cycling Classic last week and the National Championships this week. As if the elevation, the hills and the competition weren't tough enough, you know it's a scorcher when you can see the heat waves shimmering off the black asphalt and hear the tiny tar bubbles going off like Jiffy Pop under your wheels. As much as I love the bike, the water is the place to be right now. The only dilemma is which water toy to pull out of the quiver.


If I could only have one boat (heaven forbid), I'd pick my sea kayak, because of its versatility. My 17-foot 6-inch Wilderness Systems Shanai is a fast daytripper perfect for a paddle and picnic on any lake (and now is absolutely the time for that). It's fast enough that it's in demand every year for PPP, but it can also take me on a weeklong expedition in the San Juans or Canada.


My favorite boat to paddle, though, is my surfski. A surfski is the fastest thing you can paddle...if you can keep it upright. My Kevlar Futura Blade is 21 feet long, 17 inches wide and weighs just 26 pounds. It's tippy and fast and I just feel joy when I'm skimming along the surface with spray in my face. I've checked with a GPS and I'm only hitting about 9 mph, but I sure feel speedy.

I raced the Blade in the Gorge Outrigger races two weeks ago and the Odell Lake Pioneer Cup Canoe and Kayak Race last Saturday. The annual five-mile race from Shelter Cove Resort on the west end of the lake to Odell Lake resort on the east end usually features some fun downwind bumps near the finish line. This year it was hot, flat and thick as pea soup with blue-green algae (not sure why they call it that because it was a rather disgusting murky brown), but Thinh Vu still managed to set a record of 36 minutes in his Huki surfski. In spite of the algae bloom, there was a great turnout of surfskis, sea kayaks, outrigger canoes, open canoes and standup paddleboards.


For riding waves, it's actually a toss-up between my waveski and one of my surfboards. My waveski, which I store in Maui, is 6-feet 6-inches long with footstraps and a seatbelt on the topside and a tri-fin on the underside. I bought one because I saw a couple of guys who looked like they were having a helluva lot of fun surfing them in Kahului Harbor one day and I was intrigued. I took it to my favorite surf break, way out on the shoulders, and flailed. I got some strange looks every time I took it out, but eventually I figured out how to catch a wave and carve with my paddle. I knew I had arrived when some of the crusty old timers actually started coming over to approvingly check it out.


I'm a latecomer to the sport of whitewater, but I have a lot of cool friends who do it. I haven't learned to roll yet, so I bought an Aire Tomcat inflatable kayak two years ago so that I could tag along. So far, I've gotten my whitewater thrills on the McKenzie, the Umpqua, the Lower Deschutes, the Rogue and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. The Tomcat is fun-not nearly as maneuverable as a hardshell, but more forgiving and I can self-rescue. I'd like to graduate to a hardshell some day, so I got a rolling lesson from a friend this weekend. I didn't exactly roll, but I did drink some lakewater and get the general idea. As in hula hooping, "It's all in the hips."


A necessary watercraft in the quiver, of course, is the floatie. I have seen some truly impressive floaties going down the river lately, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex. My collection includes a couple of inflatable lounge chairs, a killer whale and an inflatable island complete with palm tree. Unfortunately, they all have leaks that need to be patched.


If you are interested in trying out some watercraft, rush on over to the back lawn of Alder Creek Kayak this Wednesday, July 29 for Pickin' and Paddlin'. From 4-7pm, Alder Creek's demo fleet of more than 50 boats will be available. After paddling, kick back and enjoy some sweet music from the Sweet Harlots from 7-9pm. The event is free, but donations will benefit the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance. If you miss this event, the last one in the series is scheduled for August 26. For more information, call 317-9407.

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