The Maiden Voyage

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I am not an expert on stand up paddle boards.  I am not even good on one (yet).  I am way into it though.  You can have fun on them in 18 inches of water in any part of the world.

On a really hot sunny Sunday morning in early August,  I placed a new 9′ 11″ Soultree Stand Up Paddleboard on a pair of old saw horses in my driveway.   It was freshly polished and radiating beams of light.  The grain of each balsa board was distinguished by the golden mahogany stringers.  My son Ryder and I opened up a new Dakine traction pad kit that I purchased from Noreaster’ Surf Shop in Scituate, MA.   You only get one shot to put the puzzle of pads on perfectly and after 30 tedious minutes, we nailed it.

That afternoon, I embarked on an awesome journey around Powder Point in Duxbury, MA.  Like a modern day version of Columbus, I took off from the town landing adjacent to the bridge on Washington Street at the mouth of the Bluefish river.  The tide was just starting to come up and there was plenty of cloudy blue/green water.  The first thing you realize when you are on a Soultree board is that is feels and sounds more like a watercraft.  The hollow chambered balsa wood makes a very pleasant sound as waves slosh into the sides of it.  A constant “whoosh….. whoosh…..whoosh……”    It’s sturdy and gives you confidence under your feet.  You just need to provide the core strength and balance.

As I navigated out of the Bluefish River,  I turned and headed along the south side of Powder Point.   To my left was the shore line where there were kids swimming and jumping off docks.  To my right there were at least 200 Sunfish boats being sailed by teenagers.  They looked like moths swirling around each other.  I worked my way through a maze of moored off Bayliners and Grady Whites.  About halfway out, I ran into a bit of a cross wind and the swells picked up.   My mind began to focus.  I thought, “Bend your knees going into the top, then down the face, extend your legs, back to the top, and repeat….”    I got this….but the real challenge, as you seasoned paddleboarders know is when the swells are going from side to side….  That’s when I got wet, several times…   An hour into it, I finally made it to the point and to the famous Powder Point bridge.  I know this water very well.  When the tide drops, you can dig clams forever.  Quahogs, Littlenecks, Steamers, Razors, Mussels…. It’s the same water that the legendary Island Creek Oysters are grown in.  It’s among the most picturesque waterscapes in Massachusetts.   I headed north under the bridge.  That’s where I picked up an air force of green heads.  I must have been some sight to the people watching me from the beach.  I was swatting my neck then swatting my leg then swatting my arm then repeating that cycle…faster and faster.  This time, I got wet and there was no swell.  I was in the drink and under attack.  What biological weapons plant were green heads created in.  They seriously have alien eyes and razor teeth.  After my harrowing escape I proceeded along the north side of the point.  There must have been twenty herons and twice as many egrets out there.  I saw a mother hen turkey with six juveniles behind her in a patch of reeds(what the hell is a flock of turkeys doing out in the middle of the bay?)  As I got closer to the shore, I could see deer tracks in the tidal mud(they have evolved).  There was no sign of striped bass though.  Everything else in the wild was present today except the fish.  Still a bit too early for their run.   I made my way all the way back towards the main land just as high tide was coming up.  I was about 2 hours into my trek and I headed back.  The wind had changed slightly and now was out of the west.  That made my paddling back towards the Powder Point bridge much easier.  I dreaded going back under because of the green heads.  I gritted my teeth and tried to gain as much speed as I could to get by there.  Mysteriously, they were gone.  I kept waiting for the bites but they didn’t come.  It was now mid afternoon and there were boats all over the bay.  Some were dragging tubes behind them at blazing speeds.  Others were carrying leisure seeking people dressed in white.  The sun was blasting through my SPF50 and my sunglasses were covered in dried salt water spots.

I finally got back to the mouth of the Blue Fish River and the water was the calmest that it had been all day.  It was serene and peaceful.  As I made my way towards the town landing, I could see fifty kids lined up on the bridge, all waiting for their turn to plunge down into the river.  It’s one of those traditions that you see all through New England.  Right next to ice cream and lobster rolls.  By this point, there were a dozen boats hanging out there watching this event and creating a scene.  I paddled back up to the dock then pulled the board up and out.  A boat full of 40yr oldish party people wanted to know all about the SUP and my voyage.  They offered me a can of Harpoon Summer and we talked for about 30 minutes.    After we parted ways, I loaded the board on to the truck and got in line for my first jump ever from that bridge.

