The North Shore race presented by Elite Ocean Sports, held on Lake Marion annually each fall has begun to take on it’s own unique character.
Unlike many other races in the region that tend to feature a variety of paddle craft, the North Shore is dominated by the Surfski, and more specifically, high performance skis. This is by design, as organizers have specifically focused on “creating the most competitive surfski field in the Southeast over a challenging course with an intermediate distance that is attainable for most surfski paddlers, but long enough for elite level paddlers to have a competitive race”.
Held in the small town of Santee, South Carolina, the race is a bit of an anomaly. It is relatively close to Charleston, but is held on a lake in a small town about an hour north. According to organizers, the laid back atmosphere of the venue was exactly what they were looking for. The effect could be seen clearly; with paddlers leisurely hanging around, talking and relaxing in lounge chairs. The feel was reminiscent of a family reunion that was interrupted by a brief white knuckle, no holds barred throw down, only to resume it’s slowed southern style immediately following. Also unlike many other races, the North Shore truly begins the day before the actual race, with the epicenter occurring at the North Shore Condos hosted by Mark Smith of EOS. It is here that incoming paddlers will converge for amazing food and drink in a pre-race hangout session with random paddling from the nearby beach, a clinic by Jesse Lishchuk and even some light mountain biking. This is a money race, and outstandingly, all categories were represented with money and or bling, including fast sea kayak and commensurate cash for the ladies.
- Men's overall: Top 3 prize money and a $300 winner take all hotspot sponsored by Stellar Kayaks at the 3 mile mark.
- Women's overall: Top 3 prize money and a $200 winner take all hotspot sponsored by Think Kayaks at the 3 mile mark.
- Men's FSK: $100 winner take all prize sponsored by Surfski Syndicate.
- Women's FSK: $100 winner take all prize sponsored by Surfski Syndicate.
- Men's OC-1: $150 winner take all prize sponsored by Winning Health Sports Medicine.
- Women's OC-1: $150 winner take all prize sponsored by WomenCAN International.
Additionally, Ocean Paddle Company generously awarded a Vaikobi PFD to the first place finisher overall in the 6 mile, Mocke accessories for 2nd overall, and a Geigerrig hydration system for 3rd.
The 2015 Cup promised to be one of the best editions so far. The event was moved back to the relatively warmer month of October, while maintaining distances of 20 km with a 10 km option.
Top paddlers from the region and beyond were on hand including: National Champion Austin Kiefer, National Marathon Champion Jesse Lishchuk, Olympian Mark Hamilton and former East Coast Champ Reid Hyle.
In a strong women’s division, last years winner and former sprint National Champion Pam Boteler returned to defend her win against regional top paddler Kata Dismukes, Olympic hopeful Alex Mclain, and among others, paddler powerhouses Sara Jordan and Hype Mattingly.
The competitive field allowed for the women’s race, in a refreshing change, to be scheduled to start separately from the men, which proved an interesting dynamic.
The venue features the bipolar and formidable Lake Marion, sometimes placid, other times as chaotic as the ocean. The course follows a northeast route about 100 meters off the shore for about four miles before turning (generally) downwind for about six miles and then turning back towards the finish. The six mile stretch provides the most interesting drama. It is here that the long fetch of the lake funnels it’s winds from the nearby Atlantic and creates conditions that can get a little complicated.
The start was sounded and the herd of paddlers were blasting out at full speed for the hole shot. After taking an early lead, Jesse Lishchuk forfeited his lead to Austin Kiefer, who wisely hopped on his wake, only to come around and pip him at the three mile money mark.
After turning the buoy, the conditions grew worse. The washing machine was in full effect as the advantage fell to the most adept at handling conditions. No matter how stable one is on their boat, experience in these conditions were essential to a good finish. Several paddlers with less experience pulled out at this point,with others taking the occasional swim.
In the end it was Austin Kiefer finishing with a blistering time of 1:23:53, Reid Hyle coming in behind at 1:27:33, Jesse Lishchuk third at 1:29:16, former olympian Mark Hamilton at 1:33:40 and Flavio Costa at 1:34:47.
In an exciting women’s race, Mclain took the three mile hot spot, followed by previous winner Pam Boteler with Kata Dismukes tight on her wash. After the buoy turn, Boteler fell into some trouble and eventually abandoned as did Hype Mattingly. Mclain struggled to keep her K1 upside as Sara Jordan came around for first through the long stretch of open water in a more stable (and borrowed) Think Evo. Rounding back to the final stretch, it was the chronically sweet and cheerful Alex Mclain sliding by Sara Jordan for a hotly contested first. Channeling her inner Chuck Norris, she piloted her K1 boat and made an absolute mockery of the choppy conditions. Due to her extensive surfski history, Mclain was able to keep things moving enough to pour it on at the end and finish strongly with a time of 1:43:01, followed by Sara Jordan at 1:44:22 and Kata Dismukes at 1:48:22.
Afterwards, racers convened at the nearby pool for awards and more food and drink.
The North Shore carries on the tradition of bringing together top shelf racers for a great time, camaraderie and competition. Looking forward to an even better 2016 as the Elite Ocean Sports crew eye raising the stakes higher for prize money; which will undoubtedly continue to draw out elite competition.
For Alex Mclain's Northshore race blog: http://mclainwaves.blogspot.com/2015/10/north-shore-cup.html