Paddle boarding season is coming to the Rock House – PCPatriot
By William Paine
for the patriot
Last Friday evening, the boy and I loaded our paddle boards into the family van in preparation for a race the next morning at the Rock House Marina.
By stacking our 14ft paddle boards on top of each other, we can carry both of our watercraft inside the vehicle…most of the time.
The front tips of both boards pressed against the windshield, but the rear ends still extended a foot beyond the rear doors, forcing them to open partially. A bungee cord kept the doors from slamming shut.
James Patrick Hudson Paine, (AKA the boy), and I were planning on using this paddle board contest as practice for the next 5e Annual Gusto event with GRAPeJAM, also taking place on Saturday June 25, 2022, also at the Rock House Marina.
GRAPeJAM stands for Appalachian Junior Musicians of Greater Pulaski. As in the past, GRAPeJAM will receive a check made possible thanks to the generosity of Gusto’s corporate sponsors. GRAPeJAM will then play some tunes for those gathered for the Gusto.
Sponsors for this year’s race are: Glenn Insurance Agency, MOVA Technologies, Foothills Chiropractic, Team Travis, First Community Bank, Gilmer Law Firm, Sadler, Ingram, Sutherland & Hutton and Rocky Acres Property Mgmt.
At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, race organizer Michael Valach told the ten paddlers and one kayaker lined up on Peak Creek to prepare for the start. At the signal, all competitors began to whip their paddles back and forth, in order to speed through the water as fast as humanly possible.
Brian Hartman, winner of the second annual Gusto paddle board race, took the lead early, but instead of rounding the first buoy and heading up Peak Creek, he continued towards Claytor Lake.
After realizing his mistake, Hartman corrected his course and headed uphill, but not before I was able to take advantage of his blunder and take the lead. It was quite invigorating, as I had never been in the lead of a paddleboard race before… including my own!
It didn’t last.
Hartman caught me in front of the Conrad Brother Marina and passed me. I tried to ride its tail for a while, in order to pull behind its wake, but I just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t totally unexpected. Brian Hartman has competed in all four previous Gusto paddle board races and he has surpassed my efforts every time.
Also, I was still second and if I kept paddling steadily relentlessly, maybe I could finish second…or maybe Hartman would give up for some reason (maybe cramp?) and I’d win this thing !
About a mile upstream I nearly ran over a 4 foot long rattlesnake crossing the creek. Then I crossed under the Old Route 100 bridge.
Another quarter mile upstream and the creek crosses under Interstate 81, where several tons of steel and rubber pass overhead, producing an eerie echo of river-level traffic.
After the bridge is a shallow section that gets deeper as it gets closer to the large rock wall forming the far edge of the creek.
At this point, I had no idea where the others were except race leader Brian Hartman, who despite my best efforts extended his lead over me a few more yards. Last time I checked I had some distance on the closest runner behind me, but I really couldn’t tell. Rolling over and looking back is a good way to waste time and energy and possibly even fall off your board, so why bother?
The other thing is I was already paddling as fast as I could, so all I could really do was keep a steady pace and hope that was enough to stop whoever was behind from catching me.
Further upstream, Peak Creek takes on a wilder look. Steep heavily forested embankments rise on either side of the creek and there are no longer any structures of any kind. The current, flowing against you, becomes more noticeable and rock formations below the surface become more visible as the depth of the stream decreases.
About two and a half miles upstream, a bright orange buoy marked the halfway point of the five-mile run. Three competitors, including the kayaker, chose to take part in the two-mile race, which stretches to the bridge before redirecting runners to the Rock House.
As I approached the buoy, I became aware of another paddler who was moving away from my board. As on a bicycle, the design facilitates the departure of the resident who follows closely. He had been right behind me for about a mile before we circled the buoy.
Going downstream I paddled as hard as I could but somehow this guy managed to paddle faster and I found myself getting out of his wake.
It worked…until it didn’t and my fellow competitor, whose name is Chris Pohowsky, started drifting away. There was nothing I could do about it except keep paddling and hope to hold on to third place.
Then Powhowsky drafted Hartman until he finally edged him about half a mile from the finish.
As I paddled the last quarter mile, I became more and more aware of another runner just a few feet behind me. The thought of finishing fourth instead of third, after paddling as hard as I could for the last hour, started to cause me a lot of distress. It made me paddle furiously so much that I almost lost my balance and fell into it. But I didn’t and managed to hold on to third place.
I’ve come in third place in four paddleboard races now and I can live with that. The boy, aka James Patrick Hudson Paine, arrived 7e place, which was good too, because seven is his favorite number.
Alice Angel, finished 8e but first in women’s competition. Alice also won the fastest woman award at the 4e Annual delicacy.
Chris Pohowosky, a rolfer from Blacksburg, won last Saturday’s paddleboard race (rolfers specialize in deep tissue massage).
“It was a really fun race,” Pohowosky said. “Thank you for the great race. It was super inspiring to have people to suffer with. So thank you. I liked it. I liked it a lot.”
“Good race as always,” said second-placed Brian Hartman. “I can’t wait to do the Gusto on June 25. See you soon!”
Unlike years past, the Gusto will be held at the Rock House Marina on Peak Creek. Previous Gusto paddle board races have been held at Gatewood Park.
Essentially, this Gusto will be held downstream from the original and this time attendees can then enjoy a sit-down meal and listen to music as well.