On the ride home,  My head was super clear and my body was tired.   I started thinking about the crossing of Cape Cod Bay.  The 34 mile paddleboarding trek from Mainland Massachusetts to Provincetown(Cape Cod) to raise money for Christopher’s Haven.  Friends who have done it say it takes around 10 hours with the right conditions.  It’s not a race.  It’s a group challenge and you can find more details here-  http://capecodbaychallenge.memberlodge.com    That would be one heck of a paddle.  An incredible accomplishment for anyone that has completed it.

See you around,

Ryan

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We never met Sid Abruzzi until July 20, 2013.  It was on a wicked hot Saturday that we got the opportunity to be part of something special in Newport, RI.  That would be the day that we were introduced and embraced by the surfing scene in the heart of New England. The Water Bros annual vintage surfboard show is the real deal.

When we first got the invite from Sid, we were honored and we committed to be there.  The location was set to be the International Tennis Hall of Fame which is right behind Sid’s surf shop and a few blocks from the “mansions”.  It was kind of a surreal place to hold an event like this and we really didn’t know what to expect.  Meeting Sid for the first time was cool too.  He’s laid back and seems to know everyone.   As you can see in the picture above, his sleeves are covered in sick tats and his black hair has a grey flow to it.   He reminded me of a classic pool skater punk rocker and as many know,  he is one of the “great ones” in the Northeast surfing scene.  He is an extraordinary advocate for the ocean and it’s waves-follow this link to read about his advocacy- http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323820304578413011252230262.html

For 5 hours, we sat under an awning drinking Naragansett Summer ales and talking to crowds of cool people from all over New England.  They kept coming, and coming, and coming.  We were surprised by how many people came through to talk with us.  All day long, there was a kickass playlist that provided the musical ambiance (Sid, if you are reading this, can you hook a brother up with that?)  We would be jamming to the Misfits, then on to the Pixies, then some Social D., then back to the Stones,…..and that’s how we rolled all day.  The event was packed with local food vendors, surfboard shapers, and all sorts of interesting proprietors.  There were so many cool vintage boards that people had brought from all over.  We have never actually seen that many surfboards in one place let alone the age of them.

By the time we hit the hotel, we were buzzing with energy from the crowd, the vibe, and well- all those beers.  Saturday nights in Newport are densely packed with an eclectic mix of people.   In a one block walk, we passed boaters, hipsters, club kids, scantily clad teenage girls(my daughters are never going to Newport), punk rockers, tons of surfers, and a few castaways.  As the night carried on into the early hours of the morning, it became evident to us that we weren’t the only ones that started our party a bit earlier in the day.  The cobblestone streets wreck havoc on the high heeled shoes of the female party goers.  There were bodies hitting the floor left and right.

The next day I woke up thinking about the song “Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down” by Johnny Cash which was written by Kris Kristofferson.  It starts out with the line- “Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt…..I’m wishing Lord, that I was stoned.”     And that’s how our day started…..So we got our acts together and left the hotel to go check out Ruggles.  We had heard about this surfing spot from everyone we talked too.  When we arrived, it was flat but you could see the enormous potential that it had.  I imagine in a hurricane swell, that the break there must crush bodies against the rocks.    I’m inserting a video of the spot during Hurricane Bill….judge for yourself… www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqOvAsQq  From there it was on to 1st and 2nd beach.  Those spots were completely jam packed with surfers trying to catch 1 footers.  After, the haze of the morning wore off, the sun came raging out.  We were strolling on the “cliff walk” when we noticed a few hippies going for an ocean swim off of Webster Ave.  Within 5 minutes of spotting them, we were plunging ourselves off the rocks into the cold Atlantic.  We swam through a strong current for about 200 yards until we reached a rock island.   When I popped my head up out of the water, I felt that cold numbing sensation that clears your head instantly.  I felt the hot sun radiating my face.  I felt the burn of the salt water in the corners of my eyes.   It was sensational.  I was alive….

That afternoon we made one more stop to see Sid.  We thanked him for his gracious hospitality and exchanged some gear with him.   Sid hooked Jesse up with a signed copy of his featured issue of the Surfers Journal.  Jesse also scored a signed fin which you’ll see on the “Mermaid” longboard.  We hope to be invited back next year to mix it up with the New England surf scene and to hear that kick ass playlist one more time.

Have you ever surfed Ruggles?

See you around,

Ryan