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Sep 29, 2009

2009 San Francisco Tournament Recap

A couple acknowledgments before I attempt to recap (in a lot of words) what was an awesome race weekend (official race results here) ...

All the love and appreciation in the world goes once again to RIPPLE EFFECT!
So much delicious food that has people still raving. Early morning set-ups for such a well-organized tent area (love the shelves). Helping us when we needed steers (thanks, Marcus & Gary!). Organizing a bangin' after party. Assassin, the best tournament weekend game ever. Simply being the epitome of good hosts to help us enjoy our stay at TI ... but above and beyond all of this ... I think I can speak on behalf of many when I say we're all truly blessed & appreciative of the friendships that have emerged & continue to grow from this perfect sister team relationship! You beautiful people are truly the best.

And to top if off we now all got:
1) these ultra-fly Space-Ripple shirts to represent (thanks Sue May, Devant, and Big Lui!)!!! I'm so sporting mine everywhere, &

2) AWESOME memories of a freakin' AWESOME Space Ripple Thriller dance to close out the TI experience. That was so AWESOME! (I'm trying to sound like Em/Galen ala Bolt).

Big props and thank you to the CDBA & all the organizers for making the event happen!
The race has always been and continues to be such a favorite of ours thanks to the awesome job planning & executing for the paddling community!! Thank you for all of your hardwork. Btw - the Marriott Marquis Yerba Buena = Best Tourney Hotel EVER!

Massive respect to all the teams we were fortunate to race with!
The racing this weekend was everything a paddler could want - intense, tough, nerve-wrecking, gut-busting. So much tough competition - loved it! Props to all.
Special shout-out to our friends at Team LARD - congratulations on a well-deserved, epic win!

As a team, we celebrated a victory & highlight before we even marshalled for our first race: bringing up 3 mixed crews to an away tournament was an accomplishment in & of itself. The SD Love clearly continues to grow, thank you & great job ALL!!!!!

Coming off a GOLD MEDAL performance in Long Beach, WHITE stormed into SF with big aspirations for more glorious hardware. Based on what we witnessed, during the crew's journey they & our entire team may have emerged w/ something more valuable than a $5 medal.

Improvement w/ each every race. Coachability displayed in the ability to extend & reach farther w/ each stroke. Competitive spirits displayed in a unquenchable desire to compete even when not 100%.

But above and beyond all - I was personally so humbled & proud of the true team spirit displayed that helped remind me why I got into this sport in the first place.

The organic positive energy not only expressed during an awesome 2nd place finish after the 3rd heat - but also following your spirited run in the Finals - was so pure & priceless. As a type-A, arrogant jerk that always feels he has something to add to a conversation, I found myself not only completely slack-jawed w/ nothing to say following Lil Lui's inspirational & spot-on debrief (hence forth, the "Lil" in this moniker should be dropped) ... but also completely humbled and reminded as I looked at the entire crew's exhausted smiles, that it's all about the journey we take together as a team that matters the most.

Great job, WHITE - everyone is so excited to see your continual evolution as paddlers - and we're so fortunate to have everyone of you be a Space Dragon.

We've invested a good amount of practice this year in our WOMENs & MENs crews. The investment is paying off. Both crews qualified for the Finals - a feat to not take lightly or take for granted. Great job to all! Both crew's Saturday heats were explosive w/ the Women taking 1st in their heat and the Men 2nd. Very proud.

One of the gifts of competition is the prompt identification of things we can continue to work on.

The men's crew had a great view of the WOMEN's final as we head out to the start line. The WOMEN were in a tight fight for 3rd place w/ the BAD Women as you crossed around the halfway point, with the Wasabi Women & Canadian composite crew also within striking distance. From the accounts in the boat, it looked like the crew just ran out of gas in the last leg of the race, finishing 4th. More on this later.

The MEN's crew had some timing & synchronization issues that will be certainly be cleaned-up at practice, no worries. All our men want to give it a HARD YANK ... we'll just continue to refine our efforts to ensure we all give it a good pull together as one (Oh dear).

It might not be obvious to an observer, but the truth is few of our crews have reflected the Space Dragons rapid ascension up the competitive ranks as well as our MASTER's crew has. Qualifying for the Finals with a 1st place victory on Saturday was HUGE. Finishing just off the podium w/ a fantastic 2:08 4th place finish on Sunday against some very big players is something you should be both prideful of and inspired for the future by. Great job crew, and many thanks to Allen (Ripple) & Tim (DPW, SD) for joining us!

