Three weeks, Three races, Three places

F-One and Bluerush Boardsports Ambassador John Hadley gives us a complete review of the 2017 F-One Race Pro SUP as he competes in three races over the past three weeks! Get the inside scoop and find out what John has to say.

F-One and Bluerush Boardsports Ambassador John Hadley gives us a complete review of the 2017 F-One Race Pro SUP as he competes in three races over the past three weeks! Get the inside scoop and find out what John has to say.

Rider: John Hadley

The Bluerush Race Series ended a few weeks ago, a week later the Noll Paddlefest took place in Crescent City, and last week was the Great Russian River Race.  Three races in three places with one board, one paddle, and one truck.

After testing out the 14’x25″, I decided to go with the 14’x27″ F-One Race Pro and luckily for me there was one available.  My goal was to get it back as a 14′ board, not two 7’x27″ boards.  That was accomplished.  No need to read more.

The Bluerush Race was held in Richardson Bay across the street from the F-One shop in Sausalito.  Conditions were good, once the fog cleared leaving just a hint of south winds.  With a few boats motoring around there were a few bumps to catch which kept me within shouting range (“BB, slow down,” I yelled.) of the lead the entire time all the way to the end.  Interesting note – I used the wind shadow from the boat ‘Serengeti,’ a 130′ Westport yacht, and was able to tour it in Crescent City.

The following weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, I found myself 350 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in glorious Crescent City.  Crescent City is a hidden gem of the California coast, it’s biggest drawback being the giant prison hidden by the redwood trees.  There are a wide variety of waves from a super fun longboard/SUP wave along South Beach, a few hidden reef breaks, beach breaks along Pebble Beach,and a point or two.  The Noll family put on the best longboard contest from 1995-2011.  Three years ago, the Noll Paddlefest was born and this was my first time.

The 5.5 mile course starts off the north end of Pebble Beach and follows the coastline with rocks, waves, and whales to contend with.  Once you pass the lighthouse the view is jetty to the left and open ocean everywhere else.  So close, yet so far away.  At the end of the jetty a left turn heads you into the South Beach finish line.  With the Race Pro under foot, I was able to cross the finish line first.

On either side of the race, there were some fun peelers to be had at South Beach.  South Beach is about four miles long and a very flat beach with peaks popping all over the place.  We found a spot midway down the beach and it was like San Onofre without the palapas, crowds, or sharks.  If ever there was a beach break to learn how to ride a race board in the surf, this is it.  Another Crescent City bonus is the water temperature.  Two days in the spring suit and one in trunks.

The final race was on June 3 in my home waters of the Russian River.  The Great Russian River Race is a festival of fun with many competitors wearing costumes.  There are two options for this downriver race the 4 mile short course or the 8.5 mile long course.  With good results the past two weekends, I was feeling good if not a little tired.  The F-One was ready to take on the river, this time with a keel fin on account of some shallow spots.

In every race you learn lessons and this race was no exception.  My lesson was learned at the start, or what I thought was the start.  Somehow, I found myself upriver when the horn sounded.  By the time I crossed the actual start line, the closest competitor was some 30 yards ahead and the leaders were about 300 yards out.  The key to any race is a good start, now I headed into a full bore sprint.

Slowly and methodically I was able to check off those in front of me, finally getting myself into third place behind Pete Gauvin and John ‘Poseiden’ Alexiou. Hindsight being what it is, now would’ve been a good time to relax and get some stroked in behind Poseidon, but such was not my mindset and I continued past him while he smartly latched onto me.  We worked our way towards Pete, who was paddling with his daughter on board!

Now Pete is part human – the part that is a father, a surfer, a businessman, a good guy – and part machine when he gets a paddle in his hands.  And that is where I found myself after a late start.  I got past him and the end was near, but something happened – my body was just toast – and I fell.  Normally I say there is no one who can get back on a board faster but this was not the case this day.  As Pete (and Romy) and then Poseidon passed me, I knew the battle for first was going to be awesome.  I looked back and saw that I could limp in for third place and worst finish in four times doing this race.  Meanwhile, Pete and Poseidon duked it out with Poseidon taking the crown.  Next year, I’ll start on time, I hope.

Up next is the Jay Race in Santa Cruz.  As if the last three races didn’t test the conditions this board can handle, the Jay Race will for sure.

Width – The difference between 25″ and 27″ isn’t just 2″

I recently tested out the 14’x25″ Race Pro from F-One after spending a few weeks on the 27″ wide version.  The two boards look exactly the same, so psychologically I wasn’t worried about that.  The volume difference (331L vs 294L) also isn’t much.  That leaves the width being the deciding factor and two inches can’t be that much of a difference.  Then again, I could be wrong.

Before delving into the differences in the board, let’s look at the operator.  At 6’2″ and 215 lb (98kg) and just a few months shy of 50, I would not be looked at as the prototypical racer.  While my skill level is proficient, I have never been considered a high caliber athlete unless starting bench warmer in baseball, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse on the JV teams qualifies.  So, I was pretty awesome.

Why all this background information when we’re discussing boards here?  Well because in this day and age what we see and what we are and what we want do not all align nor do manufacturers look outside the norm enough.  Sure, Josh Riccio is riding a 22′ wide board and he goes really fast and wins major events. Josh is 28 years old, maybe 150 lbs, trains constantly, and surfs good enough to be a pro surfer.  Same with Conner, Kai, Mo, or whoever you want to throw in there with the exception of Chase Kosterlitz.

Back to the board.  I hopped on that 25″ and took off like a shot. After a solid 200 yard warm up, the starting gun went off so I went too.  The key to any race is a good start and I was gone buzzing along telling myself how badass I was for keeping up with the one guy ahead of me.  Little bumps came and I caught them.  We rounded the the first turn and went straight into a bit of wind, a touch of side chop, and a certain amount of tidal current.

All of those conditions combined to make the water slightly bumpy and this is where width comes into play.  That extra two inches provides stability which translates into how much work your legs do. Your legs should already be working in conjunction with your stroke, so now they are working double time.  Luckily, the next buoy turn came and the direction reversed, but the damage had been done. The lead gap widened.  And widened.  Ever so slowly, but it did.

By the time we headed back into the wind, it was no contest for first and third place was playing a nice little game of catch up.  Or was I slowly coming unglued?  My legs were burning and my breath was compromised.  Yes, use your legs too much and lose your breath.  After finishing, I was done for the day.

The takeaway from all of this?  I can ride a 25″ board.  I did it last year.  Last year my hips hurt.  My hips hurt after this race.  I ride the 27″ and my hips are fine.  My results?  The same, if not better on the 27″ since there are few races held in sheet glass conditions.  I could ride a 23″ in sheet glass.  I want to be able to do something afterwards.

Choose your equipment wisely and don’t fool yourself thinking you’re better than you are.  Both boards from F-One are incredible and have more than enough volume.  Volume is your friend. Get a board that you want to ride so you ride it everywhere.  Me?  I’m sticking with the 27″, good hips, and a huge smile.  And training, training is huge, so I’m told, but that’s for another day.

Learn more about the F-One Race Pro SUP Series!