Pacific Cold Front Downwinder

Sunday, March 28, 12021 HE

I had been eyeing the weekend weather forecast for a few days. My question was which days would I be able to get out for a paddle. In my mind, I had concluded that a Saturday Monday split would work best despite Sunday having the strongest winds. But with the return to school plus two kittens being spayed both happening on Monday, it was not a good family for a paddle day. Thankfully, my lovely wife, Annie acknowledged that the wind conditions were exceptional so I was able to get out for back-to-back paddles. I had paddled Saturday morning around Locarno and Jericho Beach.

Below is a screenshot of the weather forecast from Around 1400 or 1500 the winds were going to shift to a westerly breeze and gale with speeds around 19 knots (35 km/h) and gusts up to 28 or 29 knots (54 km/h)! I planned to get out on the water around 1430 or 1500.

Screenshot of weather forecast.

And below is the wave forecast with waves averaging just over one meter coming from the west. Though there would be a lot of chop with the cross swell coming from the south. I was hoping the wind would be enough to keep things moving eastward. Somehow between screenshots, I managed to change the wind setting to the Beaufort scale, hence the “bft” abbreviation and significantly lower values from the wind forecast above. The wind forecast for Monday afternoon was not as strong but there was not cross chop forecasted. I wonder how the paddle would be then, especially since it was going to be clearer skies.

Screenshot of wave forecast.

This was the weather warning that I woke up to on the WeatherCAN application. Today was going to be a good day!

Screenshot of WeatherCAN application weather alert.

I also received a visual confirmation of the swells coming into Vancouver from a pilot friend, Wil, who sent me the photos below taken in the morning. You can see all the white caps coming in with the Burrard Peninsula jutting out. And it was only going to get windier!

Photo from an early morning flight heading into YVR. Photo by Wilson Frost.

And here is another view below with Bowen Island in the bottom left, Passage Island in between, and Point Atkinson just beyond that. The Stanley Park Peninsula can be seen at the end in the centre of Burrard Inlet and the Burrard Peninsula is in the centre of the photo.

Photo from an early morning flight approaching Vancouver from the northwest. Photo by Wilson Frost.

And this picture shows a closer look at Burrard Inlet with the anchored tankers visible in the bay. It is a great perspective of the shoreline route that I will be riding later in the afternoon. You can see the UBC Endowment Lands on the right, the lower tide over Spanish Banks, and the Jericho and Royal Vancouver Yacht Club piers in the distance.

Photo from an early morning flight heading into YVR approaching from the southwest. Photo by Wilson Frost.

I was paddling solo and was hoping to get an Evo car booking at the end of my paddle like my last downwinder. So I was a bit apprehensive. But the advantage of this route is that you are close to the shore and in this case, the wind was blowing me in towards civilization something should go wrong. But still!?

The video below is me walking towards my launch point just east of the Spanish Banks East Concession. This is the west most point that is still within the Evo home zone. Which I would need to be within on my return drive to be able to park and leave the Evo. This is the moment where you question your decisions. The wind was strong and the swell was turbulent. I had one other paddle in conditions this intense last November. That experience was humbling as it was a rough start to the paddle and very challenging to get my sea legs after the tumultuous start. At the risk of succumbing to the Dunning Kruger effect, I now felt that my paddle skills were better and that this was within my capabilities (for a riveting story on the Dunning Kruger effect check out this episode of Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales).

Getting to launch on my SUP downwinder from Spanish Banks East.

My skills had improved! I managed to make it through the shore break staying on my board this time. Albeit on my knees mostly, but on my board nonetheless. Below is a time-lapse video of my launch set to the opening of Method Man‘s Release Yo’ Delf. Fitting in my eyes for the trepidation I was experiencing. You can see the cross swell coming from the left as I head out into the inlet.

Hyperlapse (time-lapse) video of my launch from Spanish Banks. Music is “Release Yo’ Delf” performed by Method Man.

I knew I needed to get out past the Jericho Pier so I tried to paddle out into and across the wind swell. But it proved to be quite difficult, so I changed course into the wave direction and then tried to angle my course to make it out around the pier. It was still choppy and difficult to find a groove in the bumps. But eventually, I got into a bit of a rhythm, only to get overconfident and get caught off guard and bumped off of my board.

Here is a little more time-lapse video with the rest of Release Yo’ Delf to match the mood of me and my paddle. I am approaching the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club which you can see on the right at the end of the video.

Hyperlapse (time-lapse) video approaching the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. Music is “Release Yo’ Delf” performed by Method Man.

Below is a still shot as a bump rolls by with the RVYC on the right.

Passing bumps in Burrard Inlet.

My destination ahead in the salty spray!

Salty spray.

In a trough with Vancouver almost invisible ahead.

Vancouver cityscape almost obscured by a swell.

Here it really is invisible behind the swell.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

Below is a shot passing the RVYC with scattered bits of whitewash lining the path ahead.

Windy white caps lining the path ahead.

Later that evening when I checked the weather I was surprised to see the wind at 62 km/h with gusts of 82 km/h. I double-checked the historic data as that seemed outlandish to me. As I suspected the wind I was in was less, maxing out around 59 km/h. Here is the historic data from Point Atkinson for March 28, 2021. In hindsight, seeing that felt riskier than what it did out on the water. I suspect some of that is the heightened emotional arousal the stark red banner gives on the blue background.

Screenshot of weatherCAN application current weather forecast.

And below is my route. I was able to book an Evo car about three-quarters of the way to Kitsilano Beach. Though I forgot to stop my activity recording until I was already en route back to Spanish Banks.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker.

And my stats from Google Fit. It was my fastest sustained paces for sure.

Screenshot of Google Fit activity tracker metrics.

For a frame of reference, this SUP Ready site post on “How Fast Can You Go On A Stand Up Paddle Board?” had some good ranges listed.

For the cat-loving paddle enthusiasts out there, Kona and Willow are okay and recovering well. This picture is from one day post-operation and the matching red onesies save them the embarrassment of the cone of shame. Our cats no longer have ovaries and uteri but they do have microchips. Very coronavirus pandemic-esk, hello Bill if you are listening. 😉

Kona (left) and Willow (right) posing in the matching post-surgical onesies. Photo by Annie Jekyll.

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