One of the major highlights of not only this weekend in TI but for all of 2009 is the ascension of our BLUE crew. Qualifying for both the Competitive B Championships & Visiting Team Races (top 12) at TI is a significant accomplishment & the fulfilling of a lofty goal that all Space Dragons should rave about. It's clear that the Space Dragons now field 2 elite, ultra-competitive crews that have given and will continue to give many "A" boats a run. From a pure competitive standpoint, one of our biggest assets for the crew is our depth of quality paddlers that will continue to grow with experience.

David "White Knight" mentioned to me that one of the highlights for him & probably for many was having Blue & Red compete in the same Quarterfinal - 44 of us invading the docks together with a unified goal of both boats placing in the top 4 of a very competitive heat to qualify for the Competitive divisions. And we did just that. And BLUE followed that up with a 2nd place finish in the semi's to qualify for the Championships. Huge victories, team! Consider also that due to conflicts w/ RED, BLUE competed short one male in both the quarters & finals. WHITE did the same for all races. Great job to all for awesome performances!

RED pulled 2 excellent sets on Saturday (1st & 2nd place) including the 3rd fastest of the day to set-up an expectation-filled Sunday. Both RED's semi-final & final were noteworthy - filled w/ much to be proud of and lessons I don't want us to soon forget.

RED's Semifinal heat was packed w/ no-nonsense competitors: JetStart, LARD Black, BAD1, DW2, & SFL. Massive props to the entire field for an awesome race, especially to SFL for pulling in a very notable 3rd place finish from the outside lane 6.

RED pulled one of our strongest & most spectacular start in our history, helping propel us to a clear lead on this packed field for the majority of the race. Consider that many of these competitors are also known for vicious starts. The race was ours to win, but alas, the finish line did not come soon enough. We didn't have enough in the tank to punch @ the finish and we allowed the field to take what was ours in the last ~1/3 or 1/4 of the race.

The process of improving anaerobic thresholds & capacities is a bitch - the only real way to get it is to suffer in training to earn it & build it ... to deserve it. It weans people out by telling our minds, "This is too uncomfortable, I think I've had enough training, I'm going to ease up or just finish this workout." As we train in the future, there will inevitably be many times when these thoughts hit you. And when they do, remember this race and the Women's race.

We cannot allow others, no matter how deserving they also are, to take things from us.

RED's Final race, with a solid if not as spectacular front half of the race, was certainly more of a complete and fulfilling run as we screamed in with a carpet-ride 2nd place finish behind Jetstart. One highlight for me of the entire weekend was Davin's unexpected but utterly effective PASS calls during our finish that fueled the engine room as we created added separation from much of the field. One of the beautiful things about this sport is the sheer passion and endorphin-filled rush we get as we push our bodies to failure dragging a big ass boat to a finish line. And this race definitely had that for me.

Immediately following the final, RED was rewarded for the first time ever w/ an invitation to participate in the Volunteers race, which the vast majority of us did. That was a fun-filled experience full of smiles - and many other Space Dragons owing me a beer and Sammi a lemonade for getting smoked by our awesome crew that starting the race at "Paddlers Are you Ready".

Space Dragons, above all else, be proud of not only this weekend but the entire 2009 and know that it is a hell of a good time to be a Space Dragon. We've accomplished much, all while not having a limiting ceiling apparent. The ride has the potential to get even better. Sometimes one of the better rewards one can get is the respect of our peers & the veterans that know this game ... and we are certainly getting more and more of it. From our very own Captain Rick, to the awesome legendary Dock Master Puppy, to the countless fellow competitors, thanks all for your kind words and observations about our continued improvement, performances, & perhaps most important of all, balance. Much love.

Take October off if you need it (you certainly deserve it), if you have any specific friends & family members that have wanted to try the sport, bring them out in the Winter.

On a personal note, to sign-off, I also wanted to thank everyone for the undeserved massive support & love you've shown me as one of your Captains for the past 3 years. I've been humbled to have personally experienced the adage that by serving others you benefit most.

Much love.


P.s., for the record, the Space Dragons did bring home hardware this weekend. In the form of a balloon dragon, as we are now the Competitive A Mixed Boat "Boat Race Challenge" champions :).